Hi fellow chefs and/or restaurant owners,
now that another busy summer season is over I'm reviewing processes in the kitchen and pondering how to improve things, especially with respect to the workload that nearly landed me in a burn out clinic quite early on in the season.
My set up is a small, 25-cover restaurant with a 40-cover beer garden (an either/or situation - there's rarely, if ever, 65 covers being served simultaneously) and a small menu, i.e. 2 - 3 starters and 5 - 6 mains. The food is regional and seasonal; I use a handful of local suppliers/producers, which entails that I don't get any deliveries. In the summer season, I have to make 2 to 3 trips each week (each a 45-mile round trip) to pick up meat and vegetables, as well as a 70-mile round trip to the nearest cash and carry at least every other week. Last year, the restaurant was open from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm, but this past season I stayed closed in the afternoons, because business is slow during that time and often I simply couldn't keep up with the prep work for evening services.
Due to the small size of the restaurant, I can't afford another cook, but I do have a dishie on weekends who peels potatoes and cuts fries, washes lettuce etc.
I'm essentially trying to come up with a way of reducing stress and the workload and might even reassess the basic concept of the restaurant. As it is, the food served is quality home-style, often with a touch of the Mediterranean; a typical menu might include a pasta dish, a steak, fries and salad, schnitzel Viennese, fries and salad, duck breast with veg and homemade gnocchi (or similar), lamb kebabs with tabbouleh and a vegetarian dish. Although I'm not keen on the steak and schnitzel, they are on almost all the time, because the locals are extremely conservative. At the same time, the tourists love anything Mediterranean that has the "locally grown/raised" stamp on it (my lamb, rabbit, pork etc.). It continues to be difficult to please both distinct camps. Tourism constitutes a high percentage of my income, yet I can't survive winters without the locals.
I would like to pick your brains for ideas how I might be able to reduce ticket times (longish waits can be a problem when it gets busy), the a la minute workload and such like, so that I can keep customers happy while retaining my mental and physical health.
Thank you guys and gals!