How can a chef/restaurant owner be sure that the quality of the food is maintained when he or she is not in the kitchen?
– Michelle DeLorenzo, Cook and Culinary Student, New York, NY
Chefs and restaurateurs are busy people. Visits to suppliers, trade shows, civic and industry organizations, competitors and conferences; meetings with bankers, accountants, journalists, prospective employees, and investors; not to mention the occasional sick day, vacation or day off (are those allowed?) limit time on premises for even the most operations-oriented restaurateur. Throw in the morning show circuit, book tours, catered events, and awards dinners to the mix and you have chefs and owners who may be out more than in.
Guests, however, don’t care what the responsibilities of a restaurateur are. If they are eating at “Jon’s Place,” they preferably want to see Jon and, if they can’t, to be assured that their experience is as good as it is when Jon is stirring the pots himself.
Consistency is one of the most challenging elements of a successful restaurant to achieve. It requires clearly communicated guidelines and a full effort by every member of the team. To start:
- Standardized food and beverage recipes for all menu items along with standardized portion sizes, plate presentation diagrams, temperature guidelines and quality specifications.
- Comprehensive training program with cross-training for deeper rosters (i.e. a prep cook can fill in on the line if needed).
- Clear quality guidelines and purchase specifications communicated to suppliers and trained receiving personnel.
- Check lists for each station.
Ryan Poli, chef/partner of Tavernita—Mercadito Hospitality’s new concept with locations in Chicago and Miami—says, “The staff needs to be trained properly, making sure they follow the recipes. [It also helps to] really give them ownership of their station, making them feel part of the team and not just an employee. It is important that they believe in the chef and the concept.”
It is also important that guests have a clear feedback mechanism so that even in her absence, a chef can be kept apprised of guest feedback via a web comment form or comment cards in addition to open sites like Yelp. Some complaints are inevitable, but an uptick when the boss is out can indicate big problems. Mystery shoppers can also be effective in assuring that the experience is consistent across guests.
More on consistency here.