Dear Food Fanatic: Hiring Temps, Building Mentorship

Our chef expert digs into the tough questions of the restaurant industry

Q. Catering and private dining go through the roof from fall through the holidays, but I’m torn between hiring seasonal temps or permanent workers. Which is smarter financially?

A. Hiring for a specified time can be beneficial to maintain a lower labor cost and forgo benefits. However, permanent workers are usually higher quality, skilled employees. Operational efficiency can also be improved. Look at your labor budget and decide if you want to invest in your future or just through peak season. If peak times are consistent, it might make sense to look into a permanent solution. 

Q. How can I build a mentorship program within my restaurant? It’s something that helped me when I started in the industry.

A. Ask your employees if they are be interested, and then reach out to your area culinary schools. Be sure to establish goals, guidelines and expectations with input from the school. When you find people with the same passion for food, keep them engaged in learning and allow them to use what they learned in your restaurant.

Q. I have good lunch business, but I want to increase it. I’m lucky to be around businesses, hospitals and corporations, but I can’t seem to get them to come in.

A. Keep your restaurant front of mind and make it easy to order. Look at your marketing budget and see what you can afford to get the word out, whether it’s old-fashioned menu drop-offs or advertising with online ordering services. Create a tab on your website with daily lunch specials. Capture the emails of office managers and administrative assistants who are likely to order from restaurants. Once you have the connections, interact with them to build customer loyalty.

Q. Do I really have to have a full website, Facebook page and Twitter account for my restaurant? I use the local paper to advertise, isn’t that enough?

A. Digital holdouts are declining by the second. You need to participate if for no other reason than to show up in online searches. Your website is your billboard, so make sure it is robust. A social media presence is worthwhile if you engage the audience regularly and if your core audience is on the same channels. Lastly, if you do not engage, someone else will take control of your message, like Yelp.

Q. I have a fairly new restaurant with a $1 million interior build-out, an open kitchen with all new equipment and a sleek, modern dining room. There’s a full bakery and a cafe area, too. But now I’m looking for my fourth chef. Why doesn’t anyone want to run this cool concept?

A. An awesome setup is attractive, but other factors may be prohibiting you and your chef from reaching your full potential. Newly hired chefs often inherit an existing staff that can impede cohesion in the kitchen. Language barriers and skill level might also need to be addressed. Encourage your chef to build a team atmosphere in the kitchen, and allow time for it to gel. It can take months for a great kitchen build-out, and sometimes it takes just as long to build a great culinary team.  


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Food Fanatics undergo rigorous culinary, communications and consulting training to help chefs and other foodservice professionals meet business goals.

Food Fanatic

Tom Macrina is a Food Fanatics chef for US Foods from Philadelphia who was recently appointed a second term as president of the American Culinary Federation. 

@ChefTomMacrina

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