Posted On: August 15, 2011
Why have so many full-service restaurant operators settled for a lackluster dessert card and taken their focus off dessert sales? Too many restaurateurs brush aside desserts as a profit center and consider the final course an incremental sale – like a little bonus.
Wait a second. In most restaurants the dessert course is 20% to 33% of the entire dining experience! How can you let it languish like a stale cookie at the convenience store counter hoping someone takes a chance on it?
There is a perfect solution to ensure your guests enjoy a superlative finale to their meal while you add revenues and profits: Hire a pastry chef.
There are several direct and indirect benefits of having a pastry chef in your house. I am going to focus on only three:
Yes, every year our friends in food manufacturing develop desserts and breads that taste better and better. However, everyone can tell when dessert was made from scratch. When my son Patrick was five years old he loudly condemned, to my horror, a slice of chocolate cake served to him at one of Chicago’s top country clubs where we were guests for a family function. “This is dry. It isn’t very good!” Upon review, the cake was indeed dry. This is significant because Patrick inherited his father’s sweet tooth and never refuses pastry.
The point: Even a five year old knows good from bad. He did not understand bubble structure in genoise or the mouth-feel of a perfect buttercream. He just knew it was not good. When your guests are served that last piece of pre-sliced cake that has been in the pantry cooler for a week, do you think they can taste the refrigerator the way you can?
“Using the highest quality ingredients is the first and most important step in producing great pastries,” said Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder and Academic Dean for Student Affairs at The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College. “From scratch products made with excellent ingredients will always have the best taste and texture, and make the most indelible impression on your customer.”
With no pastry talent in your house, your dessert program is beholden to your vendors. It is difficult to make seasonal changes, and impossible to make weekly changes to entice your regulars. You have no control so you settle for one or two chocolate items; a fruit item; a selection of gelato and sorbet; a caramel item; and a special. Or, you have an obviously-engineered menu in which six dessert selections are extrapolated from three main ingredients: brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and vanilla ice cream. (For the record, I love a well-executed high quality hot fudge sundae on top of a molten tollhouse cookie. But I would pay a premium for a more ingenious dessert.)
A pastry chef brings creativity and innovation. Your restaurant can boast seasonality and culinary sensitivity. “Our pastry chef was at the market today and picked up six pints of perfect gooseberries. Locally-grown gooseberries are only available for two weeks every year, and she made two unbelievable tarts. We’re serving it with a champagne crème anglaise.” Yes, please!
On top of driving dessert sales, a pastry chef provides the little surprises that inspire customer loyalty. Observe how customers’ faces light up when a plate of tiny, inexpensively-made mignardises are presented. It’s like a holiday! A pastry chef makes special occasions genuinely memorable with cakes and pastry the way only an artisan can.
The mere fact that there is a pastry chef in the house will increase dessert sales; announcing it to the world boosts your whole image. It says, “We are passionate about 100% of the dining experience.” Everybody loves to meet the pastry chef, and those who teach classes at your restaurant entangle customers for life. Giving out recipes, little jars of jam, or a sleeve of three or five madeleines or macarons creates lasting loyalty and positive chatter.
In Part Two of this article I will lay out a financial analysis proving it is profitable to have a pastry chef in your hotel or restaurant. I welcome your feedback on the matter. Weigh in via facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/shsagency. Stay tuned…