Seeking resources - how do some restaurants maintain consistency?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by jellly, Oct 20, 2018.

  1. jellly

    jellly

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    My work experience is mostly with restaurants in the fine dining category, where cooks had a good bit of culinary training. So I haven't ever seen for myself how more casual restaurants might handle the challenge of getting less-experienced cooks to prepare dishes to order consistently. I have recently taken on additional work with some successful, casual, sit-down restaurants and am trying to do some research. Recently, I heard some chefs discussing how impressive Texas Roadhouse was. Not specifically for the quality of food, but that they had succeeded in their consistency. It left me wondering what their secrets are?

    What techniques do successful chains use that will allow food to be cooked fresh to order but maintain consistency? For example, I am testing having more things pre-portioned and moving to using portion scoops on the line. Seasoning is one of those rather persistent issues. It is (or should be) easy enough during prep, but for those steps that require seasoning once a dish is fired, I find that my staff still struggles with using the proper amount. But the problem doesn't end there. Like so many others in this industry, my city has a severe shortage of qualified cooks. Business is good, so that means we look to bring in less experienced staff we can coach up. And we are trying to make some of the food easier to prepare consistently, with step by step instructions for firing each dish along with specific amounts of each component and cook times. Is anyone aware of any resources I could look into?
     
  2. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    Chain restaurants like Texas Road House maintain such robotic consistency because much of their menu comes already pre-made and frozen, especially the apps. All they really need to do is bring the food up to temp in the fryer or the oven and serve. I am sure some of the menu items are made in-house. But, not very many. What's pre-made and what isn't likely varies from restaurant chain to restaurant chain. I don't know any restaurant chain that features a scratch kitchen. Its just not feasible from a corporate point of view.

    As for the restaurants that have excellent consistency that are neither fine dining nor corporate chains, that consistency comes from the quality of staff in the kitchen and to no small degree, the quality of the ingredient sourcing.

    I hope this answers your question. :)
     
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  3. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Really good prep cooks. :) In restaurants where menus remain constant for months at a time the key is in good hands on leadership. Medium sized "high end" chains will have chef and GM ownership in their franchise such that the management is responsible for a good portion of their paychecks.
     
  4. jellly

    jellly

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    I appreciate the replies, thank you.
    Perhaps I was wrong to use Texas Roadhouse as my example, because I can think of several restaurants with multiple locations that do cook their food from scratch. I very much agree that the quality of staff is key, but the job market here is tough and we are working to coach people with zero previous experience. However, it is a process that takes some time and I am trying to also explore ways to make the recipes easier to follow by inexperienced staff. I thought there might be some examples of restaurants that have already tackled this issue. And when I say recipes, I don't mean for the bulk prep, I mean the actual procedures for firing the food on the line during service.
    I would imagine much of this information would be proprietary, but wasn't sure if there was any published material on the subject.
     
  5. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't know if you can. The key to consistency is hiring people who understand what a proper sauce looks like, what the difference is between brown and burned, in otherwords, experience.
     
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  6. Seoul Food

    Seoul Food

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    When I worked in corporate they were very detailed about how each dish was done, how much, etc. Once you were trained there really wasn't much wiggle room for interpretation as others have mentioned above a lot of that stuff comes pre-made or easily made. When I was in fine dining the chef had a book of his recipes already scaled out for all the cooks to use. Having a stable crew does help and each day we were able to split up the same prep between the same people so the consistency came in that this cook always made pasta or this cook always made the sauces, etc.
     
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  7. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Follow the rules and don't rock the boat. Your not hired at a chain restaurant for your Culinary expertise. These chain restaurants are set up so as to train people fast and not to put your own twist on anything. It's all about food cost control and consistency. The reason people go to these restaurants are because the meal they like is always the same. I have never walked out of any chain restaurant saying "Boy that was good"...............They are what they are....If you happen to go by any of these popular chains on Friday or Saturday you'll find the parking lot packed. In the early years of my career I managed a Chain steak house. We did between 500 and 600 covers on Friday and Saturday nights. The only thing I learned was to never do it again.......ChefBillyB
     
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  8. Cdp

    Cdp

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    18 years Chef recent promo to Sous
    totally understand this ...
    ok someone mentioned prep kitchens bring to temp and serve,
    these a factory produced items add garnish done, very good on a the wastage side
    to answer or my view with the lower end who don't use this above method they have a break 1-3 method,

    making mash ok...
    this is a 1-3 step method for our basic cooks or a small restaurant that wants a consistant product every time.

    they need someone to know how to make it right and then teaching them and reviewing constantly..


    i run this with them 3 times
    1st 2 runs i do it they watch

    last run they do it...i watch

    evaulate the comprehension. re-evaulate and do it again.

    below is the step method

    10kg peeled pot
    step 1
    steam potatos 40min
    then dry roast for 6min
    in a pot 2l cream 500g salted butter double whip ( brought to 80 deg c )


    step 2
    high speed whip
    put into hobart and whip on high 2min add
    add cream and butter mix

    step 3
    low setting speed
    100g of toasted truffle paste
    and season sea salt apprx 50g
     
  9. someday

    someday

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    I get what you are asking, but you'd be better served coming up with your own system and implementing that to maintain consistency.

    You might get better advice too by asking a more specific question...your question is pretty broad. What types of things are you cooking...what is the menu? Where are you struggling?

    You should create your own recipes, your own standards, etc.
     
  10. mannlicher

    mannlicher

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    when I managed chain restaurants, the consistency came from company prep guides, constant training and having a management staff that was paying attention. With the restaurants I started and owned, success simply depended on consistency. I wrote the menus, wrote the ingredient lists and prep guides, and trained my staff. Being in the kitchen often, watching every plate that came out, and reinforcing the use of prep guides and ingredient lists was something that I paid attention to, critiqued, and insisted upon.
     
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  11. jay lancaster

    jay lancaster

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    It has nothing to do with pre-packaged, frozen food coming in on a truck. As several have already stated, it comes down to corporate guidelines & training. In the chain places I have managed & GM'd there has always been a book with procedures for every dish, and prep. Everything is spelled out...more or less it's made dummy proof. The better places had excellent manager training programs, and one had ongoing management training (but that was the franchisee moreso than the franchise company).

    So it boils down to your procedures being written down, no flexibility on how those things are done, and a kitchen manager who is conscientious about seeing the plan through. If you don't have that manager in place, then it is your responsibility to see that it gets done.
     
  12. chefross

    chefross

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    I have always wondered why, with all the procedures put in place, guidelines, recipes, and methods, the food still comes out wrong.
    I have worked in R&D where a lot of time is spent making that convenience product "Dummy Proof." But as the old saying goes...."You can lead a horse to water........"
     
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