Where Are All the Cooks & Servers?

“Where Are the Cooks?  Where Are the Servers?’

When you read postings on Facebook by chefs about the extreme difficulty of finding staff for restaurants, and then go to employee sites–look at Craig’s List–you’ll find that the #1 complaint is finding cooks and servers to work in restaurants.

What this means is that restaurants are often understaffed and/or staffed by people who are unskilled.  What this means for food and service is that it’s going to be sub-par, especially in restaurants where the ambitions of the chef (and investors) require high-level, reliable skills.

Rather than trying then to create menus requiring skills, or staffing rooms that focus on anticipatory service, why not develop business models that make use of what you have?

This occurred to me when I think of Shake Shack and Tasty Burger.  Shake Shack, an asset of the Leonard Green hedge fund, is the 21st century’s McDonald’s, the Whole Foods version of an A&P supermarket.  Tasty Burger is turning into a first-rate burger joint run by Dave Dubois, the chef who ran Franklin Cafe, in Boston’s South End.

Both enterprises make great use of people who have the ability to make burgers, put them into buns, and hand them to customers who take seats, eat the food, and leave within about thirty minutes.

If the situation is such that there aren’t enough cooks and servers, chefs would go far by adapting to that reality rather than hoping that it will change one day.  It’s not likely to change until wages go up for servers (average salary: $20,000 per year, $400 per week, $10 an hour–plus tips!) and line cooks (average salary: $24,000 per year, $500 per week, $12 an hour), and that, too, will disrupt the ambitions of chefs who want more than burgers and fries.

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