Many publicans would much prefer that someone else would worry about their food operation while they look after what they were born to do- ‘create a convivial atmosphere and serve a great pint’.
That however is the first and most critical mistake any publican with a food operation can make. How many publicans would walk away from their bar and give carte blanche to their manager to do precisely what he/she pleases? How many publicans would not put in checks to see how many kegs of stout, cases of brandy, bottles of Baileys were being delivered to the back door? How many publicans would leave the cellar open for all and sundry to help themselves?
This however is happening routinely in pubs the length and breadth of the land in relation to the production of food and the management of pub kitchens.
How then can a publican get to grips with a kitchen where much of what happens is a mystery? There are four distinct elements to taking the ‘mystery’ out of the kitchen operation.
Those are resources, systems , co-operation, and feedback .
RESOURCES AND THE MENU
Money in the Bin!
A pub cannot function without taps that run cleanly and freely and neither can a kitchen run smoothly and produce quality food unless it is well resourced with the equipment needed to service the menu which is in place.
The kitchen equipment list is informed entirely by the menu. This is very important. The menu is the document which the publican will use to equip the kitchen. The menu comes first, the kitchen comes next. The dishes on the menu must all be backed up by written standard recipes. These recipes provide vital information for equipping your kitchen. From the recipes, the publican now has the list of ingredients needed and most importantly the list of equipment which the kitchen will need to prepare those recipes and the list of skills which a publican will be looking for when hiring staff. Should a chef request a piece of equipment for the kitchen, that request needs to be linked to preparing something which is on the menu.
So what equipment do you need in your kitchen? You need the equipment to prepare the menu that is on offer to your customers. It’s as simple as that. If the kitchen does not have the necessary equipment to do this, staff will find it very difficult to produce that menu for you.
On the other hand if the equipping of the kitchen is not informed by a planned menu backed up with written recipes, it could prove a very costly exercise resulting in a kitchen with expensive unnecessary equipment.
A publican’s day is busy. The economy is shaky to say the least and having to deal with a product which is outside of most publicans’ experience is often a challenge too far. The simple way to get to grips with this is to run a systems based operation.
Rotating Stock key to avoiding waste
There are five distinct elements to the food production process.
Ordering, Receiving, Storing, Prepping and Serving.
Ordering – use a daily market sheet with all your suppliers and their products listed with prices.
Ordering based on menu requirements not guesswork.
Market sheet is master sheet for ordering.
Receiving – Market Sheet is checked off against the invoice and clipped to market sheet (invoice only deliveries)- by a competent trained person with an excellent command of English.
Credit note memo filled in for returns- clip to market sheet to follow up.
Goods in book to record all stock received – clip to market sheet.
At the end of the day, you now have a complete check of what happened at the back door- or do you?
What about the weights and measures – scales at back door, weigh it all. Would you be able to tell the difference between ten kilos of mince and eleven? Also get rid of all those black bags and replace with clear ones so that you can see the contents of your ‘rubbish’.
Storing – stock rotation in all stores, first in first out system of useage. Weekly stocktaking the only way to keep a handle on the efficiency of store management.
Prepping – Standard Recipes . Consistency will only be achieved by chefs using standard recipes and by owners and chefs agreeing how those dishes should be presented every time.
Service – Standards of Service. Short description of what goes on the plate with a big photograph. Put up on wall in flick holder for easy access by kitchen. Goes out the same every time.
Does it all seem like too much hard work? Once the system is set up, the publican has a daily/weekly check of what is happening in the kitchen.
The kitchen and front of house operate as completely interdependent units. One cannot function without the other once a publican decides to incorporate food into the operation. Thus a strong level of mutual understanding and co-operation is needed to ensure a smooth service. The chefs and front of house staff need to understand what it takes to run each area. It is useful to have flexible staff who can cover both areas. It is advisable to have regular meetings to educate floor staff on what the kitchen are serving.
What is the point of having a super team in the kitchen if floor staff are not really excited about the menu? Would you be confident that floor staff can ‘sell’ the food? Do they know what it tastes like? Do they care? Will they be able to describe where the meat was sourced, how delicious the lamb is or where the strawberries were grown?
Menu knowledge and passion for ‘selling’ will be greatly helped by a co-operative atmosphere between kitchen and ‘floor’.
A few words is often all it takes. ‘Well done, that was a great service, the food was top quality and everyone was happy. Thank you.’ Simple enough but it means so much for someone to say ‘well done’ after a few hot sticky hours in the cauldron that is a busy kitchen.
It is not such a mystery after all, it just takes a little preparation and co-operation. Resources, Systems, Co-operation and regular bits of positive Feedback.