Why Don’t You Ever Stop Working?

 

My sous chef and I went for Mexican food with some friends last Sunday (obviously) and someone got the most amazing chiles rellenos.

 

Of course, my sous and I immediately started talking about ways we could incorporate some of these flavors into our food, especially the ridiculously delicious smoked tomato salsa.

 

We could put it on our fish tacos, it would be an excellent counterpoint to the cilantro ranch dressing. We could use it in a reimagined eggs Benedict.

 

This went on for 15 or 20 minutes until one of our friends said, “Oh my god, why don’t you guys ever stop working?”

 

It’s true; we don’t. And neither do any of the good cooks I’ve ever worked with. If we’re out at a restaurant, we’re constantly looking for things they do well that we can learn from, or for things they do badly that we can avoid doing (or gloat about, if we’re feeling smarmy).

 

I’m friendly with the chef at a great local sushi restaurant. My knife skills are rock solid, but his blow mine out of the water. So of course I jumped at the chance to have him teach me some Japanese techniques.

 

Years and years ago, when I was a young line cook at a restaurant in New York, our chef brought a whole wild boar down to the kitchen. We all stood around staring at it with our mouths wide open. This was one of the top-rated restaurants in the city full of incredibly talented cooks, and not a single one of us had any idea how to start butchering this beast.

 

The ancient Dominican dishwashers came out of the dishpit, laughed at us for a minute or two and then had the boar skinned and portioned into primals in about an hour.

 

You better believe that we watched their every move. Knowledge comes from unexpected places and you’d be crazy to pass it up.

 

That’s what I love about this business: you’re never done learning. It’s up to us to always be observing and asking questions, and to never turn it off.

 

Our significant others may not love it, but it’s how we stay on top.

Software usability so that you really DO use it!!

I’ve worked with thousands of food service operators. After explaining what our software does, I often hear this: “I need it, but…” followed by one of these two objections:

“It takes too long to get it right, assuming we do get it right”
or
My people won’t adapt to technology”

Let’s call it usability.

So although I’m not a programmer, I do work closely with development. And I constantly push them focus on two things:

– Simplicity

– Ease of use

When you analyze an app, POS system, or any other technology for purchase in your operation, pay special attention to usability. You are in a business where there’s never enough time, turnover is the norm, and technology adaptation can be bumpy. You don’t have endless resources to dedicate to analysis, integration, training, implementation, etc.

It’s all about usability: that means not chasing every bell and whistle, but really focusing on the core objectives of what you want to accomplish. And it means finding solutions that you can adapt and integrate seamlessly and painlessly. All of that adds up to usability.

I’ve told you there would be tips with my emails; these tips are some of the features that increase reciProfity’s usability. These may very well be what enables a successful deployment.

The Joys of Small Suppliers

My meat supplier is an obese, cigar-chomping man with an unpronounceable name and a staff of maybe 6 guys.

His favorite hobbies include eating meat, talking about meat, and yelling at me about the Yankees, all of which he does without the cigar ever leaving his mouth.

He doesn’t have a website, a secretary, or an accounts receivable department and his office is basically a broom closet.

Sure, he doesn’t do much butchering himself anymore but he knows everything about every cut he sells and I bet he could still break down a side of beef faster than I can make a béchamel.

This guy is easily my favorite supplier.

I called him yesterday with a question about the size of the fat cap on their beef brisket and he went into the storeroom himself to check the product and get me an answer.

There’s none of this “please hold while I transfer you to some guy in the warehouse who also doesn’t know the answer,” no best guesses from uninformed sales reps, and no wondering if the full order is going to show up.

He stands behind his product and his service, and it shows.

This is why I (and plenty of other restaurants in this town) are happy to pay his slightly higher prices instead of working with the bigger, cheaper meat companies.

 

The quality of his product is also the best, but that’s to be expected from a guy like him.