Pub Challenge

Another Pub is in trouble. Money has been carefully spent on refurbishing it in an effort to entice in new customers (and keep the old) and stave off the recession by keeping the offering fresh. However the menu and the kitchen team have not been subject to the same refurbishment as the owner has not had an input into this area of the business. The owner is now concerned that the grand reopening will be marred by the same mediocre food that was being served before the pub closed temporarily. Some money has been spent on the kitchen to bring it up to the standard required by the Environmental Health Officer.

The Food Service Scenario.  There was a short but varied menu of items which would be expected from a food pub.  The food was of fair quality but inconsistent as there are no written recipes and the chefs assistants cook from memory when the chef is off. The food operation had not been making money up to the time of the refurbishment.

Culinary Scene Investigation. On inspection of the kitchen it is immediately evident that it is badly equipped. There is a hob with only one ring working properly, the handle on the oven door is broken and the temperature gauge is broken so that all food has to be cooked at one temperature. There is an intermittent hot water supply. There is a serious lack of basic kitchen equipment.  The chef does all the ordering and the owner has not had involvement in this process before. The owner does not normally get involved in the kitchen operations.

The Solution

Write a new menu with the owner and chef

  • A new short menu with simple pub food favourites  such as great homemade soups, pies, good soda bread, casseroles, fresh salads, good chips, a sensational apple pie with local ice-cream and three simple but quality homemade desserts.
  • All recipes on menu written up in standard format.

Equip kitchen based on new menu

  • List of new equipment needed to prep menu bought.
  • New hob, knives and oven fixed. Hot water supply regulated. Kitchen layout changed for more efficient use of space.
  • All substandard ingredients taken out of the system.

Train all kitchen staff in preparation and service of new menu. Owner actively involved in this process ( in kitchen during training)

  • Guest chef guides all staff in new recipes. All tried and tested by kitchen staff.
  • Recipes tweaked and changed before being written up again.
  • All dish presentation photographed for a consistent service standard.
  • All recipes costed accurately using invoice prices- all recipes priced including VAT.

Owner and chef given systems for managing kitchen.

  • Kitchen Bible complied with owner to include entire management system to be used so that kitchen is being managed by owner and chef.
  • Kitchen Bible will ensure that kitchen operation can be ‘managed’ by owner even if a chef leaves.
  • Owner to be involved in kitchen management through regular meetings with chef.
  • Systems are now in place for each element of the kitchen management process from Ordering to Service. The owner is fully aware of these systems and was involved in the process of setting them up.

Train floor staff in new Menu

  • Tastings of new menu
  • Training of service standards of new menu
  • Menu knowledge training.

Floor layout more efficient

  • Two new service stations on floor to make service more efficient to include all preparation for service.
  • Move coffee/tea station out from behind bar so that floor staff are in charge of making their own coffee/tea rather than waiting for bar person to do it.
  • Install water station on floor for staff – staff not waiting for bar person to get them fresh jugs of water.
  • Floor rearranged so that floor staff ‘work smart’ – cut out criss crossing of floor and going behind bar throughout service for supplies which are now at service stations.

Kitchen Staffing

  • Identified staff training needs in kitchen. Further training with guest chef arranged.


The owner of this pub now knows how a kitchen operates. The new menu is a short one based on very good quality and mostly locally sourced ingredients. All the recipes have been tried, tested, costed, prices and written up in standard format and photographed for a consistent standard of service. These are the only recipes in use in the kitchen. Any further changes to the menu will follow the same process.

All chefs have been trained in the new menu and floor staff are also familiar with the menu having tasted all the dishes and had a training session in same.

The owner has a Kitchen Bible which is the blueprint for how the kitchen operates. All documentation relating to every aspect of the kitchen operation is in this. Should a key member of the kitchen team now leave, the kitchen continues to operate through the implemented systems.

All recipes are now available to the owner who can furnish to a new chef who joins the team.

The dishes are priced accurately so that the owner knows the margin is exact.

A weekly stocktake is carried out in the kitchen to keep control of stocks and have accurate financial information at the end of each week.

The most important part of this process is that the owner of this establishment is in now in control of the food operation in co-operation with the chef and will no longer be concerned should a member of staff need to leave.  The systems are simple to operate and as the owner now understands the mechanics of a kitchen operation, the stress of wondering is gone.

Even more importantly, it has given this owner a new understanding of the stress a chef faces when trying to produce a menu from a very badly equipped kitchen. Going back to the shop floor has been a revealing exercise.