I am not an expert on the economy and don't have a crystal ball, but I do have enough common sense to know that nothing is forever. I am hoping that the tables are about to turn and a cycle of renewed prosperity will begin. After two years of slashing expenses, down sizing and revising just about everything and anything that doesn't move, will you be prepared to execute at the highest level as your volume and guest expectations increase ?

Like most Executive Chefs, I have been spending a fare amount of time, working the line, chopping, slicing and dicing. I don't mind; I actually enjoy it. The problem is that I am doing the work that once was the responsibility of others. Like me I bet your bench is thin and there are days you can't field a complete team. Overtime and the use of expensive temp agency labor is not always the answer. If you are running into the OT/Temp Labor Scenario on a regular basis, it may be time to start hiring.

Here are a few suggestions for minimizing the cost of new hires.

* Only bring on one new hire at a time; watch the OT and temp needs before considering others. This will also allow for more focused initial training.

* Hire down. Offer applicants a one step down get-your-foot-in-the-door type position. Use this time as an ongoing audition to fill more advanced positions requiring a specific skill set.

* Schedule 30-35 hour weeks if necessary to keep everyone at FT status.

* Stagger schedule start times to ensure maximum coverage at peak times.

* Use lower compensated Assistant Cooks to get higher paid cooks out the door quicker and reduce payroll.

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Comment by Jeffrey J Kingman on February 12, 2010 at 9:56am
Great advice, Chef. The cost of talent is also marked down. Eric Goodwin, of Goodwin & Associates (an East Coast hospitality management recruiting agency), informed me 18 months ago that Chef positions in Boston that used to command $50-60K, were now offering $35-45K. That down-pressure should have moved as well in hourly wages.

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