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I have taken the plunge. I have purchased a restaurant in Florida and am now remodeling.I’ve never been in the business before, but know I am going to be very successful. I hope to open in time to greet the snowbirds. I have ripped out the all-you-can-eat Salad Bar (the blonde Formica looks better behind the building in the trash heap); I am in the process of painting and redesigning the dining room. Before I hire a new chef I need to familiarize myself with food. I have never done anything like this before. I do know that I don´t want a bunch of fried stuff being offered with two-for coupons. Early bird dinners have to go – when the snowbirds arrive I want to be ready with a great menu. Should I look in cookbooks, magazines, where do I begin? Where I come from Hush-Puppies are shoes, not food. Where do I go from here.
Flying high in Florida
Congratulations. You have indeed taken the plunge. It seems your decision may have landed you in Alligator country. And, I don´t mean that geographically. A soothing thought – you are not the first person to go into a food venture without experience.
You will find there are numerous ways to overcome your problem in hopes of surviving the bites that you are definitely going to encounter along the way. You must begin to educate yourself in the world of food. The shelves of bookstores are full of great cookbooks that can direct you down a palate able path for your customers, and your new chef. Cookbooks, in your case, shouldn´t be used to model your kitchen after, but can be referred to as a guide. Get to know your palate and do some research as to whether or not your likes and dislikes in food will appeal to the demographics you are marketing to.
It appear you are extremely busy. It may be time remodel all day and work on the Internet at night. One of the wonderful advantages of the web is that it never closes. For those of us in the restaurant biz, we can research and work into the very late hours.
You may want to schedule some serious research time to develop a library of cookbooks to refer to. If you have a passion for cooking as strong as your dislike of salad bars and Formica you will be in pretty good company once you hire your chef.
One of best cookbook sites on the internet is Heidi Swanson´s 101 Cookbooks. It is a tremendous resource for anyone who even dreams about cooking food. Heidi´s research and comments could become an invaluable map for your trek through the world, sans salad bar. The site is constantly changing. It is an education.
If you don´t think you have the time to do your own homework, then it may be time to go to the masses and begin the interview process. Your limited knowledge of the culinary aspect of the business could be a major problem or a tremendous asset if you find a hungry, young chef, who wants to work to build your trust.
Search out neighboring restaurants for that one talented sous chef who is itching to leave for a fresh venture. Put the word out in the community that you are actively interviewing for a few kitchen positions. Have the chefs you interview give their thoughts on creating and developing a menu. And most importantly, do not scrimp on your chef´s salary, thinking you can get by with low wages.
You need to make sure your chef is creative, capable, and is willing to stick it out with you. Florida is a very tough market because of the numerous restaurants that cater to the influx of winter residents.
Don´t over price your menu. Don´t over shoot your market. And, don´t think that people who eat Hush Puppies don´t appreciate good food. They may just appreciate good hush puppies.
Having an open mind when it comes to food is certainly one thing you must acquire. Although Hush Puppies are shoes, the Hush Puppy as it is known in the South is as revered as Dixie, itself. Therefore tread lightly when making comments on regional foods. You´ve got enough problems with the Alligators biting; you certainly don´t need someone kicking it at the same time.
Good luck with your new venture. And you may want to think about developing a hush puppy that is infused with flavors that nobody has tried yet. Creating new flavors with old recipes is an art in itself. You may be able to find one on Heidi´s site.