How Restaurants Can Beat the January Blues

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tulalip Tribal Mask jpgVirtually every restaurant goes through cycles of busy seasons followed by slow seasons.  In many ways, the slow season is the hardest to deal with, not only because of the obvious lower revenue, but also because slow times are “the devil’s play ground”.  Your staff will become lackadaisical, ticket times will take too long, they will find more problems with their jobs and their teammates.  Experienced managers and chefs know this cycle and plan for how to deal with it.

Tim Julius, Assistant F&B Manager at the Tulalip Resort Casino, has these words for his managers now that the Holiday Season has ended:

Now that the New Year is here, once again we are afforded the luxury (?) of having some slow days / slow sales periods Monday thru Thursdays (I believe that typically we hold strong Friday night thru Sunday).

As John Carter likes to say: ‘Let us be successful by plan rather than accident.’

“We have talked about utilizing the down periods to get cleaning done, offer vacations, and re-train and/or cross-train.  Let’s make best use of the down times so that when the busy times come we are better and stronger, and able to give our guests a “WOW” experience.   Slow days breeds complacency.  Slow days are more difficult to manage on a whole than busy days.  We need to be actively proactive (actually doing something) versus passively proactive (talking about doing something).”

“As Manager’s, you may have some plans or goals in your mind, however, do your Supervisors have a clear understanding of what it is you want to have accomplished on the slow days?”

For example, it is one thing to communicate to your Supervisors “now is another good time to be going over SOP’s and re-training the team”, versus “next week, I want Supervisor X to teach group Z about process A”.  In the first version, it is vague about who / what / when, and if we leave it up to the Supervisor to determine it, we lose time and opportunity (please be honest with yourselves and ask yourselves “would my Supervisors take the initiative or would they wait for another Supervisor to do it?).

Another example to look at is the Space Race.

President Eisenhower said “we will win the space race”.

President Kennedy stated that the United States should set as a goal the “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” by the end of the decade.  Who / what / when.

Please make sure you and your Supervisors have clearly defined training plans for the slow period which we always encounter during this time of year.  Let’s not rest on our laurels, let’s keep widening the gap between us and our competitors.

Let us be successful by plan rather than accident.

Posted In:Chef Life  /  Kitchen Management

Smoking Policy in the Kitchen

Should your Line Cooks Smoke?

What are your thoughts and/or policies regarding smoke breaks for your Line Cooks?

I’ve been in restaurant kitchens for over 30 years and in that time it seems like line cooks, chefs, and cigarettes are always found together. Watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and you will see the stereotypical professional cook who always has either a cigarette or alcohol in his hand. I love Bourdain because he gives an un-adulterated view of the psyche of the kitchen culture.

But what effect does all these smokers have upon the hospitality industry in general, and upon your kitchen specifically? It’s generally known that smokers take more breaks than non-smokers. And in some establishments this causes resentment and/or animosity for obvious reasons… the non-smokers do more work. Several other issues come into play as well. For instance, if your saucier has just finished his cigarette and is now putting the finishing touches on sauces for service, is his ability to finesse a sauce compromised by the cigarette he just inhaled? I think that smoking a cigarette during work compromises one’s ability to taste accurately. So much so that in one kitchen I oversaw no one was allowed to smoke during service. We did lots of pan sauces and I expected the cooks to taste each sauce before it hit the plate.

Do Smokers get Special Treatment?

Smoking Skeleton Image Source

Smokers are also difficult to regulate. On the one hand you need them in the kitchen prepping for service or slamming out food during the dinner rush. On the other hand, the worst smokers need a cigarette on a regular basis otherwise they become frustrated and lose focus. So you’re left with either trying to accommodate smokers, and therefore show special consideration for them which you don’t show for non-smokers. Or you hold everybody to the same bar regarding breaks and start documenting your smokers who cannot perform their jobs correctly without having a cigarette every hour.

One possible solution to this mess is the way in which breaks are taken. Many states suggest or require two fifteen minute breaks and one thirty minute break for every eight hour shift. One possible solution is to break the two fifteen minute breaks into four 7 1/2 minute breaks or six five-minute breaks for smokers. This allows the same amount of time for breaks but just divides them up into more frequent segments. The difficulty with this is tracking it and making sure that again the smokers aren’t stretching their breaks and ending up with an hour and a half worth of breaks while your non-smokers are only getting the standard hour.

So what are your thoughts and experiences on this topic? What solutions have you implemented in your kitchen?  Is there conflict in your kitchen between smokers and non-smokers?  Do you believe that smoking during service impairs a cook’s ability to taste?  Do smokers deserve more breaks than the rest of the staff? Follow the discussion at Chef’s Resources on LinkedIn.


Posted In:Kitchen Management