Finding the right chef for the job can be a time-consuming and stressful endeavor (see Part I and Part II of this series). You want to make sure the person you choose is the right fit for your restaurant and will be able to deliver a high-quality product, while increasing your clientele. Superstar chefs are worth every effort to find and keep. Don’t just hire a warm body or settle for less than what you seek. Once you close the deal with the right candidate (see Part III), the following suggestions will help you retain your chef:
" Superstar chefs are worth every effort to find and keep. "
1. Let the chef help develop your menu. When starting a new restaurant or adapting an existing concept, you have an idea for a menu already written down. But every professional chef has his or her own cookbook and specialties. Work with your new chef to develop menu items that fit both your concept and the chef’s expertise. This will allow the chef to add his or her own personal flare to your restaurant.
2. Allow the chef to bring people in. Executive chefs, much like professional coaches, can have their own sous chefs (much like assistant coaches) with whom they have worked before. Rather than forcing your chefs to take on an entire new staff of apprentices, allowing them to bring in some of their own staff will help to make your kitchen run efficiently and insure a smooth transition.
3. Pay for what you get. A bonus system or other incentive plan will let your chef know how much you appreciate the customers his or her expertise brings to your restaurant and keep them focused on your operational goals. If you want your chef to manage decision in the best interest of the operation, then you should provide them an incentive that will enable them to share in its success.
4. Promote their name. Customers rarely see the chef because he or she is on the other side of the kitchen doors. However, if your chef does an excellent job or has local fame, give him or her public notice. You can feature your chef in marketing materials on the menu or on your website. A number of chefs are being encouraged to develop and maintain their own blogs, and Twitter and Facebook accounts. On these sites the chef can feature a favorite recipe, customers can request a special menu item or customers can advise the chef of a food allergy in advance — the possibilities are endless. This approach is considered cutting-edge brand marketing of one’s restaurant and builds customer loyalty. Don’t be hesitant to make your chef a local brand celebrity of your restaurant — you should strive to promote your chef. I always encouraged my chef to put on a clean uniform during the evening and walk through the dining room to engage guests and to move the wizard out from behind the curtain.
As you may recall in Part I, I shared this “recipe” of hiring a great chef with my dear friends and restauranteurs, Joe, Rachel, Celia, Brian and Rob. Now that they knew the many necessary ingredients for a successful hiring strategy, I stressed that it is important to keep in mind that each restaurant is unique (i.e., restaurant theme, style of service, location, size, menu design and offerings, etc.). All were eager to blend the ingredients and follow the recipe for success!
Interested in advancing your education in food service management? JWU offers an online BS – Baking & Pastry Arts and Food Service Management and a BS – Culinary Arts & Food Service Management.