Dear Food Fanatics: Fall 2017

You had questions. The Food Fanatics team answered

Q. I wish my kitchen was more efficient. My ticket times are really lagging. What options do I have?

A. Take a hard look at the line. Can the space easily execute the menu? Does the flow make sense or are cooks tripping over one another because the equipment isn’t in the right spot? Make sure that the execution flows with the line. Once you figure this out, determine whether it’s more cost effective to tweak the menu or restructure the kitchen.

Q. I’ve created back-of-the-house recipe books and front-of-the-house cheat sheets to ensure consistency, but there are still issues, especially when I take a day off. Suggestions?
A. Try the money jar solution. When FOH employees ring in an incorrect order or take the wrong food out of the window, they add $1 of their own money. When the BOH misses the details of a customer request or places the wrong side with an entree, the individual adds $1. At the end of the month, reward the ones who did not add to the jar by giving them the money. After a few weeks of your staff shelling out their own money, things will change.

Q. New hires show so much promise, but then all hell breaks loose when the honeymoon wears off. What gives?
A. Be honest with yourself: do you spend enough time with training? Training isn’t a one shot deal; it’s ongoing. A good training program will cover quality standards, food safety, company
principles, policies and procedures so that your staff will be armed with the knowledge to consistently perform duties according to the expectations. Training should also be consistent with creating an exceptional guest experience.

Q. I’m not much of a baker nor do I have the talent on my team, but I would love to make bakery items more profitable with easy fromscratch recipes. How can I get this done?
A. Desserts are a great category to make up the food costs from higher-cost proteins. Try quick breads like banana nut, zucchini and creme fraiche, and bourbon nut with orange glaze.
Cooking down apples or pears with cranberries makes a nice filling for puff pastry, which can be purchased frozen. Try bread pudding using day-old bread or leftover cinnamon rolls. A creme anglaise or a caramel and sweetened condensed milk sauce spiked with a liqueur and a canelle of ice cream rounds out the bread pudding.

Q. How do I get my employees to promote my brand as a restaurant and give the best customer experience?
A. Start with your restaurant culture and demonstrate these values to your employees every day. If you don’t have these core guidelines established and written, take time to articulate them. Post them where workers can see them. Point out when an employee demonstrates these beliefs and follows guidelines, keep score and reward them weekly or monthly. Also, remember to hold workers accountable. Such measures will lead to a more productive work environment and ensure better customer experiences.

We’re big on smoked meat, but we’re getting more requests for vegetarian options. What would work for us?
A. Lightly smoking vegetables can satisfy as a center-of-the-plate option. Think of cauliflower sliced as “steaks.” Same with winter squash. Smoking high protein grains such as quinoa and millet for vegetable burgers can also add flavor. Consider smoking nuts, such as walnuts or cashews, to use as milks or to puree for a pasta sauce or as a complement for another dish.

For more tips check out @foodfanatics on Twitter.

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