(Blogger’s Note: This is the second in a three part series on payroll costs. The kitchen is one of the major places where an owner can burn through not only food, but money).
Often inexperienced, or over enthused restaurant owners never take kitchen manpower – which equates to labor costs – into consideration when planning an opening menu or designing a kitchen.
As strange as it may seem, the common sense factor escapes those who are on a new restaurant high.
In my first venture I went equipment crazy. Well, actually my then girlfriend, Kranston went on a buying binge loading up on coolers, deli cases and freezers that had the capacity to hold more food that could fit into any major grocery store. We learned quickly, albeit a very costly lesson.
Recently I had the pleasure to experience a front row seat, 50 yard line seat at the counter overlooking the open kitchen of Kitchen K, Pablo Weiss’ restaurant in
There was an obvious reason the staff stood by, on call, waiting for a ticket to sound off from the printer. The kitchen was designed in a horrendously rectangular space making it impossible for one or even two employees to utilize all of the stations needed to produce the menu items. While the dining room was so slow that it could barely support the needs of two waiters and a manger, the kitchen was fully staffed with a head chef, two sous chefs, a prep cook, a salad maker, a dishwasher and a pasta chef.
This bothersome scene plays out nightly in financially struggling restaurants across the country. And yet, seldom do people make an effort to reduce kitchen payroll costs by cutting a sous chef or asking a salad prep to begin working on the next day’s menu.
If the equation for labor cost is broken out into three categories- front of the house, back of the house and management, I am sure that the kitchen, ( BOH), will almost certainly top the dining room, (FOH), and may come close to management salary depending on how many chefs are in the kitchen on a nightly basis.
This does not have to be the case. Keep in mind that an open kitchen is problematic when cutting kitchen staff. A two man team in an open kitchen sends out a bad message to customers who sit at the counter or within eye’s view of the operation. So unless you have unlimited confidence that your dining room will be brimming with customers, consider a conventional kitchen.
Also, make sure when the kitchen is designed, two chefs can handle the entire line and the menu that you and your team create.
Last Saturday evening I experienced new restaurant in Glen Ellen,
Kennedy’s first venture is sure to be successful. The food is simple – no playing with Wasabi Potatoes here, the fusion is in the flavors of the pulled pork, barbecued chicken or brisket sliders and a heaping mound of potatoes salad. Service is friendly. The plates are presented in an attractive manner showing that the staff cares but they are not so overdone that he is going to lose his investment because too many hands have to touch those plates before they land on the table.
There is a right way and a wrong way to do things when it comes to kitchen staffing. Unfortunately, it only takes a few months to find out you have made a mistake in the back of the house. Often, a few months is too long and too late.
Tomorrow: Managing management.