Food Fanatics chefs and restaurant operations consultants help fix everyday foodservice industry issues

PROBLEM:Comments on our takeout and delivery are harsh but our dine-in ones are great. What can we do?

SOLUTION: Always respond promptly and ask for specifics. Trace your steps back to pinpoint issues. Shy of any findings, create a checklist of standards and make it visible in the takeout area. Are hot and cold items separated? Have special instructions been met? For pickup, review the order in front of the customer. If the negative comments persist, take a hard look at the menu. It may be time to only include delivery-friendly dishes.

BENEFIT: Happier customers. They’re more forgiving when a business corrects a bad experience, especially with takeout.

PROBLEM: I’m trying to expand the knowledge base among my young cooks but they’re unresponsive. Any ideas on how to engage them?

SOLUTION: Tie in incentives, such as first dibs on a shift, the option of having other crew handle his or her mise en place for a shift, the choice of a staff meal or anything that’s small but meaningful.

BENEFIT: This can help identify which employees are more committed than others, and allows you to focus more intently on them.

PROBLEM: I suck at desserts, and our sales show it. How can I create and execute a menu without a budget for a pastry chef?

SOLUTION: Always keep desserts simple and ensure they are of high-quality offerings. Determine which components you’re better at and make those in-house. Then purchase laborintensive items that require more skill, such as authentic croissant dough or pastry cream.

BENEFIT: Stronger dessert skills and a reputation for desserts as good as the main menu.

PROBLEM: It’s harder to fill positions, so we have to increase wages to be competitive. Is it more cost effective to pay a prep cook or buy precut ingredients?

SOLUTION:Review your raw ingredients inventory to determine what can be replaced. Maybe diced or sliced onions instead of 25- or 50-pound bags of raw onions is better. It can save you from labor, the 15% trim loss and the cost of rotten products.

BENEFIT: YPurchasing precut or preprocessed fresh ingredients allows your operation to schedule smarter and assign labor to more effective tasks, such as employee development

PROBLEM: How do I add special dietary items, such as vegan, gluten-free, paleo and keto without adding too many specialized single-use products?

SOLUTION:Create one or two dishes that fit the bill with a simple modification that’s meat or dairy optional. Build a dish around whole grains, low-carb vegetables, lean proteins and simple sauces that are high on flavor. Bowls work and are typically identified as clean and healthy, whole-foodbased options.

BENEFIT: Satisfying diners and using existing inventory minimizes the risk of special products that may be initially slow moving.

PROBLEM: We’re either 86-ing dishes in the middle of the shift or tossing a lot of prep. How can we better manage the menu?

SOLUTION: Analyze your product mix report and identify the average quantities sold to prep a reasonable amount of food for the shift. Have a prep list always available, properly label prep, and be sure to rotate out older ingredients.

BENEFIT: Curbing waste and less 86-ing dishes.