Ask the Experts: Fall 2018

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

Problem: Miscalculating food costs, an issue often caused by “eyeballing” portions, especially butchering whole fish. Chef says he’s an expert at cutting portions.

Solution: Thank your chef, but nothing is as accurate as a scale and numbers. Examine the price paid for the ingredient over three months. Then examine the number of portions sold over the same time. The amount will reveal the true food cost. If product is being wasted because of inexperience, training might be necessary or a move toward purchasing pre-portioned ingredients.

Benefit: More accurate food cost and less waste.

Problem: Portions of macaroni and cheese kept warm in cast-iron skillets dry out before they can be served. Diners stopped ordering mac and cheese and often sent the dish back to the kitchen.

Solution: Switch to holding the product in ceramic skillets so the product can be microwaved in the serving skillet and then finished under the broiler.

Benefit: Eliminates waste and holding skillets; plus, every dish is properly cooked. Sales are likely to increase as a result.

Problem: We need a healthy side at brunch that’s low cost and easy to execute.

Solution: Cut vegetables, such as zucchini, broccoli, kohlrabi and carrots, into matchsticks and give them a quick sauté before seasoning with togarashi or just salt and pepper.

Benefit: It’s fast and can double as a slaw. You can eliminate prep by purchasing pre-packaged veggies.

Problem: New hires are no-shows.

Solution: Require the candidate to come in for a short stage (a few hours) and make it unpaid. Be sure to share your requirements upfront, but don’t take advantage of the potential hire. Offer a meal to eat on premise or to go as a thank you.

Benefit: You get a better sense of the potential hire’s interest, whether he or she is working the host stand or as a prep cook. The potential hire also gets an introduction that should help on his or her first day.

Problem: Restaurant has become noticeably louder after a remodel or buildout.

Solution: Add padding to the undersides of tables with acoustic foam, use sound-absorbing upholstery or affix sound-absorbing panels to high ceilings.

Benefit: Costs are lower than undergoing another remodel. If changes don’t improve the acoustics, seek advice from a hospitality design firm.

Problem: Messy work stations.

Solution: Bad habits take time to break. Be clear about expectations on the line; mentor and lead by example. Offer a weekly reward for the best maintained station or the most improved with whatever is important to staff, such as first choice for vacation or time off.

Benefit: Builds good habits, a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence.

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