Five Bar Rescue chefs spilled the beans on their experiences with helping operators escape failure and find success during Monday’s Bar Rescue Chef Panel. Here’s a look at some of their secrets to building killer operations.
Each new rescue project presents Food Network Chef Vic “Vegas” Moea with many unknowns. “Sometimes an operation needs to be revived; sometimes it needs to be demolished,” he says. “Some people should be ashamed of themselves on how they conduct business. They seem to forget we’re serving food and drinks to adults and kids, so a high level of pride and integrity needs to be in place.”
Nick Liberato, chef/owner at Calidelphia Catering, says the first thing he looks at walking into an operation is its bathroom. “If the bathroom is clean, that shows me they take pride in what they do, and that pride probably extends to every facet of the operation.”
Next to cleanliness is being a good leader, which includes surrounding yourself with the right people. “Sour grapes can kill an operation,” says Ryan Scott, Top Chef alum and creator of Market & Rye. “You need to let those people go. It’s that simple, but it may be hard to do even if they’ve worked for you for a long time.”
Firing someone might actually be one of the smartest business moves you can make, because the result could be an injection of new ideas into the business. “What happens when a new hire comes on board is you get a fresh set of eyes that presents a new perspective on how your operation is being run—both right and wrong,” says Michael Ferraro, executive chef/partner of Delicatessen.
While cooking food is the fun side of the business, you can’t neglect being a smart business person. Moea explains when opening a new operation there are three areas to consider: do your research to understand your demographics and learn what’s needed; make sure you have a good price point; and create buzz about your concept, through avenues such as social media.
Finally, there’s more to being an owner than just cooking food. “A chef just can’t cook,” says Scott. “A chef also has to be a mathematician.” He proved his point by telling how he batches cocktails at his San Francisco restaurant Finn Town to expedite service. By batching five cocktails in pony kegs, he gets 60 drinks per keg, which adds up to 300 cocktails that can be served in seconds. “Batching helps us reduce lines at the bar and frees up space for more seats,” he says. “It takes longer for my servers to run a credit card than it does for my bartender to serve a cocktail.”
This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®