Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recruiting / In the News / Cost Control

Before we got into the week's news, G described the ongoing saga of the server they let go for sexual harassment -- the guy has been calling his regular customers and basically saying the restaurant is going out of business and letting people go without cause. Richard recommends a lawyer send him a cease and desist order.

In the news, we discussed the silly video above and, in particular, the response video recorded by the president of Domino's the next day:

Shouldn't they maybe try some sort of education and rehab for those Beavis & Butthead types rather than lawsuits?

NY Times had an interesting article about bidders on the contract to run the restaurant which is now Tavern on the Green. The place, despite having a bad year, made over $36 million last year, and its rent is fixed by the city at 3.5% of revenue. So what's the downside? The article didn't say, but other members of the class saw the paperwork -- it seems the contract holder would be responsible for a very very crappy building that's landmarked, an infrastructure that hasn't been invested in, an inability to change anything, and rules up the wazoo. Huh.

If course you can't ignore the alleged Hamburglar who showed up at a McDonald's, recently...

We reviewed cost control, accounting for inventory inflows and outflows, the same stuff I fell asleep during yesterday....and now again today. Richard then did an hour of PowerPoint review, to help people with their product presentations next week...particularly boring for me, as I've spent a few years as a PPT designer...

The last part of the class was back to supervision -- recruiting. It's always a balance of how much work vs. how many works, and this market is definitely in favor of employers. Still, it's important to keep in mind things will turn around, and it's how well you treat your staff that determines loyalty. Food service is founded on low-paid, dirty, smelly, cramped jobs, with shitty pay and shitty hours, so it's one of the most diverse sectors, with a good deal of illegals. Richard spoke about internal vs. external hiring (and what it means when someone emails versus when someone shows up) but over all, it all sounded pretty hypothetical and up to the quality of the human resources people. It takes a modicum of common sense and awareness to conduct a good interview.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Asleep again

Fell asleep in class again, will recap what I can remember with tomorrow's summary. Restaurant hours are not short hours.

Monday, April 13, 2009


We started the day with odds n’ ends. G continued his ongoing story of the waiter who was let go last week for sexual harassment. G’s tune had changed a bit. Last week he felt bad about it, and despite having to fire him, came to his defense. This week, however, he expressed dismay at the content of some of the letters on file about this guy -– it wasn’t just verbal, it was physical, too. In addition, some of this waiter’s favorite customers were very upset at his absence, and let G know about it.

G was a little loss for words, and Richard advised him that when a customer expresses outrage and strong emotions about this situation, G should also appeal to their emotions -– tactfully say that he regrets having to let the guy go, that it’s a shame, but that it was for the safety and security of the entire staff. One thing G can NOT do is show them the evidence against the waiter, because if this case ends in court, that could be used in an accusation of slander. It’s not an easy issue, and one I hope to never deal with.

Chicago Liz had a bad experience at some old pizzeria on Court Street, Brooklyn, where she and her boyfriend ordered non-pizza items off the menu, they came out burnt, and the waiter refused to acknowledge or return the food. Russian Pam Anderson raved on about a restaurant she dined at in New Orleans over the weekend, and NJ Dave was surprised at the expense and mediocrity of “Bobby’s Burgers,” a chain with TV Chef Bobby Flay’s name on it.

The rest of the class was dedicated to food purchasing, which gave me bit of a giggle -– the systems that Richard described were all 'ideal world' scenarios –- and I interjected several times during class what really happens at the restaurant where I’ve been working (in which the chef/owner is computer-phobic). Quite a different story.

We went line by line down the story of how food enters the store, gets processed and accounted for, and finally out to the customer or into the trash. In an ideal world, one develops spec sheets from the menu -- every ingredient has a file in which it is exactly described. A tomato is not just a tomato, it is a canned tomato of a certain brand and can size, salt, and herb content, either whole or diced or pureed, from a certain area or country.

Inventory -- how much we need on hand at all times, or 'par level' -- ordering should always be done to maintain a par level, which can be a lot for shelf-stable staples like flour or very shallow for things like fresh fish. Once that is determined, a bid sheet can be created, also known as a "market quotation sheet," in which prices from various sources can be compared. Then comes the purchase order, or P.O., which is sent to the purveyor, and copies sent to the end user (the chef or manager who made the menu, or is cooking the menu), accountant, and the receiving department. The receiving log accounts for when the stuff comes in, and directs good into either 'direct' (for working now) or into store, which is inventory. Here, what is received can be matched with the P.O. Now inventory can be recalculated and the whole story can repeat itself.

One of the tasks I've been working on at the restaurant is keeping inventory. L's style is all about being quick; it's based on instinct and visuals. He calls it in, doesn't write anything down. I'm developing inventory check lists, so as things arise during the day, I can check it off, and when it comes to the end of the night, when I'm all frazzled, I know what to look for, and know what I don't know yet...