April 2

Brace Yourself, Spring Is Coming


It’s time to get your spring restaurant checklist together.

Spring is a magical time where flowers bloom, people fall in love and restaurant managers realize the patio furniture is still in storage. Even though spring is a time of growth and renewal, it’s also a time of reckoning for everything that was put on hold during the winter months. As the very, very dead poet T.S. Eliot once wrote “April is the cruelest month.”

To avoid potential heartbreak, here’s a spring restaurant checklist.

The Effing Patio

Your customers love the patio – it’s a huge revenue driver too (if you’ve got a good one.) On the other hand, you are about to add 20+ seats to your dining room without adding any burners to your kitchen. The patio is both great and terrible, so now is the time to get the hard work out of the way. Even if it’s still overcast and too cool for outdoor dining, make plans to pull all the furniture out of storage and get it cleaned and fixed. All the patio furniture is covered in grime and most of it is broken, just face it. If you get it all out now, you won’t have unpleasant surprises when the weather is finally nice and customers are calling to see if the patio is open yet.

Start menu planning (kitchen)

While we all want to be the kind of kitchen that ‘just sees what’s good at the farmer’s market,’ let’s be real: You need to have a roadmap of where your menu is going over the spring and summer. There are the obvious things that need to be planned (like the extra seats on the patio mean more tickets at once,) but also more salads mean more salad plates and more cooler space to store them. Summer berries are amazing, but trifles on the menu mean more glass cups to put them in. The cassoulet has been selling out all winter, but they won’t do quite so well on a sunny patio, so consider moving winter items off the menu sooner rather than later.

Start menu planning (beverages)

I’m going to lump beer, wine and cocktails together for the sake of keeping this short. For beer, make sure you have a pilsner or lager on tap to go along with whatever inappropriately named 9% ABV IPA you always have on tap. For wine, start shopping for rose. Most of the best are just now coming into distribution so jump on the pre-orders now, even if the cases aren’t landed yet (but don’t buy last year’s rose – let Grocery Outlet do what it’s supposed to do.) For cocktails, it’s a good time to phase out the whiskey drinks for vodka and gin. Start playing around with variations of a Pimm’s Cup and start infusing vodkas.

Off-Site Events

If you do any catering, or if you do off site events, get as much as you can on a calendar now. Being in Oregon, my restaurant usually did IPNC as well as charity events around the city. If you get them on the calendar now, you’ll be ready for them when the time comes. There’s nothing worse than remembering you committed to serving 500 cured salmon canapes 3 days from now in a field that’s 3 hours away from your kitchen.

Scheduling and Staffing

Since you’re adding seats, and possibly picking up catering and event gigs, you need to think about staffing up now. Get hiring and make sure you promote your open positions (you could use, I don’t know… Poached?) A lot of students are coming home from college for the summer and are looking for work. A lot more former students are leaving High School and being told by their parents to get a job and/or get out. And remember, since spring is about renewal, many industry veterans start looking for greener pastures. In other words, get your listing up ASAP or you’ll be short staffed at a bad time.

Spring turns into summer real fast, so jump on your spring restaurant checklist now!

About the author

Jack Hott

Some say Jack Hott was born in a restaurant. Others say he wasn’t born at all but discovered behind a Hobart stand mixer. Wherever he comes from, he’s made a career out of only being a good enough employee to skate by in the restaurant industry since the mid-90s. Jack Hott, if that’s even his real name, has gotten lost in walk-ins, stared into the abyss of pizza ovens, spilled red wine on white linen tablecloths, and shaken cocktails he was supposed to stir. If you can find him on social media, for your own safety, please do not follow him.


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