bought the restuarant & survived, but..

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by angelica, Jan 21, 2002.

  1. angelica

    angelica

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    My last post was in sept. I got some good advice last time I posted a message, so I am back to try again!
    I purchased a 120 seat "fine country dining" establishment and I have an issue that has come up. I need some advice from a chef, or lots of chefs opinions. please.
    The staff has been there since the beginning(18 years) Its going great between all of us but the chef. The prior owners had no interest in the kitchen or menu. Gave little input on menu decisions and in response the young chef took over that facet of the place. He became a bully(according to the staff) fairly quickly, menu hasn't changed in 10 years. Likes his routine, sees no need to change things, it works for HIM. Diners are dieing for a menu change. Staff is dieing for menu change, I see the absolute need for that also, but Chef likes to do as he has for all these years.
    I have made new kitchen equipment purchases to make everyones job easier, he hates my purchases.(sandwich prep refrig) not a contoversail purchase. Etc.
    The guy hates me, the place can not thrive and grow without some positive change in the menu, and some better quality ingredients.
    I completely understand the discomfort of having a new owner, and the fear of change. But I also understand a much bigger isssue, the need to make the customer happy, provide fresh ideas, value and a pleasant work enviroment for everyone. This man gets his 1000.per week ( a short week at that)whether there are 10 diners or 110. I am sure any kind of change seems uncomfortable to him.
    The staff wishes he would leave, and has strongly suggested I help him leave. I wish he would just open his mind, crack a magazine, go out to a good restuarant, turn on a food program,etc and realize, he could be alot worse off with another owner, maybe one that might not BABY him. I don't want him to leave but I can not take him screaming at me for illogical reasons, or refusing to help improve this investment that we all benefit from. Please help me. Am I wrong
     
  2. chrose

    chrose

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    To me, I don't think you're wrong. The child has been spoiled and the likelihood of you turning him around sounds, based on what you have said of him, unlikely. Still the bottom line is You Are the OWNER not him. To use the old cliche it's your way or the highway. A prima donna chef that brings in hordes of people and business is one thing to contend with. A guy that's got a good thing going and is just using you needs to be shown the door in a hurry. He sounds like a cancer. 1 chef with a poor attitude is easier to replace than an entire staff, who will start disappearing soon.
    Stop feeling guilty! It's your money on the line not his. He can walk away from a disaster no worse for the wear. You on the other hand are stuck with it. Find a Chef and send junior packing. You are paying him way too much. ****, give me a grand a week and I'll personally come over there and boot his *** out!!!:bounce:
     
  3. cape chef

    cape chef

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    This is a hard one, There are a couple ways to go about trying to get the Chef on your page. First, Does he have an updated job description? If not draw one up for all managment, Make it very clear what is expected in his role as the Chef.Include recipe developement and interpersonal skills. Be sure to offer the Chef the nessasery tools to be able to accomplish these things.
    Go over your expectations, line by line and have him sign it.
    Also discuss a fesable time line that you want to see tangible results. I don't know what type of diciplinary documents you use, so be aware of your leverage and document "Everything"

    Put a flip chart in his/her office with Apps, entrees, sides,salads, deserts ETC highlighted. Ask the staff and the chef to write down one new item per week in each catogory. Offer the first ones yourself. Give the Chef time to get comfortable with some of these new concepts. Be honest though, You have a buisness to run and you want to make changes and increase custumer satisfaction. If the Chefs doesn't catch the program after the agreed upon time frame then you may need to consider strong discipline. There also is no room for "Bullies" in kitchens. I say , Nip it in the bud
    cc
     
  4. angelica

    angelica

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    Great ideas! Actually I have documented my opinions and suggestions to the entire staff on how to market the restuarant, changes and improvements and my great interest in a happy workplace. I got rave responses, they all love having the oppurtunity to express themselves, they love their jobs and seem to like me and my suggestions. They apparantly loove being asked their opinions. Who knows better what the custyomers want than the waitstaff. Really everything would be great if THE BIG GUY in the apron would lighten up and crack a smile. I am really not trying to shove anything down his throat. But I gotta say, I am so embarrashed to offer the same selections any longer.
    I offer to help(peel shrimp, wash dishes, etc) he asked if I would like his job, its his kitchen. I realize the average owner doesn't do the dishes or peel the shrimp, but I have extra time, way too much energy and I enjoy being in the trenches with everyone.
    Thank you, by the way for responding...
     
  5. angelica

    angelica

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  6. angelica

    angelica

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    I appreciate your pinash. Your approach is certainly one to consider. Being new to this industry, I am afraid to make a wrong move. Or have a poor or incorrect expectation of owner/ chef relatioonship. But I gotta say I was wishing my boyfriend was in the building the last time he screamed at me...
     
  7. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Angelica, look at this as another opportunity for growth, not just for you but for you and chef together :) Change is difficult and you might have to present a number of challenges to chef. I'm going to assume that you've already weighed the risks and consequences of changing the menu. Given that you have, and that it's your decision, I would do as others above have suggested, which is to sit down with your staff and explain to them about the direction the business is going to be heading... fast, as in next week we're going to have the new menu.

    I hate to hear stories like this about people. It stings a bit more when it's someone we can relate to. I've had my share of changing management and new ownership and did not do well. I had a lot of difficulties adjusting to new standards of operation and new management styles. In the end I had to leave to preserve my own sanity. Sometimes it's all for the better.

    Kuan
     
  8. panini

    panini

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    Angelica,
    I'm hearing some wall building here. You taking surveys of the staff knowing the chef is not real flexible. Of course they will side against him with you. Looking up through the window at a whole staff who has voiced different opinions them him will make it almost impossible for him to crack a smile much less be happy he is there. It's been 4 months. Business is not a game, you better leave the property and have a face to face with him. It's obvious a group thing will not work. Lay it on the line, review a written synopsis of what the both of your expectations are. Give him 60 days of your undivided support for him to start accomplishing both of your goals. You might be quite surprised, he may have some good ideas. Every week to ten days, sit and review. If you have not made any progress, document it, have him sign it. If you have two negetive sessions in a row, start your search.
    Please, please, please do not take this personal, but some management courses may be helpful to you. If you bond publically to any one group under one roof you will always loose the respect of the others.
    Good Luck
     
  9. angelica

    angelica

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    Actually, I did not realize the entire staff was aware of the conflict, I did not open the conversation with them. Apparently, the chef chose to make a laughing stock of me after I left the building, discribing to HIS COWORKERS how he had succeeded in making HIS boss cry. Well unfortunatly for him, they choose to side with me and brought the conversation up. My goal is and has been since negotations began on this purchase, to continue with this experienced staff, inprove where necessary, court the customer with creativity and fresh ideas and keep things in the same ball park. I bought the place on Dec. 7, promptly gave everyone my spin on things. Raises to all, expressed my appreciation for the great jobs they have done in the past and hoped we would all bond as a unit and continue. Inclusive of the chef. He has chosen to be an obstacle, and completely unwarrented. I realize having a new owner is completely unnerving, I am a very sensitive person. BUT, with having said that, I am also listening to complaints, from staff- who don't like to bring out food they wouldn't eat, to patrons who are starving for change and variety. Everything simply cannot be covered with a sweet cream sauce!!!
    I am more than willing to stroke this guys ego to get through this, I have done my homework, I know whats out there, he can do it, His EGO is getting in the way, not his technique... Now theres the problem... Its the Person not the Chef.
     
  10. momoreg

    momoreg

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    I agree with everything posted on this thread.


    It's up to you to determine how stubborn his ego is.
    While the chef may physically be able to come up with and execute a new menu, what is the likelihood of that happening?

    He definitely needs to be told that it is not only HIS kitchen. It is yours too. That kind of attitude is immature, and if you let him behave that way, he'll continue to.

    Since you already know what the customers want, it's up to you to give it to them, regardless of what you might need to do. I predict that this chef (who is obviously resistant to change) would no sooner change a menu, than he would his own attitude. Give him an ultimatum. It's only his kitchen as long as it's his job.
     
  11. panini

    panini

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    Angelica,
    In reference to your post on 1-20. Did you confront him after the crying incident? Its coming through that you know what you have to do. Are you under sime kind of binding obligation to keep this person? Contact your local unemployment office and request all the info you might need to dismiss him. It sounds like you should be keeping a daily journal. If things are truly what you say, than coming from another business owner, you better start to make the transition. First, start redoing a job description for his position right away. Make it know to him what you are doing!!! Ask him plenty of questions. I would never tolorate someone making me upset enough to cry, especially on purpose. Although some of my staff sometimes brings me to tears, but unintentionally.
    The longer it takes, the harder it is.
    ps don't get defensive with the posters, we are just trying to help. Its hard without first hand info.
    jeff
     
  12. angelica

    angelica

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    I certainly appreciate that someone out there read these posts and cared enough to respond. Sorry if I appear to be defensive. I am concerned and feeling pushed to get a handle on this industries feelings on chef/owner conflicts. This most recent incident happened this past Friday, the chef apologized and then I left for a few hours. I thought we had a shot of working through things but when I came in on Fri. eve, I was hit with the rest of the staffs comments after he made a big joke of it.
    He took the weekend off, and he is due back tommorrow morning.I feel a great sense of urgency to fuel myself with the knowledge to make the right decision, and or continue on my path of patience. These forums are the only way for someone like me to contact people in this industry, Yes I know business, but I am new tio this one. Its been a little over a month.
    My sense is to lay the facts out, and really its his decision, I want to improve on things, not disrupt.
    Thanks so much for writting, I enjoy the wide range of response, I just dread this meeting tommorrow. I find it difficult to understand such miserableness.
    The door is open, he can stay and be a human or walk through it, and I will work it out...
     
  13. panini

    panini

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    Not trying to be the jerk here, but he's degrading you to staff behind your back. Your dreading tomorrows meeting.
    And the door is open!!!
    If he is doing things behind your back, don't think he is not also covering his bases.
    You had better cover yours.
    You don't seem to be on a level playing field. You have seem to have put him on an upper plain because of history. If you don't level the field and give him 2 weeks to get his sh--- together, it will never be corrected.
    Start you're search for a replacement tonight, whether you need it or not. Don't be caught. If you have been in business before you know if he gives notice, its better to cut it right then and there.
    Unfortunately this industry is somewhat primitive and not very politically correct. Sometimes the strongest wins.
     
  14. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Panini is right, After reading more of your concerns I recommend that you set the record straight and make things very clear.
    This is a rough buisness, this is "YOUR" buisness and money where talking about here.
    Do us a favor, as this developes please keep us posted. I am sure we can help you through this. We've all been there.
    cc
     
  15. angelica

    angelica

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    Hey, thank you folks for your good advice. I will hope for the best,
    Set the record straight, and make sure I am not alone in the building(just kidding, i think)
    I will keep this little group posted. Thanks again for your time and interest. And on the off chance this gentleman takes a walk, keep an ear open for a good chef that might like a happy, pleasant owner who sees food as a medium for expression!!! Not just a job. I'll talk to you tomorrow.
     
  16. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

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    Write down everything(!!!!!!!). Protect yourself (additional unemployment insurance payments don't help the bottom line).
    Be clear to everyone about your goals. (sounds like you've got a knack for that one. Good Job!)
    Clearly define everyone's role in driving your business. (Especially yours!)
    <An owner offering to peel shrimp could be perceived as micro-management.>
    After all, you are the owner.
    Go for what you believe and be as straight with him as you are with all of us.
    Don't forget, you are the owner.
    Good luck!









    Crying doesn't mean s---, it's just stress.
    Don't let anybody tell you different.
     
  17. chrose

    chrose

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    Almost wish I was back in Pa. This boy needs to be let go. Do him a favor. You are a nice person. Get him a new job. I think he could stand a few lessons from some other Chefs. I reccomend getting him a job at Les Halles Brasserie. Tony will teach him a couple of lessons. Or put him in a nice big hotel. Let him tell those owners it's his kitchen. Boy I'd pay to see that.
    Much though I hate to admit it society today has become so litigious that you really do have to cover yourself. Just document everything to date like Panini and CC suggest, and if he thinks he can get over on you and I truly don't think he has the brains to then he won't have a Jambon to stand on. I think when push comes to shove though he'll turn, put his tail between his legs (and hopefully someones foot!) and slime away like the scum he is. Afterwards feel free to send his address and I'll be glad to send him a written copy of the boards opinion of him, or at least mine!:mad: :bounce:
     
  18. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

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    Hey Angelica keep your head up and a smile on your face . You have been given tons of good advice on this thread with your dilema . Confrontation in life is difficult , no matter what the forum , but this is your biz you have decided to get into and like its been said it shall be run the way you see fit in the end . This chef of yours is the ultimate example of the old class chef bullies who felt that only they know what people want and are so afraid of change that they attempt to protect there positions by creating an enviroment of fear amongst the other employees , including the owner . Your ultimate descision will probably be to have to terminate this person but do not be saddened by this descision cause you will actualy bring the other employees closer to your hearts desire . Right now you need to find a chef to replace the one you have and also like has been mentioned you must document all the bad things this chef does and I would go so far as to verbaly counsel ( document this with wittnesses) , and then give written progressive counseling . From the attitude and behavior of this person ( I use the term chef lightly here )
    you shall not have a problem getting rid of chef and bringing some peace to your establishment . Remember when you hire a chef that not only are culinary skills needed but as I have told people in interviews a chef needs to be like a coach on a team ,
    always willing to try new ideas to win and realizing that it takes everybody on the team working together to win . This boils down to happy employees , satisfied customers , and a profit in your bank account . Finaly , never allow another human being to yell at you . This is wrong and to me totaly unaccectptable behavior . Of course this is just my opinion ...........................
     
  19. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I agree with everything written before me but I also see alot of worry for you. Hey, the guys a jerk and probably should be fired but you are and should be worried about how that will effect your place.

    First thought, can his sous produce the same quality (after all these years the kitchen should run perfect when he's not there)? What I'm leading to is are you covered if you need to loose him?Will anyone taste a difference? If not, this gives you ALOT more power and time to search for the right chef.

    I think just firing the guy could be a risk, many restaurants are made or broken on the quality of their chef. So I would think things thru.

    Also, you need to seperate yourself from your staff. Although I agree in team spirit and a good working place. YOU AREN'T A PART OF THE TEAM, YOUR THE LEADER OF THE TEAM. You need to be fair to EVERYONE (including giving weight to your chefs decisions).

    Now, what I know from dealing with people like how you described your chef is their ruled by FEAR. They'll only dig in harder when their scared. He's set in his ways because it's his comfort zone and probably he doesn't even know how to change at this point. You handled things wrong when you made it him against you and the staff. I'd stop right now and have a heart to heart with him. YOU change YOUR appoarch completely, appolgize for any embarassement you've caused him. Tell him you expect for him to NEVER do anything in the future to embarasse you.

    From this day forward I'd make this a place run by management. As chef he is a manager. If you also have a front end manager they will also have in put. But if you run your restaurant as a democracy you'll never win!

    Deal with any menu changes in private. ALL BUSINESS activity happens in private! NEVER, EVER IN FRONT OF WAIT STAFF or Kitchen help! When you deal with you people everyone doesn't have to know everyone elses business. Don't tell the staff what you and the chef discuss. Plus the chef doesn't need to know the fine details of what the front end is doing unless it effects him.

    Sorry I think you have a scared person on your hands and I'd play with working things out the best I could before firing him , IF HE'S THE REASON THE BUSINESS IS GOOD. Cause lets face it, people deal with bad service but you never get repeat business with bad food. If this guy has created loyal repeat customer, I'd try to work things out. I think you need to do some changing in how you handle HIM. But I'm not justifing his bad behavior (and I wouldn't live with it indefinetly) just trying to show you that you could have something to loose....?
     
  20. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    You are the owner, and he is just an employee. Doesn't matter if he is the chef, when it comes down to it he is just an employee and should abide by your decisions, whether he likes them or not. And, on top of that, as the chef, needs to publicly agree with you, even if he doesn't agree privately. It is always important for management and owners to stand united. Employees can always smell dissention among the ranks.

    If he doesn't wish to abide by your decisions then get rid of him. You can't do this immediately, unless you don't mind paying unemployement. Every time he acts out of line write him up for insubordination. That way you have a paper trail to protect yourself after you fire. But you must make a stand on way or another. He must be given an ultimatum. If not, you risk losing control of all your employees. They will sense your weakness, and believe me, many will prey on it, if you don't send a strong statement immediately.

    A few things just to consider though. He has been there for many years, and you are not only new to the restaurant, but new to the business also. I'm sure he is testing you, to see what you are made of. Don't allow him to back you into a corner, or you have lost his test and will never be able to control. Stand up to him now, show no weakness and he may fall into line. You also say that you have bought new equipment. Did you consult him at all before buying it? Chefs love new "toys", but one thing that is hard for us is to give up our control over the kitchen sometimes. Buying new equipment, even with the best of intentions, without talking to the chef about what he needs can be a slap in the face to some. Don't get me wrong, I am not defending this guy. He does seem to be quite a bully, but he may be also just defending his territory from a takeover. Again, this is how he may see it. Whether he likes it or not though, you are the owner and he will need to fall into line or leave. Just some "food for thought".

    As for changing things, everyone needs a little shaking up sometimes, and people do crave new things. But other times, people enjoy the comfort of things being static. Change makes them uncomfortable. Too many chefs and owners come into a new place, and the first thing they want to do is change everything, the decor, the menu, the uniforms, etc. This then gets reinforced when they hear a few customers say that they want change, or better yet when their serves say that the customers are begging for a change. 8 times out of 10 it's not the customers who want the change, it's the servers. Spend some time getting to know your customers, who they are, what their likes and dislikes are. Make one or two small changes and see how that goes over with them. If they like it, then implament more. If they don't like the few small ones, maybe your best bet is to keep things the same. Sometimes, people say they want change, but it's the idea of change that they like better than actual change. As I think about all the great restaurants here in Chicago, I know many that change the menus as often as possible, then I know of other places that haven't made a change in years and years. Yet, both types of places do well. Which one should you be? Maybe something in between? Let your cutomers make that decision for you. Take some more time, and find out what their desires are. If you move too quickly, you could end up alienating your loyal customers.