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Advice on "Fixing" two Restaurants

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi Everyone, 

 

I am finally back in a town with Internet! It is so good to go through all the new threads, and seeing what everyone is up to.

 

I have just accepted a job with a small hotel, to fix up their kitchen, and get the restaurants up to scratch. There are two restaurants, both operating from the same kitchen. One is a fine dining restaurant, with a New Orleans theme to it, and the other is a lunch time, poolside cafe/bar. They both have a pretty bad rep at the moment, but the fine dining one used to be the best restaurant in the city.

They do want to change it, to give it more of a wine bar feel.

 

The kitchen!

I spent a few days in the kitchen, only watching how it is being run, how the chefs work and all that.

The kitchen is the worst kitchen I have ever been in!! The equipment is about 50 years old, and hardly anything works, and has probably not been cleaned since it was installed, I ran my finger through the side of the main gas hob, and dug a trench, half my finger deep, through all the grease. The flat top looked a bit odd to me, rounded at the front, a bit different to the squarish ones I'm used to, had a closed look, and found it was carbon, compressed around it, about an inch thick.

Okay, I am rambling a bit on how disgustingly dirty the kitchen is, and there is so much more on the subject i could talk about.

 

The Chefs, or cooks, I have a bit of a problem calling them Chefs.

Most of them have been there for about 20 years, and they only know what they were taught when they arrived.

They have a huge problem with me being there, and I know they will not want to change, and try get me to leave, the good thing is i have the owners on my side if I need to get some new guys in, but i really don't like doing that, I would rather get them a bit more enthusiastic about the changes. Oh, and they all refuse to wear chef jackets, as it is "Too Hot" in the kitchen.

 

The Food.

It is all going to change, so i won't go on about it. The cooks have no pride in their plating, and the quality of the produce is just terrible! 

 

The restaurant manager.

He is very stuck in his ways, and i can see i am going to clash with him. He was in charge with the kitchen before i arrived, and he is very unhappy with me being there, I think he feels threatened. ( He is older than me, so are most of the kitchen staff. I have a bit of trouble giving orders and being in charge of people older than me, just the way i was brought up, and I am sure they will feel the same) Most of the food on the menus is his, and I think he may have taken offense when I called the food crap, a compliment in my opinion.

 

The equipment.

Never have I ever written a list so long (Ever) of the amount of problems with the existing equipment, and the the equipment that is needed. The owners have said they are willing to redo the kitchen, but i have heard that before!

The oven has one setting, Hell! and the deep fryer has to be switched on and off at the switch box for each order.

The walk in is about 50 metres away from the kitchen, and there are no fridges in the kitchen.

My favorite is the extractor, when i asked why it wasn't on, they said it doesn't work properly. So I had a peek, and the fan and motor is just one big ball of grease.

The plates are more of a yellow than white, and the bottoms are greasy and brown (Just a quick reminder, this was once the best restaurant in the city)

There is so much equipment that is needed in the kitchen. I have always been one to say, a good tradesman never blames his tools, but this is just ridiculous, I can't do what i have been hired to do.

 

 

This is going to be a big job for me, and there is so much I have left out! Any advice you guys can offer me would be great.

I am busy designing the menus, doing the costs and trying to find a way to get the kitchen up to scratch.

 

I will take a few pics of the kitchen, and post my proposed menus soon. Thanks in advance!!

 

 

Sorry for the long post!

 

Cheers,

 

Mike

post #2 of 20

First thing i would do i give them a course on Higiene and Food Manipulation , cross contamination in the kitchen is something to worry about, so when ever possible i try to make it that all employees can understand that. 

 

After that , definetly would get the kitchen cleaned , asap. 

Start making a list of what equipment that work , which dont , which can be fixed , which you need to ditch , equipmente you need and what you dont need. 

 

I think that may be the first few things you could do. 

 

Also did the managers give you the power to switch staff and get new guys in <_< ?

What is the most they are willing to spend to get the kitchens up to scratch ?

 

Also dont try to win the employees over , have them respect you , you can be friendly , but dont let them step on you . 

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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post #3 of 20

Seem like you’re going to need a little bureaucracy, full list of rules and regulations with stipulated warnings and punishments, all sighed by the bosses and displayed where all the staff can see, then go on a non-violent rampage, no swearing, shouting or insults, older folk don’t quite appreciate it, just simply point to the list of rules write out the warning letter (I have a template already printed that I simply fill in details and have it signed and witnessed) add in a punishment such as scrubbing the extractor and get your manager to enforce it. Refusal by that staff member will get recorded and a more severe disciplinary hearing should be called that includes a more senior person. 3 warnings for an offence and you’re out. With this you’ll achieve 3 things, a clean kitchen, disciplined staff and a weeding of the trouble makers.

You are unfortunately going to have to get the manager on your side, even if you don’t believe him up to any task you’ll still need to talk to him like an equal, he is in a senior position and has some respect from the older staff, bad mouthing him only bring more dissention amongst the chefs, you unfortunately need him, so build him up.

Always blame the owners for every change you make, inform the owners that you intend to redo the menu then say to your staff  “the owners want me to redo the menu,”  or even “this disciplinary code comes from the owners, can’t help it have follow it or I’m in trouble”

Then finally take the old menu, throw it away and do new ones, keep it simple in the beginning then get progressively more complicated every 4 months in order for the staff to keep up. Boast every success while including your entire team, “look guys we are doing it, we’ll be the best again very soon.

Have fun and show it, you having fun will rub off, the energy in your kitchen has to come from you, too much shout and a mean demeanour will slow down and demoralize the staff, be happy but very strict and fair and don’t stress too much, if it’s as bad as you say, any improvements will be a step forward, they say the best way to eat an elephant is to do it one bite at a time, a little improvement every day is easier to swallow

Good luck, learn a lot and let us know how it goes

post #4 of 20

The best time to negotiate is before you accept the job.  Basically, you need to:

 

-Negotiate some H.R. stuff.  Can the owners afford to loose staff if they don't accept the new changes?  Do you have a list of staff you want to bring in, if things don't go well and existing staff pull now shows or quit on you?

 

 

-Negotiate an equipment budget.  How much can you spend on new  equipment.  Always start off with refrigeration first.

 

-Negotiate the freedom to use suppliers you want to use.  It's your food cost, not theirs....

 

These  things need to be negotiated BEFORE you start the job. Once you start, you don't have the bargaining power you need.

 

Make up a big wall poster for the kitchen:  "Change is the price of survival".  It is...............

...."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 #5 of 20

Sounds like you need a whole new staff, including the GM. Possibly a grand re-opening. 

post #6 of 20

Close place down a few days clean it up revise menu hire new GM  and get rid of all really bad staff. Most of them are there to long to change. They have been allowed to do this for years.. It will take you more time to TRY ^and change them then train new good people. Remember its your rep and your money.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #7 of 20

>> Remember its your rep and your money.

OP, #1:
"I have just accepted a job . . ."

if he stays it could turn into his reputation; not likely any of his money.
leave no chef behind; reading pays.

I'm not professionally involved in cooking - but this is entirely similar to many professional situations I've been tasked to solve / fix.

first, stuff completely out of your control:
you need a commitment from top management to upgrade / fix / replace / clean-up the physical plant.
should they hesitate, do not return in the morning.  it's doomed.

next the "people part"
you have spent some time there.  you may have observed certain employees that do / may have potential.
pull them aside, tell them there's major changes coming, "you're in or you're out - what's your answer?"

everybody else goes.

if the management opts to not support you, do not return in the morning.

if the situation is as bad as portrayed, there is nothing but wholesale big time ueber major change - you may be able to handle the old/new employee training / re-orientation part - but unless you've got $200-$400k to replace the kitchen - you're doomed.

post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vic Cardenas View Post

Sounds like you need a whole new staff, including the GM. Possibly a grand re-opening. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefedb View Post

...hire a new GM  and get rid of all really bad staff. ......

 

 

Uhh, how is a Chef gonna fire the G.M.?  Who's hiring who?

...."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 #9 of 20

You better be prepared to get another job---

 

What is ahead of you is going to be ugly---

 

Work up a plan for the new kitchen and some costs---

 

then your new menu--

and the staff level for the new operation--

 

Next you will need to meet with the boss and see if these changes are in the budget--

 

And find out if you will have full authority to hire and fire ---because that staff needs replacing--

 

You will never get fine dining from a kitchen manager that ever allowed the place to get that filthy.

 

I've been in your situation and you are going to have to have that face to face --heart to heart talk with the big boss---and be prepared to say 'thank you for considering me, but I'll be moving on if all of these items are not forthcoming."

post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

 

 

 

Uhh, how is a Chef gonna fire the G.M.?  Who's hiring who?

Good point... but I'm not under the impression that the GM hired him. All the places I've worked, the GM was just a trumped up title for front-of-the-house manager. Or, the exec chef was the superior of everybody. Including front of house. I know, unusual situation, but not always is the GM the superior of the entire operation. Perhaps, he can suggest to the owners that there needs to be a replacement for the GM? 

post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi Guys!

 

Thanks for all the replies, taking in every ones advice, it has given me a bit of a wake up in terms of what I am facing, thanks everyone!!

 

Will be having a meeting with the owners and the management staff soon. The owners want to have a new launch of the lunch time menu in twenty days, I'm just going to lay it out straight, there is really no use in having me there unless they are willing to jack up the kitchen first, I haven't signed anything so could easily pull out. They like my ideas so far, but there is just no way to implement them the way the kitchen is.

 

I did a burger yesterday, with the cooks, they loved it, it looked great, restaurant managers response, " we buy our burgers already made, its cheaper to carry on doing that ".

I had a look at the "Burgers", 120g white looking things, called Eco Mince Burgers, Eco as in economy, not Eco as in Eco-friendly as they thought. Had me laughing though.

 

Will let you all know how it goes!

 

Here are a few pics of the kitchen.

 

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post #12 of 20

I can tell you from experience , not as bad as you might have been but i have been in a similar situation twice. My first time time I have analyzed everything and tried to create a system that is suitable to my current staff... Let me tell You , I try not to remeber that experience.. Second time same situation , within my first week , I have changed the menu , the conversation was  : this is who I am , This is my kitchen , this is my menu... Had turnover initially but never looked back , there is no better feeling than getting rid of the old wood , sticking with seasoned employees who believe in you and who also set a role mode for younger cooks..

If you believe the management is behind you , do it. Otherwise you will not succeed , it will only hurt once 

post #13 of 20

Before you do anything - you MUST close the restaurants until the entire kitchen including equipment,  dry storage and cold storage area walls floors and shelves have been thoroughly cleaned by the employees that will work in the kitchen; and the entire cook staff evaluated for skill sets and retrained or replaced. I know this is not a popular idea and before you all begin to scream, I have had many years experience in turning unprofitable, underperforming restaurants around. No matter what you do, unless you make it real for the crew and painful in the hip pocket for the owners, you will not achieve the success you are looking for. A bad reputation in the restaurant industry  will only turn around if the public sees a concerted effort to begin again.

post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matth3w View Post

 add in a punishment such as scrubbing the extractor and get your manager to enforce it. Refusal by that staff member will get recorded and a more severe disciplinary hearing should be called that includes a more senior person. 3 warnings for an offence and you’re out. With this you’ll achieve 3 things, a clean kitchen, disciplined staff and a weeding of the trouble makers.

 

This seems like a great way to get yourself a filthy kitchen. I think doling out cleaning as a punishment would be the last thing that I would do. It gives the impression that cleaning should only be done when you've messed up. If you have enough people being punished on a regular basis to keep your kitchen clean something has gone wrong.

 

Always blame the owners for every change you make, inform the owners that you intend to redo the menu then say to your staff  “the owners want me to redo the menu,”  or even “this disciplinary code comes from the owners, can’t help it have follow it or I’m in trouble”

 

Cooks don't tend to be stupid. I cant imagine throwing your owners under the bus doing anything good for you. In fact what I could see happening is cooks finding out that you're lying to them and losing the trust of your kitchen. 

post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by MiniChefZim View Post

I did a burger yesterday, with the cooks, they loved it, it looked great, restaurant managers response, " we buy our burgers already made, its cheaper to carry on doing that ".

I had a look at the "Burgers", 120g white looking things, called Eco Mince Burgers, Eco as in economy, not Eco as in Eco-friendly as they thought. Had me laughing though.

Uh oh! This might be your first sign. Well... your second. 

 

Can't see pics BTW. 

post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by MiniChefZim View Post

 

 

The restaurant manager.

He is very stuck in his ways, and i can see i am going to clash with him. He was in charge with the kitchen before i arrived, and he is very unhappy with me being there, I think he feels threatened. ( He is older than me, so are most of the kitchen staff. I have a bit of trouble giving orders and being in charge of people older than me, just the way i was brought up, and I am sure they will feel the same) Most of the food on the menus is his, and I think he may have taken offense when I called the food crap, a compliment in my opinion.

 

 

 

O.K. now, let's think about his one a bit... Rest. mngr was overseeing the kitchen for quite some time.  Its a safe bet he was compensated for his "extra duties".  Now that you're there he won't be getting that compensation.  Most rest. mngrs would welcome a new Chef and an opportunity to sell some clean new exciting food ,....and booze.

 

 

I'm a survivor of this business for over 30 years now, and one of the reasons I'm a survivor is that I'm a cynical  little bast___. My first question would be why did the owners wait so long to muck out the horse-barn?  Surely the complaints started a looong time ago.  My next question is why did they pick you?  This is NOT a criticism  of you or your abilities, but you don't have a track record of mucking out horse-barns.  No budget or pipe dreams of a clean modern kitchen were given to you either.

 

Time will tell if the owners are serious about plunking some serious money back into the kitchen.  If they are, great, but don't even think about equipment until infrastructure is up to (modern) code, and then, start with refrigeration first--there's no feeling like walking into the fridge one sunny morning and having the fan blow warm air on your face, and having to toss out meat, dairy, produce, and finished items....

 

But if the owners hemm and haw and give excuses for not addressing  major, immediate repairs, it's a safe bet the hotel is up for sale...... 

...."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 #17 of 20

A while back I was a partner in a High Performance Work Team consulting firm. The first step was getting clear, committed and quantifiable expectations from the owners. What they're willing to spend, what's flexible and what's written in stone.

 

Those are shared with the staff along with complete transparency of actual costs, profits/loss customer feedback, and so forth so they can see why improvement is mandated. The next step is to assess to see how the staff is actually doing things, and quantify them. The resistance can reach near-mutiny levels, but if they're assured support and safety you'll get the info and a lot of the staff will feel relief; others even more resentment.

 

Then the staff has to come up with a plan of how to reach the goals set by the owners. Some will love the challenge, others try to contaminate and undercut. When the plan is in place they present it to the owners, who say what they're willing to do.

 

It never ceased to amaze me how the most angry and resistant people were the biggest supporters by the end of the process as they shifted all that angry energy into something they created and works better. Because the people who do the work designed the new way of doing things they have ownership and pride. It's an exhausting but worthwhile process that takes 2-3 weeks or longer.

 

The few people who needed to be fired were apathetic from beginning to end. 

 

Developing HPWT's isn't cheap, but the return on investment is sometimes exponential and the changes should last forever. I'm not suggesting the OP bring in consultants. It's just best to know there are ways to make it work with the current staff before assuming people need to be fired, close the restaurant, or whatever. 


Edited by mano - 8/28/13 at 5:16am
post #18 of 20
My advise. RUN! In the tv shows they don't stay for more than a week. Find another job and list this one on your resume as a consulting chef position. Implying it was short term work. If you stay ,it will eat you up and very likely change you for the worse. You just started and you already resent your crew.
Whatever your choice best of luck.
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone,

 

Thanks for all your replies! really do appreciate it Q

 

Update!

 

I decided to stay, the owners promised a lot to get me to stay, and they have come through!

We have just fitted our new work surfaces, (bit of trouble at first, they didn't fit through the door, had to cut the legs off and re weld them)

 

New gas range, and oven on the way. New plates are in, lovely Maxwell & Williams. :)

Floors will be tiled soon. New extractor being fitted!

New grills, flat top, and reach ins are in!

 

The restaurant manager is gone! New manager is great.

 

I have taken over the management of the lunch restaurant, it has just been finished, looks fantastic!, opening next Friday, have a trial run tomorrow, cant wait!

 

The chefs are now more willing to move forward, a bit more enthusiastic, I did lose one, who wasn't willing to change. 

 

I will post pics of the new kitchen and restaurant soon.

 

Thanks again for all your replies!! Glad i didn't run!

post #20 of 20

Wow!!!!

 

Great news. Please keep us updated---you sure have some challenges ahead,but it sounds good so far.--Mike---

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