Is it normal to expect for a not so skilled kitchen team member to cook for 40 cover on their own?

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Joined May 24, 2021
Hi all,
I work at a hotel in the UK (ending with Inn) in the kitchen, and my title is Kitchen team member (I work there part time, 16hr weekly) and we have two (split) shifts in a day, for breakfast and dinner. I'm fine doing breakfasts on my own, even with 80+ covers, but absolutely terrified doing dinner shifts on my own, which I will have to do on a regular basis in a few weeks time. I've never done a dinner shift on my own, half of the equipment is not working, and we have a new menu. On average we do 40 covers on a week night, less on weekends. We also have a majority of new FOH members, that never worked dinner shifts here before, so there are bound to be lots of mistakes, making it more difficult.
I know properly trained and good chefs can serve way more than that on a single service, however I'm not nearly as skilled for such a feat. My question is, is it normal to expect a not so skilled team member to serve 40 covers on dinner on their own? I'll be honest, I'm freaking out at the thought of it
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
If the student hasn't learned the teacher hasn't taught. It's Managements job to make sure you are trained and feeling confident that you can not only succeed for the betterment of the business but also for yourself. No one likes to be put in a position that they can fail. Tell Management you don't feel trained enough to do the shift on your own. I have pushed a team member to exceed their comfort zone many times. The only difference was, I was always close by to catch them if they fall.........ChefBillyB
 
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Joined May 24, 2021
Your title is "Kitchen Team Member"? Where is the rest of your team?
Yes, that is my official title in the company. There are only 4 BOH members. One had the title of head chef until recently due to cost cuts in the company, so his hours have been downsized. The other 3 are me and two other part timers. One is leaving in two weeks time, she used to take the bulk of shifts, hence why I'll have to do them on my own. The fourth person is even newer than me, and she had a meltdown after a solo shift yesterday, saying that of she's left on her own again for a dinner shift, she's quitting. She also can only work morning shifts during the week cause she has a different job in the evenings.
 
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Joined May 24, 2021
If the student hasn't learned the teacher hasn't taught. It's Managements job to make sure you are trained and feeling confident that you can not only succeed for the betterment of the business but also for yourself. No one likes to be put in a position that they can fail. Tell Management you don't feel trained enough to do the shift on your own. I have pushed a team member to exceed their comfort zone many times. The only difference was, I was always close by to catch them if they fall.........ChefBillyB
The problem is that even with two of us we sometimes struggle with 40 covers a night, even if I'm working with the head chef. That's why I'm so terrified of doing it on my own. Also, working minimum wage and having to take on a workload of two people at least is in my opinion complete BS. I never intended for this to be a career for me, it was also meant to be a gig for the time being, but I ended up staying much longer than I thought it would. It's probably time to find another k b
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
I see many challenges. The good news is you mentioned you have a few weeks to prepare.

You need to do the following to be ready:
  1. Learn the new menu. Know how to cook/prepare every dish on the menu.
  2. Fix or find workarounds for the broken equipment. If there is something you must have working to do your job, I would talk to management and get that working.
  3. Either have a team member work with you, at least for a while, or have a system all worked out with working equipment, prepped foods for the night, and a way to get all the items cooked and plated on your own if necessary.
  4. Get the FOH trained immediately.
ChefBilyB is correct, and if these things cannot be ready to go by the time you are on duty, have a talk with management about alternatives.
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
Normal for a Kitchen
Here is a "normal" kitchen -

Most kitchens have a staff, which consists of (minimally) a Chef (person in charge), a station cook, a line cook, a prep cook, a dishwasher. If you are actually by yourself to fill all these roles, yes, it seems quite hectic, even for a slow kitchen.

Most restaurants have a competent Front of House, which will include a Maître d', or a manager for the FOH. So the main job of the FOH is to ensure all dishes are brought to the correct table in time and at the right temperature.

When these two groups, the BOH and FOH work well, you have happy customers. When something is amiss, you will not.

It is common to have challenges in any part of a restaurant, but that is where management steps in... the kitchen Chef, or the Maître d'.

I would say it is NOT normal in any kitchen to handle this all by yourself. That is foolish and asking for major problems.

However, if you are able to come up with a plan and a solution to make this work, you will have a great experience and be able to take that with you for your entire career in foodservice.
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
So if I understand correctly, you will have no other staff but one terrified cook, and you lost your Head Chef.

I am not quite clear... are you planning to leave this job?

Have you spoken with management at all about any of this?
 
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Joined May 24, 2021
So if I understand correctly, you will have no other staff but one terrified cook, and you lost your Head Chef.

I am not quite clear... are you planning to leave this job?

Have you spoken with management at all about any of this?
Yes, you did understand correctly. The head chef position has been downmoted to Team Leader in many of the hotels due to the pandemic. Instead of his normal 48 hrs a week he now does 30 hrs I think. The Duty Managers in FOH are also very new, hence why there will be many issues. The management knows of these concerns, and while they are sympathetic, they can't do much about it. As a big hotel chain, they unfortunately have to follow certain company guidelines. At least that's what they tell us. I am considering finding a new job at this point, yes.
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
Yes, you did understand correctly. The head chef position has been downmoted to Team Leader in many of the hotels due to the pandemic. Instead of his normal 48 hrs a week he now does 30 hrs I think. The Duty Managers in FOH are also very new, hence why there will be many issues. The management knows of these concerns, and while they are sympathetic, they can't do much about it. As a big hotel chain, they unfortunately have to follow certain company guidelines. At least that's what they tell us. I am considering finding a new job at this point, yes.
So someone still needs to be in charge of the kitchen. If that ends up being you, ok. If the head chef is demoted, this means more than simply a reduction of hours. Who is in charge of the kitchen?

If the hotel has any intention to get through this transition period there needs to be definitive action. And management CAN ALWAYS do something about it. If they don’t it is their responsibility and they don’t need to have to offer food service as part of the amenities. Or they can certainly allow thousands of dollars to go out the door. I doubt this is part of the company guidelines.

I would try to develope some kind of plan with management which can comply with company guidelines. If they care about making the food service part of the hotel a success, they should be open to a plan to do this. Otherwise, yes... find another job soon... because you will end up doing that anyway if there aren’t any major changes quickly.
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
Here's two more cents.
If you can locate another location of this big hotel chain, go pay them a visit and confirm for. yourself whether it's company policy or just bad management. A poorly run operation is never company policy and you don't get to be a big hotel chain by having poorly operating locations. So management telling you there is nothing they can do is very likely complete BS.
Aside from that, absolutely be looking for another job. It won't get better until management is replaced.
In the meantime, never waste a good crisis. This is a great opportunity to analyze your kitchen production methods and systems. As has been said, see what you can do to make sure you are prepped and ready for service. Set yourself up for success in every way you can.
Also, talk to the new FOH to get them on board with your concerns and have a plan. One suggestion is to make sure the waitstaff are not stacking the tickets (one waiter entering more than one ticket at a time.) to allow you a couple of minutes between tickets to begin one order before the next ticket shows up.
See if there is an part of the process the FOH can take off your hands; filling soup orders, simple salads or prepared basic salads that only need garnishes.
Whatever happens, remember the situation you are in was not of your making so you can avoid stressing about it while you are doing the best you can. Remain calm and focused and treat each night as a learning opportunity to see what can be done differently for the next night.
Best of luck.
 
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Joined Nov 9, 2020
Sounds like you are being put in a tough spot... Almost sounds like they want to push you to see if you can succeed in a spot like that. Some owners thrive on creating a BoH disaster, especially in chains where if it's a succes they say "see what I did", and if it fails they can say "It's all Anjeza's fault, if my cousin Vinnie were here HE could do it" (even if HE couldn't)...

Yeah, I've worked those kind of shops before... but not for very long, as I tend to wander to a less abusive situation. There's so many red flags here, from the all-abusive, er, inclusive title of "Team Member" to the broken equipment, that makes me think less of a fine dining establishment and more of a Corner fast food Sandwich Shop run by a "sponge squeezer".... Like "Hey mate, we're going to pay you 50p less, and you get to do everything from potwasher to cook - and BTW, no overtime, and you stay until your finished..."

So how many others (aside from yourself) are working that shift? If it's just you and you alone - no prep, no dishwasher, no nada, just you, and it's your first solo flight (especially with broken equipment), then you're set up to crash, and I Would respectfully be working elsewhere (especially now as going into Post Covid there are other positions out there). If you have at least 1 or 2 others BoH, then you CAN pull it off, but it takes people management skills... Dishwasher can do some prep work, prep can back you on the line, etc. As long as you have 1 or 2 others there you can pull on, AND if all the equipment is up and running, you can do this - think of it as a job interview as head chef. If they can't even keep their kitchen repaired, or they expect you to run ALL the stations by yourself for 40 covers then I highly question the management skills of your management team or the efficacy to successfully keep the doors of the restaurant open. And... it could be a sign that they are putting everything into the hotellier side of the business, and plan on killing off the restaurant side.

Bottom line - what I would do is (1) talk to the "former-Chef-now-Team-Member" to ask what they would do, and any suggestions... (2) have my flyers out for a job better defined and not as "flighty", and take this as a challenge that even IF I can do it (and I would give it my best effort to succeed), use it on a resome to get somewhere before you, too, are "downsized".

Good luck!
 
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