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starting from scratch?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hello all,

 

I just accepted a chef position for a restaurant that is basically starting from scratch. Opening day is in 2 months. There is a kitchen and a budget, that's about it. Obviously hiring and building a team, writing menus etcetera are significant steps, but I am seeking suggestions on a kind of prioritized list of tasks/concepts to complete, so I do not miss anything important when things start moving really fast.

 

I sincerely appreciate any and all suggestions.

 

many thanks!

post #2 of 6

I've not overseen a kitchen opening from pre-conception to finish (I've either taken over kitchens or walked into a restaurant opening) but my most recent job required me to essentially start from scratch, so take this advice for what it's worth.  But first a few questions you should ask yourself:

 

Does the ownership have an idea of what they want the food to be?

Does the space have a pre-existing kitchen?  And if so, what does it contain in terms of HVAC and equipment?  Is there room for upgrades in the future?

How many seats does the restaurant have and how many covers do they expect to do and how much money do they expect to bring in?  What is the decor going to be like?  What sort of clientele do the owners want to attract?

Where is this restaurant located?

 

Those questions will essentially help determine your menu.  Obviously, if the owners are going for a friendly vibe that appeals to families in a casual atmosphere you're not going to gear the menu around a supper club/steakhouse format, nor are you going to go ultra high-end modernist cuisine.  On the other hand, if your restaurant lacks a ventilation system or doesn't have adequate gas flow or some other limitation you're not going to gear your menu around things the kitchen can't handle, though if the owners are serious about doing something the kitchen isn't built for they should seriously consider investing money on upgrading the infrastructure.

 

Once you've got the first bunch of questions answered you can move forward with figuring out the structure of the menu and the pricing.  After that you can start hiring the people to start learning how to execute the menu.  Of course, if you know a few people early on who you want as a sous chef or cooks get them on board as well.

 

Also, this is from personal experience, but the most important thing is to not bite off more than you can chew... in my opinion it's better to have a simpler menu that stays in spirit of the restaurant and is well-crafted than to start with an overly-baroque mess that is ultimately impractical and will hurt your first services... I'm not saying to dumb it down completely, but just to keep in mind that the opening team will never be as strong as the team that is there a few months later, after you've worked out a number of kinks.  Growth in complexity of the menu and execution can come after you've made a good first impression

"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 #3 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chezj023 View Post
 

Hello all,

 

I just accepted a chef position for a restaurant that is basically starting from scratch. Opening day is in 2 months. There is a kitchen and a budget, that's about it. Obviously hiring and building a team, writing menus etcetera are significant steps, but I am seeking suggestions on a kind of prioritized list of tasks/concepts to complete, so I do not miss anything important when things start moving really fast.

 

I sincerely appreciate any and all suggestions.

 

many thanks!

 

(I have never opened a kitchen from scratch so I don't speak from first hand experience!)

 

I would say as far as suggestions on a check-list so to speak you probably already know the major things. You're starting from bare bones so start from the bones out. You need equipment and refrigeration, ventilation, a staff, passed local inspections, proper food handling requirements (which vary by state) and a menu to get the engine running. This is by no means a complete list as I am sure you already know!

 

Everything is determined by the type of market the owners are looking to attract which in turn determines your menu which will determine everything else! For example if they are looking for a bar crowd plan on getting multiple fryers, if their market niche is modernist cuisine induction cook tops and sous vide machine may be on your to-do list. As you say you have a certain budget so spend according to the type of menu. (Bar crowd? Don't waste your valuable budget $ on a Wolf range, spend that money on freezer space). The better the budget is accurately allocated to your needs the better the engine will run. Over purchasing is a complete waste of $ but under evaluating your needs makes service go down the tubes.

post #4 of 6

You build/modify a kitchen based on what your menu is going to be.

If you cant modify it, you at least try to tailor your menu to what CAN be

served from the kitchen. Within reason.

That said, Im with Blueicus, create as simple a menu as possible at first.

Then of course generate some random tickets, slap em on the wheel and

COOK em all as fast as possible to see how well "the system works" .

 

Also I gotta say 2 months seems like its pushin it. I've built out restaurant

kitchens, and it always goes twice as long as expected, and so does the opening.

(And so does usually the cost)

Map out all the tasks that need to be done (and I mean ALL) then time estimate

for completion.

Then double that and put it into a calendar in a reasonable schedule.

That will prob open everyone's  eyes quite a bit.

If it really IS a scratch situation, i.e., no established menus or procedures etc,

then you all have a lot of work to do. Luck to you.

post #5 of 6

good topic for me to read right now as I am soon maybe going to be  in the same situation….

great advice, all. thanks for sharing your experience.

not to mean to hyack the thread though! :)

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

you're right Soesje! Thanks to everyone who replied for sharing your suggestions and wisdom. I will definitely keep it simple and design the operation around what we have.

 

 

thanks again!!

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