This is Part 3 of our multi-part series following the journey of our intrepid consulting chef as he works to open a new coffee shop for his client. You can navigate to part 1 (planning) and part 2 (creating the menu). His story continues…

Now to open any successful business as I have said before we need a plan, and we stick to the plan.  Normally when we open a restaurant for a client, we assist with the recruitment of the kitchen teams. With 30 years of experience in the industry you get to be able to read a chef by the way they present themselves, their character and all round attitude, sure a CV is important as that not only lets me know the standard of establishment they have worked in but the amount of time they have stayed there and the commitment they have shown. The recruitment process for this was a little different and the client recruited all of the team, I hadn’t been involved in the recruitment nor had I met the Head Chef or Sous Chef.

When involved in new opening it’s important that the whole team try all the food, understand why we have selected the dishes and also to understand what is in each dish, what it tastes like, what works well with each dish as a side dish. The things I don’t like to hear when I go out when you ask the question:

“Does this dish have XYZ in it?”
And the reply you get is “eh, I will ask the chef”

Or, “Can you recommended any dishes?”
And the reply “No I have never eaten any of them” or, “I don’t like any of them, its not the type of thing I eat”

It’s important that the whole team understand the menu, have great menu knowledge and have confidence to answer any customer questions.

So on the Saturday before opening, myself and my head chef along the new head chef and sous chef of the coffee shop had the day together training on recipes, how the menu is presented and how it tastes. We then planned to present each dish to the team for them to taste well, that was the plan.

After agreeing an 8:00 start, and with my team ready to go, it’s now 8:10 and the head and sous chefs are not here. Great start and great first impression, the clients calls to say the head chef had missed his bus, I can deal with that, but not the news that the sous chef had accepted another job yesterday and won’t be coming. Many of you who read this can relate to it, it’s almost normal now.

So, we had a great weekend training and tasting of the food, the head chef knows his stuff and can cook, always a bonus. The team love the food as much as the clients. Sunday was a big prep day, we are ready for 7:00 Monday morning start.

Here we go, Monday morning. Our brand new coffee shop looks amazing, the whole team are excited about it and we are ready for the first customers. We didn’t do a grand opening or lots of PR for the first day. The location is fantastic, so we simply opened the doors.

From 8:00 we get the rush of people on their way to work. They had seen the coffee shop under construction and had been waiting for its opening, now they are here, trying, buying and tasting, it’s all going well, breakfast rolls into brunch, the dishes go out in a timely manner and look great, at 13:00 we have an order come into the kitchen for almost the whole menu, bit unusual for 2 people so I head out of the kitchen to have a look.

Having spent most of my career being judged on what we do, you expect to have critics and food writers visit any new place. It makes great reading, normally they give you a couple of weeks to settle in, not in this case. Neil is one of the best food writers I know. I have known him for 20 years, he is honest and also brutal and has given us just a couple of hours to settle. Neil will tell me to my face if he thinks its any good, so when he has finished, I ask him.

“Chef” he says “restaurant standard food in a coffee shop, I love it”.

So day 1, one chef down and a 5-Star review.

Kindly contributed by Steve Midgely Consulting Development Chef, 30 years experience in fine dinning, creating fantastic experiences at Michelin star restaurants.


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