Best Practices for Proper Storage and Disposal of Documents

Every day at a restaurant goes by in an instant. As a manager or owner, managing the physical papers and files of the facility often gets overlooked.

Even in today’s world where everything seems to be digital, many files and papers are often physical. From contracts and permits with vendors to employee records, these documents are crucial to have on file if anything ever goes wrong. The last thing you want is to be sued or called out for not paying a bill. Having your physical papers and other documents stored correctly is key so you know where to find them and present them if needed.

Organize Your Filing Systems

Having an efficient filing system in place is the first step for proper physical document storage. When filing, store your documents by category based on topics like financial, employee information, and vendor files. In each category, create sub-categories to separate files even further for easy access. Creating this system allows for efficient access if you ever need to get to the files quickly.

Control the Access to Documents

Restrict access to important documents. Only certain people within the business need access to these files. Establish a protocol that limits access based on position and responsibilities within the restaurant. If you have managers receiving orders throughout the day, then provide them with access so they can store receipts and delivery papers. Your hostess or servers don’t need access to these, so keep it secure.

If you want to be extra secure, install a system of signing in and out of the file system. This means that each person who accesses the filing system of these important papers must sign their name, the time, and date that they accessed the files. As the owner of the restaurant, this will help you understand what is happening and if there is ever any breach in the system. It will also create a log where if any legal issues arise, you have documentation of who accessed what files and when.

Secure Your Physical Storage

For documents or files that you may need to get to quickly, invest in a safe storage solution. You can purchase a high-end filing system with locks and keys, or you can outsource your files to an off-site storage facility. It all depends on your budget and how seriously you take your storage.

If you don’t have the money to utilize an off-site facility, spend enough to purchase a high-end filing system with locks and only give keys to crucial personnel. These documents often include tax papers, employee resumes, vendor receipts, etc., which are crucial to keep private.

When storing your documents, take in mind the environmental factors of your space. Restaurants have fire, steam, water, and human accidents. You must be prepared. As a restaurant owner, you must keep your files in a fire safe place. If you don’t own a high-quality filing system, invest in a fireproof safe. This will keep your papers safe in case of a fire emergency or high temperatures.

Use Responsible Document Disposal

The proper disposal of documents is also extremely important. You can’t just throw employee papers or receipts into the regular trash. Legal requirements often are in place where you must dispose of these documents correctly, so you are following all laws.

For large-scale restaurants with many employees and vendors, shredding needs are crucial. If you are a restaurateur managing a large establishment, consider hiring a professional shredding company to take care of the proper secure and safe shredding of all documents.

Patty Caradonna, Owner of PROSHRED Arizona, who has worked with dozens of restaurants to properly shred important documents, says to always hire a professional so you don’t expose your workers to identity theft.

“Hiring a professional shredding service provides you a secure and safe service that will destroy your documents the right way,” Caradonna said. “Professional shredding services will always provide you documentation of the destruction, so you are covered if any issues arise. These steps will keep you compliant with the legislation that pertains to your business.”

As a restaurant owner, safeguarding your physical papers and files is not just an issue of organization; it is a crucial component of maintaining compliance with privacy regulations.

Establishing an organized filing system for important documents, access control systems, and securing the storage of these documents are key things you must do to secure your restaurant. By prioritizing the secure storage of important documents, you not only enhance operational efficiency, but also show your determination to protecting sensitive information.


Jerry Dilk is the Senior Consultant of Information Governance at Data Storage Centers in Phoenix, Arizona. Data Storage Centers are experts in the storage and organization of physical media and sensitive records for commercial enterprises.


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