Oktoberfest has come and gone and, based on Breadcrumb’s sales, it was a big month for beers!
Check back for more industry insights and information on Breadcrumb’s point of sale system.
Running a restaurant is a big job. Running a restaurant for a Michelin-starred chef? Even bigger. With plenty of experience behind him and opportunity in front, Brian Brotherston, general manager at The Dock at Linden Street in Oakland, California, sat down with us to talk about what it’s like working for chef James Syhabout and why running a restaurant is similar to acting in the theater.
How long have you been the general manager at The Dock?
Since May 19th of this year and we opened the Dock on June 5th. Before the Dock I was at two other places: Zero Zero and Martuni’s in San Francisco.
What brought you over to The Dock?
A friend of mine is the sommelier and maitre’d for chef and owner James Syhabout. When an opportunity came up at The Dock he contacted me and got me an interview.
What’s the most common mistake you’ve seen owners and/or general managers make over the years?
When you are in a position to be in charge, you should lead; you shouldn’t boss. That’s my method but I’ve seen many others make the mistake of managing using the latter method. I feel people work better as a team when you are next to them working through a problem together.
What’s the most rewarding part?
I was an actor for a long time and this is very much like the theater. Like a good play, everything looks and seems flawless but you don’t know how much really went into making just that one dish. So it’s part theater and also something in your blood that makes you want people to have a good time. I want our guests to have a place to go where I would want to go.
Why is The Dock successful?
There isn’t another place like it. It has a great atmosphere, great food paired perfectly with the area’s best beers and it’s all done in a very professional, yet casual, way. There is also the reputation of the owners. James Syhabout is a Michelin-starred chef and has four restaurants in Oakland and Adam Lameroux is the founder of the Linden St. Brewery. They really believe in Oakland and giving back to the community. We recently hosted a Sunday Supper [restauranteur Charlie Hallowell’s newest project] that raised money for disadvantaged youth—and it sold out!
What’s the toughest thing about working for a Michelin-starred chef?
Guest expectations, I suppose. We have to be good, really good at what we do. Although James has a Michelin-starred restaurant, not all of his restaurants are designed that way. They are all superb in what each restaurant has to offer, no doubt. So it can be a double-edged sword because his notoriety brings a lot of guests in and sometimes their expectations are different than what we offer. That being said, I enjoy it when our guests rave about what we are doing at the Dock. Our guests drive to a warehouse in West Oakland and we’re an oasis in the middle of nowhere. They made the trek out and they expect to be wowed. Our team is very professional and our staff is continually studying food and beer.
How important is the design of the space as it relates to the success?
It depends tremendously on what your design is and your goal. James wanted a casual spot to pair his food with beer. Its a handsome warehouse space next to the Linden St. Brewery. He hit the nail right on the head, again.
What’s your favorite piece of design?
The big patio with seating that wraps around into the beer shed. It’s very rustic and not pretentious.
What’s your favorite/most popular beer on the menu:
Moonlight Death & Taxes is my personal favorite but the biggest seller is Linden St.’s New Oakland Glow.
What’s your favorite dish on your menu and recipe:
Currently the Charcroute Garni. Its an ode to meat with pork belly, duck confit and Weisswurst on a bed of house made sauerkraut and cabbage. It is perfect for the autumn and winter season.
What are the top three traits you hire for?
I look for the intangibles. The things that cannot be taught:
1. Personality—sometimes I hire people without experience as long as it’s a good interview and they have that spark.
2. Drive—I need people who are driven to do the best without constant supervision.
3. Passion for food and hospitality—We are ultimately in sales; if you are passionate about what you are selling and you have the knowledge to inform the guest, then consumer confidence grows.
Sticking to classic Indonesian street-food recipes and keeping the business in the family is how Rickshaw Republic has maintained success—and a loyal customer following. One of the first Indonesian restaurants to stake its claim in Chicago, you’ll not only leave satisfied but you’re likely to have learned something about the region where the recipes are from—Palembang in South Sumatra.
In honor of Taste of Groupon we thought we’d spotlight some of the awesome restaurants using Breadcrumb who have found success with their unique ideas and perspectives on how to make it in this industry. We took some time to chat with Oscar Setiwan, co-owner and the son of chef Elice Setiwan (mother), to talk about Rickshaw, what makes it successful and why mom is always right.
When did you know you wanted to be in the restaurant industry?
My mom has been a chef for awhile but we hadn’t owned a restaurant until two years ago. I knew I wanted to do this in order to help my mom’s dream come alive. Prior to Rickshaw Republic, she worked at a high school kitchen, opened a catering business, and worked at a small fast-food counter place in Boston, so we’ve always been involved in the food business.
How did the idea for Rickshaw Republic come about?
We sat down with the family and it was the right timing—our finances were good and we found a place for the restaurant. There are also no Indonesian restaurants in Chicago so we felt it was the perfect opportunity.
What does it take to be a chef?
What’s your favorite dish and recipe?
Beef Rendang: A beef curry that’s very popular in Indonesia with over 27 spices and braised overnight. We Only use the freshest ingredients so it’s very prep-heavy. If you have the time, check out our recipe and give it a shot at home!
What’s the most common kitchen mistake you’ve seen over the years?
Trying to put too many items on the menu at the sacrifice of quality. We started with the most authentic, select dishes. You want to start small and go from there, train staff, etc. Newer restaurants should open with a smaller menu and go from there. You have to master select items. Specializing in a few items is really good—that’s what people are looking for and what you become known for.
Is it complicated to run a business with your family?
The good part is that we have known each other for a long time—we know each other’s likes and dislikes, avoiding a lot of common problems that new partners encounter. Our arguments are how to serve the customers the right way—my mom is more traditional, I’m more modern—but we end up coming up with great solutions. We also get a lot of feedback from customers and try to incorporate it within reason. It’s ultimately up to us how we want to serve it even if it’s a 100-year-old recipe. Most fights I lose to my mom. She knows the food.
What are your thoughts on the recent responses to picky customers from restaurant owners, such as Mission Chinese Food’s use of MSG and SO Restaurant’s infamous “We don’t give a sh*% about gluten free” rant?
The customer needs to understand what caused that to happen. For example, we do have several options for gluten-free or peanut-free; we can accommodate but I do understand. Some restaurants draw from a recipe that’s 100 years old and they want to execute that item. Some food can be accommodated but it won’t be good. It’s important to stay authentic, because it’s served this way. If you’re allergic, we recommend different items that could work. We want to represent the authenticity of the food we serve. It’s very different than a diner where food is made -to -order.
What does the future hold for Rickshaw?
We were talking about opening a second location but it would probably be a different concept. Probably a different name but still revolving around our roots.
Why do you choose Breadcrumb?
It’s a revolutionary POS system. Breadcrumb takes all of the extra hassle out. It’s in a tablet we can carry around and I love it because we can show customers how tech-savvy we are. Waitresses can walk around with it and put the order in the tablet and it looks really cool in the front of house.
On the backend, Breadcrumb saves us hours and hours of work reconciling. It’s all in one in Breadcrumb HQ. It also helps me in planning for the future. I can see what the most popular items are, what aren’t, and why…how many mistakes we’ve made on any given night and we have the numbers to back it up.
Interested in learning more about why Oscar uses Breadcrumb? Visit us for more information on Breadcrumb’s iPad cloud-based point of sale system at Breadcrumbpos.com.
Third Rail is the latest from the team behind one of San Francisco’s favorites, Range: former bar manager Jeff Lyon and chef-owner Phil West. The concept was inspired by the location’s railyard past, with local beer and wine on tap, craft cocktails and plenty of jerky to pair with your drinks. That’s right—not cheese, jerky. And it is delicious.
For the next in our series of interviews spotlighting some of our favorite restaurants and bars in honor of Taste of Groupon, we had the chance to sit down, grab a drink and chat with bar manager and co-owner, Jeff.
How did Third Rail come to be?
I had been the bar manager at Range for some time and had decided that I eventually wanted to open up my own place. Lacking the ownership experience or capital made the first steps pretty daunting. I started having conversations with Phil and Cameron (the owners of Range) about my long-term goals and eventually Phil approached me about partnering up. We began the process by going out to every bar we could think of to drink, eat, and discuss what we wanted and what we didn’t. Pretty soon we had a clear picture of what we wanted.
Why the Dogpatch?
We really liked the idea of being in a neighborhood that was on the verge of blowing up. The area is definitely growing but to many people it’s still the frontier over here. The area seems hip without being hipster, which is pretty refreshing! Actually, when Phil and Cameron were looking for a spot to create Range, they considered the Dogpatch but that was over 10 years ago and it was even more industrial and isolated. So they went with Valencia and 19th, which was pretty undeveloped at the time. Things have certainly changed! We expect the same kind of growth from the Dogpatch.
What was the most challenging aspect to opening the bar?
That depends on the hour you ask me. The design and build process was slow, long, and frustrating. I didn’t take a day off until the bar was six months old and most of those days were 14 hour days, so that was tough. Not being able to spend more time with my wife was very difficult! Now that we’ve been open for a little over nine months, the main challenge is to get more and more people excited about Third Rail. We have a great group of regulars but it would be great to keep expanding our fan base.
How do you stay ahead of, and prepare for, consumer trends?
We don’t really focus on trends but instead try to do what we do really well. Sure, if everyone wants bourbon drinks, we’ll deliver. We’re not going to fill our cocktail list with aquavit, grappa, and brandy just because we like those spirits, but we’re not trying to pander either. We concentrate on making tasty, balanced cocktails and jerky, and we trust that our bartenders can guide our guests through the menu and beyond.
What is the most popular drink?
The namesake Third Rail is the most popular. It’s easy drinking and is fairly simple: bourbon, Lillet, lemon, honey, and orange bitters. We have regulars who only drink this one.
What’s the secret to turning a one-time visitor into a regular?
It’s about making a connection. Every bar has a lot of booze to offer and so many places have a great cocktail list but I really feel that it’s about sharing a laugh or just having a decent conversation with someone. Bring a little humanity to the situation. It’s just a bar, after all. I’ve even had people come in who practically broadcast that they don’t like cocktail bars, often for pretty legitimate reasons. But we try to take it beyond just exchanging some money for a fancy drink. We don’t always succeed but we try.
Are there any mixologists out there changing the game?
I have a ton of respect for the bartenders who are bringing hospitality back to the bar world. There are hundreds of men and women out there who can make a killer drink, but the ones who can make people feel welcome—those are the good ones!
Bars tend to come and go—one minute they’re hot and the next they’re not. How do you stay relevant?
I’d love to know the answer to that one! My guess is that to stay relevant, you have to be sort of timeless. Warmth in your personality and coldness in your drinks is timeless. Obscure tinctures, housemade bitters, and esoteric, 15-ingredient cocktails are not essential.
What’s the hottest ingredient for fall?
Not sure yet! We’ll see how this drought affects us.
What’s the best way to get a bartender’s attention?
Patience, eye contact, a smile, and a distinct lack of desperation.
What is your favorite Breadcrumb point of sale feature?
I like how easy it is to add and edit items and menus. I can do it on the bar terminals, in the office, or at home. I also like many of the report features. It’s fairly easy to track items or revenue trends. The whole staff also loves the search feature.
Today Groupon is kicking off Taste of Groupon, a celebration of the best of breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a selection of the most in-demand culinary experiences around. As part of this mouth-watering week, Groupon will be donating meals to Feeding America*, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity.
Here at Breadcrumb we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate the amazingly diverse and successful restaurants and bars using Breadcrumb—Taste of Breadcrumb. We’ll be running a series of interviews with restaurant and bar owners, managers and chefs as well as posting some photos of favorite places we’ve eaten at.
Today we start with a great interview with celebrity chef Carla Hall. Ms. Hall also volunteers with Feeding America.
A version of this interview first appeared on The Groupon blog.
GROUPON: How did you first discover Feeding America?
CARLA HALL: I first discovered Feeding America when I joined ABC’s, The Chew. One event in particular stands out for me. While we were creating food bags (for Feeding America), I remember handing out the food to people who look just like people I work with every day, people who looked just like me. Food insecurity doesn’t have a face or a sex, that’s when it dawned on me how dire the food issues are in this country.
GROUPON: What’s something unique about Feeding America that sets them apart from other hunger-related charities?
CARLA HALL: Feeding America is an amazing organization that encourages anyone and everyone who wants to get involved find some way of contribution that’s right for them. From organizing a food drive, to launching a virtual food drive online, to donating your spare change at your local grocery star through Coinstar, there are ways to give that fit everybody’s lifestyle.
GROUPON: What’s the first dish you remember cooking and feeling proud of?
CARLA HALL: Chicken pot pie. Took me three days to make it, or it felt like it at least! Complete with store-bought crust. I was so proud.
G: You’re from Nashville. What’s your favorite place to eat there?
G: Today, you’re a host on The Chew. Who’s your dream guest for the show, and why?
CH: My grandmother. She’s passed away, but she was the one who inspired me to cook, and she’d be so proud for how far I’ve come. I’m sure she’d also get a kick out of knowing that I’m known for my Southern cooking and that I’m using her food in a restaurant concept.
G: Do you have any fun, behind-the-scenes stories about your Chew cohosts?
CH: Mario [Batali] and Michael [Symon] play tricks on one another. Like the time when Mario put salt in Michael’s coffee. Another time, Michael put a brick in Mario’s bag so that when he grabbed his bag, it was really heavy!
G: What’s an unexpected difference between cooking on TV and cooking in your kitchen?
CH: The biggest difference between cooking at home and on TV is time limits. When cooking on TV you typically only have five minutes—maybe two segments if you’re lucky—to teach someone how to make a dish. At home there’s typically no time limit. Also, while you’re on TV you have to talk through your dish, forcing you to multitask. When you’re home, you’re primarily focusing on what you’re making.
G: What’s the worst mistake you’ve made in the kitchen, and what did you learn from it?
CH: Serving undercooked chicken. I learned that no matter how much someone is expecting their meal, you need to make sure it’s cooked properly.
G: What’s your favorite dish to make for a family dinner?
CH: A big pot of black-pepper chicken curry, and it’s also great for the next day. I call this the one pot wonder.
G: What’s your favorite dish to bring to a potluck?
CH: My sweet and savory Petite Cookies. The savory ones are great before the meal, and the sweet ones are the perfect little nibble after, even for the person who doesn’t like desserts.
*One meal will be donated to Feeding America for each Taste of Groupon deal that’s purchased, up to 500,000 meals.
Opening a restaurant is exciting, but there’s a lot you need to learn, including how to buy restaurant equipment. Buying a stove or pots and pans for your home can be fun, but with a restaurant there are a lot more decisions to make, not to mention expenses. It’s important to remember that food supplies and equipment intended for home use simply won’t work for a commercial kitchen.
Plates intended for a family kitchen can’t withstand the constant use and washing of a restaurant. Home cooktops and mixers are not large enough to serve a commercial kitchen. However, if you have a favorite brand of dishware, cookware, or equipment it’s worth inquiring if the brand makes a commercial version.
Before looking for equipment or other restaurant supplies make sure to give some thought to your kitchen design and menu. You don’t want to buy a range top only to discover that it doesn’t leave enough room for the chopping station.
Restaurant equipment can be purchased either directly from a manufacturer or from a distributor representing mutliple lines. Food supply companies such as Sysco also offer other restaurant products. It may make sense to buy the majority of your supplies and food from one company so as to establish a relationship and take advantage of better pricing.
It’s a sad fact that a lot of restaurants don’t make it. That doesn’t mean that their restaurant equipment was to blame. There are many resources for buying used restaurant equipment including auctions. If you are renting or buying restaurant space from another restaurant owner, you should inquire as to whether you can purchase the equipment. With used equipment you want to look for top of the line brands and equipment that isn’t more than three years old. You may also want to consider “scratch and dent equipment.” That is, equipment that looks a little used, but was actually just a floor model. However, if you plan on inviting guests or investors in to your kitchen you’ll want to make sure your kitchen looks as good as the front of the house. Overstock items are another affordable possiblity. Keep in mind that most used restaurant equipment does not include a warranty.
With food costs rising and an impending increase in minimum wage, a lot of you may be wondering—are my menu prices right? Whether you’re a new restaurant owner or you’ve been in the industry for awhile, reviewing your menu and setting prices can be a daunting task. Even as consumers we’ve often wondered, how did they decide on that price? This is how.
The most important factor when pricing your menu—how much does each dish cost to make? This includes the cost of every ingredient, from the protein to the vegetables to the spices. On average, food costs run about 33% of your menu prices, though this can differ (see pricing calculator below). For example, if you’re running a fine-dining establishment you’ll typically see higher food-cost percentages than you’d see at a quick serve establishment. Percentages will also vary from item to item where entrees often have higher cost percentages than soups and appetizers.
When setting prices don’t forget to consider your sales mix, you can often increase prices on lower-cost items to offset the higher-cost ones.
There are a lot of additional costs to consider when setting prices, chief amongst them: labor, overhead and giveaways.
Labor Dishes that require a lot of time, effort and talent merit a higher price point. Not only are the ingredients a factor but you also have to pay and train the staff to prepare the dish properly. Anything that is made from scratch in-house will cost more than something that simply requires heating and serving.
Overhead While these costs aren’t as prevalent, it’s still important to keep in mind. This includes decor, product presentation and marketing efforts that go into not only each dish but keeping your restaurant up and running.
Giveaways Often forgotten about but important to remember, keep in mind any free bread, tortilla chips, salsa, butter, etc., that is given out—be sure to include this cost and add it into your menu prices.
Keeping an eye on what your competition is doing is smart and they’re likely keeping an eye on you! Take a trip and visit a competitor—what are their prices? What are their portion sizes and presentation? Are they busy and during what times? You can learn a lot from seeing what a competitor has to offer and where you can incorporate, and even improve upon, some of their ideas.
What are your customers loving? It’s always important to answer this question on a regular basis. This helps you to not only understand your customers but it will also help you lower your overall food cost. If there are items you’re not selling, do away with them and save yourself the additional cost of stocking up on the ingredients specific to the dish. For commonly used ingredients, research cost-saving options such as a cheaper vendor or substituting ingredients for similar but more affordable options.
Decided to raise your prices? If you’re a Breadcrumb user, save time and make changes to your menu on the fly using the menu editing tool!
Visit us for more information on Breadcrumb POS at Breadcrumb.com.
It’s official—we’re whisky lovers. With the days growing shorter and the weather turning colder, why not turn on the heat and impress your customers with some of these hot whisky-inspired drink recipes? Top 5 whisky drinks to keep you feeling warm and fuzzy inside:
Why start with anything other than the classic hot whisky drink? Not only does this one warm us up but anytime we’re feeling under the weather, this seems to pick us right back up! See the full recipe on Blue Apron.
Hot chocolate is a winter staple that deserves to have a companion—Irish whiskey. This recipe Serves 4-6, more at The Kitchn.
Considering our love for the most hazelnut of hazelnut snacks—Nutella—this drink is sure to keep us warm and happy. May even replace our Nutella-and-toast breakfast routine. Recipe available on Adventures in Cooking.
Next time you’re craving a chai latte from Starbuck’s, or a hot toddy, consider this glorious union of both; it may put that extra hop in your step! Recipe available on Food52.
Last, but certainly not least, another version on a favorite classic: the whisky sour. Martha Stewart, you’ve nailed it again with this recipe!
Michelin came out with their ratings for New York City today and there were some notable ones that we’re huge fans of as well! No huge surprises this year but Brooklyn and Queens are gaining more and more notable traction in the culinary world. Find out who’s in (and who’s out) and where to start making reservations. (If you’re still not sure what all of this Michelin-hype means, your secret is safe with us, here’s a brief history).
Here are some Breadcrumbers we wanted to give special shout outs to—congratulations!!
Breadcrumb by Groupon is a suite of iPad point of sale products and payments solutions that help businesses operate faster, know their customers better and maximize revenue. All our products come with a low price guarantee on credit card transaction fees, free installation assistance, and 24/7 phone technical support.
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