Thursday, April 23, 2009

In the News / Recipe Yield / Interviewing

A quiet Filipino kid who hasn't said 10 words in class lead the In the News segment this morning. Newsday had a silly article about the supposedly newness of the villainy of salt, and how NYC gov is trying to restrict it -- despite the fact that most people are not sensitive to salt. The flagship Armani store on 5th Ave just opened a restaurant within its own doors, which means you can eat while you shop for $500 jeans. The NY Post is predicting an explosion of cart food now that our economy is a limp fish. Pizza Hut just hired a celebrity chef to foof up their salads, and a main impersonating a waiter grabbed a whole mess of cash in NJ -- guess a uniform is also a safety measure.

Next up was recipe yield, working formulas involving AP (as purchased), EP (edible portion) and PP (portion of product) A side of meat may be $100 for 20 lbs, but cut away the inedible stuff and you may have half the material, but it's still $20, so the AP is $5/lb., but the Edible Portion is $10/lb. Yield Percent is Edible Portion / As Purchased Portion. We played around a lot more with this formula, but I was falling asleep. We also did mock interviews with each other, forcing us to think about how we would hire -- to make a decision based on 15 minutes of chatting is pretty difficult -- in the food industry, throwing people in for a day or two to shake out who is and who ain't is more appropriate.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Food Production / Interviewing

Food production literally deals with a restaurant's, uhhh, production of food. Richard introduced the concept of the "production schedule" or "prep sheet" -- a document in which everything that needs to be done to create the menu is laid out in a schedule with quantities, sometimes in a format that people can update and pass along, like a laminated sheet that can be written on with dry erase markers.
Today's Production = Forecast + Safety Factor - Carry Over
What is produced today is determined by a prediction of how much is going to sell, usually based on year-to-year records, plus a bit more to ensure one doesn't run out during service. Food is only considered a cost when put into production; while in storage, it is a cost, sure, but what is in storage is in bulk -- you may have enough onions in there for a day, a week, a month. What is "pulled" out of storage for the day is accounted for as part of the daily food cost, which can be calculated against the daily income to create all sorts of wonderful figures, like OPEC:
Opening inventory + Purchases - Ending Inventory = Cost of food
We also did a quick overview of restaurant theft. What's the second most often stolen? Liquor and booze. I asked what the 1st most stolen thing was -- pizza, flatware, soda? Money: Duh! Richard reviewed the idea of giving limited numbers of people the ability to pull out liquor, stamping everything to show it belongs to the store, etc etc. More on that later.

We watched another "Opening Soon" video, this time of a restaurant that is literally down the street from the school. Righteous Urban Barbecue (R.U.B.) looks like an interesting joint. Turns out it took 3 years before the owner could find investors to put up $500K to get it open; he just barely opened before totally running out of money. Chaos, hurt feelings, drama -- it all sounds vaguely familiar to me. I hear he is now opening up several more to form a mini chain. I gotta go and get a bite there.

The last part of the class was dedicated to interviewing candidates of a position. The resume is what they want you to know -- it can be a good tool to discriminate the wheat from the chaff, but it also can be faked. The application is what you want to know of them -- it's of the moment, and harder to fake. The interview is when the actual hiring happens -- and most interviewers know within the first 5 minutes whether they will hire the candidate.

Negotiating pay is a tricky situation, because whoever mentions the first number is in the weaker position. The employee has a minimum at the bottom, what they want at the top, and what they'll settle for in the middle. The employer has what they want, their max and what they'll settle for in the middle. The two parties can soft pedal it back and forth, but in the end, the employer can just stare the employee in the eye and say, "Look, enough. What do you want?"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Beverage Management

In Odds n' Ends, New Jersey Dave went to "Famous Dave's" with a date and forgot his wallet. Chicago Liz's general manager at the Mexican restaurant where she works paid cash in advance for a beer and liquor delivery that never materialized, and the place only had a case of beer....for the entire weekend. Guytano told about a conversation he had with a local town board member, who didn't want to discuss why a new pizza competitor got a parking lot immediately, even though it took years for his restaurant to get one. The board member basically told him to mind his own business, implying that something very shady was going on.

I told two stories, one about the new egg cake cart-storefront that just opened near the dirty old egg cake cart run by an old Chinese guy, who always has a line. While the new cart-storefront is very nice looking, it's $2 for 8 pieces and $5 for 24 -- while the old cart is $1 for 20 pieces. Really, as you can see in the pic, he has a line and the new place got zilch.

I told the story of the Saturday we just went through at the excerpt from my personal blog....
I got in at 4am, after working 14.5 hours in the restaurant then riding about 30 miles round trip to Coney Island for hot dogs and some listening to the waves. The day at the restaurant started on a high note, then slowly slipped away inch by inch until coming to a complete crashing by the end. Friday was long, and nobody got enough sleep to start on Saturday. We open at 12 instead of 11:30 on Saturday, but its still not enough time to prep. L and his family were late by an hour, and by the time they arrived, I had everyone in and prepping, moving along well, got L in a good-ish mood. Then service started, we weren't finished with prep by a long shot, and we got slammed with too many customers, a system where only 1 pizza is made at a time, kept on running out of stuff, prepping to order, L started getting yelly at everyone, and on top of it, for some odd reason the air conditioning decided to not function and the temp in both the dining room and kitchen rose close to 90. We broke for lunch and closed the restaurant for an hour and a half. I had the guys do some prepping, but the dishes were backed up and as it turned out, even with a dishwasher, there wasn't enough dishes -- we had to serve on paper plates at one point in the night! We cancelled delivery, but L took an order for 17 pizzas anyway -- at 8:30pm, at the height of the rush! Things spiralled downwards, with the refrigeration in the back failing because of the excessive heat. Between moving food between units, suffering a lazy dishwasher and a delivery person who was sent back there to help but didn't do shit, L withdrawing and losing his energy and focus, the heat rising, my guys prepping and never catching up, and just wanting to hide in the cold walk-in refrigerated room and drink lemonade until it all just stopped.
And that was that!

The next half of the class was beverage management (during which I got a call from L and spoke for a while, missing a good hunk of the accounting side of this topic). In a nutshell, McDonald's would rather sell coca cola than hamburgers. The soda is a shelf-stable product that is only made when ordered, takes very little special equipment, little training, is made by someone else but is more profitable than the stuff they make. Beverages in a restaurant simply are a huge profit center, often more than food. Liquor licenses maybe hard to get, but they can be worth the hassle.

Beverages are basically broken down into four classifications:
  • Beer - fermented grain
  • Wine - fermented fruit
  • Spirits - fermented and distilled
  • Soft - non-alcoholic
And soft drinks are further broken down into:
  • Coffee & tea
  • Soda
  • Juice
  • Dairy
  • Waters
As with food, one needs standardized recipes to help predict ordering and revenue. A one-ounce pour of wine is a heck of a lot different than a 1.75 ounce pour. Richard discussed a system in which a pourer is connected to a wine bottle, and a magnetic ring is attached. After a pour, the magnetic rind locks the pourer until the drink is rung up on the register. Now THAT is beverage control!

Purchasing can be tricky, especially for a full bar -- people tend to expect their favorite brands, which can add up to a lot of inventory. A place with a specific concept can get away with a shorter inventory.