A year's end is the perfect time to gather management and staff and collectively set new goals to achieve in the coming year. We asked chefs and restaurateurs what they most want to accomplish in 2016. Here's what they said:
Take the team out to eat more. “If you immerse yourself in someone else's business you will gain a real understanding of what people are doing,” says Ben Sabouri, owner of MTO Café in Las Vegas. “Why are they serving on these plates? Why pair these vegetables with this dish? What makes me want to come back? It’s one thing for me to do this on my own, but it’s much more rewarding and beneficial to do this as a team.”
Write holiday and special event menus a month in advance. “Writing menus early means my staff won’t have to harass me for them later,” says Jason Dady, chef and restaurateur of the Jason Dady Restaurant Group in San Antonio.
Minimize food waste while helping those less fortunate. “I’m always looking for ways to minimize food waste at the restaurant,” says Cecilio Rodriguez, executive chef at Beef & Barley in Chicago. “All of my vegetable scraps go toward making stock; I don’t buy in bulk just because something is on sale; and I keep the fridge organized. If you can’t find a nearby shelter to donate surplus food to, pack up to-go containers and ask staff to hand them out to those they see in need.”
Reach guests in new ways. “We'll be adding a more casual lounge space to our fine-dining experience at Alizé, providing a space for guests who want to enjoy a glass of wine and a nosh from our new bar menu in a comfortable environment while enjoying a gorgeous view of Las Vegas,” says Joseph Marsco, director of operations for Gastronomy Management. “In keeping with the theme of reaching out to more people, we’ll also be launching a catering and events service.”
Increase online presence. “This new year we are focusing on growing our audience by selling our desserts through a subscription service,” says Catarah Hampshire, co-owner of Southern Girl Desserts in L.A. “We launched the first portion of our online business a month ago and have already increased our monthly bottom line by 3 percent.”
Find a balance between creativity, passion and maintaining a reasonable food cost. “We supply the Strip with high-end specialty ingredients and opened the café to introduce chefs and foodies to some of those ingredients,” says Brett Ottolenghi, owner of Artisanal Foods in Las Vegas. “For years I tried to popularize Lion Fish and Wasabi Leaves, but couldn’t because of price; in the café I’m now able to show that high-end specialty ingredients can work.”
Partner with more local hotels. “There’s been a huge influx of boutique hotels in our neighborhood," says Shaun Clancy, owner of Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant in NYC. “These hotels welcome people from out of town—and often from out of the country—who might not otherwise be reached through local advertising or PR efforts. Our plan is to set up showcase sampling events and go out and meet concierges and offer discounts to patrons who come from their hotels.”
Keep hospitality front and center. “We try to keep in mind what will make people feel well taken care of and satisfied,” says Trish Tracey, owner and chef at Myriad Gastro Pub in San Francisco. “What makes me feel that way is thoughtfully prepared food that is not overly processed or manipulated but is tasty and prepared with love.”
Don’t repeat past mistakes. “Most businesses regress or ultimately fail as a result of bad habits, complacency or a departure from core fundamentals,” says Brett Randle, c.e.o. of Soulman's Bar-B-Que in north and east Texas. “Our team will spend a good amount of time talking about our brand, our culture and our products. We will reacquaint ourselves with our core fundamentals to make sure our habits and focus are aligned properly, and together, we will formulate our plan to not repeat behaviors or mistakes that might erode our brand.”
Stay true to core values. “As we continue to grow, our resolution is to stay true to who we are as a brand and stick to our four core values: celebrate oneness, make it personal, keep it fresh, and elevate everything,” says Michael Lastoria, co-founder of &Pizza in Washington DC. “If we can live by those values, we know we'll ultimately be able to serve up a phenomenal experience for our guests."
Push to be the best. “I’ll be buckling down and pushing my team to be the best they can be in 2016,” says Bill Rosenberg, executive chef of NoMa Social in New Rochelle, NY. “There will be lots of teaching, training and experimenting to keep things fresh and up with the times.”