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New restaurant, green team.

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

I haven't formerly introduced myself yet, but I have a bit of a predicament.

I live in small town, and am the acting exec chef at a new restaurant (previous exec runs another restaurant, I am now basically running the place, making the major financial decisions, he is just overseeing at this point).

What was placed before me was a staff of incredibly green crew who have either never worked in a kitchen in their lives, or were previously dishwashers.

I'm about 10 years older than the average age of my staff that I have under me, (I didn't hire them), and the biggest issue I'm having is the lack of urgency in these kids. Move, move, move. I feel like I'm trying to reach to people who enjoy treading mud. No matter how I try to approach them, it's in one ear and out the other. 

My pickings in this town are limited in quality, and I feel that before I arrived here, it was "how many bodies can we squeeze in" rather than "who can move their ass and create consistent product?".


So, bottom line short, I'm overseeing a team of kids who either are there for a paycheck, or have no f'ing clue as to what they're doing, and training them up to MY standards is causing me serious time and money when I have a whole BOH to run. I come from a strict and regimented background as a sous and in the position I'm in now, I'm not sure what do to as to hire/fire. I've given the end of the world talks as, if you can't pick up your speed, your hours are going to be cut; but this leaves me with just more work to do.  I have a girl that graduated from LCB (!) who can't chif 1# basil in less than an hour. I'm about to pull my hair out. 


Any thoughts to this? I used to run a crew of 20, 500 covers in 6 hours daily, in a major city, and now I'm in a small town in a smaller establishment but in a restaurant that is new and B-U-S-Y. I feel like I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to keep my standards up.


I might note, I'm female and my staff is entirely male minus the exception of the LCB "graduate" that can't even peel carrots without massive babysitting. Adding this because a) my staff is responsive to my guidance, but just doesn't get it or doesn't realize my role, even though.. it's my role. My passion is fully invested here, and I just want a decent staff of people who are trainable at this point. A couple of kids are improving, but holy hell, this is a challenge!




Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 12

Welcome to MY world.

I have more than 35 years in this business and 14 years ago I found a more quiet, less stressed job in a small rural town as well.

The labor pool here is much as you describe, and I share your frustrations.


At the largest resort here the roll over of employees is amazing. I found that many of these kids have no motivation, commitment, and, of course, that sense of urgency needed in a restaurant.


I ended up contacting a culinary school 250 miles away and brought in "interns" to work while learning and earning a grade.

Yes, I have to do their paperwork and grade them, but I get the satisfaction of knowing my employees WANT to be there.


Don't know where you are, but you may want to look into the same kind of thing.

post #3 of 12

Well, churn and burn. I would keep hiring on a 90 day probationary period and then play weakest link. If you go through the numbers eventually you will have a crew. Not the best way to go about it but sounds like u are in a pickle.

Fluctuat nec mergitur
Fluctuat nec mergitur
post #4 of 12

One more point....and I know you're not going to like this......but.......YOU may have to retrain YOUR brain to accept what is and make it work.

In my experiences, I have found that changing my way of doing things to find out what will motivate a person. Some times it's a lost cause but many times it works.

post #5 of 12

Originally Posted by holladays View Post

, I'm not sure what do to as to hire/fire. I've given the end of the world talks as, if you can't pick up your speed, your hours are going to be cut; but this leaves me with just more work to do.  I have a girl that graduated from LCB (!) who can't chif 1# basil in less than an hour. I'm about to pull my hair out. 

You have given the talk. Have you followed through with it. Although I imagine cut hours won't really impact your young staff all that much, hell they might even enjoy more free time, because gosh it isn't their fault their hours got cut, and they probably live with mom and dad and have minimal bills. At least that is the case in the area where I live.


I would have the talk and replace cut hours with let go. I would do this in a non threatening facts of life manner because to me that what it is. I would then follow through with it, even though initially it might put extra weight on me. As you do this just remind yourself of the long range goal. A little pain now for the greater good and future rewards.


Also another thing to consider and something that took me a while to figure out, instead of trying to hammer square pegs into round holes, change the holes to square ones. When designing menus, it is always important to be aware of the parameters presented by the equipment in the kitchen. Keep the same thing in mind as far as staff. I am not for one minute talking about lowering standards or expectations, just being smarter and creative as to the design of the holes.


Work smarter, not harder. Adapt to the situation, not the other way around.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #6 of 12
Have you told your employees what your vision is for the restaurant down the road is? Tell them what your aiming for and be very clear with them. Only give them two ways to go. Over board or join the crew. The ones that leave will probably be mad and it will suck for you at first. But word will get out about your place. And that you are serious and you will start to find better candidates applying.
post #7 of 12

I'm probably going to answer this, but I just got home from another day of BS from the don't-give-a-damn bunch. 


I will say this now about cutting the shirkers loose, though...the few I have that care would be dead if I didn't at least have someone to close so they could leave.

More later, right now I might throw up over this.  Twenty-one years of it.  I'll be back sooner if someone says "just pay'em more".

post #8 of 12

I'm in a similar situation in that my small restaurant is located in a rural setting and I have been struggling to find good wait staff ever since I opened about two years ago. My business being very seasonal, I can't employ anyone full-time, so all waitresses are part-timers. They are all professionally trained wait staff (I've shanghaied them from a nearby rehabilitation clinic with a huge restaurant), very dedicated to my place, hard workers, but simply not good enough. They do all the work required in a pretty effective and efficient way, yet they fall short where it really matters, i.e. they're crap at selling my food and wine in a knowledgeable manner. My restaurant is frequented by the area's "upper crust", city foodies on a day out etc., but we don't have the staff to match.


They are the best I can get! It's frustrating. I have fired one prep cook and two waitresses who developed an attitude over time and let me down repeatedly, e.g. by not turning up. The girls I've got now are reliable at least.


In a city, especially one with lots of uni students, I would be able to hire and fire, pick from a large pool of workers, but if I fire someone here, I can't find a replacement very easily. I may just have to live with it...

post #9 of 12

Unlike Europe where it is a profession that you master and do your whole life.  Here its something to do while doing something else. Most of them are so dumb and  Dahhhh

 that they could not get anything else. They don't give a hoot and its only for the money, and a place to hang out. I would sooner train one of the dishwashers to work the floor then hire some of these college? people. If this be the future of America, then God help us all. The other evening wife and I went out , a server came over and handed me a check before we even ordered? Dahhhh

post #10 of 12

Ed, unfortunately, this is no longer the case. FoH staff in Europe have been, almost without exception, untrained part-timers for many years, unless you're looking at corporate hotels and such like. We all depend upon staff with day jobs, failed careers or uni students, no one over 23/24 years of age. With part-time work comes part-time commitment (if any). It's become really difficult.

post #11 of 12

Ed is dead right.  Recky, I'm in a college town, two miles from the college.  Ha! 


There are exceptions, but:


Lots of times they say they'll be there for the duration of their college time, and leave without notice as soon as they make enough for that down payment on something.  I can only hope it comes out in the interview.


If you let them talk long enough during the interview though, some will actually tell you things like "I just need enough to make the down payment and Daddy is going to buy me a car".  Now they have a new car...think they're gonna work or drive around with their friends?  Or, Daddy says I have to get a job (think they really want to be there?).  Or "I just need a job until I can pay off "insert anything here".


A large proportion are filling out applications because Mama and Daddy said they HAD to get a job.  Guess how that works out.  Then, you correct them...Mama and Daddy tells them, "Darling, you don't have to work for a place like that".


This is not true of ALL of them of course.  Some of the best employees I've ever had were college students.  With few exceptions, they were (1) exceptional  students, (2) Had worked somewhere while growing up, and (3) Actually NEEDED to work.  It's like winning the lottery when you find one.  As to the few that we've had over the years, most still keep in touch and stop by to say hello when they're in town.  2 and 3 applies to every applicant.  Whatever work ethic and personality an applicant possesses when they apply is what they possess.  They generally ain't gonna change because they work for me.  I gave up trying to teach these things a long time ago, although occasionally I've had a few come out of their shell.  Even a blind squirrel like me finds an occasional acorn.


I'm not saying all these young people are necessarily at fault.  My A-student granddaughter is living with us while she attends college.  Yesterday, she was trying to divide a number on paper and couldn't do it, so I showed her how.  Come to find out, she was allowed to use a calculator in school for this, and was only required to learn division with "two numbers on the left".

She will know how to divide by this summer.


She had never had a job dealing with the public, and said she couldn't talk to people she didn't know.  I put her on as a server and told her if she didn't want to starve to death, she needed to learn how to work with people.  She's now the best server I've got, and the customers love her.  It CAN be done, but it helps if you have the use of a big stick...such as a roof over the head.  <[ : ^ )  It also helps if they like to buy stuff.


A customer mentioned Winston Churchill during a conversation with a student/server.  He asked her if she knew who he was, and she said that she thought he was a former mayor that her cousin had arrested last year.


As Popeye says, "That's all I can stands,I can't stands no more". 

post #12 of 12
A challenging situation indeed. You mentioned working in a major city with a trained talented crew a your prior position. I would suggest that you look back to you former work mates and recruit yourself a talented sous chef from there to bring in and work with you. A second set of talented hands and eyes that is firmly in you corner and loyal to you would do wonders for your kitchen and mental health.
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