Owning a business whether it be a restaurant, a small cafe or a catering company, this market is not easy.
Lots of people find that their long-lived dream of owning that small beachside or countryside cafe serving great coffee and great food is going to be the hardest adventure that they have embarked on. Although ever-changing social trends have driven the hospitality industry north, it's the overpopulation of restaurants and small cafes that are making it a struggle for business owners. Consumer behaviours changing so rapidly is forcing restaurant owners to change direction or restructure their business plan to suit the consumer.
Keeping up with the trends
With food trends changing so rapidly how can a business survive? When building a business in this day and age, being able to adapt is vital - what is new today may be old news tomorrow. As chefs, we really look to our mentors; our gastronomic heroes that are pulling out equipment and techniques that would be found in a laboratory rather than a kitchen, trying to achieve a percentage of the knowledge that they possess to please our customers.
Reinventing dishes with a modern twist, deconstructing, freeze drying, dehydrating, using sous vide - these are all the lengths that modern-day chefs are going to to try and keep the wow factor.
As with all industries, staff have all gone through a skills shortage at one stage or another. It is a sure sign when the are reducing the apprenticeships for chefs from 4 years to 3 years, increasing wages and offering incentives such as tool allowances, that we can see the industry has reached crisis point. With the demand for chefs as high as it has ever been, trying to find someone with the skills to suit your business is one thing - getting them to stay long-term is another.
Relying on someone to turn up clean-shaven, ironed and free of rocket fuel from the previous night seems to be a big ask these days. However, what is socially acceptable these days is slowly changing, so I am positive that that culture is getting remoulded.
Offering a salary package based on skill and industry standards is somewhat a struggle, however with the inflation of tourism up by 0.7% (depending on the region), it pays to pay the right person for the job. The old saying is "if you think hiring a good chef is expensive, wait till you hire a bad one"; finding someone who shares your passion, your dream, your vision and your success plan is vital (but somewhat a struggle). However, all is not lost. As a business owner, it pays to be able to expand your vision - there may be someone lurking in the shadows that can offer something that you haven't thought of, something so simple that will change the way you approach and deliver your business - One change may lead to another.
Rising Protein Costs
It is very difficult to ignore the struggle that our farmers and our fisherman are going through. There's a rising demand from the consumer for quality cuts, ever-rising fuel costs, and the drought that we are facing here in Australia resulting in meat and seafood soaring north. Chefs are looking towards cheaper cuts of meats, the same ones that many years ago the butcher couldn't sell. You only have to walk around the meat section at your local supermarket to see the creativity from your butcher to try and sell everything except for the oink.
I'm sorry, but the customer is not always right. In fact, for the most part, the customer is usually rude, late or never made a booking, expecting to turn up at their desired time for a table of their choice, and for you to deliver a level of service and cooking times that you would find at your local fast food take away joint. Dining out should be an experience and should be enjoyed with a
relaxed mind and positive attitude - it's a release from the day to day pressure of having to put a meal on the table for yourself or your family. It's not surprising that restaurants are taking credit card payments to book tables.
When selecting what to eat, pay attention to abbreviations written on the side of each dish - these are an indication of whether the dish has any allergies or is vegetarian. Sometimes, there is also a time indicator for dishes that take a little extra time to cook, and these are written by the chef to set your mind at ease. It also protects the floor staff from complaints if you haven't received your risotto in 15 minutes. Always remember that good food takes time!