Thursday, December 24, 2009

Systems In The Workplace-November 2003

The Chef's Office
November 2003
Systems In Our Workplace

Here we go again....Welcome back to the CheffyBabbles and the Chef's Office.

There have been quite a few emails about the last couple Chef's Office newsletters that had a general gist from some of the recipients that are Chef's/Managers/Owners that I would like to comment on.

Apparently, there are quite a few members that have been posting the Chef's Office in their kitchens/offices/bulletin boards as motivational pieces for their staff. I think that rocks; thanks, it is quite a compliment. I think that we really discuss some cool thoughts that trigger the brain housing group into thinking about a lot of aspects of this business that you don't find in any cookbook or textbook, and I, for one, find it provocative, inspirational and awesome. Thanks to all that send in articles, emails etc. ( Thanks rock Buddy!!! )

This issue contains an article I had originally written for RestaurantEdge's newsletter and I thought that it would be a good one to post for our newsletter as well. The story behind the article is that we did a sit down lunch for the United Way to the tune of 1600 people not too long ago. That day Chef Bento, along with our catering manager, Chevre56, and myself had set up systems to make the event run as smooth as possible for both front and back of the house. As we always attempt to do, we held discussions before, during and after the event to analyze who and what we are and who and what we do (or didn't do). This day was an especially inspiring one because all of the systems fell into place and the confusion that often comes with performing functions this large, both in size and staffing, decided to take the day off. It just clicked in all aspects and I found it very inspirational.

During this time, I was asked by Eric Hahn, the owner of to write a series of articles for the RestaurantEdge newsletter about cooking in volume. I had already written a couple installments for his newsletter and when I got home that day I was so elated by the success of the United Way event I sat and wrote "Systems in Our Workplace". I especially liked this article because it doesn't matter what you do for a living, all people can associate and find some inspiration in this thought process.

Systems in our Workplace
Incorporating/Improving Systems in our Workplace

Sometimes, whether you are restaurant owner, a chef, a catering manager, a waitress, or any position in any profession for that matter, you seem to often find yourselves creating systems to ascertain your professional lives become a simpler version of what you face day to day.

In order to be successful in volume or a la carte production you must be able to communicate to and with your staff and associates what system is going to be in place and if need be, be able to explain why. No idea is a bad idea!!! That is how systems are born.

I had quite a few interesting conversations on this topic this evening, most specifically, we did a party of 1600 for lunch today, and it was a communication game that was played by many and it turned out to be a successful event bringing up some good points in post-event communication.

"Follow your system through"!!!! Some of us may be great at creating systems, but being able to take an idea, expanding on it to create a system and follow it through from beginning to end, sometimes is not that easy of a task.

Systems are created because of one thing...they work.

In our business, it is difficult sometimes to keep a professional working mannerism between departments and inter-departmentally because of the lack of communication. Subjectively, I believe that communication is the root of everything, not only in the culinary/hospitality industry, but in every profession. It is very important to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing regardless of who you are or what you do.

When preparing a meal for 2 that just got sat in Suzy's section or whether you are doing a plate up for 6000, the system process must be the same. An event for 2000 should be just as simple to plan as that 2 top in Suzy's section. Why? Because systems are in place, and the information is available if necessary. If the information is not readily available, then someone needs to "make it happen". Create that system that is going to make life easier.

In every stage of cooking, whether volume or not, systems must be created, if they are not, then you are setting yourself up to fail, or putting yourself in a psychotic frenzy with one eye on the clock while you just stuck your hand on a pan you just took out of the oven with the oven mitt that is on the other hand! Been there, done that, " ain't a lot of fun" ha ha!!

In general, the hospitality industry as a whole, is a stressful job, creating a system that is going to make life easier should always be your first and only option. It's all about taking a problem, attempting a solution and "making it happen"

All systems are dysfunctional in a sense, the operator of the system has to ask themselves how they can take it to the next level, how can it be better, what is it that they don't like about the way the system works and take it to the next level to make it better. Well, you get the picture.

For some of us it might be as simple as knowing in a 50# bag of corn I get 52-57 ears, or it could be what is coming in on the truck, (or better yet, what ISN'T on the truck!!!), where or how tables and displays were set, room layout, service procedures, breakdowns, labor control, the logistics of taking a system to go from point A to point B with the minimal amount of confusion. If you are going to work on an event, regardless if it is 1 or 10,000, you must respect the entire event, from the booking of the party to the ordering, scheduling, all the necessary preparations from beginning to end, overall execution and ultimately, the clean up and analyses of the event. We must understand the role that each system plays/played in the overall orchestration of the event, whether in volume or a la carte, analyze the system, make it better, and most importantly, "make it happen" not only happily, but in the words of my friend, mentor and teacher Chef Bento, "...make it happen in style..."

Cheffy has spoken....

Well, as always, thanks for hanging out with the CheffyBoy, am looking forward to the emails and the inspirational thoughts and articles of my friends...stay tuned for the next issue, I plan on continuing this conversation from an a la carte perspective along with comments from my fellow culinary warriors and the explanation of the Zen-oriented comments that sometimes appear in my writings.
If you are new to the mailing list and would like to view The Chef's Office Archives, I have them archived along with some pictures on my site at

Peace, Hugs and Cookies,
Michael "Cheffy" Hayes

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