I recently spoke with 13 Los Angeles chefs and restaurateurs at An Evening on the Beach, LA Street Food Fest, and out in the field, and they answered several questions, including: What is the biggest challenge in operating restaurants? Here are their responses:
The fact that everybody’s different, and everyone has different needs and things they want to get when they come see us. Satisfying everybody is the challenge.
Jeff Cerciello (Farmshop)
Consistency is one of those things that you strive for day in and day out. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the hardest things, but it’s one of the things we strive for.
Johneric Concordia (The Park’s Finest)
My food experience was originally at the Denny’s on Vermont and the 101 as a server during the time of the first Laker championship [in 2001], just wylin’ out…Every time I’d see a manager post up safety or try to talk to us about procedures, as a punk kid, “Oh, man, that’s common sense. He’s not talking to me.” Now, as an administrator, as a manager, being able to create procedures and mechanisms so 1) no one gets hurt, 2) we’re better, and 3) we’re not so tired. There’s a lot of growth and maturity. I’m accountable to so many people, from my suppliers to my clients to my family, to the people who support us, to the people who write about us.
Scheduling. Employees. Trying to make sure everybody’s happy and the chefs wear their strengths, or the positions are their strengths and not where they want to be, sometimes. It’s a massive balancing act.
Fred Eric (Tiara Cafe)
Making something that people could replicate on a consistent basis. If I made exactly what I want, it would take 100 people to serve 50 people. So there are certain practicalities of economy and of replicability, being able to do it consistently every time.
Michael Fiorelli (mar’sel)
Managing people, for sure. Everybody’s different. The nuances and intricacies, just different ages, different lifestyles, different cultures, kind of bringing all that together to have a harmonious kitchen.
Michael McCarty (Michael’s)
The biggest challenge today is staff, employees. The work ethic, and it’s getting better. Fortunately there are so many kids that you want to get into our business, you get the good kids and just train them.
Edlyne Nicholas (Isla Cocina Pilipina)
I think it’s just pleasing people, especially people used to the old ways, like older Filipinos. That’s what we’ve found has been the most difficult, is pleasing them, making sure we stick to tradition, but also insert our American ways too.
Bryant Ng (The Spice Table)
It’s the day-to-day things. Making sure the food’s consistent. Making sure the service is consistent. That’s the most difficult thing.
I don’t know if there’s one biggest challenge. There are many, many challenges. I think empowering your staff to be creative, to be passionate, to love every single moment of every single thing they do within the restaurant walls. Being creative. Continuing to be creative.
Paul Shoemaker (Savory) + (Juicy Lucy)
Making everybody happy. Pleasing every single body. I think every restaurant has challenges, it’s just how you learn to manage them.
The restaurant business. That’s the biggest challenge. It’s not one thing. It’s everything.
Mako Tanaka (Robata-Ya)
It’s a lot of headaches. What is the biggest challenge of operations? To make sure customers are happy, and make sure they’re coming back. That’s the biggest challenge, to make everybody happy, in service and food.