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Cost of same-time serving of mains to the whole table

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Most tables do not all order the same main, and I don't think it's wrong to say having to serve different mains at the same time increases stress? Would you cook better if you didn't have to follow this requirement? Would less equipment be needed or even less staff? At the least, some dishes which are chucked because another took too long wouldn't have been chucked....
post #2 of 29
Uh.... well, that's a'la carte. If you want everyone eating at the same time then you have a banquet--or a dinner club.

Totally agree with you, a'la carte is an incredible amount of work--and an even more waste of energy compared to banquets. Yet the public demands a'la carte.

I think, in the not-too near future, smart restaurant operators will offer well prepared, well served meals--but only with limited choices and only within limited time frames. The cost in terms of inventory, storage, refrigerated storage, and manpower for a 40 or 50 item menu is the killer. Deal with this, and things will become simpler and cheaper to operate.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #3 of 29
Thread Starter 
hehe thanks for replying.

The ideological me wants to quantify the cost of same-time-serving, how much money would be saved if everything else is kept (menu choices, service etc) just that the person ordering the braise would get it before the person ordering the pie...

With a cost saving figure, one can then "ask" the customers whether they are willing to pay that premium (which they are paying right now), if not the customers and restaurant can share the savings...

I'm pretty sure if it's 50% it would be very tempting for most customer, although it won't be that much obviously...
post #4 of 29
This is called family style, and yes it is less work. You are cooking batch style. I have been in some resaurants in Europe that serve like this. Less equipment, dont think so, but different kinds and different layouts of kitchen.
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post #5 of 29
What's the problem with a la carte dining? The expediter calls it out and communicates with the servers what needs to come out when. If you are set up correctly nothing should take more than 10 minutes to fire.
post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 
hey kuan

there's is nothing wrong with it, i just want to how much extra it is costing. a simplest scenario would be what if each diner came alone?
post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
if it's easier (and less wasteful) to heat up the braises of 3 tables at the same time (which can't be done if it needs to wait for the other dishes of each table) then yeah why not...


i guess an actual quantified cost is too ideological...
post #8 of 29
so are you saying that say a family of 4 came in to eat dinner one night.. instead of their normal a la carte service where they all order and hope it comes out at the same time, to where instead a person would order say chicken parm (easy and quick) but another would order an 8 oz filet well... the parm would come out much quicker than the filet no doubt, but i dont know if customers would enjoy watching the other people at the table eat their food before anyone else... it would be a weird transition i would think even if it was cheaper overall, imo diners are going out together for the experience of eating their food together and enjoying their night.. not drooling over the guy next to him cuz he was smart and got a quick and delicious pasta or somethin..

i dunno, maybe im not interpreting what your trying to get at here..
post #9 of 29
That's not so much a problem caused by the style of menu as the lack of ability of the cook(s).
As a customer I would resent knowingly paying more because of waste caused by the cook.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #10 of 29
Thread Starter 
well I doubt the saving would be enough for customer to actually go for it (i would guess at least 50%?), I'm more interesting in knowing the cost of it:

100 customers split into 25 tables of 4 vs 100 "tables" of 1...
post #11 of 29
Thread Starter 
haha well i cook at a ** place and it still happens...

the increase in pressure on the cooks is a "cost", it's just hard to quantify...
post #12 of 29
I'm not judging your ability.
But that pressure is what makes the cream rise to the top.
Of course your proposed style of service would be easier on the kitchen.
You could probably feel comfortable staffing up with trained monkeys.
Believe me, I've been there.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #13 of 29
Thread Starter 
well one of the important skills of a chef is time management and multi taskable, but these skills aren't directly for the betterment of the taste of a single dish, but the whole service.

would quality of food, with everything else held unchanged, increase with this system? i think so, even at the top restaurants, in which case the customers are choosing to sacrifice some quality for "courtesy"...
post #14 of 29
Yes, I think it's possible to maintain a consistently high quality level easier in that system.
But that difference in consistency may be too small to be noticable.
The question is, would enough of the public want that style to make for a sustainable restaurant?

One part of me says yes, I would like to frequent a place that is offering, say, rack of lamb for tonights main. But If I'm not in the mood for that days offering, they don't get my business.
The other part of me knows that I arrive with no set idea of what I want to eat, and often just have a narrowed down option of 2-3 things as the waitperson arrives, making my final decision under the gun. (I guess I love pressuring myself, lol).

It's the variety that is the appeal to me, assuming that quality is a given.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #15 of 29
Jim I think we are thinking the same. I used to say to the staff, "" I dont want to see how fast you do it, I want to see how good you do it."" If customer wants to DINE, speed is not of the escence. Quality, Taste, Service and Ambiance is. Mc somewhere or Chile's or Appelbee's would br the place for speed and mediocraty. I sometimes feel that those type places would make less errors useing the monkees.:p
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post #16 of 29
Thread Starter 
everything else is held constant, just that courses won't necessarily arrive at the same time.

i'm saying quality will actually improve because of the derestriction.
post #17 of 29
Thread Starter 
well i'm not comparing TFL to AdHoc.

so you think the gain in efficiency is minimal? thanks
post #18 of 29
HUH?
well there was a top French restaurant in Memphis that had a set menu each week Wed-Sat, 4 course.....essentially 2 seatings.....La Tourelle was around for close to 25 years.

Then almost the polar opposite, a friend ran Riddles' Penultimate Cafe for 25+ years and retired this past year. He sourced a huge percentage locally and had entrees with the option of soup or salad and a side, or two sides. A busy night with outdoor dining would be 400ish....the side selection varied but in the summer would be about a dozen. There was an aha! moment when I figured out how difficult it must be to have so many options, not even a set starch/veg to go with each entree. Andy told me, " getting all the food out at the right time is the difference between a restaurant and home cooks"....It's still awe inspiring to watch their kitchen on a busy summer night.
Nothing fancy, just good local food with many many options.....coming out to the table so that everyone can eat at the same time.

Did I miss something in translation?
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #19 of 29
I'm missing something here. Why woud you be wasting food? Granted, I work in a small place, but lately I've been working the kitchen alone due to slow season and I can work tables of 10 and 11 by myself and have the food all come up at the same time. We have certain menu items that take longer, so the staff notifies me as soon as they take the order so I can get those things started ahead. We do have a simple menu, but if saving money and energy is the goal, that is how you approach it. Simplify your menu. I can't imagine the chaos of four different entrees for four different tables in the pass at the same time. Waitstaff would be running their a***s off taking out one plate at a time, not to mention I wouldn't be able to keep track of what I was doing. :confused:
post #20 of 29
Interestingly enough, casual Chinese places (I mean 'authentic' places serving dishes family style) serve in such a way. There is generally no order to how the dishes come out beyond the soup and the dessert. While I can accept that sort of service in those places (since everybody can eat) I think there are certain expectations that must be met elsewhere. I think I'd be willing to accept such service at a diner (provided the food isn't more than three minutes apart) or somewhere similarly casual, I don't think it's acceptable in most other places.

Yes, having to put food out at the same time (while maintaining quality) increases pressure on the cooks and chefs and has the potential to increase costs in terms of waste, but to be honest I think the savings in staff and equipment is negligible... you basically still need as many plates and cutlery and stovetops as before and you would certainly need more runners available to take each dish out as they come (whereas a server or porter can take entire tables out by themselves otherwise).

Now, with respect to increasing kitchen stress and difficulty.... let me ask you this question: what if I proposed I lower crew stress and effectiveness by making dishes simpler? Let's just make tuna salad sandwiches, egg salad, grilled cheese, etc? Would it improve the probability of getting out a good product? I personally don't think it's worth sacrificing just to make it easier on people, especially not at a particular level of service you wish to achieve. Besides, I think it destroys the eating atmosphere when people are eating while others are waiting a long time for their food.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #21 of 29
Mmmm... The Chinese are loathe to put anything on a plate, if two are at at able everything is on platters for two, and I've never attended a Chinese wedding (about 10 so far...) where the tables weren't always in 10's and the food on platters of 10's.

In my first post I mooted the fact of the cost of keeping a 50 item (apps, mains & desserts) a'la carte menu, as opposed to a daily menu where you had, say a choice between 2 apps, 3 mains, maybe 1 starch and 1 veg, and two desserts.

However for an a'la carte menu, I see no savings in money or materials if all the mains for a 4-top come out at the same time--provided the cooks know what they're doing. It's all in timing, and a good cook has to having the timing.

And now I'll mosey on down to e-gullet and see what they have to say about the very same thread.....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #22 of 29
Isn't getting what you want part of why you go to a restaurant? I'm sorry, but after 32 yrs of cooking different meals for the same table I feel thats' just part of the job. If the stress of doing the work is too much, then that person should step aside for someone who has no problem with that aspect of the job description.

As I like to joke to my employees: This foodservice thing would be a whole lot easier if people just came in, gave me their money and left without all this "food" part in between!

Thats the part where a cook and/or server loses their job.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #23 of 29
Okay, I think we're on the same page now.
The menu still has variety, and the diner can still order what they wish, but the cook fires all orders immediately, and the food gets served as soon as it's done.

I still think the difference in quality is minimal.
If there is that big of a difference in quality, it's the cook that needs improving, not the system.

Also, the trade off isn't worth it.
What is now easier for the cook is harder for the FOH.
They now have to make a trip for each diner, rather than each table.
If the food is only marginally better, but the service goes downhill, will I, the diner, be happy?
No.

And let's say you can hit that magical savings of 50%, and were able to pass it on to me.
Would I be happy as my partner finishes their Tempura Prawns as I wait for my Well Done Filet (not that I order leather, just hypothetically speaking)?
Again, no, I would not enjoy this scenario.

If I were dining alone, then yes, because the meal is now less expensive with no change in service.
But I rarely dine alone.
I hate the Steve Martin-esque spotlight.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #24 of 29
In a formal Chinese dinner typically the courses will arrive in a smooth progression and placed on a central platter. The servers then usually divide the food between the number of people at the table (8 is a good number, 10 is acceptable). At a casual place you'll usually see multiple dishes on the table at a time, as opposed to the formal treatment... and everybody will serve themselves.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #25 of 29
O.K. I'm being stupid in that I don't see where this would save a dime, and I also don't see how there is loss due to food being "chucked" If someone at a table orders lobster (longest time in my place) the staff tells me that as soon as they take the order so I can get it started. Everything else is timed out based on where the lobster is in terms of being done. Isn't that how everyone does it, or am I on a different planet or dead or something? To see my menu, if you're interested, go to www.hillsidefishhouse.com. If I trash one item a night because it got away on me (too done) or I made the wrong thing, it's a bad night. So I'm not getting this at all. What I don't have is a menu that's all over the map with pasta dishes, stir fries, fancy sauces, etc. I'm not Italian and I'm not Chinese and I don't try to be. We specialize in seafood done in a straight up, uncomplicated manner. What I do have is comment cards that ask what the diner liked most about the place and their response is the food, the food, the food. They also like the service with atmosphere a distant third place. Focus. Be what you are. Keep it simple so you can do it well. That's all it is. Sorry for preaching.
post #26 of 29
this is Riddle's website.....since it's feb. the sides are nominal, in the heart of growing season it'll grow to a dozen sides. Riddle?s Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

400+ covers on a Fri or Sat with choice of sides, and then of course there are those that get the veg platter with 4 of their choices.
KT Ayres, owner/chef is a 30 year old woman who was the daughter of the founder/chef and has run the kitchen for over 10 years. Now this is like a major airport's traffic control tower.....great local scratch food.....
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #27 of 29
At our new restaurant I'm open for dinner. The menu is six courses- with the appetizer, fish course, salad, and cheese courses being set, and choices of entree and dessert. I do it this way because of the labor-intensive preparation and presentation that is involved. Yes, it also keeps my inventory in line, allows me to streamline the flow of food from the kitchen, help with timing etc. It also helps my labor since my prep work is tied to the number of reservations I have any particular night.
This goes back to a basic philosophy I've adopted for many years that a small, well thought out, well executed menu is in all ways superior to the "encyclopedia" or "shotgun" approach to menu writing.
But as for the timing of mains- my well done tenderloins do come out at the same time to the same table as my paper-thin veal, no problem.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #28 of 29
Nice menu from Riddles. I'd have to stay for at least two weeks just to try everything.
post #29 of 29
Peach, that's the way I've worked....offsite catering dictates thought behind menus or you'll have to haul in equipment to sites that don't have what our menu needs. Typically we look at the site prior to designing menus.

Greyeagle....Riddles is a great place to just park at the bar in casual cloths, or I've taken staff after events....it's great food in a comfy hippish space.
Voted best wine list in STL for 15 years, great staff training. Desserts including ice cream are made in house. I've seen many kitchens including white linen fine dining and Riddles with it's older stoves no fussy stuff equipment (seriously), cranks out a larger variety of volume food.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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