The business of running a kitchen ?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by w.debord, Nov 2, 2002.

  1. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I'm at a new job and I've noticed that this place runs their kitchen very differently then other places I've worked. Many of their decisions don't look logical to me. But I'm certain they do things for a reason....I'm just curious why they take the path they do and how that works. Is it sound? Have any of you ran a kitchen this way and how does it play out over time?

    How the kitchen runs differently: They buy in all their meats cleaned and portioned. They buy in all of their h.d's. They do alot of weddings and banquets and not alot of ala carte. Two nights aweek they do dinner buffet style. One of those nights it's is Italian and they only charge 8.95 pp including dessert. They put spending minimums on their banquets and force the people to add on to bring up their profits. But the items they force them to add on are all bought in products, like mini pastrys or h.d's. They don't make any stock, they buy in bases.

    They keep their staff hours VERY low. The staff they have is a well seasoned crew but no one has to make anything that's not extremely basic.

    Yet it doesn't look like they are making any money here. Average ala carte dinner entree is 40.00+ not including salad or dessert. Which is probably what's keeping their ala carte business slow??

    Can you explain to me the advantages of running a kitchen like this as far as profitablity? I understand low labor and buying in a consistant product....but it still doesn't make good sense to me...... because the profit has to be smaller based on much higher costs of buying in premade items??? NO? What's the deal?
     
  2. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    They made it a "formula kitchen". The people are replaceable, the food should always be the same, mediocre but the same. By buying everything as pre-made as possible they decrease the amount of potential variation. It is also easier to track expenses since there is less potential variation on labor cost. I have worked for people like that before: businesses whose business happens to be selling food. They might as well be selling something a little more appetizing- like a widget.
     
  3. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Peach I think you are right. The 'formula' concept seems to be what they are pursuing. Just to add to that, I think they are using fabricated meats, pre-made sauces, etc to keep the skill level down, as well as ensuring the consistency. I have found that labor csot vs. food cost is a pendulum, in that it generally swings higher one way or the other.
     
  4. eds77k5

    eds77k5

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    you have almost described our food business to a 't', it is a corporate thing, all they seem to care about are the numbers, there is a lot of politics and infighting in the corporate thing, you cant have too many labor hours, so you cant keep an adequate staff to do what you would like and it is a daily fight to get anything you want, there is a budget to follow and dont go over budget, i presented my christmas menus to catering, the first thing they said was "i cant sell that, they wont pay that price" and in the next breath they say "we would like a more upscale catering menu", sorry, no can do, not for the prices you want, so the battle goes on and on and on, and another thing is try to get a good cook for the wages they pay:(
     
  5. leo r.

    leo r.

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    Wendy,there are profit driven companies like that over here that are lead by accountants.They know absolutely nothing about food,they`re only interested in costs.
    Buying prepared food is part of the de-skilling mentality that exists within our industry.The usual problem within brought-in items is that quality is compromised by quantity.There may be consistency,but at what level and at what price?
    The suppliers their costs whilst lowering staff morale and customer satisfaction. Airports are a prime example of what can go wrong with mass produced food.

    I know of places where the chefs/cooks are not allowed to make their own stocks. basic things like omelettes,mashed potatoes,etc are ready made for the staff and placed in a microwave to be reheated.

    We are unfortunately,stuck with some senior managers who have a very limited knowledge of hospitality. Leo
    :chef:
     
  6. eds77k5

    eds77k5

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    Leo, you are right on, it is all about profit, not about food, it is like banging your head against a wall, all ya get is a headache:) our hotel resturant is there solely to cater to the hotel guests, they dont advertise or do anything to get local people in, banquets are their bread and butter, it is a slow process, but i work at it on a daily basis, trying to get better product in and making more from scratch while still keeping food and labor costs at budget, people are nuts, they want more but dont want to pay for it, frustrating at times
     
  7. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Well this really depresses me.... Last week I was informed that I'll be on the schedule 3 days a week until golf season next year! Plus their thinking of being closed Jan. & Feb. at this rate I'll never get any insurance thru them....and they think people will just stick around?

    The banquet manager asked me about doing wedding cakes (which I do) so I brought in my photo album to show my work to her. She passed it around, everyone important saw my work. Now the Owner is thrilled with me and wants me to do "fabulous buffets", center piece desserts and take out bakery items on top of my regular weekly work and parties....

    Help!!! She (the owner) told me to do a "spectacular buffet" for their x-mas party in 3 weeks, but I won't have the hours to get that accomplished. What do I do? Tell the chef, what???

    I'm working for the same wage a line cook gets with-out skills even close to mine! PLUSSSSSSSS I've had to buy my own equipment (like my cake pans and mini muffin tins) in order to get the job done. I keep asking for equipment and the chef tells me "right now things are slow", "eventually he'll get items".........I'm not the first pastry chef they've had,... hello!

    NOW what the heck do I do??? I'd like to keep this job (why? I'm not sure) and live up to what the owner wants (and get 40 hours a week) spectacular.

    I need some solid advice here from you chefs, and owners please!!!!!?????????? Do I just bail out now and find something menial until next year when jobs are hiring....before I get too entangled?

    PLEASE give me some real advice, I'm stuck big time!!?? And very SAD at the moment!
     
  8. holydiver

    holydiver

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    Wendy I think you are going to end up hanging yourself with the rope they give you. Unfortunately I have worked for far too many people like this they buy a restaurant country club whatever and instantly they think they are restauranteurs. Most of them however do not have the knowledge to run a kool-aid stand unfortunately. The more you do and want to do it right of course the more you will be seen as a divisive force till as you said you will be let go. Somtimes it is much easier to realize you can't change those who will not change and can't lead those who do not want to be led.
     
  9. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Just because you work for them does not mean they own ALL your talents. SAY NO! I would NEVER think to pay you an hourly cooking wage for wedding cakes etc. You are worth more than that. Stick up for yourself and if they expect these types of work from you, negotiate in your favor! PLEASE! Promise me you will go in and tell them to pay you for your hard work, and if they don't, DON'T DO IT! Make them buy desserts and you can plate them for what they pay you! Unscrupulous businesspeople prey on the insecurities of the people they employ. Don't be a target!
     
  10. fodigger

    fodigger

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    To answer your first questions first - I'm probably in the minority here but I do buy pre-cut steaks at least. I do this for a couple of reasons.
    1. Consistancy- Our meat purveyor cuts them and ages them to MY specs. no guessing They are exactly the same everytime.
    2. Cost - I know exactly what each steak cost me. It doesn't matter if this strip loin had 4 extra ounes of fat or not.
    3. Ease of use - They come cryovated 2 to a pkg.
    4. No trim products to use up - W/ the operation we are currently using we have no way to use the scraps.
    5. Storage - Again w/ the operation we are currently using we have to be careful of our storage requirements.

    Apps and Hors. are another subject though. What is currently available out there is terrible. We make all of our own. On desserts we buy some and make some it just depends on what it is.
    Labor dollars are of huge concern if for no other reason than workers comp double last yr and they are projecting a 35% increase for this yr. And that is w/ no claims.
    I can't say if what they are doing is right or wrong I'm just telling what we do.

    Good Luck in getting it figured out. Mike
     
  11. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Fo:

    I'm a former chiro from California and alot of businesses have horrible difficulty staying afloat due to tremendous premiums that California charges for Worker's Comp. insurance - thanks to scam artistry.
     
  12. leo r.

    leo r.

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    Wendy,i agree with Peachcreek,you MUST NOT allow yourself to be pushed into a corner.Your bosses have to accept that pastry chefs are artists as well as professional cooks!!
    You need to have a quiet chat with your bosses and if possible,re-negotiate your terms of employment. If that can`t be done,then i would say they need you more than you need them.

    Are you tied to where you work through family commitments?
    If not,couldn`t you move on,maybe to another state?
    I`m sure there has got to be an employer who will pay you a wage you can live on without incessant drivel.

    Best wishes,Leo.
     
  13. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    Your experience sounds exactly like what my husband is going through right now.

    He works for a country club (spa, golf, etc.) in FL. They recently changed hands, chopping heads left and right. He survived that bloodbath and once he came to the realization he still had a job, he grew to like the more "upscale" path the club was taking.

    Then, the cracks started to show... How do you run a kitchen with no rules? How on God's green Earth can an establishment hire an executive chef who has declared aloud that he will never touch a pan?

    The Exec Chef hired a sous chef who takes longer breaks than anyone else in the place. There is no rule to keep the kitchen prepped for the next meal! DH has gone in many a morning before the roosters even think of turning over - simply because he knows he will find every ingredient depleted! For a while, he was leaving prepped items for the next crew but has (wisely) decided to abandon that practice and get home on time. This is a place bragging that it wants to be recognized as a fine dining force in an area where fancy restaurants come at about a dime a dozen. The food is inconsistent - marked by waitstaff comments like "I hope you stay on this shift, the plates never looked so good." What the heck are they doing on the other shifts??

    They are still feeling their way around - a promotion was discussed for DH with a raise and a change of hours...none of which ever materialized. It's frustrating when you know things could be run so much better - higher-ups are missing the obvious places where change could be implemented - and someone is making a big fat paycheck to do a mediocre job.
     
  14. panini

    panini

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    ok, kiddo,
    Here comes the lecture!
    This is your MO
    You never PACE yourself!!! You want to get everything perfect yesterday! For some strange reason you feel like you have to validate your skills to the employer. If they didn't think you were qualified they would not have hired you.
    Take a big step backwards, tell yourself you are an asset to them and have a meeting with someone. Explain to them that it will not be possible to meet their expectations within the time frame of your schedule. Invite them into your area to observe just how long it takes for creating an upscale product. Let them know that you are more than willing to accomodate them with the allotment of more hours and monies. It's a win win for both. It makes the department look better for the members which in turn means increased revenue.
    You have nothing to lose if they're cutting you back anyway.
    Fix this NOW.
    Wendy, it's time for you to appreciate you.
    You say your on the same scale as a line cook. How the **** did that happen?
    For the bought in stuff, I'll bet you a burger that the management is bonus driven and that there is a deal cut with their large proveyor(sysco like) if they order a certain percentage of items from them they kick back an incentive. I personally know 3 quality chefs here in town who have settled for midiocre products for the big bonus(thousands of dollars annually) Can't blam them, good friend got 60,00. last year.
    Wendy, you know I luv ya.
    Clubs are a different world. Some get monies up front from dues and if you not good at budgeting you're doing things like cutting back.
     
  15. w.debord

    w.debord

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    OH, F_____ Jeff, YOUR RIGHT AS USUAL!! It's o.k., I'd rather hear the truth, then be b.s'd! How else am I going to learn. I do that every job I tell myself not to do that and I do! I do want everything perfect and working in my favor, then I'll commit suicide giving them my everything until I burn out or get pissed that they don't apprecate me enough.........

    Since your such a good shrink....help fix me. Somehow I thought you were suppose to give your best at work and you'd get apperciated??? IT'S NOT TRUE.

    At first the chef let me work until I finished plating everything before going home. The last week he was pushing me out the door a couple hours before I was scheduled to leave and saying he'll plate whatever. I let him, and just left things with-out crossing all my T's and dotting my I's. Trying to be just another kitchen worker. I don't like loosing control of my product, but I was still hearing positive feed back from the foh staff........

    At least I don't feel so dumb about walking into this situation, hearing others who have experienced it. I knew there was a huge catch when I interviewed and the chef never asked me one question, hired me on the spot and asked me to start the next day!!!! Now I know.........

    I know I have to talk to the chef, that's why I asked for imput.

    Technically the club manager retains the title of head chef even though he no longer works in the kitchen. He promoted his sous to run the kitchen.
     
  16. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Wendy,

    Never comprimise your integrity for a pay check.

    It developes medeoicricy. After reading your posts for the last couple years I can't help but feel you have something very special to offer to the right situation.

    This I am sure will come to pass.

    For a "skilled" pastry chef like yourself you should be compensated for your expertise. The question of the wedding cakes,you should be paid per cake a specific fee you find fair and equitable. You said you thought you we're supposed to give your all at work, well you should...even if it's not appreciated as you think it may be because when you stop trying to do your best it hurts you more then your employee.

    Gather yourself and your thoughts,put them down on paper and ask for a meeting with the chef. Be confident without being cocky.

    Your worth it,don't forget that.
    Good luck
     
  17. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Quick simple question. I'd like your thoughts about pricing this "spectacular sweet table" I've been told to do, by the owner. Keep in mind that it's easier to do a couple wedding cakes them a huge sweet table with tons of details and no equipment but my own to make it in.

    What should I tell them it will cost? I think I should charge per person for the event? That's what any bakery would do.

    How much is reasonble with-out pissing them off?

    TIA
     
  18. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Wendy,

    Usaully after I determain my cost + plus labor I charge out at three times my cost and labor (not including overhead)

    If the entrees are served ala carte,your pricing should be in the same ball park so it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.

    Some pastry chefs feel there desserts should be about a third of an entree price.

    I would figure out your raw cost and how much labor time will go into producing your table then triple it out (or even four times) and divide it per head as a surcharge.

    If it cost you $100 in raw food and $150 in labor you should be able to charge out at at least $750 for the table. This of course depends on how many guest will attend.

    for 100 people that's a $7.50 surcharge PP with $500 going to you.
     
  19. fodigger

    fodigger

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    While I do believe that Wendy should be payed for her work on wedding cakes the dessert table I believe is part of her job especially if she was hired as the "pastry chef". And while I would not expect her to do it w/ her own equipment I would expect her to do it as part of her job. Make a list of equipment needed to do the job. Give a copy to the chef and g.m. What would it cost $500.00? Seems like a small price to pay, you get an assest and you give the person doing the job the equipment to do the job. I have never been in an operation that didn't have $500.00 laying around for just such occasionsIf they don't maybe they are in huge trouble or as Panini has suggested they are looking out for their bonuses.
    On your interview it could be that the "chef" doesn't know how to interview. If he was moved up from sous chef chances are he hasn't done many and may not know how to do it. But what about you? Didn't you interview the company? And if you did, didn't his lack of questions raise a red flag for you? Or did you just get caught up in the "Somebody wants me and will give me a job" thing. I don't know you but you seem to pose intelligent questions and from your word pictures you would seem to do good work so why would you settle?
    We all place on ourselves pressure to be the best we can be and shouldn't settle for anything less than that reguardless of the situation. You signed on for this and you are cashing their checks so until things change one way or another you owe them your best also.

    The guy who signed 118 paychecks this morning.
     
  20. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I have a grocery receipt sitting in the chefs desk now for a couple weeks, for about $25.. I've asked over and over again about equipment. The chef's response is always "eventually, or in good time, or when I can get it in". Once he put his had up in snarling way and hissed at me after I asked for some basic piece of equipment, as if I was a cat (I thought that was bizarre).


    When I interviewed the chef told me the girl that made their desserts two chefs ago, had her own small equpiment. I said that was fine, because I have tons of small cutters and objects I use, that I'd never nickle and dime a job over. Items I want in my own personal collection.
    But when I got into my position, I quickly realized he and I weren't talking about the same things. (I need to throw in that the chef has a speach problem, a horrible studder and can't say certain words, so everyone has communication problems with him.)

    I have 1 bowl to the kitchen aid mixer, 1 bowl for the hobart. 2- 10" round pans, 3- 6" rounds, 3- 8" rounds and 2 9" roundsall severly dented and deformed. A couple square pans. AND THAT'S ABOUT IT!!!! The average house wife has more! The club owns about 8 spatulas, 8 whisks and no more then 16 stainless steel bowls! I honestly thought there had to be more equipement I didn't see on my interview, there always is....You can't imagine what it's like making a recipe and having only 1 mixing bowl. That's a HUGE HANDICAP making pastries! You mix your batter, deflate it putting it in another bowl, stop and wash you mixing bowl and go back and whip whites or cream. I've been thinking about buying several mixing bowls myself, but now I'm just thinking that I should leave.

    I have even bought some ingredients because they are basic to me and the chef doesn't think they are necessary. Like gum paste, chocolate plastic, sucker sticks.... BUT when I used these items they love my work.

    Also when I interviewed the chef told me b-day cakes and wedding cakes were extra. I've done 3 b-day cakes and not recieved any compensation. The chef even bragged about how well they'll tip me and maybe I should think about sharing it with the whole kitchen. It's completely optional for me to take on b-day cakes, so now my answer will be "no".

    He also hooked me into doing carry out desserts for the entire membership, chef said come up with 4 desserts for Thanksgiving carry out. Then about a week later the manager says to me "great, I see you desided to do carry out desserts" as if that was an option!