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Confusing Management

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Alright, I know that this is not a new problem for many of you but for me it is. About six months ago I accepted an Executive Chef role in a casual type of restaurant in a popular lounge/nightclub/bar. During the interview process I was asked what I could do to bring the food costs down and develop food as a higher percentage of overall sales. I clearly outlined my plans (staff training, proper purchasing, implementing recipes, menu development, etc.) for the upper management. They agreed with my overall plan and hired me.

 

In the first few weeks/months the kitchen did a complete 180. Food costs went from, before I started, 50%-60%, to my goal of 30%-35%. Trained a majority of my staff to become actual cooks and not bagged food reheaters (it was apparent some didn't want to work harder and learn anything new, so unfortunately they are not longer on my team.) Kickstarted a good size banquet and catering operation, implemented room service into our attached hotel, and developed new menus. 

 

That's where my problem starts: the menu. When i first started here I was asked to develop a few new menu items and make tastier/reduce cost on current menu items that were doing well. I developed a tasting menu of items to add to the menu and my plans on what to remove from current menu and what we could keep. Upper management enjoyed the tasting and agreed with my changes. Then it was like they put my kitchen on pause. Even though I constantly requested/insisted that we implement the menu, I kept getting the, "just another week, we have to wait for this...etc." Months later management come back to me and says that they want to take the restaurant in an entirely different direction. Scrap the entire menu/concept/idea of the restaurant, and the direction they gave me is "sexy and unique." Okay, not really very clear direction from management, but after many meetings and questions for them we had developed a (seemingly) clearer idea of the direction to go with the menu. I spent weeks and weeks on research and development for my new menu, then set an entire menu tasting. About six dishes in to the tasting the top boss says to me that they are full and don't have anymore time for the tasting that day. I was only about 20% into my three menu tasting, dinner, breakfast, and late night, and they asked me to stop, got up from the table and left. I finally got a meeting with my immediate supervisor a few days later to discuss the tasting. He told me that I apparently didn't understand what direction management wanted the menu to go. And that while they enjoyed the dishes that isn't what they were thinking of for the new menu.

 

A few weeks after that (during the busy banquet holiday season) management brings HR paper to me with an improvement plan for my performance. They stated that I was not preforming to their expectations and was not developing menus they felt were in the right direction for the restaurant. I now have 60 days to improve or apparently I'm out on my butt. 

 

So I guess my question is have any of you other chefs experienced flip-flop upper management like this? I feel I am doing everything that I was hired for, the restaurant is making more money than ever, costs are the lowest they have ever been, and customers are writing great reviews. Would you continue trying to appease a confusing management team? Do you think they will ever be happy? Should I try to start looking for new opportunities? 

 

Apologizes that this post is so long, just extremely frustrated, defeated, and exhausted. 

post #2 of 22

Been there. Done that. Didn't enjoy it. Didn't work out for me. Move on before you get any more invested.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #3 of 22

I would ask them straight up what "sexy and unique" is because I sure as hell don't know what that is and it sounds like you don't either. It sounds like upper management doesn't even know what "sexy and unique" is. They just had an idea that they thought was brilliant but had no idea what it actually was. It sounds like a bunch of dummies are in charge there. 

 

Could you describe the menu you created for them? But, I'd have to agree with cheflayne's post.

post #4 of 22

I agree. It may be time to move on. Sexy and unique is a BS directive. Tex-mex is clear. Haute cuisine is clear. Upscale casual is general but clearer. Sexy and unique means "We want to be hip and different but we have no idea what we are talking about". 

Management either doesn't know what it wants or you have already done what they want and now they are looking to hire someone cheaper to carry on your improvements. 

Weeks of research and you get feed back in the middle of the tasting? Did no one want to see what you were working on or ask any questions?  

No oversight to check the general direction of the menu planning? And now they tell you you that isn't what they were thinking of. What were they thinking of?  

   Whatever is going on, they don't want to discuss it with you. Just remember, this is more than likely not about you at all. In places like that, there are so many levels of politics, reality and plain conversation gets lost in the shuffle. 

I think you have sixty days to get a few interviews in. 

post #5 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post
 

 

Management either doesn't know what it wants or you have already done what they want and now they

are looking to hire someone cheaper to carry on your improvements. 

 

My gut is telling me the  red letters are a Bingo. I think you were used--the minute you got a stable system

in place, got their costs down and profits up, they were done with you. Sexy and unique, is meaningless

and subjective, and they knew it. You were a resource and they used you up. Now the cost of maintaining

you outweighs your further usefulness. 

 

You outlined everything they needed in the interview, demonstrated that you could accomplish it, so they

hired you to clean up their crappy operation and you did. All you can do now is learn from this, and be a

bit wiser in the next one. Sure, logically they're throwing away a very capable EC, but these kinds of people

aren't logical--they're myopic users.  

I can only hope they paid you really well for saving their greedy little asses. 

post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by VegasCulinarian View Post

 

I feel I am doing everything that I was hired for, the restaurant is making more money than ever, costs are the lowest they have ever been, and customers are writing great reviews.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post
 

Management either doesn't know what it wants or you have already done what they want and now they are looking to hire someone cheaper to carry on your improvements....Whatever is going on, they don't want to discuss it with you. Just remember, this is more than likely not about you at all. In places like that, there are so many levels of politics, reality and plain conversation gets lost in the shuffle. 

 

 

This was basically my experience in a nutshell. I was let go when they eliminated my position and divided my duties between the banquet chef and the F&B director in a supposed economic move. Bottom line being that I had accomplished what they wanted and so was no longer needed.

 

At first it was crushing and demoralizing to me, but a few months later it turned into a blessing because I suddenly found myself in the Caribbean working and living the dream. Whoot!


Edited by cheflayne - 1/1/15 at 10:28pm
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #7 of 22

"Management either doesn't know what it wants or you have already done what they want and now they are looking to hire someone cheaper to carry on your improvements."

 

BAZINGAH!!! 

post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 

I was afraid of that may be what was going on. That just plain old sucks. It's really frustrating to pour some much of yourself in to a restaurant and then at the end of it all you have nothing to show for it.

Well back to the drawing board i guess.    Anyone know of any chef jobs in Las Vegas? :)

 

Thanks for all of your advice, I really do appreciate it.

post #9 of 22

There must be a strong grape vine in LV. Anyone you can "run into" for a little insider info on a casino job? 

ChefLayne- Where are you and how soon can I come work there? Lol. 

post #10 of 22

@VegasCulinarian,

Just let them know, with all your experience, your having trouble with sexy and unique.Since you don't seem to understand the concept completely, I would request they make a few reservations at

some sexy and unique place so you can get an understanding of what they want. They must have gotten this idea from somewhere.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #11 of 22


Ask them to give you a visual example using other restaurants in Vegas and there are plenty. Visit them and get ideas from it  as to what they consider sexy.  I think of sexy as a chicken after its dressed??  Just Kidding

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 #12 of 22

Kind of sucks to be used--However, you can now claim truthfully to be a 'turn around' manager---

 

Congratulations,you pulled off a difficult task---now go find a new position! Ha Ha---

post #13 of 22

Hmmm.... If I'm reading my Mike correctly, he seems to be saying that you have now proven

yourself in the industry as a"fixer". You can show the ability to walk in, size up an establishment,

create/implement  a work plan, and cut waste and increase profits in just a few months.

And THAT...is something you can charge quite a nice premium for. Something to consider.

post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 

I wish I was linked in to a strong grape vine of chefs in Vegas, but if you aren't on the strip or in a union it is difficult to find a decent gig. Management and I actually went to two separate places that they thought had "sexy" food. During our meals everyone decided that the dishes were nothing special and not "sexy." And then of course they got busy with another property and left me to fend for myself again.....

Being a fixer or turn around chef would be a pretty fun job for me but alas once again without being in a circle of F&B directors, general managers, and chefs I'm sure it would be impossible to find any job like that.

Thanks again for the help.

post #15 of 22
Thread Starter 
So it looks like someone else is going to have to figure out what sexy and unique food is. I accepted an exec job at a large resort and put my notice in! The new place needs a complete overhaul also, but I clear direction and a much larger salary/bonus structure for completing each aspect of the overhaul. Looks like I may just turn out to be a fixer/consultant after all. Thanks for all the advice chefs!
post #16 of 22

Please keep tabs on your old place to see what sexy and unique looks like....

post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post
 

Please keep tabs on your old place to see what sexy and unique looks like....


Here here. I wouldn't mind seeing a few pics of their definition of S&U food myself!

post #18 of 22
I have made a massala marinade and put to much Lemmon juice in, how can I defuse the Lemmon ?
post #19 of 22

Read above what Cheflayne has suggested

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...

Reply
post #20 of 22

Vegas:

 

Those are some pretty good bragging rights--cleaning up the kitchen, bringing down food costs, training up staff, etc. 

 

Before you get P.O.'d with the owners/mgmt., get a letter or recommendation or something to that effect from them.  Milk 'em. Then smile and nod and go.

 

Remember, most owners/upper mgmt. think of Chefs as dispensible--just an eejit with an ego, it's an easy job, anyone can do it--just grabthe next guiy in the kitchen, give 'em the title and a line of bs and watch them sweat and work.  Then toss them out....

 

When you go to your next interview always keep the end in mind.  That is to say, if you're hired to clean up some one else's mess, what happens after you accomplish that?  In many cases it makes sense to negotiate a time frame.  Once you accomplish your goals or the time frame elapses, you go on your way.

No "sexy & unique b.s., no sob stories about "salary cutbacks", just a negotiated time frame and no hard feelings afterwards. 

Just my thoughts...

...."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 #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all of you that helped with my dilemma. I had joined this site years ago and forgotten how great it is to talk with like minded professionals in my field. I will be sure to keep involved on this site in my free time (so much free time for us chefs, right? tongue.gif ). And I will be sure to post pictures of the sexy and unique dishes that some unsuspecting new chef finally creates for management.
Also, I know this should probably be made in to a new thread but, has anyone has to deal with a non-compete agreement? I signed one when starting with the sexy/unique restaurant and it states that I won't solicit any of my former employees for one year after seperation of employment. What if my old Sous happens to apply for the Sous position at my new place and I happen to hire him? He is has been my sous for years and always follows me. If I need to start a new discussion I will. Thanks again for all of the great advice chefs!
post #22 of 22

Glad things are working out for you.  

     I am not familiar with non compete agreements but as with most contracts, I would think it follows as it is written. It says you won't solicit.

You did not. Your sous applied on his own. 

I don't see how the contract can prevent you from hiring any one. You just can''t offer them  a job they did not ask about. 

I'm looking forward to the pictures of the sexy and unique dishes. 

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