Head chefs do a lot more than cooking, menu planning and creating new recipes. They are commanders of the kitchen, responsible for managing cooking staff and for making numerous administrative decisions.

But as governments continue to pile new reporting requirements on the food services industry, many senior chefs may feel that the administrative side of their jobs has taken on a life of its own. The added burden can compromise their performance by limiting the time spent on activities such as food presentation and the exploration of new ingredient combinations. Moreover, a corresponding rise in work-related stress can negatively impact a senior chef’s job satisfaction that will eventually spill over into the kitchen environment at large.

When Senior Chefs Are the Administrators 

In the kitchens of many large chains and restaurants, there will usually be someone filling the role of Executive Chef. This senior chef is primarily involved with the administrative side of running a bustling industrial kitchen. One of the biggest benefits of this position is that it frees up the Head Chef’s time and attention so that he or she can focus on creating the best culinary experience possible for customers. 

Among smaller restaurants and food services enterprises, however, the roles of Executive Chef and Head Chef are combined. Thus, top senior chefs generally have a full plate of administrative and managerial responsibilities including:

·      Budgeting. Head chefs must account for any spending on supplies, ingredients and equipment with a focus on cost control and expense reduction.

·      Ordering. This involves selecting and ordering products as well as estimating future inventory needs. Senior chefs are also involved with maintaining and completing relevant paperwork, such as invoices and inventory records.

·      Inventory management. Senior chefs need to keep an eye on stock and inventory on hand while ensuring proper receiving, storage, and rotation of products. 

·      Food Allergen Management. New and current ingredients must continually be monitored for known allergens as well as potential allergen exposure so customers can make informed food purchases.

·      Coordination. Aside from all of the above, head chefs are in charge of making sure the kitchen is running smoothly. This means internal kitchen staff as well as outside third parties, such as vendors, suppliers, distributors, are all doing what they need to when they need to. When everything is working as it should, disruptions are contained when they happen, and the food leaving the kitchen is consistent in presentation, quality, and variety.

3 Ways Admin Work is Overwhelming Senior Chefs 

In recent years, the administrative burden being placed on senior chefs has increased dramatically. This trend is generally the result of several key environmental factors: 

Increasing Health and Safety Requirements 

Head chefs must verify that safety standards and sanitary requirements are being fulfilled on a daily basis. This includes making sure necessary sanitary supplies and equipment are available and that health and safety procedures are being followed. 

Another big administrative headache involves allergen awareness, management, and labelling. For instance, towards the end of 2021, the UK Food Information Amendment (known as Natasha’s Law), went into effect. This legislation requires food services businesses to provide a full list of ingredients and allergens on all foods prepackaged for direct sale on-premise.  

Head chefs must manage the ongoing drumbeat of allergen legislation updates, and, they must do so without it hampering their culinary creativity and innovation– both of which is expected by management and consumers.

Head chefs must manage the ongoing drumbeat of allergen legislation updates, and, they must do so without it hampering their culinary creativity and innovation– both of which is expected by management and consumers. This process is a real challenge for many head chefs. They must ensure that allergen labelling and advice on dishes is accurate, and they must be able to quickly eliminate certain foods or find a suitable alternative. It also involves managing and monitoring suppliers and keeping allergen information up to date.

The Need for Cost Control

Staying on budget and keeping costs to a minimum is another ongoing issue for senior chefs. Many food establishments are struggling to keep up with rising food prices and payroll expenses, even as consumers have less to spend, and competition in the sector remains strong. Senior chefs are constantly pricing ingredients, from the most expensive to the smallest sprinkle of parsley. After all, in this industry, food is money. 

The Need for Real-Time Decision Making

In many food establishments, the kitchen is a fast-paced, high-intensity environment, and a head chef has to make numerous critical decisions– often all at once. Today, senior chefs must make decisions more quickly and efficiently than ever before even as the disruptions and daily challenges become more complex and the pressure to perform becomes greater. 

Though there are several, budget-friendly SaaS platforms and apps on the market that can solve these issues, numerous small food services businesses have yet to jump on the bandwagon. Excel spreadsheets combined with email continue to be the go-to technology for financial reporting and forecasting as well as inventory management. The assumption is that these platforms offer ease of use, convenience, and are low-cost, and perhaps at the beginning that was true.

Today, however, this setup is not only insufficient, but it can also be extremely detrimental to the business as a whole. The downside to avoiding automated digital solutions are too many to mention here. But the major ones include: 

·      When there are a large number of entries, it increases the likelihood of data entry errors.

·      Excel does not have real-time inventory count data. 

·      Data management in Excel is not suitable or efficient for multiple users.

·      Communications via email are much slower than the real-time chat apps. 

In short, senior chefs are the foundation of a successful food establishment. As administrative demands continue to increase, businesses must decide how to equip their top kitchen staff with the tools and processes they need to create the best culinary experiences.

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