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For Hospitality Professionals and Food Connoisseurs
Issue #37 November 9, 1998
In This Issue
* Feature Article
The New Chef
In the past, the Chef was for the most part an obscure position, with those in the field relatively unknown by the public, underpaid and often unappreciated. Then the public relations experts figured that by marketing the Chef, the independents would have a leg up on the chains that couldn't market specific personnel. This ploy worked so well that some of these media darlings became SuperChefs, and grew their newfound fame into chains and even retail food lines.
The result of all this is that the public now seems more interested in the movement of known Chefs than in new restaurants. Restaurateurs are all vying for the same known Chefs, and committing huge free agent dollars to acquire these superstars. Hotels and casinos are paying dollars well out of proportion to economics just to gain affiliations with a Chef who will not only drive restaurant revenue, but hotel occupancy and casino handle as well.
So how does a restaurateur compete? How does an independent restaurant with a single 150-seat upscale take advantage of this trend? Some of you probably don't care to compete on this basis, and there are lots of reasons to avoid making your Chef the centerpiece of your restaurant. (I'll discuss this later.) But if you do, you have two basic choices: Hire the Name or Grow Your Own. Before we explore these options, we must first determine the proper ingredients for a SuperChef.
To become a SuperChef, an individual must of course have the culinary and management skills, but must also have creativity and personality. Creativity goes beyond presentation skills, to a willingness, desire and ability to innovate in preparation, flavors and textures. And to be attractive to the media a SuperChef candidate must have a distinguishable personality and be relatively well spoken.
So that's the basic recipe. To make it happen, you can:
Hire the Name. Chefs can of course be bought. Such a move can bring instant acclaim and hordes of new patrons to your door. However, aside from the expense, this type is prone to leaving for a better offer at any time, or spreading him or herself too thin over several projects. Best advice here: Make the Chef a partner in the business and have an ironclad employment agreement.
Grow Your Own. This is the preferred route if you can do it. You can usually get someone who is more loyal and besides, it should cost less. If you have a Chef who could grow into a SuperChef, then go for it. Do the following:
- Hire a PR firm to get the Chef in the media as often as possible
Some restaurateurs get a chill going down their spine when they think of affiliating with or creating a SuperChef. With very good reason. As an example, consider the plight of a restaurant that hires a Chef, puts his name on the front door, builds their entire marketing campaign around him, and then watches him leave. Or the restaurant that develops a menu around a chef's capabilities only to see him walk out the door with the kitchen staff and all hope of recreating special menu items.
However, despite many restaurateurs' distaste for such a SuperChef, the public loves them. They will flock to their restaurants on Tuesday nights, and gladly wait an hour on Thursdays. Best of all, the named Chef is an independent restaurants best offense against a chain's clout. It is a rewarding yet treacherous road, yet isn't that what our business is all about.
What's your opinion about "SuperChefs"? Let's hear what you have to say -- write to email@example.com
**Next Post - Sport Stars & Restaurants
Brett Favre's Steakhouse in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin has received great reviews and pulls pretty good crowds. The MVP has even done a few special appearances there recently for invitation-only special events.
Joan Stewart, The Summit Group, LLC
**Next Post - Same Topic
Michael Jordan has lent his financial support, though not his name, to 160 Blue -- one of the finest new restaurants in Chicago. Although I am generally skeptical of restaurants owned by sports figures, 160 Blue demonstrates that mere association with a sports figure does not condemn a restaurant to mediocrity.
**Next Post - In response to last issue's Internet Tip on autoresponders.
Your autoresponder article made a good point that busy companies can utilize this technology as an HR function. But those using autoresponder must keep in mind that the autoresponse message must be relevant. As an example, I recently sent three different e-mails regarding three separate subjects to the same company. To my frustration I received the same exact "cut and paste" response. My summation: That company didn't care to take the time to answer my questions. Result: I took my business elsewhere. Conclusion: Always be aware of who e-mails you and what they are asking.
David Monroe - firstname.lastname@example.org
We are established for ten years in Bangkok, so receiving your Restaurant Report is enjoyable as we all have our daily little problems, and reading other restauranteur's is fun and makes ours look quite simple really.
Best wishes from the land of smiles.
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