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To jump or not to jump

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
So, a little advice from those of you who have worked corporate, and have made the jump from chef to GM, would be much appreciated.

I am currently the chef at an Italian restaurant in a small town on Vermont. I have only worked at privately owned restaurants and have never worked any kind of corporate job in my life. Yet, I have been asked to consider the GM position of a newly opening Mexican place in town. This place is a large nearly 200 seat place that will serve lunch and dinner and is of the big time franchise variety alla Olive Garden. They are just starting the build out and have proposed to fly me to a two week training starting mid May. Now, I have to make a decision. This opportunity just fell in my lap and I am a bit confused by it. I am sure that I could handle the job and have no problems with what would be required... that being said, I have never been a GM so, perhaps I do not know what I am talking about.

Here are the pros and cons that I see..

Pros: Higher pay (about 25% more than I am making now) and insurance. Oh sweet Lord.. INSURANCE!!! It just sounds nice to say it, but even nicer when I say, DENTAL!!!

Cons: Corporate.

What do you all think?
post #2 of 8
Another pro for you...401K....corporate life can suck but you get perks from them that you usually do not get from small independants..everyone will tell you their opinion, but in the end you are the only one who is making the choice.
Good luck.
post #3 of 8

Questions before answers

I guess it sort of depends on how old you are and where you want to go in you life. Here are some of the questions I would ask yourself:
  • What will be your "un-official" duties. Will you be the one that come in on Sunday when the freezer is broken, or who is supposed to solve the "our order didn' t come"crisis. Many corporate jobs are salary, and while your pay check might be bigger the hours you spend are more and your hourly rate actually goes down.
  • What is it about this industry that drives you. Are you going to miss the smell of veal stock, and frenching lamb, making your own pasta and using fresh herbs. Are you in this industry for the food? Then this kind of job will eat your soul. There will be a lot boxes and cans to open, and everything will be standardized with very little improv or cheffing to do. Or
  • Or are you in this industry because it is a good solid job. Maybe you are passionate about the numbers and marketing strategy. Then this is the perfect job to really learn about those things. Also it is predictable with benefits.
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years. If owning your own business is an idea you have, this is the perfect training ground (even if you are all about the food), it is the perfect for mastering the art of hiring, scheduling, ordering, design, managing, w/o having to worry about cooking.
More and more small restaurants are starting to offer benefits so I wouldn't take this job just for that. There are many corporate cooking jobs that also offer perks, benefits, salary, stability, and allow you to cook awesome food.

Good luck!
"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
Willie Nelson
"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
Willie Nelson
post #4 of 8
I never liked my corporate job. I spent too much time meeting. Even stuff that had nothing to do with me. It's a matter of personality. Everyone should try it at least once.
post #5 of 8
Here are some other questions to ask yourself:

Do you have a spouse?
Do you have children?
How old and worn out are you?
How financially established are you?
Does this job lead to something you might enjoy?
Could a corporate chefs job be in the future?
Will your present employer bend in regard to pay and adding benefits?

My vote is try it. You wouldn't have even considered it if you didn't
feel you were being a little grifted in your present postition.
Lord knows, though, check the people out really, really, really well before
you go to work for them. Sometimes a dream job can turn into a nightmare
job. Good Luck!!!
post #6 of 8
True enough - Corporate offers a safety net that you may not get from the smaller places, but if you are a chef, you will undoubtedly miss the actual cooking. Mexican you say - you will be using the same 10 ingredients and mixing them up in unimaginative ways.

I've done both in my lifetime and they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Someone said it earlier - what do you want for yourself in 5 years?

Staying at the Italian place will not offer you the "ladder" to move up. You will cook, get to know your staff ad kitchen in a way that is personal and satisfying. You will have some input into the food, specials, menus and running of the place. You will take pride in your food and have some ownership in the success of each day.

In the corporate world - not so much. You will spend lots of time doing written evaluations, attending meetings and fine tuning the business. Food is not the focus in the corporate world - its the almighty dollar. You will answer to the home office if your numbers are down by a 1/2 percent rather than to yourself and the owner. You will not offer anything high end or create a delicious new sauce. You will fire a bad employee only after 3 one-on-ones and three progressive write-ups for the same offense. You will work with young kids who do not have any stake or interest in the success of the business. It goes on an on.

On the flip side - if you make the leap to corporate, you will learn to enjoy systems. Lots of them, and they are tryed and true. You will run within a % each month with food cost and labor numbers. You will have an opportunity to move to a new location every 2 years and perhaps if you are good at what you do, a promotion into a district managers position down the road. In fact, you will get so far away from actual cooking that you no longer have to worry about it at all!

You will make a steady paycheck that includes insurance - thats right, I said INSURANCE! You will also fill out lots of forms everytime a youngster gets a paper cut, slips and falls on a wet floor or bumps their head on the cooler door for the insurance company to pour over. You will be judged and scrutinized on your monthly accidents and rewarded with goofy plaques everytime you go a month without one. You will participate in employee incentive programs until your head bursts.

You will be part of a team management structure where good manners are a must. You will not run your kitchen as a chef, you will head up a management team where everyone wants input. You will delegate out the smalles tasks to your staff so that you have something to evaluate them on every six months. You will, on the other hand, work a steady schedule and have a weeks paid vacation after a year. One of the great things about corporate is that you can truly go away for a week, and nothing will have changed when you get back. It is the same day in and day out wether your there or not.

What you will miss - Walking out into the dining room in our whites and hearing the accolades about your nightly special. Creativity and input into the food. Having your ideas heard and acted on under any circumstances unless a corporate meeting is held to discuss a possible change in the structure of the company. Anything personal. Its all about being a company man now, you did not create anything or have any input into the success of the concept, you will only be responsible for putting the systems in place and following them.

Decide what is right for you and your family. Steady, dull, boring but safe is what you will find in the Corporate world. You will gain some great experience and probably do volumes that you have not yet with your "Mom and Pop". You will get to open a new place and get it off the ground. You will, however, have a training team that comes in for a month to set up all the systems and get the ball rolling so that you can tow the line for the comming years.

Good Luck!
Time is running short! Future Restaurant Owners act now to start living your dream today. www.sweetpeasbistro.net
Time is running short! Future Restaurant Owners act now to start living your dream today. www.sweetpeasbistro.net
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

thanks for the advice

Sorry to be so slow in responding to all the good advice and information. It was a bit of a busy weekend.

Well, the thing is, I do like the smell of stock and I like the action of the kitchen and being up to my eyeballs in guts and flesh, but I am tempted by the money. I am afraid though I will find I have sold my soul.

I think the most important question you all asked was where do I want to be in five years, coupled with the questions of how old I am and what my long term plans are. As far as long term plans go, I am engaged as of last Wednesday to a wonderful woman who I would like to be able to provide things like insurance to. So, that is a big part of my long term plan. Beyond that I am fearful that I can not do much more in this town. I am currently the head chef of the largest non-corporate restaurant and while I would love to open my own place one day I think I need a few years before I can jump to that. (By a "Few" I think I might mean "ten")

I feel like I am babbling...

I think the GM position would be a great opportunity but I am afraid I will be miserable. Part of me thinks the misery will be worth it for the experience that will build my personal tool kit in future endevours. SO I guess my question is, for those of you who know both worlds: is it as horrible as I have heard? and even if it is, is it worth it for the experience and the career building?

Thanks to all for putting up with my blathering.
post #8 of 8
Well said. I am corporate and I'm working my way back out. I have only been doing it for about a year and a half now. I HATE IT. Food is what I'm good at and have passion for, not meetings and everyone trying to backstab or cover their *****. I just want to cook. Pay is NICE and benifits are NICE and driving a nice car and nice house and sending my kids to exclusive private school. BUT.......I'm miserable, so I'm cutting back on my luxuries, but keeping the kids in school, and moving to a different project. I think you should go for it though, the only way you'll swear off corporate is if you've done it, and maybe you'll love it. Who knows, just never cash in your 401K, that'll be your bread and butter in 35 yrs. good luck
" Never fry bacon naked!"

" Never fry bacon naked!"

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