Kitchen startup and menu planning

Joined Jun 21, 2015
Hi guys,

Just want some advice. I was officially offered a head chef role, wages were confirmed etc but nothing was in writing. The cafe wasn't due to open for 8 weeks approx. Within that 8 week period I was advised to create and finalise a menu along with costings and procedures etc ready for when the kitchen was complete.. (Again most of those requests were not in writing.) during the 8 weeks I had several meetings with the owners, organised ordered pans plates and all that cooking equipment. Placed job ads and did some interviewing for a chef. Basically everything needed to open the kitchen. The kitchen was ready to be cleaned and set up on Monday after that 8 week period. we did a soft opening on Thursday to gauge wether we'd open on Friday, Saturday or Monday. I've had some issues regarding pay and they're not paying me for time prior to the Monday I was on site. I have a rough calculation of the hours I spent on pre opening the kitchen. Just so I get an idea, what's a normal/average amount of time it would take to create a small trendy cafe menu with 9 breakfast and 9 lunch dishes on it? Hours to coat that menu? And how many hours should you allow to do all kitchen pre opening organising (ovens and grills fridges etc were already organised).
The owners are saying that the recruitment process was when I was offered the position 8 weeks prior and that My employment only began on Monday and that I'm not owed anything prior.
Any advice would be great
Joined May 5, 2010
Sorry that this happened to you but without anything in writing, you don't have much to stand on.

This may sound cruel but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they let you go after this.

They got what they wanted and needed from you.

Now they want some one cheaper to take over.

You've just had a life lesson handed to you.
Joined Jun 21, 2015
I got offered the opportunity to create a menu and run both kitchens later that day I burnt my hand and needed four days off and the following I was fired due to my time affecting their businesses and a restructure and I'm no longer required yet they're still running my menu. I'm taking them to fair work. They seem to think I have a case however I need to supply evidence. I have some emails where they've asked me to do things such as sending through a finalised menu and costing etc. I was just wanting to know what amount of time people spend on menu writing and costing.
It's a crap situation but i guess i just want to make sure i do things correctly!


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
If you are looking for a rough guideline about how many hours one would be expected to work with an 8 week time frame prior to opening.  I would expect the first 4 weeks to be part time (15-20 hours per week) while the last 4 weeks would be at least full time (40 hours) per week, plus probably overtime in the last week, at the very least.  But those are only rough estimates based on some work that I have done in the past.

Not sure where you are located, but as Chefross states, you really have an uphill battle to fight, and learned a really good, if not difficult, lesson.  Especially when it comes to doing an opening you should get everything in writing, to protect yourself.  It is not uncommon, in this industry, for owners to hire an experienced, expensive chef to create a menu, set the kitchen up, hire and train the staff, and then let them go in favor of a much less experienced, and cheaper, chef.

You might be able to recoup some of that pay, but I really doubt that you will get anything close to what is owed you, while the owners will continue on, running the menu that you created.
Joined Jul 28, 2001

Am I going crazy or did the same type thing happen to you a couple of months back? I think I remember you because I recall the name jess and you were let go for oversleeping after busting hours to get some place open. If I'm wrong, I apologize. Like everyone has said, get everything

in writing. I'm not sure where you are but from what you describe I would seek some sort of compensation. Go back a recreate a quasi diary and submit that as your evidence. It's your word against. Find out what days you interviewed people and get a statement from them. I'd also do some homework on the owners previous places and see if that's their MO and if they did it to someone else. Newbies wouldn't be ballsy enough to just put it to you like that. 
Joined Dec 23, 2004
Sucky deal.  I hope you get something besides an object lesson.  Obviously get everything in writing. I would have considered it a red flag to be hired eight weeks before opening and tasked to create a menu!  Maybe things are done differently elsewhere but I'd consider that a tight timetable.  Hard to imagine not having a chef in place several months ahead. Still, you got ripped off big time. 
Joined Aug 21, 2004
I do things a bit differently; i do the menu and I find someone who can execute it. Restaurants that rely on some new hire chef to do a menu from scratch are what I call a "bad restaurant". Chefs run kitchens and cook food. Menus are marketing; chefs don't know anything about marketing.
Restaurants that rely on an owner that is not a chef to do a menu from scratch are what I call a "boring restaurant".

I guess the twelve years that I designed a weekly changing menu for my own place, it was a bad restaurant; not to mention the numerous other places where I created menus and received great reviews from critics, publications, and the public. I guess they were bad as well. Thanks for dumbing down my job.
Joined Aug 19, 2012
If you are in the US, and you did the work with their approval, they owe your for your time. You don't need anything in writing. It is illegal in the US not only to "require" someone to work for nothing, but even to "allow" them to work for nothing with your knowledge. The only exception would be an apprenticeship.

If they knew you were doing the work, and especially if they expected that you do the work, they owe your for your time. They have to pay at least minimum wage for any work they authorized you to do. If you agreed on another rate of pay, I don't think there is a court in the country that won't make them pay you that rate for your work. Your first step is to call your state Labor Department and lodge a complaint. You should also call the Federal Department of Labor. They are separate entities and both have the authority to enforce fair labor practices. 

You don't need to sign a contract to be an employee. If you have an email trail of you doing work for them, and them accepting it, you have a slam dunk case.
Joined Dec 2, 2015
I can see what flguru is saying to an extent. Although I did not see where that particular post was or is in the discussion. so Is the flguru a owner or a chef? From the sounds of it more than likely management or ownership, forgive me for the assumption. There are a lot of factors of startup and planning. I can see what he is saying about a new hire chef to do a menu from scratch, that is a recipie for disaster! It may not be a "bad restaurant" it will just be another restaurant that will not last, thats it. Chefs do run kitchens and actually cooks cook! A chef knows why you cook. A cook simply knows how to.

Menus are marketing and this is a job that has been taken away from chefs! Yes menus are a part of a chefs job. Menu costing and vendor relations are yet again "a chefs job". Running inventory executing labor "in the kitchen" is a chefs job! Show me a chef that does not know marketing and I can show you how they do not know their job! I understand the new line or era of menu engineering and what a business owner could state as thats their job, truth be known that is not their place! No questions asked! Their job is to run numbers make, numbers work, branding, working with vendors to get the best possible pricing (which is pretty much gone anymore), and dealing with the politicals of the place, etc..... They are the force that drives the success of a restaurant. Now with all of that being said, the managment staff have a differnet lime light of marketing it is external marketing. What I mean by that it is their job to drive the customers to the door to see what the chef has marketed on a approved menu. We can debate this all day long. Managers and Owners have their place in a restaurant and that is not in the kitchen or in the menu, when it comes to menu implimentation let the pros who know what the excell in do what they do. With the proper communication and proper delegation of responsibilites (knowing your role) a succesfull place will stirve for years and years. 

I read so many posts about people who get put into spots that is not a right spot for them at that moment! 

Jess my friend, try not to accept another position without all of your T's crossed and I's dotted to say. You have to take care of number one first (with out that you cannot take care of anyone else) mainly due to uncertanty or the unknown. I think that I can speak for a few of us here, if not forgive me. But we all have at sometime some to a bump in hte road like this maybe not exactly but close. these are lessons that pave your path for sucess later in life. Put this in the knife case and build on it. This issue maybe a thorn now but rest assured, if you stick with it. This thorn will turn into a rose, heck you never know maybe a garden of roses! Good luck with this endeavor

If anyone feels like I have stepped on their toes. I ask that you wear thicker toed shoes. I do not mean any harm or aggrivation. There needs to be a strong shift in the restaurant world. There are too many greats gone and toom any greats never started because of business and other political issues that get in the way. 

I have learned long ago. 

Food is food! you can get it anywhere! 

A sucessfull restaruant is not the mastery of the food its self! A sucessfull restaurant is a mastery of business the great food that comes from that masterd establishment is just icing on the cake. 

I could go so much deeper on paragraph two. But for the Chefs who know well they know. 

Happy Holidays to all
Joined Feb 8, 2009
Sometimes you just need to walk away, this is one of them. I don't want to hire a chef that was in any way making waves for their last employer. It looks like you worked for a bunch of Dicks. Move on and don't leave a trail. It's not going to be worth it, there isn't that much time involved. Sometimes winning is losing..........The best......
Joined Jan 17, 2015
I agree, the situation that you described is hardly good basis for the future and it is very important that there is respect and understanding between the two. You are not deep in, I would move on for the simple fact that I would be thinking when is it going to happen again....
Joined Oct 10, 2005
I am totally confused...

8 weeks no pay means 4 missed pay checks, and four pay periods get to get things "hammered out" with the owners.  If the owners argue that they don't have a payroll system set up yet, laugh in their faces and walk out the door.

For the openings I worked at, I made sure I did at least 40 hrs/week-everything from setting up shelving in the walk in, to interviewing staff, to costing out menus, to setting up accounts with suppliers, and buying smallwares and dishsoap.  Mind you the closer to opening I got, I worked closer to 80 hrs/week.

The owners are scum bags, and the place will most likely die a slow and agonizing death, with employees and suppliers getting hosed and getting replaced twice a week.  It's only a matter of time before all deliveries will be c.o.d. or the owner getting into his car and doing a Costco run every day...   Be glad you won't be part of this scene. 

On the other hand, you have opening experience now, although I doubt you can list the owners at "references".

I don't how I would handle this myself.  In my province (B.C.) If you sign a contract with an employer, you are exempt from any gov't labour board coverage/representation, and those boys can get you your money within 30 days, they don't fool around.  Then again, if I didn't get paid, I would have left after the first 2 week pay period and probably walked out with a meat slicer or kitchenaid mixer under my arm.

Here's to hoping you won't get screwed the next time around....
Joined Dec 4, 2015
i got screwed my first consulting gig, key factor is don't do it if it is not in writing. i got fucked over by 2 grand and the restaurant i consulted for makes that in 40 mins because of the menu i constructed. also leave gaps in your recipies that way they cant keep them.

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