I started a new job and felt like soundboarding

Joined May 8, 2009
Leaving a place that did 20k a day in sales to manage a kitchen that makes that much in a week.

All kitchen staff left a month ago except for one DW.

The place has been open for just over a year and they have a good location.  While other restaurants are closing in this town, they opened one and seem to have their act together.  Probably because they spend a lot of time pouring over numbers.  Neither of the owners have food service experience, but they are business oriented and are committed to making this place work.

I'm walking into a kitchen not knowing anything about it.  The last two chefs quit or were fired in the last three weeks, and the chef before them may have left notes, but I do not have them.  I have to start from scratch.  I signed a contract yesterday and I want to WOW them, not with food porn, but with my ability to get labor down, production up, FC under control, accurate inventory, ...the list goes on.

Like I said, it's a small place and not haute cuisine, just a bistro serving good food to a local community. I'm happy as a clam for the change and in three months it'll be child's play, but I just don't know where to start.  One of the owners said to focus on putting out quality plates.  That means learn the line.  The other owner is dead set on getting specials up in advance.  Meanwhile, the ordering is out of control and I feel that I should focus on that, and I'm SURE that the FC is grossly inaccurate as is the monthly inventory guide I saw.  And the walk-in is fucked.  And.....  And....  Everything else.

I dunno, I guess I'm just venting.  No one can tell me what's best because it's relative, but maybe you have some obvious insight I can't see. 

TLDR: You walk into a kitchen with 6 new line cooks. No one knows the menu.  Established clientele know the current menu and are possibly picky.  Bosses want labor/inventory/production/cleaning/portion control/quality dealt with ASAP.  What do?  What do first?
Joined Jun 14, 2002
All kitchen staff left a month ago except for one DW....

...Neither of the owners have food service experience,...

...I'm walking into a kitchen not knowing anything about it.  The last two chefs quit or were fired in the last three weeks...
AAAAHIIIEEEEEEE!!!! Setting off warning bells for me.

Step 1)  Do triage.

You need to know how much cash/credit reserves are left, because you might be in an unrecoverable situation. You will also need to know this to guide your budget. I'd also try to get a menu mix out of the POS to see what was selling. Do the Restaurant Nightmares bit and talk to excustomers and neighborhood people.

You will also need to know what your break even point.

Step 2) Stop the bleeding.

Shrink the menu. This will help in decreasing your inventory issues and reducing labor.

At <$20k a week, I think you might be over hiring with 6 line people.

Consider if you should go dark on some shifts.

Evaluate your purchasing strategy. Get purvayors to rebid, check on credit terms. Sometimes it makes sense to buy at cash and carry places. Some, I think CostCo or Smart and Final even offer free delivery if you order over a certain amount. I also check the weekly circulars for deals. I've gotten a few good deals on various common and specialty produce items at a couple of the local ethnic chain markets here in Los Angeles.

Step 3) Make your systems.

Recipe bible, pars, ordering controls, etc. You know this stuff.

Step 4) Recapture and Grow business

Hard part.

Step 5) Profit

Could you post the menu?
Joined May 8, 2009
AAAAHIIIEEEEEEE!!!! Setting off warning bells for me.
OMG!   Don't you hate it when you type a huge reply and then accidentally erase it?!

Yes, I heard the same warning bells.  I did my research and came in and "worked" a shift when the owners weren't there ( I knew the cooks).

I asked around...  I had lengthy conversations with my boss who has 30+ years experience working in this community, cooking, GMing.

I talked to prior chef, prior cooks.

I researched the place for 3 weeks.  I interviewed the owners. 

I did my homework and was turned down the job because I admitted to them that I was on the fence about it.

The "chef" they hired in place of me couldn't make friends with FOH so he was let go after a week.

The guy before that was a pastry chef still green from culinary school.  Quit after 2 days.  I LOLed.

I didn't mean for anyone to view the owners in a bad light with the "no food service experience" comment.

They are actually MAKING money (not much, but...) after a year in the biz.  I think it's because they extrapolate very well.

Their day jobs require crunching numbers.  I haven't worked in a place that poured over numbers as much as they do.  Analytical minds.

And that's where I come in...  I'm the guy bringing in the restaurant biz experience.  The culinary experience.

anyways, I'm rambling:

Step 1) Like I said, they are number oriented.  My first day they gave me lists and graphs regarding labor, budgets (based on last 3 weeks), etc. replete with red and green numbers.

Step 2) Shrink menu: not just yet, but I intend to.

            When I signed the contract I was told that there was one too many cooks in the kitchen...  Thinking of making 2 part timers instead of being an axeman.  We'll see.

            "dark on some shifts"  don't know that lingo...  closing for a couple hours mid day isn't going to happen, if that's what you mean.

            Yep yep, working on new purveyors/ordering strategies.

Step 3,4) Plan on starting that in a month or so, after I learn the current menu.  I kind of look forward to recapturing and growing business.  I've already bumped into a return customer at the grocery store and asked them what they'd like to see on the menu.  Even if I don't do it, they're happy that their opinion was considered.

Step 5) ???

Step 6) Profit.

I'll PM you the website with the menu.  Look forward to hearing what you think.

Thanks for the reply.
Joined May 8, 2009
Well, 4 days later and I feel at peace.  This is going to work out.

Instead of a bunch of ramblings, I'm going to ask more focused questions in different posts.

Thanks, thetincook.  But this thread would end up with walls of tl;dr posts from me.

I'm too verbose sometimes.  Need to keep it on point.

I'm in heaven.  I'm so much more happy when I'm being challenged.

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