Hello. I'm pastry chef in a small restaurant and work closely with the executive; the rest of our BOH staff is simply two line cooks and two stewards. The restaurant has been in operation for about five and a half years. The nature of the menu has always stayed essentially the same: simple, contemporary american; scratch kitchen; local-centric; quality product. Demand in our area has changed a lot over the past couple of years (as it has everywhere, I suppose), and the owner of the restaurant is looking to make a conceptual overhaul. As it stands, we have to price out our current menu at 23-34/plate to turn a sustainable profit. Unfortunately, that demographic just doesn't even exist in our area. Meat prices continue to go up, revenue is dropping, waitstaff is losing confidence.. it's legitimately troublesome.
The owner wants to simplify the menu-- not necessarily dumb it down, eliminate its necessary labor, or replace our quality product with pre-fabricated goods-- but cut the metaphorical fat, take another look at cross-utilization, bring in lower-cost proteins. For example, kill the ribeye and bring in hangar; No one wants to pay $33 for a ribeye, but we're up shit's creek if we charge any less. Our entire menu is suffering in this way. The owner is comfortable with having one or two higher-price items on the menu, but generally wants to lower our price point across the board.
The executive chef refuses to comply. She has acknowledged that increasing the cost of our plates is not an option because of our limited audience, and also that our prices are too low to claim a sustainable food cost average. However, she refuses to change the menu. I understand her qualm with feeling her integrity is being compromised, but I feel that there is a way to simplify the product without going to extremes (don't replace the salmon with tilapia, but at least consider your options). She's an excellent chef in regard to her execution of dishes and commitment to quality; managerially, I find her performance questionable.
Where do you, as chefs, draw the line in walking away from a kitchen? Is she protecting her integrity, or is she being unreasonably stubborn? I've run a kitchen before, and I've always found that if you don't like management's solution, it is your responsibility to provide another viable solution instead of simply rejecting theirs and ending the conversation.
How would you appeal to someone in her position if you truly believed that if she were to come around, it would be in the best interest in the restaurant? I've been mediating between chef and owner and I've reached my maximum threshold of effectiveness. If she refuses to consider changing the menu, focusing the concept (the menu is a little bulky and discombobulated at present), and working on her food cost, she will lose her job.
Do you find that sometimes it's best to walk away in a situation such as this because you are only interested in serving top product, or is she simply being ineffective in her role as chef? Am I being insensitive to one's chefly sensibilities in thinking it's not an insult but simply the nature of the beast to be asked to adjust your menu's price point and keeping a closer eye on food cost?
What are your thoughts on a non-partner executive chef refusing to compromise in this situation? Integrity or inflexibility?