With minimum wage hikes and rising costs across the board, restaurants are getting creative in how they think about staffing. Take Chef Phillip Frankland Lee, who opened Scratch Bar & Kitchen in Encino, California about a year ago. At the time, he told us all about his plans to bridge the divide between the front and back of house by having his cooks do everything, from greeting guests at the door to taking orders to running the food. Oh, and actually cooking.
So — how is it going? We caught up with Phillip in honor of Back of House Appreciation Month, an event that offers free meals at Scratch Bar & Kitchen to all restaurant cooks and back-of-house staff during the month of February. When they bring a pay stub (or other proof that they are a BOH employee) they will receive a complimentary nine-course tasting menu, and 50% off for a non-BOH guest dining with them.
“When I started cooking, it was a different landscape: restaurants were thriving and the economy was booming,” he says. “I ate for free most of the time, because if I went to a restaurant my chef would call and make me a reservation. It was nurturing. Nowadays, that doesn’t exist anymore — with the price of restaurants and the wage gap, cooks cannot afford to go out and eat. This is a way of saying, thank you for working so hard.”
With appreciation for hard-working cooks across the country in mind, he gave us an update on the staffing model at Scratch Bar & Kitchen: challenges, rewards, and now guests are reaction. Here are a few takeaways. [Read more…]