It’s 2022: The pandemic is over (according to some, at least), the national discourse has turned to the economy, dining rooms are as full as ever, and vacancies it’s messed up. Everything is back to normal, right?
Anyone who listens even a little bit to the hospitality industry knows that it is not active in pre-disease models; Eating out requires deeper pockets and more flexibility than just a few years ago, and running a restaurant comes with challenges. large. But we are also at the point where restaurants can be restaurants again, not politicians or terrorists.
We asked four restaurant and bar owners in metro Denver – Bo Porytko, chef-owner of Misfit Snackbar and the upcoming Molotov Kitschen; Kiendl Smith, working partner of Dew Drop Inn; chef-owner Penelope Wong of Yuan Wonton food truck; and Paul C. Reilly, executive chef of Coperta and Apple Blossom – for their thoughts on some of the hottest topics in the industry, as well as their current favorites.
Chef Bo Porytko was last seen working at the Bindery with chef/owner Linda Hampsten Fox, but soon you can find him at Misfit Snackbar in the Middleman.
Westword: Is the cut dead?
Bo Porytko: It’s interesting; that is what we are fighting for now. I think people will stick with that model, especially in bars – dive bars can’t add crazy value. In some places it is alive and well, and it should be. I love that fast food workers get tips! I don’t know if it is already or not, but I want the structure to change more.
Kiendl Smith: Maybe not in bars. … I don’t think it’s dead. I worked for places where cutting was not allowed; I personally don’t do that to my employees. What makes your tail tick if you’re going to get paid whether you have a smile on your face or not? I think [employees] should be rewarded.
Penelope Wong: Actually, the money is dead, for sure, unfortunately. Sometimes I feel like I’m probably one of the last people left with that old-school mentality when it comes to cutting. … I am giving a minimum of 25 percent, and I always add a note in addition to the automatic payment implemented by restaurants, because I know the value of additional money to workers. I know how important they are to our small team.
Paul C. Reilly: An endangered species. My restaurants have a service charge; this is something that some restaurants have made a good decision. It would be nice if we all went to zero cuts, but I’m not sure that will happen.
What lasting changes in retail and restaurants have you seen coming out of the pandemic?
Wong: I feel that there is definitely a change for the better in the industry because there is a shift from corporate employees to prioritizing work/life balance. We’re seeing a lot of medical records that are successfully making the transition from intervention to brick-and-mortar [businesses], and setting more reasonable hours to find that balance. It’s good to see that employers are following suit too, creating weekly schedules to allow for shorter work weeks and/or consecutive days. are resting for their employees.
I also feel that the industry has gained a greater sense of respect from the community since coming out of the pandemic. The industry has been vocal and loud these past two years about the difficulties and real life struggles. … The community – or a large percentage of it – has come together in support of business challenges and all the changes we had to implement in order to survive.
Smith: Honestly, I think the biggest change in our business has been going fee-for-service instead of sharing (we have a service fee that’s only in reverse enough of the house). We haven’t implemented it ourselves, but we are looking at it widely. I have it; the same goes for the back of the house where he gets a good salary.
Reilly: Emergency [temporary] restaurant closings, whether due to other illnesses, staffing issues or staffing issues due to other illnesses c. Things like, “We’re closed today, but we’ll be open again tomorrow!” And I really hate this, but maybe QR code menus. I really hate them. I’m a real person, and there’s something about sitting down and holding a list that I like.
Porytko: We still can’t find the staff, [so] everyone is doing what I’m doing: downsizing. Everyone is looking for 1,200-or-under-1,000-square-foot spaces and more. It probably takes about five years to find some good cooks. I like that the pay scale [for cooks] is better; I think it’s great. That’s the best thing that came out of COVID.
Chef Paul C. Reilly, owner of Coperta and Apple Blossom.
Steamboat Food & Wine festival
What are the biggest challenges you are facing right now?
Reilly: Where do I start? Number one is the staff. We get applicants, but I usually don’t get people to come in for interviews. … If you don’t show up for your interview, it’s not a big deal – just let us know! The experience of the members we receive is not like the disease. Instead of teaching them how to cook at Apple Blossom or Coperta, I usually teach them how to cook. Not just the line cook, but the sous chef and prep cook candidates as well. … It is very difficult to convince people to be managers, I think because of the many examples or lack of examples. A lot of people who become a director say, “Why am I going to make less money and work more hours?”
Smith: Without a doubt, the staff is number one, front and back of the house. Back to the disease question, I think that instead of the boss in the hiring, it is the employee who has the upper hand. They can walk in and say, “This is not where I want to work.” Keeping your staff happy and making sure they are being paid a fair wage. They can walk at any time.
Porytko: Try to find good people. He usually works. … It’s nice that there’s a lot of free space and it’s an unsustainable market – but even in an unsustainable market, you can’t find help. I was lucky with my staff, but it took a while. And all the food! That’s bad. Everything is sad when you go to the store, and it is difficult, because it does not explain how our prices change. We have to slowly raise our prices up and up. Brisket used to be $3.50 a pound; now it’s $8. More than double. Our razor thin edges are even thinner.
Reilly: The price has gone up, and it continues to go up. [Considering] a fuel surcharge placed by [customers]; now the price of gas has dropped and I ask if they will change the surcharge, I never get an answer. The price of goods is high. Cows and milk seem to have no roof. We use a nice frying oil; You used to think that a fried item was a low-cost item, but now the fried oil is equal to the price of the product. I don’t really have a choice; the costs must be passed on to the government.
Wong: Raise the price. We are all feeling the impact of the economy, but as a food operator, the impact is quite severe. There has been an increase in most items in the range of 30 to 35 percent, but we have also seen increases of more than 50 to 60 percent in some items, and many of those events have occurred at night. … Can you imagine if you went into your favorite restaurant and overnight their food prices increased by 50 percent? But it seems that at least half of any menu of special food items has increased in price by at least 40 percent.
Paul C. Reilly is a fan of Greenwich.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten all year? Wong: A dumpling in a traditional Indian curry. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but it got me thinking about this show: A young, eager line cook was given a chance to create something special and decided to Throwing some grilled chicken into a tikka masala is also the way to go. more cumin and turmeric and tomato paste instead of chili powder, toss it all in with a little overcooked penne, and serve it up and say, “A bowl of Indian pasta!”
Porytko: I had a great meal at Noisette; of crépinettes (pork sausage) and oysters. [Still available on the menu.]