I'm looking for advise on staffing the back of the house for a small 30 seat East Village NYC Latin

Joined Feb 16, 2011
I'm trying to get opinions as to what staff i'll need and competitive salaries for that staff.

30 seat restaurant wine bar with a strong Tapas menu and a few entree specials per night.

Any advise, opinions and help is very much appreciated.  Thank You!
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Uh...well, it's kind alike this:

A guy goes out and buys a $40,000 grand Harley, and then turns around asks me how to shift gears and corner on it.

Oh I have all the answers you want, and they'll be in the paragraph down below, but I gotta ask why you would make plans on setting up such a place with no idea on how a indespensible part of the business--the kitchen-- operates.

30 seats? Week nights one guy, weekends one guy plus a dishwasher/salad guy.


Depends a lot on how much experience the guy/gal has.  Maybe someone from NYC can give you a better answer.
Joined Jan 29, 2011

not for nothing but one/two guys in the kitchen would be great... as long as they don't plan on turning many tables. and good luck finding a chef/kitchen manager in NYC to run your kitchen and do dishes five days a week for both shifts. those types of cooks will run a business into the ground with shoddy food and poor utilization without even knowing it. this is NYC where the good cooks know better and have other options.  
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Joined Jan 29, 2011

first off while i commend anyone venturing into the business, i tend to frown on those diving in without much idea of what it really takes. too many people open up restaurant, get others to follow along with big hopes and end up without jobs. the one thing that every new owner should have a handle on is the kitchen side, and from the sounds of it you are pretty new. 

if you are in the village i take it your rent isn't cheap.... you will probably be smart to be open for lunch/dinner since it is a small plates/few tables venue and won't be selling $40 dinners to the masses. lunch can make up a good part of your overhead if you're smart and shouldn't be overlooked. will you have a bar? liquor license? afternoon cocktails and small bites could make the difference in turning a profit with minimal staffing. 

you get what you pay for: if you try and hire some random line cook who wants to be in charge you could very well end up spending more on loss (food and customers) than it would cost you to hire a qualified chef. granted, it's tapas, so you don't need someone from a top rated joint for big $$$ but you need to be careful. tapas, while dated at this point, relies on someone who is not only skilled at utilizing every last bit, but can create food on the cheap without sacrificing quality. from the sounds of it you need a person that can create menus, manage food cost by utilizing product and organize a kitchen without the need of ownership knowing/watching every step. 

i take it the kitchen is less than spacious, which is actually a good thing.... less area to be covered by the governing cooks. being a latin place you can certainly make good use of a dishwasher/prep guy without too much technical training, which makes things easier. lunches could be handled by two people, with down time being utilized for dinner prep by both parties. being in the village you should hope, in a 30 seat spot, to make two to three turns during the weekdays. tapas isn't an all night event and most come by for a quick bite before hitting the clubs, shows, other engagements, et al. if they are going to linger, it will be because of the drink/wine list, which isn't a bad thing.

dinner is a whole other story.... in a small plates setting you need to turn tables and shuffle them on. shorting the kitchen staff can bottleneck service and tables that should be empty and ready are occupied and waiting for their food.  think about it; paying another guy 10-12 bucks an hour for three to five hours can mean piling in a dozen more tables in the evening. if your afternoon dishwasher stays on as a cold side cook for the brunt of dinner service you give the guy/gal what they're looking for (lots of hours) and you cut them loose when it slows down. even if your kitchen is tight quarters you should be able to fit a pair of cooks plus a dish dog that can put out a good product in a reasonable amount of time, turn the tables and keep people happy.

what i have provided is an abridged version of what you are asking. knowing your entire setup is essential in giving the best advice. your best bet, again judging by your post, would be to bring in a consultant to thoroughly asses your position and to assist you in hiring a staff. feel free to e-mail me through the system here if you would like further assistance.

cheers and good luck.  


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
30 seater?  One person, one DMO/helper on Fri/Sat nights.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Pirachechefny, yes you may be right, but look at the O.P.  Key criteria is:
30 seat restaurant wine bar with a strong Tapas menu and a few entree specials per night.
 Guy wants to make money with the wine, fair enough.  30 seats is a hard sell because you will still need all the staffing and infrastructure of a larger place, yet only have 30 seats as a pay-off.

Guy wants to make money with wine, fair enough, so he will focus his investment on the foh, which obviously includes staffing.

How many staff can a 30 seater support????????????????????? 
Joined May 22, 2010
"...this is NYC where the good cooks know better and have other options."

He's right. The rest of us poor schmucks that don't work in the centre of the universe... we'll just take whatever scraps are tossed to us.

Umm.. where's the "eyeroll" emoticon?

As to the OP... dude... you're planning your kitchen as an afterthought. You're doomed to fail.

Try working backwards.

30 seats... average revenue per guest = ???

How many times are you gonna flip your seats in an evening? How many covers a night? What's your total daily revenue?


What's your food cost percentage gonna be?

What's your liquor cost percentage gonna be?

What's your labour cost percentage gonna be?

How much are you spending daily on your lease/utilities/taxes/licences etc?

You've got a lot of work to do before you will even be able to see if 30 seats will make you enough money to stay open. My gut says you are going to have be PACKED, pretty much nonstop to pull it off, unless you figure you're gonna be able to charge top dollar, and have the product to back it up. 

Off the cuff? If you're working 7 days a week, evenings only...I'd say one cook, one cook/prep/dish, one part time dish.

Cook works 5 shifts. Dish works 4 shifts. Your cook/prep/DW works two cook shifts, 3 DW shifts.

Let's say you flip every seat once.

60 covers.

Average check of $25.

Revenue of $1500.

35% to food= $525

30% to liquor= $450

17% to labour=$255

X% to fixed expenses= $Y

So, $255 to divide between... bartender, server, cook and DW.  So, you tell us... can you do it?
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Joined Feb 3, 2011
Do you own this thing, is it a dream or did you come into some money and your exploring the idea? Its just the original question didn't sound too sincere hence the responses you got.
Joined Jan 29, 2011
Prarie... actually the same would hold true for any major city where you're looking at major foot traffic and a (hopefully) huge turnover for a small restaurant. the mere mention of tapas denotes a low menu price and quick turnover of tables. in a smaller area with many fewer restaurants and less opportunity with a low cost of living you might be able to get away with cheaper and less skilled labor but not in a metropolitan city like NY, Chicago, SF, LA, Boston etc. "Good" cooks will have more avenues in large cities where they might not have much leverage or other options in a small town. 

your take on the staffing is probably right on or close, but the KM/chef is pretty much a lock to be doing six days a week; a guarantee if they are salary.... sixty/seventy hours minimum. 

save the eyeroll emoticon for someone that isn't familiar with all sides of the spectrum. i've worked in small towns and big cities.... sorry you took it that way but that is the reality of it.   
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Joined Jan 29, 2011
foodpump: the OP listed a 30 seat spot running small plates and entrees to add to a wine bar. in order to sustain a spot in the EV you will have to turn tables several times a day on top of booze sales. figure10K minimum for a rental on a tiny dining room with a corner spot open kitchen downtown. weekdays between lunch and dinner you are looking at turning that room five times to stay afloat, on top of any bar seats. 

a small tapas bar wouldn't require the same type of "brigade" in the front or back, simply a watered down version. you don't need a chef, sous, chef de partie etc. in the back as you wouldn't need a maitre d', front server, back server, bus person in the front. two people each could rock each "house" with a support person in place if necessary ie. chef, cook and possibly dishwasher/prep in the back and a pair of servers and host/hostess slash manager in the front for the busy shifts, minus one for the lesser crowds. lunches you could even partition the bartender to serving tables to cut down on serving shifts. 

bottom line... in order to do sustain the place and put out quality food you won't be getting away with having one guy/gal in the kitchen during the week with a backup on the weekends unless you plan on doing very little food. you could hope to sell that much booze without having to do very much food business, but they are very few and far between.

how many staff could a 30 seater support? more than one person in the kitchen if you plan to turn tables enough to stay open and serve decent food. 
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