business plan development
If you're planning (or even just imagining) a new venture, an expansion, or a request for funding, you absolutely must have a business plan that tells the truth and makes you shine. Sometimes people are intimidated by this process, but I've found it to be incredibly helpful. You are building scaffolding that helps you identify, articulate, communicate every piece of what you do (or want to do) and that process of discernment is invaluable. I can help you build your template, sift your information and edit it into a polished product.
It’s also crucial that you surround yourself with smart, capable people who know the things you do not. I am a networker and a convener, and can help you build the team of people you need around you in the process of getting started.
If you're not familiar with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) or SBTDC (Small Business and Technology Development Center), look them up and get in touch. They work under the auspices of the SBA (Small Business Administration) and their many small business workshops and mentoring services are high-quality and worth your time.
* Fine print: accurate financial projections and reports are a big part of your business plan. I can help with basics, and if you need a financial planner or accountant, I can help you find a good one!
culinary concept development
Whether you’re just beginning, or changing and growing your menu or concept, use my many years’ experience and objective viewpoint to help you envision, get your ideas on paper, and into profitable production.
staffing: recruiting, training, development
Managing your crew is probably the biggest part of what you do. Each person who works for you has the potential to help your business succeed, every day.... and also has the power to torpedo all your hard work. Screening, hiring, training and management plans are your tools to find, develop, challenge, reward and keep the best people.... and to quickly weed out the people who need to work elsewhere. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers… high turnover and chaotic scheduling are not inevitable. And warm, gracious, genuine hospitality can and should be trained for. Someone once said “service is in black and white, hospitality is in color!”.
Setting intentions, communicating expectations, and following through are vital. If you're winging it, then you’re spinning wheels, wasting time, churning through people. Then no one's having any fun! These systems take time to set up and do well in the beginning, but there's a really big payoff in sustained productivity and peace when you get it right. Eventually, you and your employees take care of each other with relative ease. If you don't have a plan, let's come up with one.
We can work together to develop job descriptions and effective ads that save you time and money, and I can help by doing confidential pre-screening, filtering through the best candidates for your consideration.
Whether your crew needs hands-on training or just new tools, together we can create training plans, employee manuals and operating procedures as simple or as elaborate as your business requires, and figure out what you need to make it an ongoing practice, and not a headache!
design: commercial kitchen, pantry, workspace
I've worked with architects and contractors to design commercial and hybrid commercial/residential kitchens to meet some really unique needs. Every one of them is working hard, and passes the ultimate test: chefs and cooks love them!
If you’re starting with a blank space, or up-fitting, renovating, equipping an existing space, I’ll work with you to articulate and coordinate your needs with architects, property owners, and equipment suppliers to make sure you get what you need out of your space and comply with applicable codes.
If you’re running your own place, chances are you don’t have time to read your online reviews, but somebody needs to! Let me sift through them, then we’ll sit down and review your ‘report card’. I can help you respond and follow up, solve or smooth any underlying issues. Even (or maybe especially) if a review is negative, your timely, effective, heartfelt response is a great opportunity to build good relationships with your customers.
menu, recipe, cookbook management
Every food operation needs correct, costed, standardized recipes for production. In practice, it’s easy to let this slip, and let ‘good enough’ take over. Let me help you audit, clean up, organize your cookbook and set up a system to make it simple for you or your chef to keep up with it. Standardization reduces food costs, streamlines operations and increases your profitability and sanity in so many ways.
And if you need to pass inspections for feeding special populations, your recipes and rotation need to be in good shape! I can help with basic nutritional analysis, labeling, and coordinating with dietitians.
Food allergy is a crucial area where you might need effective policies and procedures, thorough training and recipe analysis. I’ve got extensive, deep experience with food allergy management, and can help you ensure the safety of the people you feed.
entrepreneurial instigation, facilitation, calibration
Entrepreneurs (especially in the food business) have brave hearts, strong stomachs, cool nerves, zingy brains. “If you’re not a little afraid, you’re not going fast enough”. Apparently Mario Andretti said that. That’s how I roll, and that’s the kind of people I like to work with.
Sometimes this spirit gets people into some really deep water. That’s where I can help. I’ve been in that water. I know a little about how you get there, and a lot about how you get swimming, or get out.... or how to start in shallower water in the first place! Too often we end up planning in instead of planning for and once the ship sails, there is precious little time to take stock. Stop and get help before you get too far off course! My strategic planning skills and business experience can be superb resources for you at any stage of growth.
systems and programs assessment and development
Systems are intertwined. Is there something that needs to be created, evaluated, tweaked, polished or abolished, codified, implemented or calibrated? Do you need an advocate for your culinary department within the needs of a larger organization?
If it’s not working right, let’s tease apart the elements, and fix what needs fixing.
What might not be doing what you need or expect it to do?
- food cost
- scheduling and labor cost
- food production
- ordering, deliveries, storage
- coordination between front- and back-of-the house
Being responsible for large budgets, and serving with community and social service organizations over the years has given me a forest-view of finances, just as working in foodservice has taught me the “penny ballgame”. I understand how the pennies feed into the dollars, no matter how many commas there are. Just as with good service, doing the small things right consistently over time leads to financial success.
mystery shopping and reporting for front- and back-of-house
A neighboring business owner once gave me and my restaurant a great gift. He took me aside privately and said how much he liked our place, and then described the several not-so-good experiences he’d had recently. I was embarrassed and so very grateful. His frankness and concern gave me an opportunity to address things that I was too busy to see, but that were crucial for us to get right.
Having a completely impartial view of how your business truly works on the front lines (especially when you’re not there to see it) is incredibly valuable information. Having a ‘mystery shopper’ with clear eyes and your best interests in mind is a great tool! Get valuable information about what’s going well (and what’s not) in time to do something about it before it hits the reviews or the vendor-gossip circuit… and believe me, there’s such a thing. Someone said that if you really want to know what goes on in a restaurant, ask the beer delivery guy. You can do better!
If your organization needs plans in place for feeding people when the power goes off, or for other natural or man-made disasters, I can help. I have lots of experience that can help you get fully prepared. We can personalize your plans for nimble response, for food safety, and for managing your resources.
fresh, local foods
There’s no one these days who doesn’t know how important it is to integrate fresh, local food into menus. It’s a balancing act; not everyone has the margin to just replace everything with what’s in season, or make up their menus daily. And yet, if you’re going to make the commitment, you need to walk the talk. You can do it in a way that makes sense for you, and I can help with menu and production planning, and connecting to purveyors.
audits: food safety and sanitation, nutrition guidelines for DEH inspection, state surveys, CARF or JCAHO accreditation
You should have results your whole crew can be proud of.
I have helped teams achieve and maintain many inspection and accreditation milestones while providing great service and care.
Together we will do an exhaustive audit, and you’ll get a complete report with specific items to be corrected, along with whatever support you need to ensure compliance. I believe in living ready for the inspector (any inspector!) Do you have all your policies and procedures in place? If not, let's get them done!!
Food Safety and Sanitation Instruction and Certification
Any commercial business in North Carolina that feeds people is required to have a Person In Charge (PIC) who is certified in food safety and sanitation. Food industry professionals don’t think twice; they realize their responsibility to the people they feed every day. And anyone working in a food-related business needs to know at least the basics. Safe food is crucial to the success of any food business, and it begins with competence in every position, attained by training at the appropriate professional level.
Your staff should understand food safety not just from a book, but also in terms of their actual responsibilities in your place of business. I tailor instruction and proctoring to the needs of your business, using the Servsafe program, developed by the National Restaurant Association. Learning is enhanced not just by my experience, but by the cumulative knowledge in the room. We share and learn from each other, and (truly) have fun : )
Not everyone can make time to leave work (or send people off-site) to take the full course and exam. Instruction schedules and locations are completely customized to address your individual needs. It might mean you gather all your troops for a few early morning training sessions in your dining room, or a quiet, private session in your office just so your GM can take the exam to re-certify. Instead of you trying to fit people into classes, we work with you to make classes fit your people.
In addition to your garden-variety cooks, here are some of the professionals who might also require training that is specific to their needs and the people they serve:
- Owners, chefs, sous chefs and managers: These busy people may not be able to take the time away for an out-of-town 1-3 day course.
- Dietitians: Dietitians are certified when in school, but may not have needed to stay current, and sometimes these worthy professionals might find themselves in situations requiring not only nutritional expertise, but also hands-on culinary leadership, and they should be prepared.
- Child-care, school or elder-care settings: Our children and elders have special needs, and so do those who take care of their nutritional needs.
- Nurses: Nurses are sometimes in unique caring situations that involve preparing or serving food, and serve what are known as “highly susceptible populations”. They should be aware of the special rules that protect their patients.
- Cooking class instructors: Even home-based cooks and instructors have a responsibility to maintain standards of sanitation, and to share the most accurate information regarding safe food. Being a certified food safety professional helps you present a great impression, and helps keep your students safe!
In addition to certification courses and exam proctoring, Bigger Tables offers complimentary basic food handler instruction for people who need to understand the basics, but have less direct food contact. By providing customized training for a wide variety of needs, Bigger Tables can help you run the best, safest kitchen possible.
PS: If you’re curious at all, or just a food safety geek (yes, there is such a thing : ) the good people at the Barfblog (barfblog.com) would be happy to fill you in on how badly wrong things can go when food is improperly cared for or mis-handled. I was introduced to the Barfblog by a health inspector who was a particularly good teacher, inspiring people to do the right things for the right reason: so people don’t get sick.