I need advice.

Ok, so I have the same problem as most of you. But I dont have the years in you do. So maybe you could help me with my MAIN problem.
In a nut shell its expectations…of staff: Now don’t groan. I honestly need to know a couple of things in regards to time.
What is reasonable to expect? on each of these. I think maybe I am out of touch or something…

10 lbs of mushrooms to be sliced?

5 Onions to be diced

10 Green Peppers

5 Red peppers

20 Roma Tomatoes

I know some of you will say get this or that machine. But as we battle the Mega Corps, One of our focuses is that we prep everything in view of the customer, and dice all our veggies etc in customer view, by hand…I realize that it does take time. But…seriously the amount of time it is taking is a little silly.
Thanx much all!

I have a better than average knife skill, so it will take me shorter time . . . . If I use my right hand (left handed), then my times would likely be around what my staff would do, and be around these:

10 lbs of mushrooms to be sliced? 15 minutes

5 Onions to be diced 15 minutes

10 Green Peppers 10 minutes julienned or 15 minutes diced

5 Red peppers 5 minutes julienne or 8 minutes diced

20 Roma Tomatoes 15 minutes sliced or 20 minutes diced

OK!! yes, yes and yes! So I am not so out of touch. Now…what do you do when it takes staff WAY LONGER!!? How do u get them to do it faster? Or do I just hire the wrong people? I mean seriously. This is what I am looking at
Mushrooms A WHOLE D**N HOUR, some times LONGER!
Onions 30 MINUTES!
Green Peppers diced 30-40 MINUTES
Tomatoes 40 minutes or MORE!

Good lord, I mean seriously. I dont know what to do, im serious. sometimes it takes so long to get anything done I want to cry, and I mean honestly cry!

I have had a staff member on for 4 hours, this is what he has accomplished, box of mushrooms. 10 green peppers. Portioning 5 lbs of julienned chicken into 3 oz bags. (about 15 bags). 5 onions.

This cant possibly be right! I can do all this and deal with customers within an hour and a half. He hasnt even had to do any customer stuff. GRRRRRRRR.

I have to be doing something wrong here.

Mushrooms: Get a slicer. 10lbs takes a good half hour by hand. In a slicer it takes about 10 minutes.
5 onions diced takes maybe 10 minutes if that. I’ll bet I can do it in 5.
15 peppers another 10 minutes. Includes coring.
20 romas? 20? We do 25 lbs at a time and it takes about an hour. 20 should should take maybe 5 minutes, 10 at the outside.

This whole list should take about an hour if the person doing it sets up properly (all tools and containers present etc.

I time myself on the job in question and allow about 1 1/2 times the time it takes me to do it. Any longer and I feel like I am being taken advantage of. I also let the staff know what my expectations are and tell them how long it takes me. Some rise to the task and try to beat my time. If they do beat my time then their meal is on me that shift.

“their meal is on me that shift” You charge for employee meals? Congratulations! There is not a snowball’s chance I could get away with that.

Normal charge is 50% off which is way better than industry standard in my city.

I would fire him for inability to perform duties or just have someone else do it that is faster.

There is your nugget of genius. Create the “Kitchen Pentathlon” and give it a world record time. Give it a maximum time as well. Give a recognition and reward of some sort to anyone who A. beats your personal best time; and/or B. Sets the new world record. I gotta find ways to make the work a play or game activity or it gets just grungy and tedious. I may take on that Olympic Event thing myself. Safety First has to be the prime rule . . . cut off a finger, and you’re disqualified. It might even be fun to do challenges in front of customers since that is what you do anyway; have two prep cooks line up with half of each and see who gets it done quickest AND closest to the expected quality of execution. Neatness counts.

To me, this is about setting up and acquiring new behaviors of speed and accuracy. You aren’t getting it from them, so the task is to find a way to get the desired behavior and reinforce it somehow. Once you are getting consistent performance, you can wean them off the reinforcement by requiring a higher standard, or more times doing it right to get the reinforcer.

Daddio, that is exactly what is happening. I feel like im being taken advantage of and it makes me pissy. I really dont want to get like this. I have tried everything from being kind and talking nice, to doing the LAYING DOWN THE LAW bit. It doesnt work.
But NOW I KNOW WHAT TO DO! “Kitchen Pentathlon” is it! I am going to set up a sheet of tasks for employee and shift leader to sign. And making it a customer interaction this is EXACTLY what is in order here! My customers love that we prep etc right in front of them. So I think it may be something we can promote. I do customer emails which some of you receive. Look for it coming up in the next couple of weeks! We will see how my staff does with this new challenge. It will go into the communication book for this week, competition starts next week. Gets them the opportunity to brush up their knife skills.
Thanx everyone, and dont stop with the employee advice, everything from hiring right, managing right, etc. This has been my toughest challenge. Coming from the corporate world to this has been a CHALLENGE to say the least!

At this point, just fire them for incompetence and hire someone else. It would be a miracle if you could change them. If this is a recurring issue with all employees, the problem is in your management.

Probably right on both counts.

You are right Dewar. Management IS the problem. And I am management. To be honest, I am terrible at the employee thingy. That is why I just hired a manager. I am really sucky at it! I dont understand this skill level to be honest. Second problem is, employment is super high where I am, and finding a warm body PERIOD is next to impossible. I have stuck my neck and my finances on the line hiring a new manager. He has alot of people experience, alot of management experience. I am putting alot of my eggs in his basket. I hope it isn’t another flop, but after 2 days (lol) so far so good. We will see…So frustrating. I have done alot of the wrong things, I am hoping that now I have been doing a few right things it will get better. The old saying that is true, but I am just now realizing it to a full extent. Is I have been working to much in my business, not enough on it. I have spent the last year doing what I needed to do, in able to understand the workings so I can teach it to someone else with confidence. Now I have its time to switch gears.
BTW, just so everyone knows, all my staff is fairly new. So some of the time issue is being “fairly” new, BUT, with that said how long is it before you arent new anymore, and not increasing your skill so you can leave now, your wasting my time. But…again, once my new manager is trained, it will be his problem AND my problem, but his problem first, my problem second…ahhhhhhhhh

just my 2 cents…

Its usually best to find employees that are suitable for specific skills. A high school kid who can barely make toast at home, probably is going to think slicing 10 pounds of mushrooms by hand is the worst job in the world, and will spend more time lamenting than actually slicing. But that same kid may be able to make salads and sandwiches all night long. At the same time, an experienced restaurant kitchen employee may like a break from the line, and knock out all that slicing in 45 minutes, and then thank you for the break!

Try watching who goes slow, and who goes fast, and ask them why. Thats part of the management skill that makes things go a little smoother.

You don’t have to kiss anyones azz, but remember they aren’t robots. and if your unemployment is low in your area, one of your advantages as an employer may be how the employees are treated. Sometimes, thats more important than salary.

We have a “prep” list each nigh with what we want done and a time expectation column that they are required to do the job in. We monitor them when we can and if they are way out of kilter with the time we ask the question. You only have to do this a few times to the same person and see if they pick up speed. You will find that they don’t like being put on the spot for being slack and most will pick up speed and do it in the required time. If they continue to be behind a nice “friendly” talk about the job security works fantastically.

With us they really have no excuse for being slow as we peel and cut onions in half and then they go through the dicer or capsicums are cut in half and cored and go through the dicer. These are done bulk and then put through the dicer. Mushrooms, tmatos and cheese are also sliced or shredded through the same machine.

The amount we put through we couldn’t cope doing by hand. Sure it looks nice but efficiency is what makes us money, not the fell good “doing in front of customers”.

In the end of the day if there is no set expectation for them to reach there is nothing to guage them on and it is then hard to tell them they are slow. Give them a list and a realistic time schedule and thell them “IT MUST BE DONE IN THIS TIME … NO EXCUSES OR EXCEPTIONS”.


Just like you I tried to get my employees to cut vegetables, but after about a year I gave up. The green peppers or onions were never cut consistently the same, and there is nothing like having to cut vegetables during the middle of a Friday night rush. My blood pressure and fustration has gone way down since I switched to a produce company that prepares all our vegetables.

Crunch the numbers, having your vegetables processed may actually save you money. What is your yield for a bag of onions and green peppers if an employee is cuting them, compared to you? How much time are your employees spending cutting the vegetables? How much time do you spend training and retraining your employees to cut the vegetables? Does a 17 year old high school student or for that case almost all my employees need to be using a sharp knife? I certainly would not be encouraging a race with anything associated with a knife or a mechanical chopper.

Really look at it and the extra money you spend on processed may be worth it.

Are your prep people also full-timers, or do they just work part time and do the prep work?

This won’t be an option if your prep person does other things, but I have a prep guy that I pay on a piece-work system.

We’re his second job and he does our prep just for some extra cash. I pay him $25 per day to do all of the prep work in the morning, regardless of how long it takes. He’s usually done in about 1.5 hours, and he goes home.

My previous prep guy, who was paid hourly, was scheduled for 4 hours to do the prep work. Wouldn’t you know it, it usually took exactly 4 hours. He was at $9.00/hour.

I agree with everyone else who say you are being taken advantage of. I have a full-timer who also does the prep work,who I am thankful for. On an average day he can do 60 onions,20 green peppers,a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes and a 5 gallon bucket of lettuce,within maybe an 90 minutes if that long. then another 90 minutes doing cold cuts for the day. We have tried to train other people to do it but they just seem to take twice as long no matter how much they have to do.

Napoli hit on something I hadn’t thought about for a while (since we live with a tiny staff) . . . the right tool for the right job. As leaders, I say leaders and not managers, we have the opportunity to assess the skills and mentality of our personnel assets and allocate them efficiently to the required tasks. Like he said, some will love the opportunity to do “not my job” for a half hour to prep vegetables, make sauce, portion ingredients, etc. Some people thrive on repetitive tasks while others need variety. Once you get some sort of foothold with motivating performance with your newish folks, maybe this sort of viewpoint will help.

As to what WA Dave said . . . and it doesn’t require a slide ruler to understand like you do with his menu . . . expectations and job requirements are useful. Taking the employee aside and making clear that their ability to accomplish these tasks correctly and in a timely manner is part of the job and will impact their review for pay raise, and possibly just keeping their job. Make sure they know to ask you for what they need to do the job correctly. Put it in writing that you had the “coaching/supervisory session” and summary of the session; have employee sign and date it; put it in a file folder. That makes it concrete, real as opposed to ethereal words that can vanish in 45 seconds. Now you have written documentation in case you need to dismiss for cause (inability to meet job expectations).

what I have done is near the same, there are a certain expectaions,
my two cents are this
1)I BET if you purchased a slicer it would STILL take them as long. its not the equipment its the motivation.
2) By what it sounds to me is that if I come to your shop i can see the fresh veggies being cut. giving me the perception of FRESH today pizza.
Nadia what I have learned about hiring people is you really do get what you pay for. I had a guy come in for an interview one time and our starting wage is 9.00 in the kitchen, and he was asking 13.00 an hour.
So I asked him how can I justify paying him 13 an hour. With out missing a beat he told me that its not the amount per hour you pay someone that matters its the total amout each hour of labor cost. he went on to tell me that he believes he can actually cut labor because he has the experience and work ethic of 2 of my 9 dollar employess so I gave him a 2 week trial run. Worked out great, to this day I always try to get top level employees. I always go to my competitors to dine and if I EVER get above customer service. I log my experience with the name of the person. then I wait a week and come back and try that same person. If I get the same level of service I tell them I own Rockstar pizza and if you are EVER looking for a job please come talk to me.
Nadia this has gotten a little wordy but the bottom line is I believe you have the wrong people