This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Technical hotel bookkeeping is learned at business colleges, but after that it is found that different systems are followed in different places. Mr. Tatillonner was a man of superior attainments in that line. He was doing more than keeping the books of the hotel business, he was the accountant of all the company's operations of which the hotel was only one part. He had gained his experience of hotel accounts in establishments belonging to stock companies, like those famous hotels of Switzerland or those immense modern hotels of the English railway companies, where they add up the totals every day, make statements to the shareholders every month and make public statements and declarations of dividends every quarter, and where scarcely so much as a match can be taken, certainly not a box of matches, without somebody having to account for it So if Tom had thought this man, doing this hotel's bookkeeping with such ideas of exactitude in his head, was a "crank," it may well be supposed that Mr. T. thought Tom was a very poor excuse of a young man, indeed, for knowing next to nothing.
So it remained now to be seen how the new storekeeper would get along in the seemingly difficult situation.
The difficulty was only seeming, not actual. In a large establishment each department is but a part of the whole machine; each individual is a wheel, all having to go through their own round in their stated time and not disarrange the works by stopping or trying to run more than their own part. Our new storekeeper had to learn a daily routine according to a special system, and that once understood it was merely a matter of industry and faithful application to duty and success was sure; besides, Miss Massinger - that was her name - liked her new duties; she was prim and methodical in all her ways and had a natural talent for bookkeeping.
In a very large number of hotels, those of small or medium capacity, the storekeeper's duties are much mixed, only a portion of the day at stated periods being devoted to receiving and issuing goods. It may be in such a case our new storekeeper would have filled in the intervals assisting in the pantry or preparing the fruit and cake baskets for table, or attending to the milk and cream. In this house, however, we had ample employment for every hour of the day for the storekeeper in the store-room itself, the very strict bookkeeping required making even more than one could attend to. Early every morning, or soon after the store-room was open, which was half past five, the country people came crowding around with marketing to sell; that made weighing, measuring, counting, booking and giving orders properly signed, dated, stamped and figured up to each one to get the pay on at the office, the sums varying from ten cents to ten or twenty dollars - as when a load of chickens was bought. At the same time three or four hands from the cooking and serving departments came with vessels for various material, which had to be weighed, measured or counted out to them -and the amounts entered in the proper column in the store-room issue book, charged to each department, all the issues during the day to be footed up at night.
When goods came in from the stores and markets, also wood, coal, charcoal, ice, milk, all kinds of stores and supplies in fact, the storekeeper had to receive them, see them weighed or counted and entered the transaction; compared the actual amounts received with the bills sent in and marked errors, if any, and disallowed the pay for goods damaged or missing. Then these bills were to be entered in the book the same as the small marketings from the country people, but perhaps in different columns. So one thing with another kept Miss M. fully employed, the hotel doing a lively business at the time, and she seemed to be getting along very well.
Still, at the end of a week I could see there was a hitch somewhere, and I was anxious for various reasons that my new storekeeper should give satisfaction, so I set in to find out what it was. But she hardly knew. It had just taken her two days and part of the nights to take stock, that is to find out at the end of the month how much property remained in the storeroom and give the value of it in figures, and this was one thing which had caused Mr. T., the bookkeeper, to give vent to some expressions of impatience. Miss M. thought she had been doing noble work in keeping all the books in correct order and allowing no errors to appear of any description in the accounts of a week, but she said Mr. Tatillonner seemed to expect stock to be taken every night, which was a physical impossibility - so she thought - and said he had remarked that while he was obliged for the sake of his own account-keeping to have a statement of stock on hand every two weeks, yet he should like to have her accounts so that she could tell how much stock remained at any time on an hour's notice, and she added, laughingly, she began to sympathize with her predecessor, Tom, who had run away from it.
I had heard him myself speaking to her about a former manager of the house who was so exact in his figures and daily bookkeeping that he could tell every night whether the hotel had made anything that day or lost Some men have a taste and talent that way. There is nothing in common between such men as that and such as Colonel Vesey, who despised figures altogether, yet it must be owned the figuring men are the ones who carry on the world's business. There was another thing making the new storekeeper feel incompetent and uncomfortable. The manager of the hotel himself was in the habit of dropping in, after looking over some bills perhaps, and asking what day it was that the last doz. boxes of soap came in and how many bars were being issued a day; when the last tierce of hams was begun of; how much flour was being used a day or week, and so forth. The girl thought her part was done when she had entered everything correctly in the books, and had not prepared herself to answer such questions off hand, though they could be answered by an examination of the entry book or issue book, or both; but the stock taking seemed to her the insurmountable difficulty. "What," she said, "roll about and weigh all those barrels and boxes, those tubs of butter and that greasy tierce of lard every night?" " Nonsense, young lady," I said, " nothing of the sort; what are your books for; don't they show how much you have given out from a barrel or box every day?" "Yes," said she, " they would if the amounts were singled out and added together and subtracted from the box or barrel, but that would take forever; there wouldn't be time for anything else all day.