Interview with Chef Martin Laprise
For those of you who are thinking of opening and running your own restaurant some day, you will enjoy this bit of advice from Chef Martin Laprise, author of My Daughter Wants to Be A Chef.
Chef Laprise is one of those chefs who has seen it all. He has been employed in 24 of the 39 venues a professional chef can expect to work as described in his book. It is a great read if you or your child are thinking of attending culinary school. For more culinary school research, be sure to check out Culinary School Resource Center for articles and school information on culinary schools near you.
Martin, now a professional caterer and personal cooking instructor in Canada participated in my Novice2Pro chef interview that can be seen at Interview with Chef Martin Laprise. This is another great interview for prospective young chefs thinking of cooking school.
At the end of my interview with Chef Martin, I asked him if he had any comments or advice related to managing a restaurant and here is his informative reply.
Chef Martin Laprise's Tips
1 If you are going to have a restaurant one day, do your homework first. Here's some advice I passed on to a friend of mine last month about running a successful restaurant.Train and coach your staff well so when you its your day off they still perform accordingly. NO RESTAURATOR can do it alone.
2 Although this is your own unique concept, as soon as you open your restaurant, create your business as if someone else would take over one day. Think like a franchise. That way when you want to slowdown and have a life with your child, you have a system and rules for everything. OR if you want to sell the business and travel the world, it's easier once you have system in place. Think TURN KEY.
3 Empower all your employees to make decisions and not rely on you every times. Do not discourage them if they screw up, try to explain to them the best you can.
4 Reward your cooks by letting them create a special of the day and/or create an item for the new menu. Everyone likes to be part of things. A cook who feels part of something will stay longer. Ask for their opinions once in while so they will feel important and happy to work for you.
5 The schedule is the BEST tool you have in the kitchen or in the front. It's a great reward to give a flexible schedule to your staff so that they can have a life or a hubby. Employees are there to help you realize your goal. Figure out what is best for everyone. 4 days a week for 10 hours for someone may not be suitable for someone else. Talk to everyone and make the schedule that best fits everyone's needs. Example; young cooks like to party, where old cook like to be with their spouse on special occasions. ADJUST!
6 You are now a restaurant owner, wow, BUT don't forget to think about when you were an employee and how it made you feel when the boss did not listen to any of your advices. Listen to your staff; NO REALLY listen to all of your staff, including dishwashers. They see things that you don't. You only have two hands and two eyes! Create a system and environment that promote opinion sharing. Like a meal between lunch and dinner service with all the staff so everyone can talk about ideas and how to improve. This will create a great TEAM environment and cost very little long term.
7 The front of the house servers will benefit from having educational wine tasting once in while and enjoy the experience AND stay longer.
8 Don't make one person work 60 hours a week when you can hire one and half workers instead. I know that the labor market is toughf, but it can be done. People that are over worked don't perform well and may cost you some future clients. You ultimately control who works and how much! Even if someone wants to work overtime, don't do it. For cost and for the employee.
9 Follow up is the most important action in any business. Example; when you say to an employee I will talk to you tomorrow, talk about it the very next day. When you say we will talk about a raise in two months, don't avoid it. Make sure to have a talk two months to the day even if it is to say I can't talk right now for X or Y reasons.
10 If you give direction to any employees, you absolutely need to follow up to see if it was done right or done at all. If an employee who knows that you don't follow up is more likely to screw up.
11 Customer service is extremely important. If you know that a table has waited a bit too long, send a glass of something to the table. A few dollars is much cheaper than a bad review from a client. Find a drink or food that is your signature to offer when things get busy.
12 All recipes, food or drink, should be written down and standard every time.
13 Since you are in the middle of wine country, if I were you, I would do wine tasting once a month. Something like the second Wednesday of each month. Stick with it and one day it will be packed. Have wine maker as guest!
14 Press releases are simple. Tell your story about how you got there and you should get free press. Don't ever sell your restaurant, sell you journey to media.
15 Press releases are very powerful! Wait until you are ready to handle lots of people. Make sure to send it to all media nationwide, not just local media.
16 Don't cut down on quality ever and dessert is extremely important, as this is the last thing the client sees before the bad news/the bill.
17 No matter how much I like to cook duck, if the local market does not want to eat duck I have to accept that I will cook something else to make a living.
18 Hire people for who they are, not what they know. You can teach someone to be a better cook or server, BUT you can't teach someone to be a better well adjusted human being. Choose people for their personality and teach them what you want.
19 Reward your employees for doing a good job.
20 Support your small community by giving out dinners to charity, you will get free press for it and feel good too.
21 An employee will never have the same commitment as you, period... This is your life, and it's only a job for your best employee. Eventually, to make someone assistant manager is a smart move that will allow you to have a life of your own.
Books To Read If You Want To Open Your Own Restaurant
If you are interested in reading more about running your own restaurant, I have found books on the subject that might be helpful. I have not read these books yet because I am not thinking of opening my own restaurant but they might be something to check out if you are.
Starting a Small Restaurant, Revised Edition
Restaurant Success by the Numbers: A Money-Guy's Guide to Opening the Next Hot Spot
Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality
Running A Restaurant For Dummies
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting A Restaurant
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.
Chris Van Ness
I could not get past the first lines with out writing. Many chefs are "the greastest" but you will NEVER move up in the world if you don't have someone trained to do your job. Training or teaching is a gift,
I think what you mentioned about sharing what you know is a great thought, as this will one day give you the opportunity to expand your business
Adam J. Medina C.E.C
very very insightful. I could not help but chuckle to #18. I have never ever even thought of that. Am sure now though, it will help me in so many areas when it comes to hiring a new team member.
I am thinking about starting my own Restaurant, and you gave me some very brilliant advices. You are so right.
These are so powerful.
I am also a chef, Chef Martise have a nice comment.
Thank you Chef Khalil. Where are you working as a chef these days? - RG
I'm a Culinary Student at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago. My goal is to one day open a successful restaurant establishment and set an example for other restaurants who want to become successful. I wat to create that kind of restaurant that everyone would love to work at! Very good comments people, Anc Chef Laprise, once i become successful in the restaurant industry, you will become part of my steps which lead me to becoming successful! Thank you!
Hi Chef Laprise I found your advice to be very useful. I recently took over an existing Thai restaurant and have completely turned the place around in a good way. In our first 3 months we are starting to get a little busy and we are very happy although our hours are very long and we are only 23 yrs old so we like to go out and have a good time. We had never had any restaurant experience and we are still getting used to the experience. Our goal is to systematize our restaurant so that we can travel and also expand and open others! Anyone that is reading this and has any advice for us please respond. Thank You
I recently became the manager of a sushi restaurant and I'm hoping to have a positive impact on catalyzing the culture of the owners vision into the employees, menu, and patrons as well as increase revenue. Any advice, anyone?
Hi Abel, thanks for writing. I am not a chef but a "work-at-home" dad who enjoys good food and learning how to be a better cook. I guess the first question would be, What is the "owners vision"? There are plenty of professionals that may be able to help you learn how to increase your revenues but as sushi goer myself, it's all about customer service. Of course the food has to be good, but the service is just as important. And remember, the first person the customer meets will have a tremendous influence on how that person enjoys their experience with you. - RG
Chef Martin, you are a great man. All i needed to run my own restaurant successfully was what i got here. I have come to realized that no restaurant owner can make it without the team work of his staff. No one can make it in isolation. Thank you!
Hi Henry, I'm sure Chef Martin appreciates your comments. - RG
I owned a restaurant in the past & my mistake was researching this info after closing instead of before opening . If you don't do your homework prior to opening it only makes things harder as time goes on . I had moderate success but found once I opened unprepared didn't have much time to research & business suffered . Great advice sir, everything you stated is so true & very helpful .
I would also add a recommendation...be flexible. Many operators work hard to find an approach [to whatever it may be]that works, but something in the future could come along and improve that approach. Don't be afraid of change, especially when it comes to using technology.
i am indian chef running a fine dine indian resturant of 86cover in jaipur india we are doing ok but m not happy with out come want to increase my sale and foot fall can u help me out to bostup my sales ???????
Too many restaurateurs don't take the time to properly analyze locations and don't understand the complexities of restaurant leases. This is an area where professional advice can help you avoid huge mistakes. A qualified real estate attorney should be retained during lease negotiations.
I like that tip to empower employees. You don't want to micromanage. Another good idea is to outsource accounting when you start.
From my point of view, people who are running a restaurant must invest in good quality kitchen equipment. Well, I agree with you that they must reward their cooks by allowing them to come up with a special of the day menu. You are also right that they must provide a flexible schedule to their staff so everything will run smoothly.