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HST

Rethinking the restaurant

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5 hours ago, gfron1 said:

I can't figure out how to see the stats on readership of this topic to know how many eyes have read it, but don't make the assumption its only the culinary elite. A small handful of experienced people are commenting here, but many, many more have read it. To all of those anonymous eyes I would ask - would you use this service as defined and more importantly, would you use it a second time once the novelty has worn off. 59% of all restaurants fail in their first year. Good thing this is theoretical and not real money.

@gfron1  I think I am one of those anonymous eyes that you are talking about - a purely home cook with no professional experience in restaurants (always excepting that stint waitressing while in grad school :)). I would not be interested in this type of restaurant. When I find a recipe that looks interesting or crave some food from the past I want to make it myself. And, as many have commented here, I would have no faith in a chef's ability to make it just the way I want it. I go out to eat either for tried-and-true connivence (my favorite local pizza place or the restaurant that i KNOW makes really good Thai food) or to see what ideas a chef has. 

Give the OP's focus on millennials, I ran this idea past a genuine millennial in person of my daughter. She did not find it very interesting. She enjoys cooking which may differentiate her from the demographic that the OP seems to be focusing on (he seems to expect very little interest in cooking for oneself) (she did grow up in my house, after all). When she eats out, which is rarely although getting take out is more frequent, she says she wants to find a restaurant that does something she hasn't experienced before or something that (like me) she knows they will do well.  The 24 hour waiting period was a real turnoff for her too.

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If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

But the library must contain cookbooks. Elaina

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it's all a fascinating idea / concept / discussion - but them d*mn brass tacks keep coming to the surface.
at the very basic level, this is a personal chef cooking at _his_ place, not yours.


not actually going to survive on (3x4=12 or 3x6=18) x $30/each = max $540+/- gross revenues per day.

 

now, iffin' you are a world reknown 20 star chef aiming to please three tables at a clip - i.e. http://restaurantjezebel.com - that's peachy keen except when it gets to the $20-30 price point.
here's the snippet from the web site:
"As Parind launched his global catering business he is catering from Europe, Caribbean to any city in the US. "
that, my deer, is not happening at $30 per person; or $60; or $90.


there are sites where one can "hire" a private chef to show up at your place with all the fixings for your heart's delight.  highly local. 

 

here's a cute headline from one site: "Dedicated to finding the perfect match for your home, yacht or private jet."  methinks youse likely need _both_ the yacht _and_ the jet before this kind of stuff is a financial reality.


besides, after jetting your buyer to the Himalayas to get that special high altitude yak cheese, how do you handle the cancellation?


as for replicating Granny's meat loaf - give it up all ye' who even think that can be done even by a 300 year old classically trained best in class 2,000 star chef.  I have the index / recipe cards _in their handwriting_ from past generations and I'm _still_ trying to re-create some of my childhood favorites.  actually, I think my recollections are faulty.  Pinterest does not stand the remotest chance.

 

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Gfron1, I believe over 500 people have viewed. People must really like "bad ideas", but honestly Gfweb, I think Tri2cook sort of nailed it. Its just the fundamental opposite of what a restaurant is, which I'm posing as an interesting hypothetical experiment....bad or good, not really the point. Under what conditions is it possible, is the point. I cant really get up on stage on thursday and say, "after much debate, i realized my idea was a bad one". Our professor has owned numerous restaurants and has really pushed us to pursue the idea

 

Deryn, you nailed it. Target market is really everything here. I think the nostalgia I'm talking about becomes more than a craving. It becomes a yearning. Millennials are super nostalgic as a whole. And exactly, for the target market of this establishment you can write off adventurous eaters, and consequently, most of the eGullet crowd. I actually love to cook and go on culinary adventures, so its not really for me either.

 

Smithy, yes, I mean generally $20 per one person is what it would be, but if someone asks for something very very simple, perhaps that the restaurant already had in stock, it could be around $10. Also, idea works a lot better say if someone takes a date, which would be a good way of showing someone your exact personality with a meal you constructed.

 

Think of the elderly too though. If someone has aged to the point where cooking for themselves is difficult, this platform would offer something for the more stubborn elderly person who insists on a dish being prepared a certain way. 

 

Targets: picky eaters, people with dietary restrictions, the lazy and nostalgic, the elderly 

 

New study from the Washington Post: Less than 60% of dinners cooked at home, 40% of the survey even considered cereal "inconvenient". Things are getting bad.

 

I should also add, that although I posed this question, I'm not within the target market. I love to cook and go to adventurous restaurants, and will even travel great lengths just to get something I like.

 

 


Edited by HST (log)

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What can people be so incredibly nostalgic for at 30 years old?  The 90's were good and all but food hasn't changed that much. 

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1 hour ago, HST said:

 People must really like "bad ideas", but honestly Gfweb, I think Tri2cook sort of nailed it. Its just the fundamental opposite of what a restaurant is, which I'm posing as an interesting hypothetical experiment....bad or good, not really the point. Under what conditions is it possible, is the point. I cant really get up on stage on thursday and say, "after much debate, i realized my idea was a bad one". Our professor has owned numerous restaurants and has really pushed us to pursue the idea

 

 

 

 

 

'Under what conditions is it possible is the point'....but not whether it is a viable idea?

Same thing no?

 

Why can't you say that after doing diligent research you came up with several flaws that would probably doom the restaurant? 

 

That would make you sound intelligent.

 

 


Edited by gfweb (log)
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Millennials generally are still lucky enough have their mothers in the picture, and maybe even their grandmothers, even if those relatives, at whose dinner tables presumably a lot of those nostalgic memories were made, live some distance away.

 

First alternative - have the chef call the person who originally made the dish and find out exactly how they made it.

 

Second alternative (admittedly a very high end one and probably not viable within a 24 hour timeframe) - Buy (or find a loaner FD in the local area for or someone who could take a prepared meal and FD it for) a freeze-dryer each 'mother' or 'grandmother' (if they are not local) and have them cook the exact dish their child or children are craving, freeze-dry it and mail it to the restaurant, which will reconstitute it and present it as though it was freshly prepared for that client exclusively.

 

Third alternative - send the kid home to Momma to eat the dish once in a while - and tell them while they are there to WATCH what is going on in the kitchen (get off that cellphone and stop texting) and listen to the kitchen wisdom of their elders before bringing in a recipe that they themselves have no idea how to reconstruct.

 

It is probably more difficult to feed the elderly with any of the above strategies since the people whose meals they remember fondly are probably well gone by now. But, take heart because as long as most stuff is bland and overcooked, the current very elderly generation will probably not take much issue with it. Now, when MY generation gets to that point I am hoping that you would not be able to please us as easily - since many of us, while we may have grown up in the post war era, when canned soups and convenience foods, and overcooked meats and veg were quite the rage, have broadened our culinary tastes and horizons considerably and it will be much more challenging to recreate our favorite meals as we fade into the horizon.

 

At any rate, I think you are going to have to limit the scope of this backwards 'restaurant' if you want it to be viable because as I said you cannot be all things to all people. You will have to choose a class or two of favorite meals that millennials (your primary target market for now) generally like and offer as many varieties of those as you can and/or use a basic burger and offer truffles and fois gras and sauerkraut and 50 varieties of cheese, etc. as toppings on x number of different breads. Are they the 'hamburger' (but 50 different ways) generation? Or are they inspired or nostalgic for a specialty pizza of some kind? Find what has made these kids MOST nostalgic, in general, if possible and work from there to refine your boundaries (which you have to have to be financially viable at all).

 

You can expand the options that you feel competent to prepare as time goes on if the concept flies at all. Use the incremental approach and just feel your way from a basic, well defined, 'possible' within the other constructs you have set for yourself (price point and time being significant ones) to where you want to go. Doing it all from day one would indeed prove disastrous - but then we already have pointed out why that would be.


Edited by Deryn (log)
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1 hour ago, Deryn said:

Millennials generally are still lucky enough have their mothers in the picture, and maybe even their grandmothers, even if those relatives, at whose dinner tables presumably a lot of those nostalgic memories were made, live some distance away.

 

 

I was thinking this too. Miss your mom's cooking?  Call her, she probably wishes you would visit more often anyway!

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3 hours ago, HST said:

Our professor has owned numerous restaurants and has really pushed us to pursue the idea

have you considered the prof is out-smartering the team?  he's likely been at this a while and has handed you an known impossible assignment to see how much you've actually learned.....

 

there are so many conflicting and contradictory statements / premises to this "problem" that I hesitate on any attempt to lay it out. 

besides, are we doing your homework?

 

- it's a limited customer base

- who have to make their preferences known 24 hrs in advance

- the establishment requires sufficient staff to research, plan, cost and communicate with the customer on a RIGHT NOW basis

- what happens when the customer who demanded ground beef but from a left handed meat grinder does not respond to communications?

- no conventional costing model will work because purchasing is limited to the open market and paying top dollar, in addition to "custom shopping time" and lots of extra prep/research time.  not much chance to order stuff up from Sysco, for example

- the theory that a good kitchen staff can whip up a delicious anything from any random recipe the customer provides is quite unworkable and absolutely guaranteed to produce customer dissatisfaction about 80-90% of the time.  the reason chefs get to be so tyrannical is simply because after the time&effort to tweak a recipe, when somebody gets creative there's not enough "Yes, Chef!"s to avoid a good butt kicking.

- what is Plan B when a dish fails?

- what is the plan to handle (the likely many) instances of "It costs how much? Thanks but not tomorrow."  huge waste of resources.

 

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59 minutes ago, AlaMoi said:

have you considered the prof is out-smartering the team?  he's likely been at this a while and has handed you an known impossible assignment to see how much you've actually learned.....

Well, I decided a few posts back that there must be a reason why this instructor is teaching and I'm not.


Edited by gfron1 (log)
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2 hours ago, pastrygirl said:

 

Miss your mom's cooking?  Call her, she probably wishes you would visit more often anyway!


That would require some pretty extreme measures. Mom's beef vegetable soup was to die for... but I'm not in any hurry to be literal with that. :P :D

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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4 hours ago, HST said:

Under what conditions is it possible, is the point. I cant really get up on stage on thursday and say, "after much debate, i realized my idea was a bad one". Our professor has owned numerous restaurants and has really pushed us to pursue the idea.

 

So, you are stuck with this premise? Is the whole class stuck with the same premise?

 

The conditions that would make this possible would be something like:

1) Creation of a walled garden of Pinterest recipes, aka your pre-defined menu, that your chefs have tested and have practiced enough to cook quickly and efficiently. Or are you still allowing people to just send you any recipe with 24 hours' notice?

2) Being located no more than, say, 2 blocks (running distance), from a pan-asian supermarket, and a regular supermarket. Also, being close to a food distributor's warehouse will be essential. -Unless, of course, you decide to go with just a limited menu (like a regular restaurant) and simple preparations.

3) Lots of equipment. Combi ovens, convection ovens, steam injected ovens, deck ovens, wood fired pizza ovens, proof boxes, smokers, deep fryers, pressure fryers, grills, salamanders, gas cooktops, steam jacketed kettles, rotovap, centrifuges, and more! Lots of different pans and gadgets. -Unless, of course, you decide to go with just a limited menu (like a regular restaurant) and simple preparations.

4) Lots of kitchen space. Even if your seating was just for 20 people, with each one getting a radically different meal, you're going to need a lot of cooks and lots of space for that equipment. I see the kitchen alone as having to be 3,000+ sqft.-Unless, of course, you decide to go with just a limited menu (like a regular restaurant) and simple preparations.

5) Lots of dry storage space, like 1,000+ sqft, plus an enormous walk-in refrigerator (400+ sqft) and a huge walk-in freezer. -Unless, of course, you decide to go with just a limited menu (like a regular restaurant) and simple preparations.

6) A system for dealing with food that gets sent back or unhappy customers. Will you keep several servings of the ingredients on hand in case a cook messes up a dish?

7)  Training FOH to deal with new issues, like how a group showing up late or early could affect their food. (if someone ordered a simple stew that takes 6 hours to make, but they show up 3 hours early...)

8) If you are allowing customers to submit recipes, you're going to need a training program for your cooks so they can all become skilled in slicing sashimi properly, stamping corzetti, pulling rice noodles, making souffle potatoes, etc. Not to mention knowing how to clean and reassemble all of the equipment. You will also wind up paying them more than the going rate, to keep the good ones.

9) You'll need some sort of waste program, you'll generate a lot more of it than a regular restaurant. Some places send their garbage off to farms as pig feed or compost. Some cities regulate its handling.

10) Will you reject some customer requests? If so, how will you handle that? Say a 4-top orders, 3 order basic stuff like chicken pot pie, salmon steak, and lasagna. But the fourth orders something you cannot get like croquettes of canned sealmeat?

 

One day, when we have robots that can cook, and replicators, a lot of this would be easier.

 

The main issue I see is the dichotomy between your post stating that you would be encouraging people to submit their own random recipes, and reward them for it, and, your statement that, " Overall though, it would really be focused on popular, simple, and doable recipes." So, my question is, when and where will someone be testing, accepting or rejecting, these recipes? What will you do if someone submits as an order one of the many pins that exist right now for a real timpano (a genuine one can take 3-10 days to make, and serves 20)?

 

You stated, "Basically, a partnership with the social media app is part of the business plan. They would help hire the big chefs and get the whole thing off the ground." So, you are expecting Pinterest to hire chefs to test the recipes that random people around the world are making pins for? Or, are you expecting famous chefs to sign up (and get paid by Pinterest?) to write recipes for your restaurant/Pinterest partnership, which will then be your set menu?

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1 hour ago, Tri2Cook said:


That would require some pretty extreme measures. Mom's beef vegetable soup was to die for... but I'm not in any hurry to be literal with that. :P :D

 

Directed at millennials whose mothers are still living of course. 

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6 hours ago, HST said:

Our professor has owned numerous restaurants and has really pushed us to pursue the idea

Millennials are super nostalgic as a whole.
 

 

 

 

Your professor is setting you up.  He's going to have all the answers we've given you and he's going to show you how much he knows.  At that point, I would be willing to give up my grade and tell him that if he was *that* successful, why is he not still owning said restaurant(s).  (This is why I got booted from parochial school.)

 

Anyway.

 

Millennials' moms were likely not cooking from scratch a lot of the time.  I have lots of clients who want me to make a cake that tastes like the box mix O.o because that's what they grew up on and *that's what they remember fondly.* 

 

Well, let us know how it went (today being Thursday and presentation day for you.....)

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27 minutes ago, pastrygirl said:

 

Directed at millennials whose mothers are still living of course. 


That's okay... in my hurry to try to be funny, I completely missed the "millennials" part. I'm a tad older than that.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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as one of the lurkers, I have to say I am not really feeling the concept. If I go out, I go out with an agenda. 

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6 minutes ago, gfron1 said:

i really do hope we get a report back. I know HST is probably a bit perturbed at some of us, but our comments were all with good intention. Now I really want to know how it all went down.


Hopefully not too perturbed. I just tried thinking about it like it was something I wanted to do and then watched while the internal fire brigade immediately stamped out that spark. I get the impression HST doesn't feel that approaching this from the angle of showing the difficulties related to the concept would be a good idea. If that's based on the teacher's expectations, I'd suggest the teacher needs to broaden his/her thought processes a bit. Demonstrating intelligently that something won't work is completely valid.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Maybe somebody who he likes should PM him and find out.

 

 


Edited by gfweb (log)
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Aside from HST reporting back to us about how his presentation went and how he ultimately chose to address the core questions, I would love it if he would send his professor here to read our comments and (one hopes) also provide us with some feedback about the assignment and how he saw the results of that assignment manifest.

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On 2/24/2016 at 9:18 AM, gfron1 said:

To all of those anonymous eyes I would ask - would you use this service as defined

Not likely to use the service. I choose restaurants based upon what they do well. And, as someone mentioned previously, I can and do cook for myself. I rarely have dinner in a restaurant unless I am traveling. 

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@HST, please do let us know what you reported and how it was received.  A number of us are very interested in the outcome - as much detail as you care to report - and remember, some of us were pulling for an 'A'. ;) 

 

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I'm always pulling for an "A". I wish @HSTmuch success with this interesting project. Please tell us how your presentation goes.

 

That said, I pale at the concept.

 

I have given dinner parties for up to twenty at my home, and it's frazzling even serving everyone the same dishes, with as much prep done ahead as possible. Trying to customize a separately dictated dish for each diner, source and buy ingredients and prepare 20 different entrees and side dishes for each one on a reasonable budget and at one seating is a challenge I'm not at all interested in, and I sort of like challenges within reason. This one just isn't. Then, even if you were able to pull off this impossible task, you would have waste management of leftover ingredients. :S

 

I inwardly roll my eyes when someone asserts veganism or not liking a certain vegetable, but that is manageable with extra work.

 

Now as a dream, where you can somehow afford to hire enough staff that is smart and interested and capable of pulling this off, what a fantastic idea! I love it. If it were possible in the stated $20-$30 price range, I'd be the first taker. I would not come back unless my first experience lived up to my expectations. I think to make a successful business go out of the concept, though that the price would be at least 10 times or more than the premise, and that would put me out of the equation as a consumer of the service.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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22 hours ago, gfweb said:

 

 

'Under what conditions is it possible is the point'....but not whether it is a viable idea?

Same thing no?

 

Why can't you say that after doing diligent research you came up with several flaws that would probably doom the restaurant? 

 

That would make you sound intelligent.

 

 

 

 You can ace this by taking the immense amount of knowledge here and laying out the reasons why the original premise is flawed. There is no shame in saying Plan A didn't work, here's Plan B or Plan C. The ability to process information, articulate your reasoning and develop iterations would demonstrate your understanding of the assignment. Go for it. 

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I also hope @HST will report back.  

Earlier this week, I read an article in the WSJ about assigning 1 year engineering and design students to solve problems that don't have clear solutions .  It was headlined: Why Solve the Unsolvable? and it reminded me of this thread.

In such a course at Northwestern, according to the article, "Students aren’t graded on whether they solve the problem. Instead, they are graded on how well they communicate and work with patients, therapists and teammates, and on how well they execute the design process, approach problems and present their results at an end-of-term design expo."

 

So I'm keen to know how HST's project is graded and assessed and what HST learned from doing it.   I certainly applaud students being encouraged to think outside of the box and I believe there is much that can be learned from such efforts

 

The only way I can fathom this concept being even remotely financially viable would be to identify an existing  restaurant with a very broad menu that is also quite popular with the target audience and partner with that business to offer this concept as a pop-up or weekly special or the like.  Presumably, the existing business could provide infrastructure support and if this concept was actually popular, it might draw in some business on an otherwise slow night.  I can't imagine who on earth this would appeal to but I'm not the target audience. 

 

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Regarding the original concept of the OP, I have to say it sounds like a bad idea.  Every aspect of a restaurant's operation is based on a single document: the menu.  Ordering, inventory, food cost, staffing, labor cost, prep sheets, pricing, table turn rate, etc. all have to be balanced with respect to the menu.  I've worked in several restaurants that change almost the entire menu quarterly, and it's a major disruption to the operation each time (although necessary to keep customers interested and utilize seasonal products).  And then it takes a few weeks of actually producing the new menu to readjust ordering and inventory levels, and maybe staffing, to get costs back in line.  IMO, the profit margins in restaurants are just too low to make such a free-form concept viable.

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