Kitchen Nightmares has proven, time-and-again, to be, at worst, an entertaining look inside the restaurant business. Gordon Ramsay’s American adaptation of the show might be a little loudmouthed and belligerent than his British persona, but that’s what the media has told us we want in our hosts.
May 10th’s episode, focused on Amy’s Baking Company, has made waves in the restaurant and television worlds, for being a spectacular show of how not to handle criticism and issues that arise at restaurants. Gordon Ramsay, for the first time in his American production, left Amy’s Baking Company with the belief that the owners, Amy and Samy, would not be receptive to his help.
The episode is currently available on Hulu. What can restauranteurs learn from it?
Give your staff their tips
This may be one of the more obvious things when running a restaurant, but if a customer is leaving a tip, that tip is usually meant for the waitstaff that took care of them (and is usually left because they were happy with their service). It is not meant for the owner of the restaurant, unless explicitly stated. Even in that situation, the waitstaff is traditionally paid below minimum wage, and expect to make up the difference via tips. Amy’s Baking Company paid their staff an hourly wage, which breaks tradition and expectations of the modern dining-out experience.
Do not fire staff in front of guests, and without coaching
If an employee is outright stealing, being violent, or otherwise are creating a situation where they are untenable and need to be quickly removed from work, do so in the quietest way possible. Food runner Katy’s clarification if the food was going to the right table lead to an immediate dismissal in the front of the restaurant by Amy. If you believe … Read the rest
Should you go gluten-free? Nation’s Restaurant News reports that, while the buzz around gluten-free is on the rise, the actual growth in the market has been slow. The suggestion is the pay attention to it, but don’t overhaul your whole menu. The largest increase in gluten-free lifestyles are those in the 18-34 year demographic. Many of these people may have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or just a general desire for the perceived health benefits of living a gluten-free life. Could, and should your restaurant go gluten-free?
What Does “Gluten-Free” Mean?
To quote NRN, gluten-free means
To avoid gluten, consumers must reject products containing wheat, barley and rye. Specifically, that means they can’t enjoy many of their favorite foods, including breads, cereals, pastas, beers, cakes, pies, cookies, crackers, croutons, French fries, gravies, processed deli meats, candies, salad dressings, sauces and more.
While not wholly accurate, this rules out many traditional carbohydrates. In some ways, creating a gluten-free menu would be easy and require no new products. On another level, depending on how committed you wish to be to the movement, you may be crafting whole new menu items and investing in new machinery.
How To Craft A Gluten-Free Menu
- It’s important to note that “Gluten-Free” does not mean a complete and total lack of gluten, but very minimal amounts can be processed by those sensitive (the actual number is up for debate, but generally hovers around less than 10 mg per day)
- Corn, potatoes, quinoa, and rice are common replacements for fillers and carbs in a gluten-free lifestyle. Almond flour and buckwheat can be commonly replaced in dishes that require their regular version.
- Most dishes that are intended for Passover are gluten-free, except those that use matzah as an ingredient.
- A gluten-free diet allows for fresh fruit, meat, vegetables, and many
It’s a question that every new restauranteur has to figure out when opening their first restaurant. Costs are the highest priority, and it is necessary to make a profit on your food and drinks. Some things are obvious, like how soft drinks incur a large markup for maximum profitability, and the children’s menu will traditionally offer smaller portions for a smaller price to ensure that they’ll still be fed when brought into the restaurant by mom and dad.
The question comes to… how much do you charge your employees? In many cases, they may even know the markup costs. You want to make sure they know the menu, and there’s no better way than actually tasting the food they’ll sell. Likewise, while someone may be eating at your establishment, you don’t want to see them bringing in leftovers or branded bags from fast food; it does not instill any hope in your clientele if your employees are choosing to eat elsewhere.
- This one is not an option. Anytime a new item is added to the menu, or you have a new employee, they get to try any and all recipes for free. Their knowledge and opinion about the food will pay out exponentially versus the few dollars you may pocket if you charged them.
- For employees wanting to buy a meal on their lunch, there’s a general guideline. You’ll most likely not want to charge them full price, and you’ll not want to give them an entire meal for free when it could go to your customer base.
- For the nicest bosses in the world who are more interested in feeding their staff and keeping them energized and at the restaurant, the cost of the ingredients and meals would be appropriate. You’re not losing money, but you’re not
What Are We Talking About?
The weather has gotten nice enough that people will want to spend time outdoors. Have you considered taking on outdoor dining as part of your restaurant business? It may not be for everyone, but if you can accomplish it, it might be a way to drive sales and increase your sitting space.
Who Should Do This?
Any restauranteur that has the capability to take advantage of seating outside, anyone who wants to open up more seating or space inside, and anyone who wants to take advantage of their climate at certain parts of the year.
How Do I Offer/Set-Up Outdoor Dining?
It really depends on the layout of your restaurant. If you have a patio section, this is incredibly easy to set up. If you only have a sidewalk, you may need to check with local regulations and neighbors to see if plans to expand to the front of the store won’t interfere with safety, security, and nearby businesses.
Make sure you acquire furniture that is both comfortable to sit in and can stay clean with inclement weather. Inevitably, it’ll start raining one day unexpectedly, or things will spill unexpectedly. You may be able to get the seats and tables indoors quickly, but you don’t want to have to rush and get people and property indoors in bad weather. Metal seating with holes (for water to drain through) are highly valued.
If you hand out menus, you might want to consider a more durable material for them, especially given the aforementioned chance for inclement weather to ruin them.
- … treat customers eating outside as “second-class”. They deserve the same amount of attention and service as the customers that may be in-sight by being inside.
- … sit someone outside when there’s questionable weather. Not
- What Are We Talking About?
Finding that customers keep coming in the store and ordering the same thing once a week? While their commitment can be admired, they may eventually grow bored and leave to other venues to try something new. You can make sure to court them by instituting a daily specials menu, which will have unexpected bonuses for you and your staff.
Who Should Do This?
Any restauranteur that wants to change up their menu, keep things fresh, and possibly lower costs. Additionally, any restaurant that would like to reduce workload by offering an easy-to-produce dish as a special.
How Do I Start Daily Specials
- Simply look at what you’d like to highlight, and advertise that item. Many restaurants do a sidewalk sign with chalk to advertise daily.
- Think logistically at what makes sense for what day of the week. It might not make sense to highlight red meat or chicken on Fridays during Lent, but you might want to drive sales by highlighting fish or vegetarian options on those days.
- … shoot down a customer who wants something they had for a daily special in the past and returned to have it again. You may be justified in selling it at a higher cost, or might have to ask for forgiveness if you’re currently out of the materials necessary, but at least hear out the request.
- … when it comes to training the staff on the new item. Everyone from waitstaff to the kitchen need to know how to handle the daily special, and at the bare minimum, know what the daily special is and consists of.
- … new items out! You might find that a certain item that you tested on a certain day was a major hit; if it fits
What Are We Talking About?
The issue of handling reservations, particularly “no-shows”, has been popping up in the news in recent months. Chef Ludo LeFebvre (of The Taste notoriety) has begun “selling tickets” to dinner; much like a show or concert, your attendance is pre-paid. Even the concept of Groupon and other deal-purchase sites include the concept of guaranteeing that you’ll purchase food, since you’ve effectively prepaid for it. Some restauranteurs have taken to shaming those who flake on reservations, either publicly on Twitter or privately by calling them in the late hours to see if they’ll still attend to their reservations.
Who Should Do This?
The concept of taking reservations purely depends on the type of restaurant you run. If you’re a protein shake place, reservations would not fit your “in-and-out” style, but taking orders in advance would work. If you don’t have seating at all (such as a food truck or a carry-out place), or have an abundance of seating for your normal customer load, reservations wouldn’t make much sense.
How Do I Start Handling Reservations?
There’s two lines of thoughts on how to handle taking reservations, and it depends on how modern and technologically savvy you and your customer base are.
- If you’re technically astute and your clientele know their ways around a web browser or a smartphone, you may want to look into a program such as OpenTable or Foodspotting.
- If you’re lower volume and/or your clientele wouldn’t be that technically savvy, a simple appointment book would do.
- In either situation, consider the space and time requirements for a reservation, and don’t overstep your means. If you can only sit 25 people, don’t take a reservation for 25 people unless you make them aware that they’ll be shutting down the restaurant (at that
What Are We Talking About?
Your restaurant or food business will, invariably, end up with wasted product. Stuff that doesn’t meet your requirements for selling, your quality guidelines, and more might be perfectly edible, but not at the fairest condition that you feel comfortable as representative of your business. A food donation program may be a tax-deductible way to both clear out inventory and build good community support for your business.
Who Should Do This?
Any company that finds themselves throwing out perfectly good food and wishes to improve its standing in the community.
How Do I Start A Food Donation Program
- Brush up on your food-safety rules. Breads and pastries might be fine, if not a little stale, but meats, cheeses, and more can go bad at the wrong temperature.
- Find what items you consistently are destroying, and see which can be salvaged.
- Track down local donation/charity organizations that accept food, such as homeless shelters or churches. Food Donation Charity is a great starting point, or talk to local owners of such locations.
- Formulate a schedule with the organizations. Some may swing by and pick up the food at the end of the night, others may require you to deliver the items during their working hours.
- See where you fall in on the tax-deductible side, and make sure to take advantage of any benefits.
- … donate something you wouldn’t eat. While food doesn’t need to be pretty to be delicious, it needs to be safe to eat.
- … produce food purely for the donation side. Business is business, and while giving away food that didn’t sell is one thing, producing more that won’t sell is another. Ideally, the goal would be to not throw out or donate any food.
- … when it comes to temperatures