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Chef to Chef: Rethinking Re-opening

John Reed, CEC®, CCA®, AAC®, FCSI, owner of Customized Culinary Solutions, a restaurant, catering and hospitality consultancyJohn Reed IMG_8371

We are heading into completely uncharted waters when it comes hospitality as we have known it. Re-opening society is taking foodservice down a path that does not end at the old normality.

I have taken these last few months to reflect on my business which, like most of you has been greatly impacted. This has required me to ask the question: If today, I was going to open a foodservice operation from the ground up, how I would build it? Is it possible that restaurants and other foodservice operations—with the talent, passion and technology available—have to be a bigger part of community than a place to just dine. 

That begs the question: what would the foodservice operation for the next revolution look like? The restaurant I would build would be designed to change the way we fundamentally do business.  We need totally re-think how we have done things for the last 50 years. We just ran into a brick wall. We have a golden opportunity to sit back and think about our old lives. We love what we do but could we have been more profitable, have a healthier physical and mental well-being, work less and support our staff and local community differently? Here are some of my thoughts when it comes to what the reinvented restaurant of the future will look like. 

World-class dining will not be limited to the 1%. The personal and financial toll of operating restaurants should not outweigh the ability to provide great hospitality to a broader spectrum of society. There will always be fine-dining for those who can afford it. The restaurant will serve more than those in the dining room by also feeding the community. The food we cook is important to society especially during economic and natural emergencies. We keep society stable by cooking each day, not for those with excess means, but for those who may not have as much. The foodservice community has the infrastructure and the team to rethink how we can feed the country. 

The kitchen is no longer an afterthought on a blueprint. The new “heart of the house” design will allow more space for the resources needed, not just for increased delivered, but also for more basic processing that we have forgotten about or given up to the industrial food manufacturing community. A smaller dining room will provide a more personalized customer experience for those who dine in, but also create a more inviting and interactive space for those who prefer the same restaurant experience even if they take their food to-go. 

Technology is the tool to manage. Technology in all aspects of the restaurant will be used to provide the “from the palm of my hand” customer experience. This will also be the key to profitability and long-term success. All aspects of the staff to guest experience will be managed by software, driven by data and produced on advanced restaurant equipment both in the front and back of the house. 

No more charitable donations for the nameless. There is currently a proposal called the Feed Act being discussed by Congress, which will create direct links from farmers and producers to restaurants to feed the community by cutting out distributors and large charity organizations. In this case, the farmers will supply chefs with the food to prepare and distribute to hospitals, soup kitchens and other places for people in need. What’s also nice about this proposal is that it ensures people are receiving healthier, freshly-prepared meals, not just canned goods and junk food. 

Staff is a permanent, not temporary. Gone with the gig generation, where staff members work on their own terms or are at the mercy of their employer. Creating a workplace that supports the needs of your staff is imperative. We will provide more than just a paycheck. We will build a more permanent team in a work environment that is built on their individual growth and inclusivity. 

Building a restaurant of the future is about rethinking how we put food on a everyone’s table in a world of new opportunities.  As chefs, these changes can be accomplished one meal and one action at a time.

John Reed, CEC®, CCA®, AAC®, is the founder of Customized Culinary Solutions, a Chicago-based culinary consulting firm providing such serves as menu and recipe development, concept development, technology integration and others for restaurant, catering and foodservice company clients. An active ACF member for the past 30 years, John has competed in multiple culinary competitions and served on the USA Regional Culinary Team competing in the International Culinary Olympics in 2012. He is also a Certified Cicerone®.

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