Cooking involves strategy. Successful professional cooking is absolutely strategic.
Restaurant food profit margins are thin. Perhaps only the grocery business, which depends on large sales volume, operates more leanly.
As a student of the Oregon Culinary Institute Baking & Pastry Management program, I’m noticing a shift away from simple participation in and observation of kitchen protocol, and into the more rigorous mindset of a financially successful business owner or manager. Hence, strategy.
If the operation’s financial viability is the king on a chessboard, what are the roles of those protecting the king? In chess, a player may not make a move that places his or her king under attack. If only that requirement were in place for successful food service operation.
Operating a successful restaurant or bakery or food cart depends upon a clear and precise accounting of food and labor costs. Sounds obvious, but every cost, every detail is relevant. Establishing business standards, effective cost controls, maximizing sales and collections and constantly improving margins are all present in successful organizations, and are factors leading to the quick demise of those who ignore them.
Knowing how to value inventory, how to calculate theoretical vs. actual food cost, and how to recognize how waste or theft or spoilage impacts profits is no small skill.
My head sometimes spins. Lesser-used neural pathways are opening as formulas and equations are the order of the day. The repetition of business math forges new synapses.
Just as each player on the chessboard plays a unique and separate role in protecting the king, so do restaurant staff and management in protecting the organization. And while everyone’s interest in the success of the org is different, each person’s contribution has value.
I like to think of myself as the queen on the chessboard. I have the ability to move in any direction and take any action I deem necessary to protect the king. So, the more in command of the food service organization’s health I am, the easier it is to move with dexterity to make strategic decisions that ultimately protect all players on the chessboard.