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Chefs Share Strategies on How To Stay Competitive

Investments in social media, staff members and technology help chefs compete with other foodservice outlets.

ChefsSocialMedia
Posting photos of dishes marks one way to build brand awareness on social media platforms.

Competition remains strong among operators in 2024. The National Restaurant Association says 45% of operators expect competition from other restaurants to be more intense this year than in 2023. Consumers have lots of foodservice options and plenty of access points, it says. To stay ready, a group of chefs from around the country came together virtually to talk ideas and strategies at June’s Chefs’ Perspectives roundtable, hosted by Foodservice Equipment Reports and RATIONAL. Three takeaways include the following:

Maintain a robust online presence. Chefs will want to keep up social media profiles to help themselves and their foodservice facilities succeed, as well as pay attention to online reviews. “A powerful tool that sometimes we, as chefs, underutilize is social media,” says Jonathan Gutierrez, executive chef at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. “The most famous chefs right now, besides TV chefs … are social media chefs. Some of them have no restaurant experience whatsoever. That’s something that we as chefs need to leverage, and really take advantage of to grow in our career and to bring in business.” Gutierrez aims to post a reel a week and a couple stories a day on platforms.

Brian Cripps, executive chef at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel and its on-site restaurants Tre Rivali and The Outsider, reads online reviews almost daily as part of his job. “OpenTable is one I take to heart because those are the people who made reservations and are writing the review right after they leave,” Cripps says. He appreciates the guest feedback and it motivates him to make improvements.

Engage employees with open communication and compassion. Along with getting guests in the door, retaining staff members also is critical to staying competitive. “There are tons of restaurants opening every day and you’ll have line cooks and other restaurant workers who will want to shift to the new place,” says Cripps, pointing to how Milwaukee has a much smaller labor pool than larger cities like Chicago. To keep employees, Cripps says, the property provides annual raises, a healthy work environment and ongoing training so they can move up in their careers.

“For us, it’s making sure my partners and I are as available as we can be,” says Noah Zamler, chef/partner at Irene’s, who recently opened another restaurant called Terra e Mare. “As owner/operators, a lot of our employees, if they have complaints, can feel comfortable coming to us and saying so. Being flexible with the staff and hearing them out goes a long way.”

“Being flexible with the staff and hearing them out goes a long way.”
-Noah Zamler, Irene’s and Terra e Mare

Invest in equipment that will give the kitchen an edge. RATIONAL equipment marks one part of the equipment lineup at Daily Dose Hospitality, says Corey Muir, who serves as regional chef as well as a RATIONAL Certified Chef. About the iCombi in particular, Muir says, “You program it, and it notifies you what step to add specific ingredients and it cooks at a specific time. It’s as if I was standing next to them to ensure the product starts the same and ends the same.” Related to technology, Daily Dose has added iPads to its stores so instead of having printed recipes, on-site staff members access cloud-based digital versions. Muir says if he needs to distribute a new recipe, “Instead of sending an email, hoping the chef responds, prints it out, throws the old one away and puts the new one in the binder, it’s now … live and constantly updated.”

To go along with its iCombi and iVario, RATIONAL recently introduced the iHexagon, which is a combi oven with microwave assist, says Billy Buck, the manufacturer’s vice president of culinary in the U.S. “It’s something we’re bringing to the market for those operators who have bottleneck periods where a reduced cook time can help,” Buck says.

Zamler says he hopes to invest in a combi oven. Meanwhile, the team has put in a deck oven, mixer, proofer and food processor to support the operation’s from-scratch bread program, which he says helps set it apart. “Before, at Irene’s, we were baking in a convection oven that wasn’t big enough for the quantity we were doing,” says Zamler, noting they also sell some 75 loaves of bread a day at farmers markets. “I used to work through the night making all of that bread and now with this new equipment, it’s a lot easier.”

FER and RATIONAL began hosting the Chefs’ Perspectives roundtables in 2021 to help operators navigate the future of foodservice. The next event will take place in September.

 

Chefs’ Perspectives June 2024 Panelists

Brian Cripps
Executive Chef
Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, Milwaukee

Jonathan Gutierrez
Executive Chef
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, Wis.

Corey Muir
Regional Chef
Daily Dose Hospitality, Irvine, Calif.

Noah Zamler
Chef/Partner
Irene’s and Terra e Mare, Chicago

Hosts:

Billy Buck
Vice President of Culinary (U.S.)
RATIONAL USA, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Allison Rezendes
Chief Content Officer
Foodservice Equipment Reports, Jupiter, Fla.

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