We all have ways of marking a new year. Starting a new calendar, resetting our passwords, arguing over Time’s Person of the Year, hangovers. Perhaps we carefully craft ambitions that will be rationalized away by Martin Luther King Day,
Regardless, in any small business there is a deluge of end of year activity that, if you knew about it beforehand you would run screaming from your own business plan.
With food service in general, and The Bard’s Coffee in particular, we have a special new year sign: the expiration date.
Eight is the Loneliest Number
In food service practically nothing lasts more than seven days. Once the magic of the cap, lid, plastic covering, safety seal, or freezer wrap barrier has been breached, a hard seven day clock begins ticking like a Steampunk doomsday machine. With few exceptions, supposedly fragile food products can not, at least according to the health department, survive the ravages of a clean, sealed and carefully temperature controlled environment for more than 168 hours.
And this is where our New Year truly begins. Not the first second of January 1, but on anything opened on or after December 25th. We must mark it as expired in the New Year. Already, our product is reminding us that the old year is over. Our first task for January is firmly scheduled.
New Year Dairy
There is another way in which the latte and cappuccino biz are reminded that there is a new number to contend with on documents and checks. That reminder sits on something that you may pay little attention to but we obsess over: dairy dates.
Most people pick up their milk with a reasonable amount of confidence that it will be used by the date on the jug. In the coffee business, however, we watch that printed label like pollsters in a presidential election year.
Sure, we go through a lot of milk. However, we want the longest time possible on the carton so we can buy in bulk. I once went to the store 4 times during a hopping day downtown. So rapid use isn’t normally a problem. However, if we want a deep bench, the date on the carton needs to be as far out as possible. So it is always with some treppidation when we buy our first milk marked in January.
Like the buzzards returning to Hinckley, OH, the date on a label of milk is a temporary but constant reminder that seasons and years change. It is, for many of us, the first reminder that a year is ending and something new, and hopefully promising, is right around the corner.
Fiscal Year Blues
While our personal lives are filled with midwinter doldrums and new year diets that we really want to break, most businesses are facing an onslaught of activity coupled with a reduction in cash flow. Translation? There is plenty of time to over analyze the status of…well…everything.
My working theory is that we split up the end of year reports and business activity by forcing at least part of those tasks into July. Of course, then we would gripe that all of those tasks hit us at one of the busiests times of the year.
I guess there isn’t any real solution. It’s best to just rip that metaphorical bandaid off. Our lives, for better or for worse, are measured in 7 and 365 day increments. Winter, at least in this hemisphere, has short days and long, cold nights.
Know what is good for that? Coffee, lattes, and hot chocolates. We have those. And, we promise to check all the dates.