On drinking from the fire hose….

I work with restaurant owners and chefs to help them realize new levels of success. In many ways, we bring the business side to the food world. We create strategic tool sets and implement game plans to the restaurant business. Having grown up in the rank and file of the restaurant industry I know the feeling of drinking from the fire hose all too well. In fact, my career catapulted at a rate that I did not have the perspective or skill set to truly grasp at the time. I went from cooking school to a 4-year extensive set of internships in some of France’s finest restaurants, a few short years as a cook and then suddenly at the helm of a fine dining restaurant. There I was at the age of 24 with a daily changing menu and a kitchen staff of 27 and a $12M annual sales figure for which I was solely responsible. I was not only out of my comfort zone but also frankly very poorly equipped. I was in the weeds so deep that I didn’t even really realize the extent let alone how to navigate them effectively. I am reminded of a photo that was taken of me on New Year’s Eve after service at the age of 26 in which I looked like a wet rag.

Gratefully most of my clients are not that lost. However; the fact of the matter is that the restaurant business is grueling due to disparate arenas that all demand careful attention to detail. Yes, indeed that is simply the nature of this industry and for the most part it is not personal. And yet there we find ourselves head down in our own kitchens under a growing list of tasks to complete that it often melds into a vague mountain of to-do’s leaving us with the sense of drinking from the fire hose. We aren’t alone but certainly don’t have the time to pause and ponder or to collaborate with our tribe. We just go head down and dig deep as best we can while getting the food out the window and the payroll in on time.

All is not lost and we are not all condemned to a life of exhaustion and never seeing the light of day. It is doable and you can achieve great results. Here is my method.

  • Divide tasks and needs into categories- this helps make it all more manageable with a time and place for each category rather than just a feeling of an ever-growing list. It slows us down to think of too many things at once. Think about a Saturday night rush… during those few hours that is all we do and we succeed with that kind of focus.
  • Put a time line to each task- I find this especially important as it allows me to think about only 2-3 things at once rather than that thing that is due in 3 months or was due 3 months ago.
  • Make time blocks for the tasks at hand and do only that which is blocked off.
  • Ugh! Which is incredibly difficult for a chef to do since our success is measured on every detail and that makes us become control freaks and neurotic (well at least for me) But the truth of the matter is you simply do not need to peel every clove of garlic in your kitchen.
  • Make time to share your vision and train your staff- I firmly believe that the best we can do for our staff is hand them the keys to success as we all want to be a part of the winning team.
  • And as crazy as it sounds, take time off. Disengage. You’ll come back so much stronger and clearer for it. Check out in whatever form works for you but working till you drop doesn’t count as checking out. It’s restorative and the results are measurable.

There is no denying that the hospitality industry is grueling and demands the ability to navigate several tool boxes at once. I don’t mean to belittle this fact but I do believe that it is manageable and success is achievable.