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Growing food sales for local bar

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hi all! Long-time lurker but just joined today!

I have been the owner of a small neighborhood bar and restaurant for about a year and a half, and I am slowly but surely building the food sales. (Was always more of a bar than a restaurant and the previous owner could care less and only offered enough food to satisfy the LCB requirements.)

Anyhow, I am having some issues with being able to afford knowledgable staff since our food sales volume hasn't grown enough to budget more for it yet, and there are only so many hours in the day (It is nice to also get to see my husband and kids on occasion, right?!).

A year from now I see this being less of an issue as we continue to grow, but in the meantime I would like to try to get some plans together to step up our food game with Lent. I already plan on doing some of the typical Pittsburgh-ish Lent sides such as Mac n cheese, haluski, pierogies, fries, Cole slaw, clam chowder and so on. (And most of my food specials beyond the regular "bar-food" items are always made from scratch.)
Many years ago in one of my several restaurant gigs we did beer battered fish from scratch, and I remember it being very messy and chaotic, but it was a huge seller and drew a crowd. My question to you is have any of you found a good decent pre-battered product at the Depot or is this some sort of culinary crime and I should just resign myself to 18 hour work-days on Fridays during lent?

Keep in mind that we are a bit of a "dive-bar" type place in a semi-depressed neighborhood so the customer expectations won't be as high is they might be in other areas, but I also don't want to alienate potential new repeat customers that currently travel out of the neighborhood to eat by using a lousy product.

Your input and experience in this is greatly appreciated!
post #2 of 21

Go buy an assortment and try them yourself. I know ... You can't just buy a couple of fillets. Buy 1 bag each of 3 different brands. See which one YOU like.

post #3 of 21

While I agree that there are certainly some good quality frozen products out there and you need to try some, I don't see why from scratch would be messy and chaotic. A pan of fish and a pan of batter.  Of course, purchasing a good fresh fish in Pittsburgh might be a challenge but actually frying them is no big deal. 

And you can always make a bit of extra batter to deep fry other foods. 

post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeppo Shanski View Post

Go buy an assortment and try them yourself. I know ... You can't just buy a couple of fillets. Buy 1 bag each of 3 different brands. See which one YOU like.

I can't believe I didn't think of that as an option! The wheels in my head are already spinning (as usual even though it is my "day off" lol!)

I could have regular customers sample it and vote, and use remaining pieces for an affordable sandwich lunch special!

Thank you!
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post

While I agree that there are certainly some good quality frozen products out there and you need to try some, I don't see why from scratch would be messy and chaotic. A pan of fish and a pan of batter.  Of course, purchasing a good fresh fish in Pittsburgh might be a challenge but actually frying them is no big deal. 
And you can always make a bit of extra batter to deep fry other foods. 

I really think I may be over complicating this in my head! My fish frying experience was 20 years ago... I was tossed into a position as the sole cook at a diner and in hindsight I was probably grossly under qualified for that high of a volume of operation... Yet somehow I survived and even though I stepped away from my original food-service roots, here I am in charge of my own place.

Yes, sadly, the only "fresh" fish I would be able to come across in Pittsburgh is more than likely previously frozen, and if I could come across "fresh" 1. I would be suspect if that was really the case and 2. It is probably at a higher price point than my current clientele would be willing to accept. Ultimately, I don't think using a previously frozen filet and battering it myself would be a huge decrease in quality verses using all fresh, but I know some parties on here will likely disagree.

Plus there is the fact that being "the boss" for the first time has shed greater light than I already had on the fact that not everyone's work ethic is created equal. I have experienced several grossly under-achieving employees in my short time in charge and the last thing I want to do is leave my kitchen under-equipped (or lazy-person equipped) for a rush that could potentially create a very good (or very bad!) name for us! Working close to 60 hours of week and then turning around to do more "work from home" is grueling, and I think I am doing some wishful thinking that there is something frozen that would be superior enough to satisfy the fish-fry conneseur!

I am going to give Zepo's idea a shot but you helped remind me that it shouldn't be that big of a deal. Thank you for that!
I just need to set higher expectations for my future staff. When we first started out, the kitchen aspect was a bit of an experiment and my staff expectations were a bit lower as I was learning. Regardless of my mistakes, I guess I must be doing something right based on the sales growth, and nothing good ever comes easy!
Edited by MonFromPA - 1/7/17 at 10:18pm
post #6 of 21

From scratch, for a battered fish, is not really that easy unless you're making a lot of orders in line. Breaded, well that's different. But battered is not fun unless you've got orders. 

post #7 of 21

Sorry Zeppo. I completely disagree.  Our restaurant did battered fresh fish every Friday. Make the batter, cut the fish into portions. Batter and fry to order. There's very little mess if you make the effort to work clean and neat.  A pre frozen product eliminates the need for batter but that's about it.  Any fryer operation can be messy if the person doing the frying isn't careful with the oil and other ingredients. I've worked in places where the fry station was covered in bread crumbs at the end of the day simply because the cook was not careful. 

     MonFromPA- Whatever route you choose to take, remember the volume of oil vs. the volume of fish will have an effect on the efficiency of the process. Too much fish at one time will lower the oil temp and make the frying less effective and result in a poorer product. So in your taste tests, don't forget to note how many pieces can be done in how much time, especially if you have other fried items on the menu.  If it becomes really popular, investing in a second fryer might be worth it. 

post #8 of 21

We used to blanch 50lbs. of "ocean perch" fillets every Friday.  Batter, blanch fry then onto a sheet pan and into the walk in when cool and finish fry to order.  Friday morning we'd change out the fryers so the oil was fresh for the weekend.

post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thank you all very much for all of those pointers, my memory is now better refreshed than it was for things of that nature. I actually do have a second fryer that currently doesn't get used and I am thinking it is going to need fired up for Lent, and it was a given that oil change day was going to be Saturday mornings based on the crumbs and flavor that gets left in the oil.

Just to give you a better idea of the size of my operation, I currently have seating for 28 people (most of whom are focused on drinking some beers or cocktails, but many have gotten into the habit of grabbing a bite to eat during their stay or taking something to go.) Food sales from before I took over the business were nonexistent to $20 or so a day, depending on if the previous owner had a bartender at the time that enjoyed throwing something or another together in the crock-pot. After some repairs to get the hood and Ansul system up to code in the kitchen, I have managed to bring the daily average up to $150.00 and on a quite spectacular day we have been known to do $250.00... As you can see, figures aren't like what the big kids get to play with but it is my work in progress, and I am proud of it. To this day a customer or two that I am not familiar with but has known my business under previous ownerships (it's been there since 1948) wanders in and is pleasantly surprised to discover that we have food again.

Although I have an appx 20X30ft room that I intend to set up as a casual dining space down the road to attract the people that don't want to be around the smoking or sit at a bar, I have electrical issues to deal with in there, there is no heating or air conditioning, and it needs a cosmetic over-haul. All things that A continued increase in sales will help me accomplish! 😊

I am glad I found this forum, I am sure I will need to come pick your brains some more! It has already came in handy for me to refer to older posts that were relevant to something I have been looking for answers on.
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike9 View Post

We used to blanch 50lbs. of "ocean perch" fillets every Friday.  Batter, blanch fry then onto a sheet pan and into the walk in when cool and finish fry to order.  Friday morning we'd change out the fryers so the oil was fresh for the weekend.

I am presuming you meant Saturday morning for changing the oil?

I am intrigued by this thought. But when I picture this process in my head I envision the batter getting soggy and grease laden!

We will probably be using a thicker fish filet (I remember perch being tiny, but that was Lake Erie perch), such as Haddock, Pollock, or cod. And special pointers to help pull this off? I like the idea of this because it might make the difference between an average length work-day (10 hours or so) and a super-long work-day.
post #11 of 21

Friday used to be a big day back then lots of Catholics so we want fresh oil to blanch and fry in.  They did not have time to get mushy as they went to the walk in as soon as possible.  That 50lbs. came on top of trimming 6 cases of ribs, getting 30 chickens on skewers for the rotisserie, making a tub of cole slaw, slicing all the cheese and pepperoni for pizza and making fresh pizza dough as well as sauce, spaghetti sauce, par cook and portion pasta.  It was a long day before a long night - don't miss it one iota.  And this was a carryout/delivery operation - no seating.  :lol:

 

"Ocean Perch" is not a perch in the sense we think of.

 

post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike9 View Post
 

Friday used to be a big day back then lots of Catholics so we want fresh oil to blanch and fry in.  They did not have time to get mushy as they went to the walk in as soon as possible.  That 50lbs. came on top of trimming 6 cases of ribs, getting 30 chickens on skewers for the rotisserie, making a tub of cole slaw, slicing all the cheese and pepperoni for pizza and making fresh pizza dough as well as sauce, spaghetti sauce, par cook and portion pasta.  It was a long day before a long night - don't miss it one iota.  And this was a carryout/delivery operation - no seating.  :lol:

 

"Ocean Perch" is not a perch in the sense we think of.

 

 

Good times lol.

 

mimi

post #13 of 21

If you decide to use frozen fish and batter yourself thaw it on sheet trays lined with paper towels to absorb excess moisture. I then press down on the filet with more paper towels to get the sogginess out before battering or breading. 

 

And if you use a good beer batter you can also use it to make onion rings. A well done beer battered fresh onion ring is one of my favorite bar snacks and I think it would sell well!

post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by flipflopgirl View Post
 

 

Good times lol.

 

mimi

 

Oh yeah - wouldn't trade'm for the world and wouldn't want to repeat at my age either.   :beer: 

post #15 of 21

Sorry chefwriter. I completely disagree too. If you're making 2-dozen orders an hour it's easy peasy. If you're making 6 or less orders it's a mess, and slows your kitchen down like a snowstorm. Oil and temp won't make any difference if you're doing it correctly. A nice 2-basket fryer cranked up to 370-375* will cook 12 regular out-of-the-box fillets every 10 minutes. If you're going with fresh battered you're looking at 4, 6 if you're lucky. 

post #16 of 21

Zeppo. 

     I was referring to the mess part but I'll concede for the speed. Now I'm wondering why? Why can 12 pre-made fillets be cooked every ten minutes but only 4-6 fresh battered? 

Is it the batter?

post #17 of 21

 Any type of phase change requires a lot of energy.  ice -> water or water -> steam will be a big heat sink.  My guess is the fresh batter has more moisture, drops the oil temp more.  Or maybe they need more space to not stick together

post #18 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by MillionsKnives View Post
 

 Any type of phase change requires a lot of energy.  ice -> water or water -> steam will be a big heat sink.  My guess is the fresh batter has more moisture, drops the oil temp more.  Or maybe they need more space to not stick together

 

Sometimes hard at first to not over batter...huge oil tankers of cod....yuk.

 

mimi

post #19 of 21

imho, it's not that big of a deal to have a tray of fish ready to be dipped into a batter. If the batter needs to be made more often, then so be it. The fish filets or chunks can be on a try along with the batter in the reach-in or walk-in. This is a simple thing and doesn't need to be over thought. If this method can't be accomplished then look at doing a Salmon filet or some kind of fresh fish that may be available during lent. If a homemade batter dipped product can't be accomplished then I would take a different approach. Another thing to consider is a fish sandwich. This way you may only have to deal with one piece of fish. I have seen frozen halibut and cod filets that some pubs in my town use for fish sandwiches. In many cases they get by with it because of a roll, tartar sauce and lettuce being added to the sandwich that help disguise the quality of the fish. Prefab, pre breaded and ready to fry fish has come a long way. I think it may have a place in some fast food operations. I would not want to put this on my menu and have people think this is representative of the quality I want to have for my customers. You are still building your food service operation. Do so with the highest quality you can........Good luck........ChefBillyB

post #20 of 21

I like the idea of a good fish sandwich.

Hot still crunchy and steaming on a good quality roll (or better yet some buttery Texas toast) with an awesome house make sauce....cold crispy lettuce and maybe a couple of really great pickle chips.

Heaven....and being Catholic during Lent...there can be no higher praise (there can but not allowed on CT ;-) than to see your neighborhood lined up out the door.

Tuna gets tired after a bit and a flash frozen filet can be just as good as an (expensive) piece of cod.

Doesn't have to be "real" just well prepared and like Bill mentioned disguised if need be.

 

mimi

post #21 of 21

With a good commercial 2-basket fryer, you can just dump them in and it's good to go. Shake the basket a couple of times and in 8-minutes you're pulling them out. In the spare 2-minutes you plate things up and the fryer can relax. Hand dipped/battered fillets are nowhere as fast. You're hands and area get messy, which should be no big deal if you're doing a lot of orders, but for just a few an hour it gums up the works. Also, there is no real good way to put that many in a basket at 1 time. If you can, more power to you. I love hand dipped/battered fish fillets. It's just no fun for just a few orders in a small fast kitchen. That's my experience. Your mileage may vary.

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