How to Maximize Consistency in Your Restaurant (Part 2)


3. Put Systems in Place

Steph Izard is a James Beard Award Winner and the first female to win Top Chef. She is Executive Chef/Owner of Girl and the Goat, the busiest restaurant in Chicago.

Even if she wanted to, there is no way that she could do most of the cooking. Her line has 12 people on it, and during service they are all moving very, very fast.

When Chef Steph isn’t working as the expo at Girl and the Goat, she is working across the street at her diner, The Little Goat. Since she can’t be there all the time, and since they do so much volume, she has to put in place systems to ensure that the food and seasonings are right on every dish every time.

Here is her system at Girl and The Goat:

Everyday before service, every line cook puts up one of each plate that will come from his/her station. So essentially, they make one of everything before service.

Chef Steph and her managers taste every component of every dish to make sure that it tastes right. When the seasoning is off or something is undercooked, she tells them and they fix it.

Her managers have a good sense for how everything should taste, and Chef Steph doesn’t need to be there to taste everything every night…but she often chooses to be there because she loves it!

By putting in place a system that checks every dish every night, Steph Izard has built the busiest restaurant in Chicago. And because everything is consistently great there, many, many of her diners come back for more.

4. Get Your Employees to ‘Take Ownership’ of Their Work

Curtis Duffy is debatably one of the best chef’s in America. He has worked with two of the best chefs in America…Charlie Trotter and Grant Achatz.

Chef Curtis was Chef de Cuisine at Alinea, America’s top-rated restaurant. After that he took over Avenues, where he earned two Michelin Stars.

Just last year Chef Curtis opened his first restaurant, Grace. Everything was designed with the word “perfection,” in mind. In their first year they earned two Michelin Stars…a very impressive feat.

(The Chicago Tribune is creating a documentary on Curtis Duffy and the opening of Grace, called “His Saving Grace,” and it will come out later this year).

Grace Restaurant

His kitchen is immaculate, even during a busy Saturday night. His kitchen is silent before service when everyone is prepping, and it is silent during service, except for the sound of the expo calling out the orders.

He has created a restaurant and a concept where anything less than perfection is failure. And that suits Chef Curtis just fine, because he loves a challenge…

The system Chef Curtis put in place to ensure perfection is really quite simple…get people to take ownership of their work.

“When a new cook walks into the Grace kitchen,” said Chef Curtis, “I give him a cutting board and say, ‘This is your station. Everything that comes off of this station should be the very best that you can do.’

I teach them to take ownership of their work. I teach them to work as if this were their restaurant,”said Chef Curtis.

His team agreed.

I asked one of his cooks who had been with him for three years, “What is the most important thing you have learned from Chef Curtis?”

“To have high standards,” he said. “Never compromise your standards.”

These high standards don’t just apply to the food, they apply to every aspect of the restaurant.

For example, it was a busy Saturday night at Grace and the kitchen was short-staffed. A few people called in sick, and everyone in the kitchen had to work extra hard just to keep up.

During the busiest time of service some food fell on the floor.

In most restaurants food falls on the floor all the time. And it is cleaned up after service when there isn’t a rush.

But that isn’t how Grace operates…

When Chef Curtis saw that the floor was getting dirty he shouted, “This is unacceptable. Even if we are short-staffed, we still have to perform to our standards. And that includes the floor.”

And Chef Curtis has a system for tasting food as well. He doesn’t just taste before service, he has his team tasting throughout service.

The seasoning in the polenta is going to taste differently at the beginning of service than it will at the end of service,” said Curtis. “So I have my staff taste the dishes throughout service to ensure that everything that comes from the kitchen tastes exactly how it should taste.”

What are you doing to ensure consistency in your restaurant? Are you doing all the cooking yourself? And if so, is that what you want to be doing?

Have you hired and trained people that you trust to do the job the right way when you aren’t there?

Do you have systems in place to guarantee that everything comes out the right way every time?

Whatever you are currently doing, there is something else you can do to ensure consistency in your restaurant. This article is a good start.

The next time you enter your restaurant I hope you have the courage to ask yourself, “What can I do to improve consistency in my food, while also improving the experience of my guests?”

And if you successfully answer this question and implement a solution, you will see a nice bump in your bottom line.

Author: Robert Love 

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Date of published: Oct 28, 2015