26 Dec The Flix Cuisine Machine
Gary Beauregard, Director of Food Experience
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There’s a new culture of professionalism in the kitchens at Flix Brewhouse and nowhere is this on display more prevalently than in Albuquerque, our newest, smoothest operating and best-controlled food opening in our history. But the success of our Albuquerque opening is only a small sampling. The entire Flix culinary team is focusing on improving and standardizing our procurement, handling and preparation processes to ensure safe, consistent, and delicious food.
The cultural foundation of the Flix kitchen team is recruitment and thorough training of a consistently high quality group of kitchen managers, supervisors and leads. In 2016 we made a conscious decision to pay above average compensation in order to attract and retain top talent. We also substantially enhanced learning and development programs in the kitchen. With our high volumes, the increased investment in people is easy to justify. Talented and knowledgeable leaders tend to attract talented and motivated staff.
In Albuquerque, the job done by our Kitchen Manager Chad White and our Assistant Kitchen Manager German Teran provided us with a highly productive team that worked well together as a unit, and with great pride. Recruiting top talent alone is only one important aspect of our success, however. All kitchen team members must receive high quality training and cultural immersion to be successful at Flix Brewhouse. We were able to utilize the skills and talents of our Carmel Kitchen Manager, Kyle Roberts, to help our new kitchen managers see and understand “best practices” in action. Even more encouraging for the future of Flix Brewhouse is that the collaboration among new talent, our existing management and our learning and marketing departments has resulted in the production of a world-class set of visually oriented process learning materials. These will be utilized for all new openings as well as the ongoing development of existing team members and new hires.
I’ve also been hard at work in the R&D kitchen testing and developing custom and specialized products that will help ensure meals produced in each Flix location will be of uniformly high quality, while meeting our overall food and labor cost goals. In the last several months we’ve developed four high-usage components that should have a huge impact on both quality and overall cost: (1) chili-lime marinated chicken breast, (2) garlic-marinated chicken breast, (3) cinnamon-roasted apples, and (4) Flix’s own BBQ sauce. The two commissary-produced custom chicken breast products increase recipe consistency and greatly reduce the amount of hand cutting of raw chicken breasts in our kitchens, reducing both labor and the risk of food-borne illness. I began the preliminary work on developing these products in the first half of 2016 and we just finished testing them in Albuquerque. The custom marinated chicken products will be in all Flix locations by January.
Our house-made apple galettes will feature our proprietary cinnamon-roasted apples. Prior to introducing this great product, we spent endless hours caramelizing apples in our prep kitchens. The results were not always consistent and many times our cooks scorched/burned the apples. The galettes are still finished in our kitchens with puff pastry, large sugar crystals and house-made caramel sauce.
BBQ sauce was another product that took a considerable amount of time to produce. After much development, our new Flix BBQ sauce comes “ready to go” and can be executed easily and instantly.
But it’s not all about new food and flavors. We’ve instituted in-depth quarterly food safety audits in each location conducted unannounced by the Everclean Division of Underwriters Laboratories. These audits are considerably more rigorous than most public health inspections and the results factor into the compensation programs for not just for kitchen leadership, but all managers in the unit.
Finally, we are expanding the capabilities of our food-cost software. Computerized recipes (whether or not there is a change in the yield) will enable us to utilize the robust, dynamic range of our software, which will help predict product mix, product usage, and will even “suggest” orders. These new kitchen management support tools will really help reduce waste and help avoid product outages (86’s, in kitchen parlance), as well as require far less time processing supplier transactions.
To round things out with a food flourish, we are in the process of finalizing our monthly LTO’s (limited time offers) for early 2017 as of this writing, so I can’t provide all of the details. However, some of the most likely candidates are: Cheese Curd appetizer (a Northern specialty); Shrimp Po’ Boy Sandwich; House-made Potato chips with Blue Cheese; and Jerked Chicken Wings. Of course, with the coming of spring in April, we will be “seasonalizing” the menu with new, as well as tried and true items that are driven by fresh, ripe produce and lighter eating trends.