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Employee meals

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

 Sorry if this has been brought up before, I did not check back pages. Feeding the help, esp. the front of the house, has always been a problem in just about every establishment I have worked in. The sense of entitlement at my latest job is incredible, I work in a private club, and the employees order meals as if they were members, sometimes even worse. They are never happy, and backstab, then expect someone to be glad they get to cook the meals in the first place. No one likes doing it, cause it's a thankless job, unless your serving them prime rib, shrimp, or eggs benedict. How do you chefs handle meals, and what kind of backing do you get from management? Thanks.

post #2 of 9

A battle that rages on..!


We have explored staff meals in the past, but it is a topic always worth discussing. Family Meals/Staff Meals can be a great tool to build camaraderie and good vibes. It provides an opportunity to use up under-used ingredients (i.e. clean out the cooler) as well as allows an avenue for cooks to use their creative juices to create something. Often, the meal will be a cultural specialty that never has a chance to be on the menu, but can be a pleasant experience. Of late, there have been some fun books on the topic (Come in, We're Closed is a great piece as is Family Table, penned by the crew at the Union Square Hospitality group, Chef Michael Romano, et al.) Both books explore how the inner workings of the restaurants eat.


Some operations offer a discount to staff. Others do staff meal. And I am sure there are other options. As for the sense of entitlement you discuss, that sounds like a culture years in the making. Not knowing your rank and order of the operation, perhaps instituting policy is a good first step... staff meal or discount... and then see what happens. It will be like pushing molasses up hill on a cold day, but perhaps you will get some sanity. Keep us posted on your progress!

Edited by Jim Berman - 12/1/14 at 8:06pm

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

post #3 of 9

It sounds like it has morphed out of control. Without manglement behind you, it will be difficult. I agree some kind of policy needs to be implemented.

post #4 of 9
@chefross" manglement". Perfect, added it to my vocabulary. 😄
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Is there a way to make "everyone" happy, or does it just come down to the individuals involved. Over the years, there have been a few employees who appreciate the fact that they get a meal, and are grateful, but they are few and far in between.

post #6 of 9

We serve a meal 30min before service. Mandatory with exceptions to sit down, all together. Before service the smokers get to go out for a smoke, and then we start service.


Always good food, some times cleaning the fridge, sometimes getting a chance to try out a new dish on the entire staff to get feedback. Other times cheap produce cooked well. Always variation. Sometime classic scandinavian cooking, sometimes a burger, and sometimes a thai curry fish soup.

There are three rules. It has to be cheap in labor and pricing of products. Its served at the set time, and it has got to be proper, quality food, and not something that should have been thrown out.

You get what we serve, end of discussion. If you some day dont like whats being served, there is always yesterdays bread.


I think it has a lot to do with culture within the establishment. We use the family meal as a way of getting to know each other, improving the work enviroment socially, planning/going trough the day, discussing something work related, or just chit chat and the normal trashtalk etc. Its always productive in one way or another. Never had one complaint about the food, except the ones wanting more. 

post #7 of 9

The best solution, IMHO, is to get a couple of cheap microwaves, a working fridge, and a coffee brewer in the staff room, and that's that.  Period.  "Clean out the fridge" is what daily specials and Sunday brunches were designed for.


I don't know about the labour laws in your area and if indeed your employer is taking off a certain amount from each employee's paycheck.  If this is the case either you're stuck or you have to negotiate with the owners to not charge employees for meals.  This isn't a hard sell for greedy servers--you just tell them that their paychecks will be larger--but you'll have to dispense the soup and the buns from the kitchen from then on in.


Another way of looking at it is this way:

Just because I work in a Porsche factory doesn't give me the right to drive off a new car from the lot every year just because I help make cars....

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #8 of 9

At my current workplace--All BOH can eat whatever they want, as long as you put it down on the waste log for inventory and food waste purposes. FOH gets 50% off and they should expect to wait for their food if we are busy with tickets. Very frowned upon for FOH to order food as soon as they clock in too, or when we're closing down the kitchen. This restaurant is owned by a good sized local corporate company that rolls in the $$$, so this is by far the most relaxed employee meal situation I've been in.


Prior restaurant #1 (I worked FOH)--For a while when it was busy and raking in good money, the BOH would put out an employee meal (their choice) for all FOH staff members in one of the smaller styrofoam boxes. Usually rice, eggs, and some kind of protein and slathered in a gravy. After things started slowing down and management became stricter, you had to buy your meals. 50% off select items, 25% rest of the menu.


Prior restaurant #2 (I worked BOH)--Smaller family run operation with <5 locations. One employee meal per shift. Only allowd 3.5oz (closer to 4oz though) of protein. Mashed potatoes and cauliflower were offlimits, but you could have rice OR salad OR wrap OR sandwich. I lost a LOT of weight working there... coworkers noticed that I looked a lot weaker 3 weeks after I first started. Got to a point where I had to bring a gallon of milk to work to get my calories in. Employee discount was a pathetic 10%. About half the time I would just "buy" a chunk of fresh Ahi Tuna that the fish dealer brings in every other day. Mark-up on it was like 400%, so I told my manager that I'll just pay double what we paid for the fish/lb and it'll be a win-win for both me and the owners as long as I charged it accordingly (they didn't track food weights which made this easy)

post #9 of 9
My workers were raiding the fridges and eating like it was there houses so me and the owner made an employee menu and that's what they can eat free everything else is half off and must be eaten in house.
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