September 2003 Edition
Check It Out

One of the most important amenities you can provide for your guests is a safe, reliable coat check service. With a Canadian winter just around the corner, there is no better time to 'check out' your coat check service.

No matter the size of your establishment you will be faced with customers who will need to store their coats in a safe clean location, and offering a coat check service to keep coats out of the dining area can be a boon to both you and your customers.

Coats thrown across the backs of chairs are in the way and are a potential tripping hazard for servers and customers. Not to mention the space they take up when slung over the back of a booth or placed on an unused chair. They also give a cluttered appearance to the overall look of the dining area, and for these reasons alone it is well worth your effort to establish a central coat check.

However, there are also the costs associated with loss or damage to a coat to be considered. In the dining area coats may be spilled on, or become soiled or torn when accidentally dragged under the legs of a chair. Central coat checks also ensure that no one intentionally or accidentally leaves with the wrong coat.

A central coat check area may be built in, or it can be set up quickly and easily using any number of coat racks on casters. Plan on allowing for the average five foot long coat rack to hold up to twenty-five coats.

Claim tickets or plastic coat check tags will be an essential part of a smoothly functioning coat check. Plastic tags are a great option because they are re-useable. However, paper claim tickets can be custom printed with your location, as well as numbered to avoid duplicates and can be set up as two-part or three-part claim ticket to allow for the checking of a coat, and other items such as a hat or umbrella. They can also be printed with a disclaimer on the back if desired.

It goes without saying that the coat check area must be kept clean and that all coats should be hung to ensure that they clear the floor to avoid dirt. The area must also be secure and staff must be present to receive and retrieve coats at all times. Most restaurants will not charge guests to check coats. And, it can be worthwhile to offer free coat check service at any foodservice event to avoid the pitfalls associated with customers who keep their coats in the dining area. If you do charge for coat check the fee should be nominal to encourage guests to secure their coats.

The majority of the costs associated with operating a coat check are the salaries of the coat check staff, which is why so many establishments avoid the cost and provide hooks or coat stands in the dining area. Unfortunately these methods do nothing to secure the coats from potential theft.

An innovative coat check system called Coat Check Express, developed by Ian Abramson of International Loss Prevention Systems in Vancouver does just that. The self-serve style coat check rack, a favourite with country clubs, casinos and universities, allows customers to hang their coat securely to the rack with a metal wire that runs through the sleeve of the coat which is then locked in place with a key.

The system is convenient and secure and if desired it may be revenue generating as the system can be coin operated. Typical charges are nominal, about a loonie, and management has a spare key for each lock if a customer misplaces the key, or if coats are not claimed at the end of the night. Custom systems that are free standing or wall mounted are available and typical free standing racks on casters are 65 inches long and hold 21 coats.

Whichever type of coat check service you provide, unclaimed coats should be removed and inventoried into a lost and found daily. Clearly label the coat with the date it was left behind and look for any identifying information to help you determine the owner of the coat. Taking an inventory of left behind items will also help to avoid incidents of internal theft of leave behinds.

With the cool breezes blowing, coat check will again become an important part of your foodservice responsibilities and offering your customers the best in coat check service amenities will help to ensure the smooth running of your operation. ยจ