fire inspector blues


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Mar 6, 2006
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the small town our shop is in has hired a fire marshal and made effective more stringent fire codes. Alas, my new griddle has brought about the inevitable. we grew from such a small shop...buying a few dozen making our own breads, cakes, muffins, scones, breakfasts and a sandwich menu. Now it seems we have a kitchen that is "substandard", and we now have to comply with codes and at the least put in a type 1 hood and it could be even more.

so I would like to ask for a place to bounce ideas off of. (again)

I could stop baking and cooking omelets. my payroll and overhead would go way down. looking at register reports, we usually sell about as much dollars worth of baked goods as of breakfasts. and we sell a little more dollars in coffee than baked goods or breakfasts, usually. I could get a ref. bake case, get fancy deserts from Sysco or Sams. putting my roaster in the shop would be so easy if I weren't dealing with grocery storage. My kitchen would be plenty big for washing dishes, nuking pre-baked and toasting bagels.

Or I could get a loan and add on and remodel my kitchen, maybe add a drive through, which we are approved to do, but I really don't want to. We have crazy weekend mornings, and people love our food and baked goods. with a bigger, more efficient kitchen, perhaps we could increase revenue, and become more profitable. and dang it, I just bought a big mixer.

I just don't know if I want to go bigger or smaller. I don't know even what I'm asking...
anyone want to buy a coffee shop?
Are you a coffee shop (coffee first, food second, or no food)
are you a cafe with good coffee? (food first, coffee second)

I think that's the first thing you need to decide for yourself, and then make your surge in that direction.
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yes, good question. Really I think we are a coffee shop first. at least we started out that way. but now we have a lot of people who come in for breakfast since we have good coffee. and lunch, and afternoon coffee with a cookie or biscotti. I could be wrong, but I think often people choose to come to our shop for a muffin and coffee because people don't have a lot of time, and like not having to choose between food and coffee.
well, I found out today that we will for sure need a hood, and probably one with fire suppression. I do have several months to a year to comply, but dang it!
Perhaps you could explain your concerns to the fire marshall and see if he can work with you to help you meet code in the cheapest possible way. he may also know ways around certain problems e.g. if you do something small, or change a procedure, that costs you little, it might help make compliance much cheaper.

I think the main thing is not to second guess the costs, but work the problem.
I think the good news is that you have some time to comply; time to think about what you want to do. I agree that you should meet with the inspector and try to find a happy medium. Ask lots of questions as well. I mean, don't be a pain in the a$$, but so you understand why you need to have what he is suggesting. It could be a matter of making some small changes as also suggested or investing in the upgrades. Also, keep in mind that these codes are in place for a reason: everyone's safety.

Could you also bake these items off-premise? Would that help?
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I have had two meetings with him. he is still researching what I must do. first he said my grill needs a type 1 vent hood, then a day or so later he says it needs fire suppression. He is saying my oven needs a hood too. well, it is a subway convection oven, and they don't use them with hoods. He is a nice and reasonable man, and safety is his concern. He says he doesn't want to see any fires that he could have prevented. he has good points, but I think when officials try to cover themselves from any possible blame and liability, we who operated by the rules of common sense, suffer.

I've been researching, looking at used, hoods and vents and I might have to spend less than I feared. I hope when we get everything in the kitchen all fixed up, present them with written requests, based on our menu and such, we will come to a reasonable agreement. If we need to do some expensive stuff, I guess I'll break down and get a loan. Then I will borrow enough to landscape, and fix up some stuff that is looking ratty. we bought an old gas station about 4 yrs ago, fixed it up on a shoestring. it is time for some improvements anyway.

Today I baked 6 loaves of bread in one batch, and a bunch of cookies. cooking for the saturday am rush was a snap with the griddle. I am feeling a lot better about the whole thing. It's going to be worth the effort. We cater brunch and reception trays. I have one in a couple of weeks, and am realizing how easy it is going to be with this new 20 qt mixer.

I can't tell you all how much it means to have someone to talk to about stuff like this. thanks!!!
Lizzy... It sounds like things might work out for you, let's keep our fingers crossed. Of course with the township it always CYA, or in their case their "A", you know? If he is concerned about safety, and by the sounds of it, you are on the up and up, then there has got to be a way to figure it out. I hope its something simple to work out that benefits you and your business in the long run!

Everyone here has been very helpful to me, even feel that I have made some friends! I am happy to offer something back, even if its just an ear!

Feel free to PM or email me anytime!