Dan: It would be a dream employee for me!
Scott: Again great ideas. We do everything by hand except mixing the bagel and pizza dough. Yes is the answer to all your questions with spending and giving away food. My students eat a lot of pizza everyday and never get tired of it
. . I am allowed to spend on any amount of equipment or supplies. This thread has really given me a lot to reflect. Yes I could buy mechanized equipment and greatly up our output. But then I would need more space for the equipment. Our room is almost too tight now- about 700sqft. Our pantry area is full with supplies. What I am realizing is if we were to increase production we would need a bigger space. Mixers would be a big issue. Now we get by with 2-20 qt and 1 - 10qt. I could move up to 30qts and still be on a standard plug but the 20qt is the perfect bagel batch size to stagger our rise times with the amount of workers/space we have and can do 25 dough balls per batch. That works good with the amount of refrigerator space as well. The 60 qts and larger run on 220/240 volts. That would mean new wiring (looked into this with the building engineer). the building is cinderblock so it would mean a lot of messy work and expense. Then I would need a walk in cooler. I had a guy wanting to donate one to us but we have no space for it. I have to keep enough seating for my students and use two large tables.
So I guess I am at the crossroads many businesses hit - expand or not. There is no larger commercial site in our district we could occupy so we would have to go off campus. This is not exciting because I would have no support at all- school nurse, administrators to deal with behavioral issues, and would be setting myself up for liability issues being alone all day off campus with kids. Plus all my students go to another class(es) throughout the day and they would have to be transported which would be impossible.
Conclusion- I need to scale back and only take on new work if it will seamlessly fit into our existing product schedules. A bigger site is not feasible, bigger equipment on our site is not feasible due to lack of space, and hiring a paid employee is not happening as of now. Volunteers are great but unreliable and then I get stuck doing their share of the work. I need to drop all but our cookies, bagels, pizzas, and one kind of bread from the menu and follow a strict production schedule that will build up an inventory of frozen products that will carry us through days of wierd testings schedules, vacation days, days when lots of kids are sick, etc. Our school is a struggling one and thus kids are tested all the time to evaluate progress. That is nuts because it takes them out of a teaching/learning situation and causes our bell schedule (5 different ones we have) to change at least every 3 weeks. This means my kids may not come in until 10 am for a week (2 weeks ago) and we fall way behind the 8 ball. Then there is the late arrival day (2 hours) once a month where I have to sit through meaningless staff development. Then you have lockdown drills once a month where we have to hide in the pantry for 10 minutes, the monthly fire drill that takes at least 20 minutes, the seasonal tornado drills, another 2o minutes, and the real lockdowns that take place fairly regularly. Last year a rolling Meth lab in a van was stopped in front of our school. That took the bomb squad or something like it to safely deal with it- 2hours on lockdown. Then the regular fugitive with a gun in the area can take another hour or more........
So, I realize I work with a very nutty puzzle to fit a working business into it. So to add more via equipment, workers, space, is a no go and I now realize I have a pretty good groove if I stick to it and not allow myself to get talked into doing a bunch of other stuff for people. For instance we make bagels M,T, W, full tilt. To add more to this would not work due to mix/rise/bake/cool/slice/bag/time limits of our day. So taking on new bagel accounts is out. Bread has a slight opening if it stays with what we do now. Thursdays we make a sourdough starter(with yeast added on mixing to speed up process due to not being on campus long enough to make a pure sourdough) based white sandwich bread and white cinnamon raisin sandwich bread for a local restaraunt. Both use the same dough. We could double that easily but no takers at this time. Friday may be full with the Montessori pizza contract but if not that is a day with some openings for another of our products if ordered in large enough quantities. M-F we make our famous, to this area, Jessie's chocolate chip cookies. They are the size of a cd and made with pure vanilla, usalted butter, semi sweet chocolate, hand cracked eggs (becoming extinct in commercial settings). We have lots of orders for them every week as well as sell them everyday to staff and students. M-F is also production of the federal school wellness approved choc. chip cookie I created. It had to fit certain levels of fat, sugar, protein, etc. It is not very good compared to Jessie's cookies (old school choc chip) but kids eat it. It is low in butter/eggs, uses unsweetened applesauce, no salt, 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 AP flour. We make about 4-6,000 of these a week and are a hit with school districts because the GFS/Sysco offerings are more expensive and taste terrible. Our cookies are frozen raw and then either sold in bulk raw (216 to a bag) or we bake/bag. We have room in this production to take on another thousand a week.
I am concluding that I will slow down bagel production a bit M,T,W, and add some to Th,F. This will allow us to get prepared for pizzas at lunch a lot easier and give our 2 little home stove top ovens a rest. I figure we will fry them sooner than later seeing we have 4 big pots of boiling water on them for 3 hours a day. Opps forgot the dog biscuit production. This we do 2-4 days a week but there is no stress on getting things done. The good news is the district kitchen that prepares all the cafeteria meals is next to us. We can use their walkin freezer to store stuff. Also they are on a huge generator system in case of power outages. This is my first time living rural and had no idea power regularly can go out for 2-14 days with storms/snow. I have thrown out a lot of stuff so far due to this. I continue to wish for a great volunteer to come in and I am sure they will when the time is right. I will follow my heart with this and do whatever it says. The problem is volunteers have to go through a backround check so I like to get to know them before trying to get them in. In my heart I am a small space operator. Going bigger would bring more kids into the mix but more headaches as well. The special education population can be quite difficult to train and manage. Their behaviors can be uncontrollable and shut down a whole operation. My heart tells me, if we expanded, the kids that would be coming in would be the emotionally disturbed population. That is one group I do not like to work with. They are often violent, thieves, liars, and sociopaths. I worked with that group briefly when I was first starting my teaching career and it is not my calling. Anyway, I have wonderful set up and just have to learn to manage things a bit better. I am learning a ton with this operation and it will serve me well when I retire and open my own shop-with Sinatra playing all day
. I never have run a bakery/pizzeria. I have been a worker and the management side is all new to me. Good stuff. I enjoy learning new things. I just have to learn I am not superman. Thanks for all the feedback and support Ryan/Scott/Dan. It is helping me find a way to make this work and not kill me in the process
here are a couple pictures to show how tight our space is. We have 2 true refrigerators(a 1 door and a 2 door), a 1 door true freezer and a chest freezer and a video from our beginning made by the student news channel.