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BOH Smallwares: 5 Tips to Remember When Shopping

Stocking the back-of-the-house with smallwares is an incredibly important, but also incredibly tasking process.  Every BOH operation has need of a wealth of smallwares, but those needs are different for every business.  Here are five things to bear in mind when putting together your smallwares shopping list.

Necessities vs. Wants

There is a difference between needing something for your BOH and wanting something.  Before looking at items that would make life easier, make sure you have the items that you need to get the job done.  Things like cutlery, cutting boards, mixing bowls, utensils and cookware / bakeware are absolutely necessary in practically every foodservice operation, so it is paramount that these end up on the top of your shopping list.  If you get caught up on the “wants” of the BOH, there’s always a chance a necessity will fall through the cracks, and no business owner wants to get caught in the middle of service without something they need.  Make sure you’ve got your bases covered before picking up those superfluous tools your prep cook has been asking for.

Quality Considerations

Quality is an important deciding factor which smallwares to buy, but it is essential that you prioritize.  The most important smallwares to your operation (traditionally cookware and bakeware or cutlery) is where quality will make the most difference. If, however, you know your staff will be less than forgiving to your high-end smallwares, it may be a better long term decision to accept that you will be replacing items frequently and purchase less expensive smallwares.

Quantity & Volume

Something to consider at the same time as quality will be the quantities of particular smallwares that will be needed.  Often times in BOH operations there will be a necessity for more than one of the same item.  Things like tongs, chef knives, cutting boards and spatulas are frequently needed by more than one employee at the same time, so business owners need to be aware of which items they will need backups.

Additionally, volume will heavily contribute to how many of any given item will need to be purchased.  In the same sense that it wouldn’t be prudent for a pizzeria to own a pizza oven that can only bake one pizza at a time, it would not be wise for a restaurant that has four prep cooks working simultaneously to only have three chef knives.  When it comes to smallwares, it is better to have more than enough lower quality items than not enough high-end ones.  You can always upgrade, but you can’t make a new smallware appear instantly when you are short.

Don't Forget Storage

Many times restaurateurs forget that smallwares take up space.  Yes, they are smaller than large pieces of equipment, however, in large quantities, smallwares will take up a portion of your business’s dry storage space.  Wall mounted knife, utensil, and pot and pan racks are a great way to store these items in space that may otherwise be wasted, but they aren’t necessarily the end-all-save-all of storing smallwares.  Make sure there is a dedicated place to store all of your BOH smallwares when they aren’t in use.

Shop for Your Line & Needs

Every business is different, and each will have specific needs in every facet of their operation.  BOH smallwares are not immune to this.  Examine your intended final product, and make your smallwares shopping list take shape that way.  There is no definite list of necessary smallwares that will apply to every business, so entrepreneurs will need to look at what is important to THEIR specific business model.  For example, pastry tools such as pastry bags, designer tips, and pastry knives are necessary for bakery or pastry shop, but aren’t needed in smoothie shops or most food trucks.  Let your menu and your business’s focus help you prioritize what items are most important, and which you won’t need.

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