Having a chef walk out the door can be a stressful time for independent restaurateurs. The question is, “What do you do now?”
In addition to knowing all the recipes, the Chef knew how to order for a busy holiday weekend. So he could pick up the prep cook, whose car always breaks down, for the shift, he knew where he lived.
Now that they’re gone, will the restaurant survive another busy Saturday night? The answer is, of course, yes. But how can a new Executive Chef be hired quickly and on a budget?
Money is the first step.
It makes sense to look to your best line cook for assistance. You’ve had him for two years, he’s always on time, and he takes orders on Sundays when the chef is unavailable. He is friendly to everyone, everyone likes him, and he will prepare a special meal at the drop of a hat for a regular customer. I don’t think there has ever been a better line cook in the place. It’s possible that he is the best one you’ve ever worked with.
You might be able to solve the problem by throwing him a little more money. In addition to saving money by not paying the old chef’s salary, he should grow to fill the shoes of the departed chef nicely.
Changing everything is step #2.
For years, you’ve wanted to change the old chef’s menu. You found the right guy for the job on your p.m. cook’s roster. Last month, he did a special with cheese and cabbage, and it sold out. He only made three, but it would have sold out even if he made fifty, right?
The new young chef will write the new menu, and you have complete confidence in him. Although he has never developed a standard recipe or costed a menu item, or been through a menu changeover except as a line cook, he will figure it out on his own.
The third step is to transfer authority.
Your new chef gets a serious reality check when he has to be the hatchet man and maybe even terminate some friends because there have been some disciplinary issues lately.
The rest of the staff has always liked the new chef, but he wasn’t the chef before. His days of flirting with servers and hanging out with the boys after work are over, and his old friends on the staff won’t be eager to have him dictate to them. Does the new chef have any experience managing a staff? Hired or fired a dishwasher? He will eventually figure it out.
This scenario has occurred dozens of times in our experience, but there is a more systematic approach that will yield enormous long-term benefits.
Here’s the solution:
Consider the possibility that your current chef or KM will not remain with you forever. Give the guys and girls on the line the opportunity to move into a sous chef or assistant kitchen manager position, give them a path. Create a checklist of skills to be delegated to chefs in training by the current chef.
Write down all of the recipes in a standardized format, if your chef or KM won’t do it, do it yourself. Record the recipes and the way dishes are prepared during the service by spending a day in the prep kitchen and on the line.
Finally, make certain certain supervisory responsibilities and authority are delegated to sous chefs and assistant kitchen managers, and support them. Take them along to disciplinary meetings and terminations, it gives them credibility with the staff and gives you confidence that the business will be handled effectively.
There are many young line cooks who are promoted into positions which they are not ready for professionally, you cannot expect them to refuse extra pay & there is the very real possibility that they will fail as they try to live up to your expectations if you promote them into a position for which they are not prepared. It is common in corporate run restaurants to have a clear career path for young managers who wish to move up in their careers as well as a clear succession plan in the event that a top manager leaves the company. The planning is an essential part of a well-run operation, and it is necessary for the operation to run smoothly.