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Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


I'm the executive chef of an upper casual dining restaurant in an international airport. We source local, fresh ingredients, work with local vendors for fresh seafood and artisan products like jam and honey, and have an interesting menu that changes seasonally. I oversee the entire culinary side of the operation, including menu and recipe development, staff scheduling, product sourcing, ordering, inventory, hiring etc. We are located past TSA security, and are only accessible by people flying into or out of the airport. This isn't an issue for us, as we average $40,000 daily in sales, with annual revenue in the area of $20mil.

The Restaurant Industry Thread suggested I start an ASK thread, since there a lot of unique, uh, challenges involved with running a higher end restaurant in one of the busiest airports in the country.

Some pics of the place:







And some of the food:








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Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Placeholder

MJP
Jun 17, 2007

Are you looking at me Senpai?

Grimey Drawer

What are the best and worst kinds of airport restaurant patrons?

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


MJP posted:

What are the best and worst kinds of airport restaurant patrons?

Our primary customer base is families leaving their vacation, so you can imagine the kinds of fuckers we get here. People already expect to get awful food and worse service at the airport, and it does color the experience a lot of people have; frustrations unrelated to the restaurant spill over and result in perfectly normal, likely friendly people treating our staff like dirt and complaining about whatever they can think of.

That said, the absolute worst type of patron we get are solo traveling businessmen. You'll have a hard time finding anyone more pompous, chauvinistic, verbally abusive, and cheap as a solo traveling businessman. Incredibly high proportion of them don't tip, and even take the time to leave nasty notes insulting the staff that served them, especially if they are pretty. The best would be, surprisingly, our regulars. We do get those! Frequent travelers have made it a point to plan their trips to make sure they get to stop in when they fly, and they are always great.

Raikiri
Nov 3, 2008


How many covers do you do?

How many staff are there?

Are you open 24/7?

The food looks great. Can I steal some of your recipes?

Warbird
May 23, 2012

Burn the 'dawgs
Kill the Yellowjackets
Purge the Tiger
It is better to die for Bama than to live for yourself


Fun Shoe

Whatís up with the prices? Is it as simple as being able to do so because if a captive audience or is there additional overhead that causes the additional cost to be an operational necessity?











Also, whatís the deal with airline food?

Mozi
Apr 4, 2004

one step done and another begun


Nap Ghost

What's really different about having a restaurant past security in an airport as opposed to everywhere else?

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Raikiri posted:

How many covers do you do?

Around 4000 on a normal day, peaking at close to 6500 on the busier ones.

quote:

How many staff are there?

40 or so back of house, plus about 10 utility (runners, stockers etc), and like 30 front of house including bartenders

quote:

Are you open 24/7?

No, we open at 5 am and run non stop until we close, which depends on flights that day. Sometimes we are all in at 9pm, other times it's 11:30.

quote:

The food looks great. Can I steal some of your recipes?

Thanks! Maybe, depends on which ones. Some are SECRET RECIPES

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Warbird posted:

Whatís up with the prices? Is it as simple as being able to do so because if a captive audience or is there additional overhead that causes the additional cost to be an operational necessity?

Also, whatís the deal with airline food?

We COULD charge whatever we wanted due to the captive audience, but we don't. Our prices honestly aren't really any higher than you would find in a comparable restaurant street side. In fact, we get pretty great discounts on our product due the amount we bring in and the deals we've made with local purveyors. I run a pretty consistent 27% food cost, which is totally doable when you pay attention to the product and waste.

Shut up Meg
Jan 8, 2019

You're safe here.


Could you give an idea of your prices compared to other restaurants in the same location and simialr restaurants in a non-airport location?

EFB: but a dollar amount, please?

Karia
Mar 27, 2013

Self-portrait, Snake on a Plane
Oil painting, c. 1482-1484
Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1591)



College Slice

So, uh, can you say what airport you're in? Because I may need to adjust some travel plans.

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Mozi posted:

What's really different about having a restaurant past security in an airport as opposed to everywhere else?

God, SO MUCH.

First, all of our staff have to pass federal background checks to get security clearance. They have a special employee line they go through, so no TSA lines for them. We are busy the entire day. We have no breaks in service, no prep time. We switch from breakfast to lunch/dinner at 10:30 am, and have to do it on the fly. Bringing product in is a whole ordeal due to the layers of local and federal security everything has to go through.

We are also fighting an uphill battle to be taken seriously. The vast majority of people see us as an "airport restaurant", rather than a "restaurant in an airport" if that makes any sense. We get a lot of guests with preconceptions about what we do here; expecting to be price gouged, given bad food, get sick, etc. We prove them wrong, but it isn't easy.

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Shut up Meg posted:

Could you give an idea of your prices compared to other restaurants in the same location and simialr restaurants in a non-airport location?

EFB: but a dollar amount, please?

The Ravenous Pig, a nationally recognized gastropub on the cusp of fine dining, has a burger on their menu for $18 bucks with fries. Has blue cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce tomato pickle, on a locally made brioche bun. Our burger is $16 with fries or salad, uses locally sourced beef, Karst cheddar cheese (more expensive than blue), house made bacon jam, and the same toppings and bun. As far as in the same location, there is nothing but food court garbage and McDonald's.

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Karia posted:

So, uh, can you say what airport you're in? Because I may need to adjust some travel plans.

Orlando International.

Pekinduck
May 10, 2008


Are there any annoying security rules regarding knives and such?

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Pekinduck posted:

Are there any annoying security rules regarding knives and such?

lol

If you look at the pic above of the kitchen, you'll notice what looks like a cable looping down off a station. That is a loving metal wire that is bolted to the chef knife on that station. All of our knives have to be locked down on tethers, and we keep a daily log for them. Local security comes through at random about once a week to check the log and be sure we aren't missing any. It is such a nightmare.

Shooting Blanks
Jun 6, 2007

Real bullets mess up how cool this thing looks.

-Blade




Being in an airport must affect your menu decisions re: ticket times. What is a good/bad ticket time for you, and how do you manage that? Is there anything that you wish you could do but can't risk due to people needing to catch a flight?

Shut up Meg
Jan 8, 2019

You're safe here.


Sandwich Anarchist posted:

The Ravenous Pig, a nationally recognized gastropub on the cusp of fine dining, has a burger on their menu for $18 bucks with fries. Has blue cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce tomato pickle, on a locally made brioche bun. Our burger is $16 with fries or salad, uses locally sourced beef, Karst cheddar cheese (more expensive than blue), house made bacon jam, and the same toppings and bun. As far as in the same location, there is nothing but food court garbage and McDonald's.

Have I stalked you correctly and your menu on the website is a single page jpg?

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Shooting Blanks posted:

Being in an airport must affect your menu decisions re: ticket times. What is a good/bad ticket time for you, and how do you manage that? Is there anything that you wish you could do but can't risk due to people needing to catch a flight?

You're absolutely correct. Our clientele are on tighter schedules than they would be in a standard restaurant environment, and we do have to focus on faster ticket times. We shoot for 10 minutes from order to table. We have to be innovative in the way we prepare our food to make this happen. For example, we brine and then lightly steam our chicken wings before chilling and storing them for use on the line, so when they are able to be quickly finished in the fryer. There has been a lot of trial and error in figuring out how to keep high food quality while moving so quickly.

I would love to do all SORTS of poo poo that just aren't viable in this setting, for two reasons. First, time. Second, clientele.

Most of the people who eat here are families and budget fliers aka not people looking for a fine dining experience. Making an interesting yet approachable menu is a challenge that I've come to love.

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Shut up Meg posted:

Have I stalked you correctly and your menu on the website is a single page jpg?

Yeah, but it is likely out of date. We just did a winter change.

Pekinduck
May 10, 2008


Sandwich Anarchist posted:

lol

If you look at the pic above of the kitchen, you'll notice what looks like a cable looping down off a station. That is a loving metal wire that is bolted to the chef knife on that station. All of our knives have to be locked down on tethers, and we keep a daily log for them. Local security comes through at random about once a week to check the log and be sure we aren't missing any. It is such a nightmare.

Oh wow I assumed you had to keep a log or something but that's worse than I expected.

Shut up Meg
Jan 8, 2019

You're safe here.


Sandwich Anarchist posted:

Yeah, but it is likely out of date. We just did a winter change.

A jpg menu when your customers are pretty much by definition going to be phone browsing?

I was really impressed with your place, so it's a bit disappointing that I am going to have to smother you in your sleep for crimes against the internet.

Shut up Meg fucked around with this message at 17:59 on Dec 19, 2019

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Shut up Meg posted:

A jpg menu when your customers are pretty much by definition going to be phone browsing?

I was really impressed with your place, so it's a bit disappointing that I am going to have to smother you in your sleep for crimes against the internet.



We have an outside marketing company employed by the corporation that handles all the social media and websites. We don't actually have any control of it here in the restaurant.

You also may not have me pegged. Fixins on the top right?

And really, nobody looks at our menu online. People hear about and see us for the first time usually when they spot us in the terminal.

Edit: lol that menu and website is over a year out of date. Good thing we pay someone to handle it for us!

Sandwich Anarchist fucked around with this message at 18:03 on Dec 19, 2019

Shut up Meg
Jan 8, 2019

You're safe here.


Sandwich Anarchist posted:

We have an outside marketing company employed by the corporation that handles all the social media and websites. We don't actually have any control of it here in the restaurant.

You also may not have me pegged. Fixins on the top right?

And really, nobody looks at our menu online. People hear about and see us for the first time usually when they spot us in the terminal.

Edit: lol that menu and website is over a year out of date. Good thing we pay someone to handle it for us!

Yeah, I stalked you right. Maybe your boss could find $500 somewhere to get your website sorted? It's doing you no favours - especially compared to the care that you seem to be taking with the actual food.

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Shut up Meg posted:

Yeah, I stalked you right. Maybe your boss could find $500 somewhere to get your website sorted? It's doing you no favours - especially compared to the care that you seem to be taking with the actual food.

I'll mention something to him about it, thanks.

PT6A
Jan 5, 2006
THE VOLKSWAGEN DEFENDER HAS LOGGED ON

Do you have to follow standard service hours for alcohol? It seems to vary by jurisdiction, here in Calgary you can get alcohol any time in an airport restaurant or bar, but other restaurants/bars/liquor stores cannot sell prior to 10AM; in Toronto, on the other hand, alcohol is only available during standard service hours.

Are there many problems with intoxicated people? Are the staff more mindful of overserving, due to people being about to board an airplane?

Is there anything you wish customers would know/do to make your lives easier, beyond standard restaurant etiquette?

Roughly what percentage of your business comes from flight crews or other airline/airport employees?

Do you specifically look for front-of-house staff that are fluent in languages that would otherwise be uncommon where you are?

Shooting Blanks
Jun 6, 2007

Real bullets mess up how cool this thing looks.

-Blade




Assuming you don't stay there forever, how do you expect this experience to impact future endeavors? An airport restaurant is absolutely a unique work environment (not to mention the sheer numbers). Do you enjoy the pace of the work, the customer volume etc?

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


PT6A posted:

Do you have to follow standard service hours for alcohol? It seems to vary by jurisdiction, here in Calgary you can get alcohol any time in an airport restaurant or bar, but other restaurants/bars/liquor stores cannot sell prior to 10AM; in Toronto, on the other hand, alcohol is only available during standard service hours.

We can start at 7am for alcohol, which isn't bad as we open at 6.

quote:

Are there many problems with intoxicated people? Are the staff more mindful of overserving, due to people being about to board an airplane?

Not really, and yes. We are also obligated to pay strict attention to overserving due to our contract; we face sever fines if we slip up.

quote:

Is there anything you wish customers would know/do to make your lives easier, beyond standard restaurant etiquette?

Yeah, that everyone here is on a schedule, not just you.

quote:

Roughly what percentage of your business comes from flight crews or other airline/airport employees?

A pretty low amount. Most of them aren't here for long and don't have the time or desire to sit down for a full service meal. The airport employees that work in the terminal at other places also can't afford to eat here, since they get paid utter dogshit.

quote:

Do you specifically look for front-of-house staff that are fluent in languages that would otherwise be uncommon where you are?

Not really, as our terminal is a domestic one. We don't have many international travelers. However, due to the location of the airport in the city, a very large percentage of our staff are black and Hispanic.

Shut up Meg
Jan 8, 2019

You're safe here.


Sandwich Anarchist posted:

I'll mention something to him about it, thanks.

If you're turning over $20M a year, there's no excuse not to invest $5k on a fancy website. They owe it to themselves and it probably would help with being taken seriously


On a different note: you're making, say 300+ plates of the same dishes every day, for 6 months of the year. How do you stay personally interested as a chef and not feeling like a production line worker?

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Shooting Blanks posted:

Assuming you don't stay there forever, how do you expect this experience to impact future endeavors? An airport restaurant is absolutely a unique work environment (not to mention the sheer numbers). Do you enjoy the pace of the work, the customer volume etc?

The job translates super well to future hotel and corporate restaurant work. The parent company actually recently won a large package of concept slots in the new terminal currently being constructed, and it is likely that I will be moving upwards into a higher position over multiple locations. It is definitely career stuff.

The pace is good and keeps us busy as hell, but I'd be lying if I said the sheer volume of people hasn't jaded me wrt service quality and pleasing individuals. "gently caress em if they want to be a dick, we'll never see them again" is something I find myself saying more often as time goes on.

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Shut up Meg posted:

If you're turning over $20M a year, there's no excuse not to invest $5k on a fancy website. They owe it to themselves and it probably would help with being taken seriously


On a different note: you're making, say 300+ plates of the same dishes every day, for 6 months of the year. How do you stay personally interested as a chef and not feeling like a production line worker?

As far as the website goes, I hear you. It just isn't something I personally have time to worry about.

For your second question, it's tricky for sure. I have a team of 3 sous chefs, all from very different backgrounds and experiences, and I strongly encourage them to be very active with the line workers so we all stay engaged. We run great costs and labor, and can afford to basically play around with food for the sake of menu development. We are always experimenting, trying stuff out, sampling ingredients, etc. When a menu rolls out, we are already planning the next one; if a dish fails, we don't have the luxury of printing new menus, so it has to be well tested and perfect. For myself, the role I've taken here has been a lot more administrative than I thought it would be; I don't cook nearly as much as you would expect.

Canuckistan
Jan 14, 2004

I'm the greatest thing since World War III.



Soiled Meat

Do you guys do a family meal?

Are there staff rooms somewhere for smoke breaks?

Do you find that the quality/reliability of the BOH staff is increased due to the initial increased screening?

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Canuckistan posted:

Do you guys do a family meal?

No, the parent company doesn't let us. Their policy says the standard "staff pay half price during their shift blah blah" bullshit, but we don't enforce it. Nobody who works in a restaurant should go home hungry, so we give them free reign to cook for themselves within reason. Even if we could do a family meal, we have no time; remember, we have zero breaks in service the entire day.

quote:

Are there staff rooms somewhere for smoke breaks?

The terminal has a downstairs level that contains our main prep kitchen and all of the airport facilities, and there are smoking areas outside down there. Surprisingly, almost none of our staff smoke.

quote:

Do you find that the quality/reliability of the BOH staff is increased due to the initial increased screening?

The opposite, actually! We get some of the absolute lowest quality candidates I have seen in my entire career. For every 20 applicants we get, 10 are worth calling (the rest have experience as maids or office workers), 4 show up for the interview, 2 pass the background check, and 1 quits in the first week. Good, culinary minded cooks usually can't pass background and drug screening, and don't want to be hosed to jump through the hoops needed to work here. Staffing is a constant issue here.

Warbird
May 23, 2012

Burn the 'dawgs
Kill the Yellowjackets
Purge the Tiger
It is better to die for Bama than to live for yourself


Fun Shoe

Sandwich Anarchist posted:

We COULD charge whatever we wanted due to the captive audience, but we don't. Our prices honestly aren't really any higher than you would find in a comparable restaurant street side. In fact, we get pretty great discounts on our product due the amount we bring in and the deals we've made with local purveyors. I run a pretty consistent 27% food cost, which is totally doable when you pay attention to the product and waste.

Sorry I meant more in the context of the larger airport food industry, but good on you for keeping things fair.

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Warbird posted:

Sorry I meant more in the context of the larger airport food industry, but good on you for keeping things fair.

Oh ok, yeah. 100% airport food prices in general are because "gently caress you, where else you gonna go?" It is an extremely unfair and predatory industry, especially considering what most airport staff are paid, which is why a lot of them are starting to fail as customers are becoming wiser and more discerning. Why would someone go spend $15 bucks on a styrofoam container of lovely bourbon chicken when they can sit in my gorgeous restaurant and get a gourmet meal and great service for a couple bucks more? There is a hard turn happening in the airport culinary world right now.

Warbird
May 23, 2012

Burn the 'dawgs
Kill the Yellowjackets
Purge the Tiger
It is better to die for Bama than to live for yourself


Fun Shoe

Good olí capitalism. I was willing to chalk it up to additional overhead due to high rent and the difficulties you mentioned for being behind security, but Occamís razor prevails. I donít suppose you can recommend anything decent at ATL by chance? What sort of community is there for restaurant at an airport folk?

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Warbird posted:

Good ol’ capitalism. I was willing to chalk it up to additional overhead due to high rent and the difficulties you mentioned for being behind security, but Occam’s razor prevails. I don’t suppose you can recommend anything decent at ATL by chance? What sort of community is there for restaurant at an airport folk?

One Flew South is in ATL and are an excellent legit fine dining restaurant.

Shooting Blanks
Jun 6, 2007

Real bullets mess up how cool this thing looks.

-Blade




Most larger international airports in the US have much better options than even 5 years ago, and it's not even a close comparison to 10 years. IAH in Houston is also doing a major turn around of its dining options, it's impressive what's being put in these days.

Sandwich Anarchist
Sep 12, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 11 days!


Shooting Blanks posted:

Most larger international airports in the US have much better options than even 5 years ago, and it's not even a close comparison to 10 years. IAH in Houston is also doing a major turn around of its dining options, it's impressive what's being put in these days.

People don't want to eat garbage anymore. Your average consumer is much more concious about where and what they eat, and airports are no exception. The new properties we are putting in, for instance, are all local brands and businesses. Not a Burger King in sight.

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George H.W. Cunt
Oct 6, 2010



Could you make the GBS goon coffee shop idea a success?

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