When the Kitchen Closes…

Hallo to all our followers….

Our blog is here to inform customers, friends, family and followers of the intimate inner workings of our café. Some topics are seriously worth the effort to read, as it may just shed some light on restaurant operations, which you may not have known before…

Today our topic “When the kitchen closes” wish to cover the one of the possible reasons a cafe may be closing earlier than its usual business hours (and no, it’s not you, it’s us). Let’s dive in…

When you arrive at a café front door, you saw the “open” sign, and you saw the board that advertises its business hours…. And then, just as you enter, you are suddenly horribly disappointed when the first person you meet at the establishment greets you with those ice-cold words: “Sorry, our kitchen is closing now…”

Urgh, and to imagine, you just walked all the way from the parking lot, and most probably walked over with so much enthusiasm and high hopes that this place, this cafe/restaurant/bar will be the best ever experience in your entire life…

Okay, so here’s one of our most recent reasons for closing our kitchen an hour earlier than usual, which was also very unusual for us.

Sudden Unpreventable, Unpredictable Stock-Out

Even though a lot of planning goes into procurement of stock and a stockout is highly unlikely, the most recent COVID-19 pandemic, state of emergency and also the terrible looting in KwaZulu Natal, did cause a lot of uncertainties for café owners and managers nationally.

Our Forecast-Based procurement of liquor, meat, vegetables and other perishable items were plagued with uncertainties. I would ask myself: “Are we going to have as many customers as last month, or three months ago? And if so, will we be restricted on our operations and by how much, and will there be another hard lockdown? Will be people still be going on holiday with the current record-high fuel price, or spend money when most need to save money right now?” were some questions in my head. So procurement was done with a lot of caution, assumptions, and literally based on average visits within the last six months.

In our café, which is a few combined shipping containers, we prepare all of our dishes fresh, and we have limited storage space as you can imagine.

One day, during the festive season rush, as an example, we closed the kitchen an hour earlier than usual, and this was because of this sudden unpreventable stock-out of our food portions, due to unbelievably higher than predicted volumes of guests visiting our establishment during the day, after the scare of a possible fourth wave COVID-19 lockdown. Wow… Just writing that here have me sweating again.

So let me take you on a time travel, into the café’s kitchen, 15 minutes prior to your arrival…

“Guys, we are bleeding stock right now and we sold our very last rump steak! We have to close the kitchen to provide time for stock replenishment before business opens tomorrow morning at 7am. Tell the waiters that the kitchen is closed, but drinks and coffee bar is still open until 5pm.”

So, back to you: When you arrive at a café front door, you saw the “open” sign, and you saw the board that advertises its business hours…. And then, just as you enter, you are suddenly horribly disappointed when the first person you meet at the establishment greets you with those ice-cold words: “Sorry, our kitchen is closing now, but you can still order drinks or coffee…”

Closing our kitchen due to stock outs, some would say, is a great problem to have, we also see it as being blessed beyond our wildest dreams. But just as disappointing as it was for you to hear those words, it was equally and some ways more difficult and disappointing for us as café owners to tell you, even if it was in best interest of the business and the next days’ customers, for the kitchen to close an hour earlier to replenish stock.

So that is the reason we would typically much rather prefer to close the kitchen a bit earlier, than have to tell our customers at the table-side: “Sorry, we don’t have scone… we also don’t have soup, oh, and we don’t have Castle Lite, neither do we have white bread or cheese…” which is even more embarrassing as well as annoying to our customers.

Final Words

Next time, when you hear these words “our kitchen has closed earlier today”, consider some points above, as those who have to tell you those words, are mostly afraid of the potential conflict it may cause (because they did not want to disappoint you), and will in most cases feel very awkward if confronted in a sudden almost aggressive reaction.

We would much rather want to see you back the next opening day, and have you experience our best service ever, when everything is calmer and everyone is happy with the level of quality and service they can offer from our café.

After this December, 2021, our focus turns to our storage and preparations for the unpredictable, and we wish to thank each and every customer who supported us during the hardest time everyone has experienced in a very long time.

Hold your heads up high, and pray, believe and most importantly; have faith!

Sincerely;

Adriaan