The Restaurant Business Part 2- It’s A Business

Here we are nearly the middle of February…typically the “slow time” for many restaurants.  Of course, Valentine’s day is right around the corner and that usually provides a nice payday for some eateries, but things will be tight for many until Spring and Summer arrive.  Having worked in this industry for almost twenty years now, I find that I look at the calendar different from non-foodservice employees.  From a quarterly aspect, there are busy times and slow times and from a chef’s perspective, when it’s busy and the place is making money, you have to be looking at the whole picture…”make hay while the sun shines”.  A chef is much more than a skilled and talented cook.  A chef is a manager.  A good chef makes money for the business.  That involves being in tune with his or her audience and what is currently trending.  Taking advantage of busier times of the year.  November through January can produce much opportunity for a spike in business due to booking holiday parties.  Spring and Summer with nicer weather comes a steady flow of diners and with patios opening up, creates more room for extra tables.  These are things a chef will be thinking about when he or she looks at a calendar.

Another angle to consider regarding the business is from the patron’s perspective.  It’s often refered to as the “service industry”.  Why does anyone choose to go out to eat?  Among other reasons, one is to be served…food prepared to your likes, brought to you by a server in comfortable surroundings.  This is what you are paying for when you dine out.  The restaurant has to make a profit and this is reflected by the prices next to the description on the menu which is well thought out to be reasonable for the patron and profitable for the establishment.  And of course, it customary to tip the server and or bartender appropriately for their services.  The subject of gratuity need not be a huge issue.  15 to 18% is average.  If your service was above and beyond exceptional, then you show it in your tip…very simple.  Anything below 15% is just really in poor taste and can leave a patron marked as “cheap” even if your service was not satisfactory.  If you were disappointed in your server’s performance, the proper way to address this would be by letting the manager know and be specific in your thoughts.  This form of constructive criticism is actually helpful and contributes to the success of the staff and the restaurant.  A less than appropriate tip indicates that you may need to be educated or your math skills are slightly off.

I would be remiss if I failed to cover the kitchen’s operations and what happens behind the scenes.  The food that hits your table requires a certain amount of skilled preparation and use of various equipment that cost money to operate.  Of course, this is not a new revelation.  A well-run kitchen demonstrates organization, conscientiousness, and professionalism.  The chefs and cooks have customers besides the obvious patron sitting in the dining room or in the lounge.  A contentious cook will view the wait staff as their customers, as well as the management team and owner(s) of the establishment.  The philosophy drilled into my head early on in my career is: “The answer is YES…what is the question?”.  As a line cook, I found this service oriented frame of mind helped me view my job as more than just a paycheck.  Having a sense ownership really changes the way a cook treats his or her work area, ingredients, fellow cooks and the service staff.  Why is this important for the consumer to consider?  The kitchen often sets the tone in the over-all operation.  This is why the kitchen is commonly refered to as the “Heart Of The House” or H.O.H.  When you place your order with your server, a professional cook will do their best to accommodate you to the best of their ability especially if the server has communicated specifics be acknowledged such as temperatures on steaks, S.O.S. (sauce on side), hold the starch/extra veg., or allergies, and special diets.  The result of a finely tuned and service-oriented kitchen is repeat customers which means a regular and somewhat steady flow of business.

So whether you are employed as a food service professional or you find yourself enjoying a meal served and prepared by your favorite culinary haunt, the bottom line is all about business.  I’d like to leave this topic open to your thoughts and personal experiences.  I look forward to reader responses!

Ciao!

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