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Archive | Restaurant Management and Operations

Find great resources and tips on restaurant management and operations topics like human resources, food safety, going green, and more.

Servers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations

It’s inevitable, people love to complain. They love to complain about the weather, their hair, their weight, etc. Well, let me be your punching bag! In fact, I would love to hear your complaints.

  • If you work in a restaurant, what makes you unhappy?
  • If you’re a restaurant customer, what didn’t you like about your dining experience?

I am going to do my best to inform restaurateurs how to create a better atmosphere for everyone in the FOH.

Servers’ Top Workplace Frustrations

  1. Crappy TippersServers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations
  2. Side Work (e.g. Roll flatware, set tables, etc. – pre/post shift while getting paid $4.76/hour to avoid hiring an employee who gets paid minimum wage)
  3. When customers lay out their cell phone, iPod, sunglasses, etc., on the table and don’t move them when the server is trying to deliver food
  4. “Please wait to be seated” (e.g. Don’t walk into a restaurant and sit wherever you please unless there’s a sign that says “Please seat yourself”. The workload needs to be balanced among all servers and tables are often reserved.)
  5. Lazy Managers (Note to all managers – when you see your staff is busy, lend them a hand! Help run food, deliver drinks, bus tables and show your support!)
  6. “The customer is always right” – B.S. (Here’s a video to show that the customer is, in fact, not always right http://youtu.be/KMGWnKfGsDM)
  7. Double Standards (e.g. Servers don’t get a free meal but bussers and kitchen workers do… What the heck!)
  8. Paying for walkout customers (It’s not always the server’s fault when a customer walks out on an unpaid bill. What if the server was going above and beyond by bussing or running food to another server’s table?)
  9. Campers AKA the diners who never leave
  10. Coworkers (e.g. Suck-ups, brown-nosers, lazy workers, those who don’t return favors – not working for you when you picked up a shift for them)

Customers’ Top Server Frustrations

  1. Introduce themselves by name/nicknameServers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations
  2. Touch you and think they are doing a friendly gesture
  3. Say everything that you ask about on the menu is “really amazing!”
  4. Talk about specials without mentioning the price
  5. Take your plate or drink away before you’re finished
  6. Tell you to wait for “your waiter” when you need something
  7. Squat, take a knee or sit down at your table
  8. Try to upsell you on everything
  9. Make you feel like a criminal because you just ordered drinks, or just dinner, instead of seven courses and four bottles of wine
  10. Ask if you need change

Now that I’ve highlighted each audiences frustrations, lets see what they agree on

  1. Cleanliness of the establishment (sitting area, dining room, bar and bathrooms)
  2. Food cooked to perfection (customers don’t like telling the wait staff to bring back a meal because it’s under cooked as much as servers don’t like bringing food back to the kitchen staff)
  3. Chip-free dinnerware and glassware
  4. Politeness (smile, be thankful and create a positive atmosphere)
  5. Food and drink presentation (food should make servers proud and customers excited)
  6. Determining if the bill needs to be split before ordering menu items
  7. Comfortable room temperature
  8. Mood lighting and music
  9. Readily available children’s seating
  10. Boucebacks (Allow servers to offer customers an incentive to come back again to create repeat business)

Let the vent session begin!  What’s your biggest restaurant gripe?

Also see: The 20 most annoying things servers do at restaurants

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Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your Revenue

Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your RevenueThe restaurant industry has been struggling for what seems like an eternity now. While you may have a great restaurant concept, a handful of high-selling menu items, and a substantial dinner rush there are always ways to diversify and grow your revenue.

Cut food costs. Make a descending dollar report. A fancy way to say “find the 10 foods you spend the most on every month,” a descending dollar report itemizes where the largest portion of your food expense is going. Have a discussion with your distributors and see if there’s a comparable product, or even a better one, that you can get for less. Don’t be afraid to cut ties with a distributor who’s costing you more money than you need to spend.

Invest in bulk storage to find additional available discounts. If you use your buying power to navigate the roads to the best deals, and invest time in detailing your inventory process to avoid spoilage, you can and will save money.A few cents for every pound purchased turns into significant savings in the long run.

Give employees power to make you money. Sometimes your biggest expense, properly trained employees have the ability to be your greatest asset. Being the face of your restaurant your employees are essentially the windows through which customers view your establishment. Give your staff the tools and know-how they need to please. The key to doing this is excellent, ongoing training. Constantly update and review procedures with all employees. Help your staff feel comfortable enough to offer suggestions, and have conversation-style performance reviews in which you set goals and give incentives for performing well.

A well trained employee has a greater chance of lending a helping hand, upselling menu items, and impressing customers. As a result, happy customers tend to buy more, enjoy their experience, and come back the next time their appetite calls. Remember, training is an on-going process and it’s important to set a good example.

Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your RevenueDIY equipment repairs. Being able to service and maintain your restaurant equipment can be a huge money saver. Each piece of equipment in your kitchen serves a purpose, and when one of those pieces doesn’t function well it can affect your entire operation. Additionally, expensive labor and parts costs paid to outside repair companies can add up quickly. Take time to learn the ins and outs of how your equipment works, what’s most likely to fail, and how best to fix what fails when it does. You’ll be surprised how much money can be saved by employing a little know-how and some elbow grease.

Technology can help reel in customers. Consumers are exploding personal information into digital space at ridiculous speeds. If you’re not doing the same with your restaurant you may be behind the curve. Finding menus, shopping for happy hour deals, and recommending hot spots to friends are all ways potential customers search and share when it comes to the restaurant industry. You need to be part of the conversation, and the obvious way to get a word in is by having an intuitive, attractive website. Don’t have a website? You need to get one.

Make sure you feature a current, printable menu, and provide your address, driving directions, and phone number on every page. Butdon’t be content just having a website. Today’s most popular eateries have additional technologies working in their favor like an established e-mail list, social network sites that encourage participation, and wireless avenues of advertising like text messaging.

Diversify your income. Navigating the ever-twisting current that is your revenue stream can become dangerously safe in its monotony. Conducting business as usual can leave you blind to rapids ahead, and without a revenue inlet to steer towards you could find yourself quickly dashed against the rocks. To help avoid unseen obstacles it’s a good idea to branch out and include as many income opportunities as possible.Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your Revenue

  1. Add retail items – Customers enjoy creative apparel referencing your restaurant. Selling hats, t-shirts, and wrist bands is an inexpensive way to outfit your customers while getting the word out.
  2. Make your food more accessible – Try offering a take-out or delivery option for your more popular items to accommodate customers who don’t want to dine in.
  3. Host special events – Serving corporate functions and big parties requires special pricing and menu options, but catering to the needs of large gatherings is an excellent way to sell out your space and take advantage of seasonal holidays.

Within a constantly changing landscape, the food service industry is a precarious place to stay stagnant. As doors close left and right new innovations are thrown from windows like confetti, littering the industry with pop-up restaurants, food trucks, unexpected tastes, and evolving palates. While riding the waves of change might not always be the best bet when it comes to your restaurant, it’s safe to keep that metaphorical surfboard in your closet for when the right wave rolls your way.

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What’s in the Oil: A Healthier Alternative to Fried Foods in Your Restaurant

What’s in the Oil?

What’s in the Oil: A Healthier Alternative to Fried Foods in Your Restaurant

Fried foods are the well-known rogue of the food industry, and with websites like Live Better America, consumers are becoming more aware of what’s in their food – and they’re making the choice to eat healthier.

Yet, it’s hard to stick to any diet when faced with killer tasting fries next to a well-made hamburger, and, oh, those mouthwatering fried appetizer plates of fried mushrooms, pickles and jalapeno poppers.

But there’s good news here, because those same sites that promote healthy living, are also helping consumers learn about healthy frying. By choosing the right fried oil and ensuring the best oil management practices, you can still deliver healthier fried food options without losing the taste.

Wait, let’s start with oil management, what is that?

Simply put, oil management is the art (and science) of getting the most out of your oil. It consists of choosing the right oil, understanding how oil is broken down, having a fryer with a built-in filtration system (and that recovers temperature quickly), and regularly testing oil quality.
Oil management is one of the greatest resources for any restaurant using a commercial fryer, because the frying oil alone is one of the biggest cost consumptions when it comes to frying; meaning, prolonging the life of the oil saves your restaurant money, $$$. And, making sure the oil is of good quality makes the food taste better, while still offering a healthier alternative.

Now, let’s talk healthy oils!

My grandparents use to cook the best fried chicken, in lard of course, and although mouth-watering and scrumptious, it was also artery clogging. Yet, with advances towards improving oil quality, especially in restaurants, that same fried chicken recipe can still be served-up without worrying about such adverse health concerns.

Some of the most commonly used healthy oils are high oleic canola and low linolenic soybean oils, which have the highest stability and nutrition value of other commonly used commercial cooking oils. Yes, they come with a much higher price tag than what you may be spending on traditional oils, but with good oil management practices, these oils actually last longer, which is where the money saving factor comes in. These oil types also come in shortening form, which is perfect for cookies, muffins and other sweets.

In comparison, partially hydrogenated oils may have a lower price tag and higher stability, but they also offer next to no nutritional value. Yet, unfortunately, there are a lot of restaurant owners that simply don’t care about oil quality, because they feel that they either loose flavor, or pay too much for the oil.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, today’s consumers are becoming savvier when it comes to the foods they eat, and they want it healthy – even when it’s fried. So, you have to ask yourself, if your restaurant isn’t making the switch to healthier oils, is it worth the loss in profit?

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From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your Employees

From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your EmployeesUnfortunately a high turnover rate is not always a positive aspect in regards to the restaurant industry. When it comes to customers, turnover can be great for your revenue. When it comes to employees, if it happens often, turnover can fracture the once-smooth operation of your establishment.

Employee turnover is inevitable, but if you follow a few basic procedures you can maximize your employee retention. Keeping the employees you have, and making the most of their skills and ambitions, can be the key to reducing your costs and increasing your restaurant’s efficiency.

Cast a wide net.  It’s hard to weed out who will cost you more money in the long run if you’ve only got one applicant. Cast that net wide and pull in as many possible candidates, from as many outlets as possible, to increase your chance of finding that golden employee.

Use multiple media.  When it comes to finding a job we’ve come a long way from circling ads in the Help Wanted section of the local paper. Think outside of that Help Wanted box and you’ll be surprised how many places potential employees look for employment. This goes hand-in-hand with casting that wide net. Talk to your current employees and tell them to spread the word. Put that ad in the local paper, but also post it to online job search sites. Let people know you’re looking by looking everywhere!

Screen. Screen. Screen. It’s easy to avoid the embarrassment of interviewing a candidate who’s completely wrong for the position, and also find someone who fits best, if you take the time to evaluate each candidate. Going over a stack of resumes one-by-one may take a while, but it’s definitely worth the time in the long run. Look at what’s important. Relevant job experience, references, and salary requirements can all play a large role in how that candidate operates and if they’ll be able to adapt to the position you’re offering.

Interview. If you’ve screened your candidates well, letting everyone who will work with them weigh in somehow, the interview process should be an extension of that screening. This is where you make sure the person on paper is actually the person you’re interviewing. You may laugh, but all too often people exaggerate their skills to sound more marketable. Make sure to ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. If you do this, and listen actively, you’ll get a feel for how the candidate views the job and also where they are in their life. Are they looking to hop in and out of your position within a matter of months, or are they someone you can count on further down the road?

From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your EmployeesTrain with your best. Now that you’ve found your new employee, make sure that person has access to your very best in terms of restaurant equipment and resources. A well trained employee may take time up front but can end up saving you more time and money in the future. An excellent way to groom your new hire is by having them shadow your top performing employee for a few days. This helps them learn the ins and outs of the job and also shows them what a good employee looks like. Create clear expectations and apparent avenues to achieve those expectations. Nothing costs more, money and time, than a confused employee acting on that confusion.

Be an example. Your staff essentially looks to you for approval and guidance. Giving them cues as to how you’d like things done, or what works best in a certain situation, can help eliminate confusion and garner good behavior. The best way to provide a positive work environment and retain your employees is to set a good example for everyone to follow.

Compensate creativelyTraditionally, compensation strategy has been to pay hourly for your kitchen staff, and have your waitstaff make most their pay through tips. High turnover and inefficient operation have caused some restaurants to rethink how they compensate. Here are two outside-the-box compensation strategies that have worked:

  1.  Salary your waitstaff. You’ll be surprised how priorities change. When you make a living on tips you’re often trying to up-sell and raise check averages, and in doing this top-notch service and customer satisfaction can suffer. On the other hand, salaried servers don’t feel the pressure to keep those tables turning. Instead they’re free to focus on the quality of service rather than the speed.
  2. Share profits with back of house. Most likely your kitchen staff is paid an hourly wage, and those employees will make that hourly no matter how quickly or efficiently they work. An incentive to keeping those in the back of the house productive is profit sharing. Let your kitchen staff earn shares based on how long they’ve been there, then let them share in the profits each quarter. This will help reduce turnover because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want a job that pays out a bonus 3 to 4 times a year? When an employee shares in your success it’s in their best interest to add to that success.

As we’ve discussed, turnover can be the factor that makes or breaks your business. Handling this turnover, and taking appropriate steps to avoid turnover wherever possible, can give you a leg up on your competition. Having a plan for approaching and reaching potential employees, and then following that plan through your hiring process, training, and eventually compensation can be invaluable. It all starts with you!

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FOH vs. BOH: 12 Tips to Ease Tension

FOH vs. BOH: 12 Tips to Ease TensionOh the woes of being a server: the fast paced rush, the kitchen yelling at you for what  your customers have ordered, the table of people that are mean to you and make you want to cry and the co-worker who is always telling you how to do things better!  It seems the woes never end!  One of the biggest influences on a shift can be how you and the BOH interact with each other.  Thankfully, this is an area that you have more control over then you may realize.

I asked 100 chefs to offer their advice to servers to create a more pleasant and respectful relationship between the two houses.  Here is what they said.

  1. Use your expediter to communicate.  Your Expediter is the liaison between you and everyone in the kitchen.  Don’t attempt to talk to chef’s on the line for any reason. Problems or modifications should be discussed with the Expediter. They will take it from there.
  2. Run food!  Everyone in the kitchen has taken great pains in preparation and the creation of dishes that sit on the line waiting for anyone with time to deliver them.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your table, your section or not, it is a paying guest’s food; plated and ready.  Any call for “food runner” should be met with a sense of urgency.
  3. Don’t take things to heart.  Thick skin is the order of the day.  Don’t take any immature, stupid or sharp comments personally.  Sometimes it’s not that easy but what is said during a busy rush is best not taken as a genuine insult.
  4. Hush on your tips.  Don’t boast, bitch or talk about the gratuities you have received or not received. While it’s fine to talk to your FOH peers about the money you make that conversation should be a private one and does not extend to the kitchen.
  5. Don’t use your cell phone.  While you are at work you should be focusing on things that need to be done or attended to: cleaning, guest’s needs or running food, not planning your time after work.
  6. Don’t use perfume or cologne at work.  People come out to eat to smell food, look at food and eat food.  The smell of perfume, while pleasant, has no business competing with the natural smells of the food.
  7. Make sure your order is correct.  It begins with what the guest says they want and ends with them receiving what they said they wanted.  The tricky part is everything in between.  Make sure you write down what the guest says, correctly and legibly, and put effort into putting that correct information into the computer system.
  8. Have a solution, know what is needed.  If you bring a dish back to expo from a guest, make sure you know what needs to be done to fix the problem right now.  Don’t explain the whole situation to expo…they don’t care, not at that moment.  What they care about is fixing the problem as fast as possible.  Clear and direct dialogue is key. “Table 1, seat 1: cook this steak up to mid-well, please” or “Table 6, seat 3: Please re-heat this risotto, it’s too cold.” are great ways of communicating.  The chef doesn’t need any back story, not right now.
  9. Say Please.  Please!  These are basic manners.
  10. Say Thank You. Thank you!  You were taught this since you were a kid.
  11. Buy a round.  Not all the time but if you have had an exceptional night thanks to a great kitchen team, it never hurts relations to buy them a drink.  They’ll remember and they’ll be grateful.
  12. Greet and bid adieu.  Saying hello to everyone when you come into work is a friendly and a nice introduction to a shift. There are often many servers that come in at a certain time and yet it is rare that any of them will actually go out of their way to say hello to the kitchen team. Often times they (the kitchen team) have been at the restaurant all day working; a friendly greeting is always welcome.  A genuine good night is always thoughtful as well!

Alright, here is where I ask you to check out my website: http://iamwaitress.com. The 427,826,211 person to visit it will win a billion dollars, maybe it will be you!

Jennifer Anderson is a server, certified Sommelier and FOH trainer/re-organizer.

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Conserve & Control: Portioning Out Your Precious Resources

Picture your next outing to a new restaurant or eatery. Mouths watering, you and your dinner companions order the same large entrees based on similar tastes and growling stomachs. As your succulent steaks make their way to the table, you notice your friend to the left has a small spoonful of potatoes overshadowed by an over-sized steak.  On the opposite side, your friend to the right sheds a tear when he sees his small piece of beef half hidden behind a heaping wall of potatoes. While you’re plate looks just right, you chuckle at how disproportionately different the three meals are, and how each of you paid the same price.

Now extend this imaginary dinner outing to the typical guest experience at your own establishment. Are the two uncannily similar? From an operational standpoint, how can you calculate margins and accurately tally expenses when each plate sent out is proportioned differently? The short answer is, you can’t.

Controlling the portions you provide your customers is an easily overlooked but extremely important way to cut costs and preserve your restaurant’s margin. Amid the hustle and bustle of today’s high-energy commercial kitchens it’s essential to have a tried-and-true method of keeping the portions your staff dishes out exact.

One place to weight watch when it comes to portions is proteins. Outfitting your kitchen with the right restaurant equipment is important, and a quality portion scale is a greatConserve & Control: Portioning Out Your Precious Resources way to keep an eye on what is probably the most expensive item on your entrée plates. Pop that protein onto a portion scale to quickly and easily stretch your product as far as it can go.

Starches, veggies, and soups are highly susceptible to varied portions.  What is shrugged off as an additional carrot or extra green may be adding up to cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year! The simplest way to take control of these portion sizes is to utilize a handful of portion measuring utensils. Using a specific disher, Spoodle, Loon, or ladle for certain food items, and always using that same sized utensil, will help you avoid over serving.

Water use is often undervalued and overlooked. Restaurants use a lot of water, it’s a fact. From washing dishes and tables to cooking and serving guests, water output eats up a nice chunk of your monthly budget whether you realize it or not. An excellent way to save, and also help your establishment be greener, is to watch your water. Here are 5 sensible tips to help you do just that: 

Fix leaky faucets – don’t let that drip drain your budget!

Wash full racks only – it’s a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often a member of your staff starts a half-filled rack through the washer.

Use a foot pedal for hand washing sinks – foot or knee pedals are a great way to avoid waste. They not only give your staff a sanitary way to operate the sink, but also shut off automatically to instantly help you save.

Landscape with conservation in mind – water outside can be as costly, if not more, than water inside. Keep that in mind when you’re adding a flower garden or line of decorative shrubs to the outside of your establishment.

Train employees – without the help of your employees your conservation plan is just a plan. Make sure each employee knows where your business stands when it comes to conserving.

Conserve & Control: Portioning Out Your Precious ResourcesBONUS: Spread the word –people love to hear when steps are taken to be more environmentally conscious. If you’ve made changes to how you do things, and these changes have a positive effect on the surrounding community, don’t be ashamed to toot your own horn and let people know!

So when it comes to portion control it’s time for you to be in control. As a basis for calculating your restaurant’s profitability, portioning out your product is essential to keeping your margins low and your plates consistent. Effective portion control is easier than you think and is a good way to accurately assume where your expenses will sit each month. Without a proper portion control method in place you end up gambling with these assumptions, and in the restaurant industry it’s often these kinds of gambles that can make or break you. Why not sway the odds in your favor as much as possible?

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Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation

In the fast paced world of write-what-you-will-when-you-want internet blogging, reviewing, and all around tom-foolery, you’re able to find varying opinions on just about anything. From bashing faulty restaurant equipment to condemning an establishment’s service, it would seem that opinion makers particularly enjoy targeting the restaurant world. Inhabiting an industry that’s so inherently subjective, restaurant owners need to be in the know when it comes to how customers, and the public in general, view and talk about their eatery. Not monitoring your online reputation, or worse yet ignoring the opinions you do uncover, can lead to customers not coming through your doors and eventually those doors closing for good.

Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online ReputationSocial media, review sites like Yelp, and literally any random person with a voice wanting to be heard, can be both an excellent way to spread positive feedback or negatively criticize a restaurant for poor quality. With 84% of American consumer’s decisions affected by online reviews being on top of the pulse in terms of watching what people say about you is crucial. Here are a few tips for staying ahead of the naysayers and building relationships with your optimistic fans.

Actively listen. All too often people are just waiting for their turn to speak rather than actively listening to what’s being said. If you take this approach when reading negative, or even positive, reviews you can really miss the message and come across as ignorant and inattentive. Open up those ears and take it all in, one disgruntled customer at a time, and realize that the opinion surrounding your restaurant can’t and isn’t molded by your hands alone.

Start with the social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and branch out to more specialized review sites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, and the likes. Additionally, you can comb the entire internet with Google Alerts and have it scour the web for mentions of your restaurant’s name. The tools are out there, you just need to use them.

Interact. If you’re not responding to your critics and formally thanking your fans you should be. With an internet era that’s all about conversation it takes more than listening to truly understand where consumers are coming from and what they’re expecting in regards to your restaurant. Make sure to create a dialogue with both your critics and your regulars and let them know that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Just remember to follow a few common-courtesy rules during the conversation and you’ll be in good shape:

  • Don’t insult people
  • Avoid acting defensive
  • Don’t pat yourself on the back

Have a voice. Instead of letting those who talk negatively about your restaurant form your online reputation you need to take action and do more than simply notice the public. Saying Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online Reputationthank you can go a long way, but offering an alternative viewpoint for people to weigh when making a decision is important. Rather than letting your potential customers believe a non-flattering review they come across, use discussion and interaction to provide an inside look into how your restaurant operates. Offer blog insights and helpful tips (Facebook & Twitter are invaluable when it comes to spreading information) and you’ll be surprised how many people will tune in.

Customer research. Knowing your customers is the key to providing them with the best service possible and exceeding expectations. In line with actively listening, once you’ve established a conversation it becomes easier to cater to needs and discover trends. If you see social media and active response as an opportunity to know customers better than they know themselves (in terms of what flavors suit their fancy) you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.

Monitoring feedback and staying in-the-know when you’re being talked about is easier than ever. Whether you’re trying to attract a new customer or attempting to turn a bad experience into a second chance prospect taking the initiative by managing your online reputation is step in the right direction. Granted, living up to a positive reputation requires dedication, but learning the habits of your customers is satisfying when you can take them from trying your food through having their expectations exceeded. Often satisfied customers are more than happy to help you spread a positive word!

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Advice for Young Chefs by Marc Vetri

Advice for Young Chefs by Marc VetriThe Huffington Post – Taste  asked the head chef/owner of Vetri, Osteria, Amis and Alla Spina - Marc Vetri, to give advice to young chefs regarding how to aspire in the food service industry. His advice is not only great for those in the back of the house but any profession, really.

Please take your time to read this, I think you will really enjoy!

“When I was young, my house seemed to be the place where all of my high school friends came for advice. My parents just had a way of handling problems that most parents didn’t seem to be able to control. I remember when my friends came over they would always end up asking my parents to weigh in on something. The advice they got was straight talk and usually pretty harsh, but always honest. It wasn’t always what my friends wanted to hear, but it was always what they needed to hear.

It’s funny how life works out since I now find myself in my parents’ role of being an advisor of sorts. I’m at a point in my career–two decades spent in a professional kitchen–where so many young chefs come to me, email me and write letters to me, all seeking advice.

“How do I break into the business?”

“How did you start, and how do you think I should start?”

“What’s a good road to take?”

“How much money should I make?”

While they all want advice, the fact of the matter is that they usually don’t like what they hear. I can usually tell if someone is going to make it in the industry after a couple of minutes with them. So, in order to speed up the process, I thought I would jot down a couple of tidbits that can help a young chef navigate the decision-making process. If you still want to open a restaurant after reading this, I believe that you’ll have a good shot at making it. Here goes!

1.) No one cares about your resume.

I’m not all that interested in knowing that you spent two months picking herbs at Noma, and three months scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush at Alinea. I would prefer to hear that you cooked at a bar for the last three years and can make a medium-rare hamburger like nobody’s business. That’s something I can work with! Nowadays, I never hire anyone without having them spend a couple days with us to see what they’re really all about. So, if you write on your resume that you worked with a butcher for a year, you better be able to butcher an animal!

2.) Don’t worry about what you get paid.

Whatever you think you should make, you’re probably wrong. Go to places where you want to work and wait for an opportunity there. Those are the places that are going to mold you into the chef that you will become. I waited outside Wolfgang Puck’s Granita every day for two weeks until they let me stage there. Then I staged for six weeks until they hired me…for peanuts. But that was my cooking school. It’s where I learned all the basics about cooking and working in a professional kitchen. I went in early without punching in so I could learn to butcher, make stocks and learn ordering. Without that experience, I would not have been able to do any of the things that followed. Going somewhere for the money is ALWAYS a mistake.

3.) Work ethic and attitude is everything.

It’s the only thing that matters. I would take a less knowledgeable cook with a great attitude and work ethic over a talented prodigy with pissy attitude any day of the week. It will always make for a better team at the restaurant. I can’t tell you how many amazing cooks have been through my kitchens and simply have not made the cut because of their attitude. And guess what? Three, four, five years later those cooks are still line cooks. They still complain about how much everybody else sucks around them. If you’re a line cook at 25 and still one at 35, it’s time to look in the mirror. I can guarantee that YOU are the problem not anyone else.

4.) Learn the basics.

I once had a young cook who used to bring in modern Spanish cookbooks because he wanted to make things like mango caviar eggs and chocolate soil. I told him, “Hey, how about you learn how to blanch a goddamn carrot first, cook meat to a correct temperature, clarify a broth and truss a chicken? Once you can do these things then, and only then, should you try to learn these other techniques.” Trust me when I tell you that José Andrés is a master of the basics. You should strive to be one too.

5.) Don’t ever think you’re above learning from anyone.

I learn from my staff as much as they learn from me. And I am inspired by my staff probably more than they are inspired by me. You can never stop learning, and if you think you can’t listen to a busboy or dishwasher in order to learn how to do something better, you’re dead wrong.

6.) If you’re getting into cooking and the restaurant business for the sole reason of just wanting to be on TV, do us all a favor…stop…turn around…and just go away.
TV has done some great things for me and everyone in the business. What I want you to understand is that the successful chefs who are on TV are still chefs first and foremost. It’s in their blood. If TV somehow went away, these guys would still be in their kitchens. They’ve spent years learning our craft, worked their butts off, sacrificed and studied. They deserve to be showing people what eggplant to choose at the supermarket or how to fondle a tomato because they’ve earned that knowledge. In order to make it in this industry you need to LOVE to cook — period. It just won’t work otherwise. It needs to be your life passion and you need to be willing to make many sacrifices for it. If you go into professional cooking because you think it’ll be a fast track to fame and a TV deal, you’re probably not going to make it past your first prep job of peeling four cases of fava beans and cleaning 30 pounds of baby squid.

7.) Don’t get involved in kitchen drama.

There is and will always be talk.

“This guy is making more than this guy.”

“Did you see how much the servers made?”

“That kid just doesn’t pull his/her weight.”

“He made that wrong, but I’m not sayin’ anything.”

“Back of the house is better than front of the house.”

It is all cancerous nonsense. Don’t fall into the trap. Yes, servers make more than you. Yes, a cook who is not as talented as you will make more than you. And yes, people will mess things up and you will notice. Be the person with the good work ethic who can look beyond that and see the big picture. Help others if you realize they’re making something incorrect. Come in early, leave late and be the person that the chef can rely on. You’re in this for your own reasons, stick to them and you will shine.

8.) The best cooks develop their own styles.

You can learn from many people, but the greats take all they have learned and they create dishes that inspire them. Like musicians learn licks from other artists, the great ones develop their own lines. Get inspired by other chefs and other restaurants, but let that be a catalyst for you to create that which inspires you and reflects who you are. Be your authentic self and let your personality come through in your food. It will show in your plates and it will be recognized.

9.) If you follow all of the advice here, then this last one will likely be relevant for you.

People ask me all the time, “Who are the chefs that you most admire?” The most important thing a successful chef can do is teach and give back. Be philanthropic. The chefs who excite me the most are the ones who run solid restaurant organizations and give back to the community. Chefs like Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio, John Besh, Suzanne Goin, Paul Kahan and so many others, these chefs spend as much time on charitable work as they do running their restaurants. Support a foundation. Give your time to young people trying to learn. Latch onto a cause that you believe in. It’s not only going to make your life more fulfilled and rich, but it will also make you cook better. I promise you that! I was inspired the most by a little girl named Alex whom I had never met. She inspired me to help her foundation, which inspired me to start my own foundation, which has brought smiles to thousands of children. YOU can make a difference, and in order to be great chef, that’s what you have to do.” - 

Marc Vetri

Marc’s advice has success written all over it. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this article as much as me!

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Share Your Story of Restaurant Mayhem

The United States has faced devastating disasters in the last 10 years that have not only affected families, but businesses too.

  • In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes in recent history, hit the Gulf Coast.  In a 90,000 square mile area,  thousands of local residents were left Share Your Story of Restaurant Mayhemunemployed and homeless while the death toll rose to more than 1,800 people and the total cost of damage was estimated at $125 billion.
  • Midsummer of 2012 ignited another catastrophic disaster – the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado. This fire was named the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history: killing 2 people, burning 346 homes, forcing an evacuation of 32,000 people and smoldering 18,247 acres.
  • Most recently, Hurricane Sandy aka ‘Frankenstorm’ ripped across the east coast. The death toll has risen to approximately 109 people while 17,500,000 people were affected and an estimated $60 billion in damages (see this compelling Katrina vs. Sandy comparison by the Huffington Post).

Now more than ever, restaurant owners are learning what it means to prepare for a natural disaster – like those aforementioned, as well as the numerous earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and other catastrophic  weather patterns that have devastated our nation. Precautionary steps need to be made for before, during and after an event: building and food care, evacuation plans, support needs, etc. Unfortunately, the lack of available resources to learn more about what this means is few and far between.

Share Your Story

Share Your Story of Restaurant MayhemShare Your Story of Restaurant Mayhem
That is why we need you! Your story can be extremely valuable to other restaurant owners, not only in the US, but around the globe…
  • What is it like to live through a natural disaster?
  • What did you do to protect your business?
  • What didn’t you do that you wish you would have done to prevent damage?

We would love the opportunity to hear your story, and in return, your story could be published in our next flyer publication! We send our quarterly flyer to 250K independent restaurant owners nationwide and, of course, you would get the opportunity view the article before it goes to print.

If you are interested please share your restaurant’s mayhem story; we can’t wait to hear your story!

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5 Ways to Grow Your Business Starting Today

Customers are always looking for good food, good service and good value. These 5 business growth tips will help you fill your restaurant, remind existing customers why they love dining at your restaurant and bring in more revenue!

5 Ways to Grow Your Business Starting Today

  1. Start a Rewards Card Program: Reward cards are a great tool to attract repeat business. This tool allows you to apply  iscounts for repeat visits and add credit based on a percentage of total bill. A simple, economical way to start a rewards program is offer a punch card. If you operate a coffee shop, pizza shop or deli shop punch cards can be an easy way to ensure repeat business.  Example: buy 9 coffees and get the 10th for free!
  2. Host Promotional Nights: Everyone loves a classic burger or taco night at a discounted price. Promotional nights are a free way to give customers something to talk about. Remember to always focus your event around your restaurant theme. If you operate a fine dining establishment make sure the event is classy, if you own a local taco shop make sure the event is family-orientated. Ideas for promotional nights are endless, think of how you can incorporate your local community with your event.
  3. Use Local Farmers & Vendors:  Local farmers, vendors and suppliers are an independent restaurant owner’s friend. Such vendors are always looking for community exposure. Ideas include, offering your restaurant in exchange for reduced costs, a win-5 Ways to Grow Your Business Starting Todaywin for both parties. Local farmers and vendors imply to your guests a local connection with the surrounding community.
  4. Get Social! Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are perfect promotional outlets for independent restaurant owners. These outlets allow you to announce coupons, promotions reward programs, relationships with local vendors, new menu items and anything else you wish to let your customer base know about. Not to mention these media channels are FREE.
  5. Treat Your Customers Like Gold: Customer service is everything in the food service business. Treating customers well and accommodating their requests are keys to creating repeat business. Customer service also encompasses a clean, inviting and comfortable dining experience.

Remember every restaurant concept is different, if you try one tactic and you don’t see the results you’re expecting try something else. Keeping costs down while marketing a successful business takes time; these tips are things you can start today.

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