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WILL THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY SURVIVE AND RECOVER POST COVID-19

My name is Chef George Krumov. I have 22 years of industry experience in both, private and public sector, including owning a restaurant in the past, and 14 years of online presence. I wanted to make the title of this article “How your restaurant to survive and recover post Covid-19”, however no one really knows how to right now. I have a few ideas, and I will give them below, but I don’t know whether this will be enough.

Will the restaurant industry survive?

I just read a couple of days ago that when restaurants are allowed to open it will be with only 50% of the seating capacity, social distancing must be followed, some extra sanitizing measures were mentioned, and bartenders must be wearing a mask or work behind a screen. Also, no dining on the bar would be allowed.

Having read this, I think that it will be very difficult for most restaurants to survive even in the short term. Sorry to be pessimistic, but people go out to enjoy themselves, not to be pushed around and treated like they are contagious. Who wants to talk to a masked bartender after all?

The economy will shed a lot of jobs and sorry to say it, but good jobs will be few and far in between. If you are running a small restaurant you may be better positioned to survive in the medium and long term. The short term will be difficult for all, due to possible feelings of anger and resentment that may lead to a lack of motivation to keep going in this. Small restaurants and eateries may be able to survive by laying off a few employees, change their business model giving more importance to take-out, probably taking a good look at their food cost, reducing the size of their menues and shopping for groceries more often instead of ordering through food suppliers.

Bigger restaurants will be less favorably positioned to survive under those conditions. A big restaurant or a franchise, let’s say like Kelsey’s or Boston Pizza can afford to lay off a few employees, but in the large pool of employees who work there it would hardly make a big difference in the payroll. If they lay off more people, then service will suffer.

With the majority of sales in the restaurant industry coming during the weekend, the rule for 50% capacity of seats will make a huge difference. One can afford to do that during Monday-Thursday, but Friday and Saturday nights it will hurt.

I used to own a small 36-seat sushi bar, and if I was still there I believe that I would be perfectly positioned to survive this crisis, unless of course I would succumb to the resentment and reduced motivation that I mentioned above. I would be perfectly fine with only 18 seats and take-out, by working doubles and doing my own shopping. That was what I was doing anyways, that’s why my payroll and food cost were very good. Thankfully, I’m not there to try it and see if I am correct, but I do have a lot of sympathy for all who are still working hard in the private sector and pouring their hearts out in their work to make a living.

Small places with involved and resilient owners that can make changes fast and think quick on their feet can survive and thrive down the road, while for big restaurants and franchises the future may not be the same again. Right now we are in the stage when after a deep cut one doesn’t feel the pain right away. Wait until the pain is felt in the economy when the relief money dries up, and then unemployment takes off and then we will know for sure what is the future of the restaurant industry. One thing is for sure. It won’t be back to normal, and when eventually it is back to normal, it won’t be the normal we know.

I wish you all the best.

Springroll Sushi Rolls with Rice Paper

Springroll sushi rolls
Springroll Sushi Rolls

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked sushi rice, follow my sushi rice recipe here,
7 rice papers,
10 crab sticks,
1 mango, peeled and sliced thinly,
2 avocados, pitted, peeled and sliced,
shredded carrot,
1 cup cucumber sticks,
1/2 oz. toasted sesame seeds, mix of black and regular,
sushi mat and cling wrap.

Recipe:

  1. Place one rice paper on a larger plate and run hot water over it slowly until the rice paper is very soft.
  2. Spread a layer of sushi rice over the rice paper, leaving just 1-inch on both sides uncovered.
  3. Place some of the ingredients in the center of the rice.
  4. Fold both sides of the spring roll over the ingredients.
  5. Now remove the spring roll from the plate and place it on sushi mat that have been wrapped with cling wrap in order to prevent sticking. Using the mat work the spring roll into an evenly-shaped sushi roll.
  6. Sprinkle some sesame seeds over the spring sushi roll and let it sit in a plate until you finish rolling the rest of them.
  7. Cut each spring roll in the middle and serve with some sweet soy sauce or a sauce of your choice.

Beef Shawarma Recipe At Home

Beef shawarma
Beef Shawarma Recipe at Home

Ingredients:

1 four-to-five pound eye of round beef roast,
1 teaspoon kibbeh spice mix,
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/2 teaspoon paprika,
1 carrot,
1 onion,
2 stalks of celery
As needed:
1/2 cup Middle Eastern pickled beets or turnips,
diced tomato,
romaine lettuce,
sliced purple onion,
chopped parsley,
10 pita breads (8-inch) or more.

Ingredients for Garlic Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup strained yogurt or labneh

Recipe:

  1. Rub the eye of round with the kibbeh spice mix, ground cumin, salt and paprika, and let it sit in a refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes to marinate. Kibbeh spice mix can be obtained from a Middle Eastern grocery stores.
  2. Add a cup of water, the carrot, onion and celery to a roasting pan with the beef, preheat the oven to 400 F and just brown the top of the beef. After that, reduce the heat to 300 F, cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and cook for a couple of hours or until the eye of round roast is tender and internal temperature is at least 178 F.
  3. Let the roast beef rest for about 10 minutes before you slice it thinly to strips. You should have enough meat for at least 15-20 beef shawarmas.
  4. In the meantime mix the ingredients for the garlic sauce.
  5. Spread some garlic sauce on the pitas and add your vegetables. Top with 3 oz. of sliced beef per pita and close the ends of the pitas so they can still slightly overlap.
  6. Use a panini press to grill the outside of the beef shawarma pita wraps to the desired doneness.
  7. Enjoy.

Beets Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Beets, cucumber and tomato salad
Beets, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

3-4 whole beets, (I used candycane beets),
1 iceberg lettuce,
1 cup grape tomatoes,
1 seedless cucumber,
greeen onion, sliced,
purple onion, chopped,
fresh parsley, chopped,
your favorite dressing

Recipe:

  1. Peel, dice and boil the beets.
  2. Strain the beets and let them cool down.
  3. Cut the rest of the vegetables and mix them with the beets and the dressing.

Chicken Shawarma Recipe – How To Make Shawarma at Home

Chicken shawarma
Chicken Shawarma

Ingredients:

2, six-ounce each, chicken breasts,
1 teaspoon kibbeh spice mix,
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1 teaspoon white vinegar,
1/2 teaspoon paprika,
1/2 cup Middle Eastern pickled beets or turnips,
As needed:
diced tomato,
romaine lettuce,
sliced purple onion,
chopped parsley,
4 pita breads (8-inch)

Ingredients for Garlic Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup strained yogurt or labneh

Recipe:

  1. Mix the chicken breasts with the kibbeh spice mix, ground cumin, salt, vinegar and paprika in a mixing bowl and let them sit in a refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes to marinate. Kibbeh spice mix can be obtained from a Middle Eastern grocery store.
  2. Bake the chicken breasts in a preheated oven at 325 F for about 30 minutes or until ready. Internal temperature should be 175 F.
  3. Let the chicken breasts rest for about 10 minutes before you slice them thinly on strips.
  4. In the meantime mix the ingredients for the garlic sauce.
  5. Spread some garlic sauce on the 4 pitas and add your vegetables. Top with 3 oz. of sliced chicken per pita and close the ends of the pitas so they can still slightly overlap.
  6. Use a panini press to grill the outside of the chicken shawarma pita wraps to the desired doneness.
  7. Enjoy.

How To Make Quesadilla

Here is how to make chicken quesadilla at home.

Ingredients:

4 10-inch tortillas, white or whole wheat,
8 oz. grated cheddar (or cheddar and mozza combo),
2 five-ounce boneless and skinless chicken breasts,
taco seasoning to taste.

Recipe:

  1. Butterfly the chicken breasts and season them with taco seasoning.
Raw chicken for quesadilla
Raw chicken for quesadilla

2. Cook the chicken breasts over cast-iron pan at medium-high temperature.

Cooking the chicken breasts for quesadilla
Cooking the chicken breasts for quesadilla

3. Let the cooked chicken sit for 5 minutes before you dice it.

Cooked chicken breasts
Cooked chicken breasts

4. Shread the cheese and dice the chicken breasts.

Chicken quesadilla ingredients
Chicken quesadilla ingredients

5. Set up the chicken quesadillas by dividing the cheese and chicken between the four tortillas as seen on the photo, only on one side. Season each quesadilla with taco seasonong to taste.

Set up the 4 chicken quesadillas
Set up the 4 chicken quesadillas

6. Close the quesadilla by flipping the empty side over the ingredients, and cook the chicken quesadillas on both sides in a 10-inch cast-iron pan over medium temperature until they are lightly browned, two at a time.

Cooking the quesadillas in a cast-iron pan
Cooking the quesadillas in a cast-iron pan

7. When the quesadillas are ready, cut each to 3 pieces and serve with salsa and sour cream if desired.

Chicken quesadilla with salsa.
Chicken quesadilla with salsa

Can You Cook Frozen Chicken Breast

So, you have a box of individually frozen chicken breasts and are wondering if you can cook them frozen? The answer is yes, and I will show you how to get a better result by cooking the chicken breast frozen, then if you had thawed them.

  1. Arrange the chicken breasts skin-side up over parchment paper in a baking tray. The size of the chicken breasts only matter for the cooking time. You can use any size chicken breasts with this technique, skinless or with the skin on.
  2. Spray the chicken breasts with canola cooking spray and shake some Montreal chicken seasoning on top.
Frozen chicken breasts
Frozen Chicken Breasts on a Tray

3. Preheat a convection oven to 325 F. Place the tray with the frozen chicken breasts on the middle rack in the oven.

Convection oven
Convection Oven

4. Cook the frozen chicken breasts with the oven fan at Low for about 20-30 minutes, depending on size, or until ready. Turn the tray around halfway through cooking to allow to cook evenly. The chicken breasts are ready when internal temperature reaches 175 F.

5. When the chicken breasts are ready, transfer them to a hotel pan and use them for whatever you need to use them.

Cooked chicken breasts
Cooked Chicken Breast

If you are wondering whether cooking chicken breasts frozen produces juicy cooked chicken, see the photo below.

Cooked juicy chicken breast
Cooked Juicy Chicken Breast Cut in 2.

The chicken breasts retained a lot more moisture when cooked frozen. Cheers and enjoy. If you have any questions, please, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below, or let me know how it goes for you. It is possible to cook frozen chicken breasts in conventional oven, too.

How To Do Food Costing 101

Food
Buffet food

Food costing is one of the major skills a real chef should know how to do properly. In a country with high labor cost, such as countries in North America or Europe, food costing is one of the main things that can make or break your business.

That’s not to take away from the importance of controlling your labor cost properly, not at all, but if you are already an involved owner (or Chef) and otherwise know what you are doing, the food costing is your best tool to make profit in your business.

As a diversion from the main topic of this article, which is “how to do food costing”, I would like to say that I have never, in my 22 years of experience, seen a restaurant or food service establishment do well if the owner was an “absent owner”. That being said, I am assuming that you are an involved proprietor or Chef and just want to update yourself on the different aspects of food costing, so here it is.

Menu Cards:

Menu cards are to be done for every recipe of every item from your menu.

Example: Chicken Satays

1 chicken breast ($1.60, 1 box of chicken breasts =32 dollars for 20 breast, is how we come to that number),
2 oz. peanut sauce(32 cents; divide the volume of the jug of sauce to 2 and then take the price of the jug of sauce and divide by the resulting number.
Example: 100 oz jug /2 oz = 50. Sixteen dollars jug /50 = 32 cents per 2 oz portion),
1 oz green salad for serving = 15 cents,
Oil, garlic and salt and pepper for seasoning = 5 cents.
Total cost: $2.12

Now take this number and multiply it by 4. This way your food cost will be 25%. Menu price should be $8.50 or even more. You can safely go to 9 dollars, even 10, and I’ll explain you why. When you are deciding on the menu prices, there are other factors to take into account, aside from food cost, such as “perception of value”, and also the price of other comparable items in the menu. You need to fine-tune your prices, because you want to give a chance to every item in the menu. For items with a higher margin, such as lobster, steak, etc, you can shoot for 30% food cost. In this case just multiply your cost by 3.3 and take the number for menu price.

What I mean by comparable items is this: If you want to sell “Add chicken to a salad” for 7 dollars, Chicken Quesadilla for 12.99, then your chicken satay should be priced at 10 dollars (or 9.99) in your menu. They all have good perception of value, that’s why your food cost is good for these items.

If you can’t calculate the food cost on your own, then you can let your food supplier do it for you. Large distribution companies, such as Sysco, have their own corporate chefs, and if you give them your recipes and measurements they can calculate your food cost on each item from your menu based on what you are ordering.

Inventory:

Before you start to be serious about food costing, you must start with the initial inventory, otherwise how would you know later if your food cost is correct? Especially if you are just starting your business, in the beginning you will be building up your inventory, so your food cost may seem a bit high, even though if it was perfect.

Wastage Recording Book:

Record any wastage and instruct the cooks to record it, too. When pricing your food allow for 2%-5% of wastage. If you have more wastage than that, you are doing something wrong. Possible wrongs can be: over-ordering; over-production; improper handling; improper storage; your menu requires too large an inventory; human error. You must address any problems with wastage, or it can destroy your food cost.

Keep a Record of All Discount Meals, Promos and Free Meals:

You need to keep a record of all the discounted employee meals (usually they pay only 50% of the menu price), any promotional priced food, and free meals (such as, if your company allows free meals for management), otherwise those added costs can make your food cost look worse than it is by at least 5% or more.

Monthly Inventory:

This is probably the best tool to check if your food costing efforts are producing the desired results.

1. Record all the food products you have available at the end of the month and calculate their value based on your invoices.

2. Take into account the value of the inventory you had at the beginning of the month.

3. Calculate all your food invoices for the month.

4. Calculate all your food sales for the month.

5. Credit the discounted and free meals at full prices for your food cost calculation. You can make two numbers if you want: one with the discounted prices credited at full price to be fair to the kitchen staff and the Chef, and another number just for your personal use, without giving credit for those perks, to find out what your real food cost is.

Example:

Start of month available inventory $1800,
End of month available inventory $2000,
Total food purchasing invoices $6500,
Total food sales $18500 at regular menu prices,
Food sold at 50% discount $1200, ($2400 at menu prices)
Free food by menu prices $850.

Now calculate 2000-1800=200 (you have $200 more in available products. If at the end of the month you have less product than at the beginning of the month, then you need to add the difference to the monthly invoices).
Now, subtract 200 from 6500=6300 is the food product you used in this month.

Total sales were 18500+1200+850=20550

Now divide 20550/6300=3.26

Now divide 100/3.26=30.67% (not a bad food cost for the kitchen team)

Your real food cost would be 34.12% without the credit for the employee discount perks).

Now, when you know your real food cost you can keep fighting the good fight. Cheers. Click on the link to read another Food Costing article by Chef George Krumov. If you have any questions and comments, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comment section, and I’ll answer as good as I can. Food costing can be different for the different kinds of food establishments, such as buffets, breakfast and lunch restaurants, all-you-can-eat sushi, etc. I am not able to cover everything about food costing 101 in this article, so let me know if you have any questions below.

Baked Calzone Recipe

Baked calzone
Baked Calzone

Ingredients:

8 oz pizza dough for each panzerotti,
1 oz. sliced pepperoni,
pinch of dried herbs – Italian mix,
3 ounces mozzarella,
1 slice of prosciutto,
6-7 Italian meatballs,
2 tablespoons pizza sauce,
salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe:

  1. Pull the dough with your hands to about 8 inches in diameter and over one half of it put the filling and close it with the other half. Tuck it in or use a fork to close the calzone properly.
  2. Brush the calzone top with little tomato sauce flavored with a few drops of garlic infused oil. Sprinkle some semolina on a pizza pan, put the panzerotti over it and bake it in a preheated oven at 400 F.
  3. Bake the panzerotti until it is golden brown and when you insert a toothpick in it comes out clean.
  4. Cooking Tip: You can make a vegetarian panzerotti if you stuff it with grilled vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, onions, etc. and then cook it the same way.

Penne Pomodoro Pasta Recipe

Penne pomodoro pasta
Penne Pomodoro Pasta

Ingredients:

1 can (500 gr.) peeled Roma tomatoes in tomato juice,
4 tablespoons olive oil,
1 tablespoon chopped basil,
1 small onion, chopped,
1 tablespoon minced garlic,
2 teaspoons sugar,
1 teaspoon salt,
2 bay leaves,
1 teaspoon dry oregano,
1 tablespoon butter,
1 teaspoon white pepper.

Recipe

1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the chopped onion and garlic until slightly golden.

2. Blend briefly the tomatoes with a stick blender and pour them in the saucepan. Add the salt, white pepper, oregano and bay leaves.

3. Simmer the tomato sauce over low temperature for about 30 min. (or until the desired consistencyis achieved), stirring occasionally.

3. Add the sugar, chopped basil and butter 10 minutes before the sauce is ready. 

Cooking tip: Make sure you are using real butter, not margarine, in this recipe. Use this Italian tomato sauce for pastas or on top of veal or chicken parmesan.