Last week, my business mentor Darryl Glade took us out for dinner at P.F. Chang's restaurant in Metairie, LA. When we were seated Darryl introduced us to his long time friend who is also the general manager. We were treated to samples of all of the most popular items on the menu including my favorite appetizer, the lettuce wraps.
Our group had a chance to talk to the general manager openly and ask him questions about his experience in the restaurant business and the future of restaurants. One piece of advice that he gave us was to keep in touch with people that you know in college or have done business with before, because everyone that you meet could potentially be a business partner. Also, he told us that the key to being a good manager at a restaurant is to be able to understand that everyone has different personalities. Some customers want to be entertained and others left alone. This also applies to the staff. What motivates one member of the staff may not motivate another.
The general manager sat down at the table with us to discuss the restaurant business and began by comparing a chain restaurant, such as P.F. Chang's, to a smaller family operated restaurant. In a restaurant like P.F. Chang's there is a higher demand for more staff and food because of the constant flow of customers. P.F. Chang's particularly is busy because of its location in Lakeside mall on Veterans Highway. This makes Christmas time one of the busiest times of the year. Each year the restaurant sets new records for their productivity. There are 50+ members of the waitstaff and several managers. The business makes its money from the high volume location and cost of a meal.
During this visit, I was surprised by the organization of the kitchen and the amount of people that prepare food. There are different stations for each category of food with different people working at each station. Everyone in the kitchen works together to make the meal for one order. When we walked through the kitchen, it was apparent that management focuses highly on teamwork. Also, I was impressed that everything in the kitchen is fresh and delivered daily. Nothing comes to P.F. Chang's pre-cut or already made.