Some would promote one vs. the other when in reality you can’t have one without the other. With the Superbowl behind us (a rather painful one to watch) you could easily compare Creativity to a solid offense and Business Acumen to a dominating defense. This year’s game seemed to be an example of the old adage that “defense wins the big games”. There was no question that Seattle exhibited an extremely powerful defense, but in the end they still had to score points (43 of them to be exact).

In restaurants, like any business, an operator must understand the financial implications of their decisions and know how to control their costs. Even with all of these crucial efforts in place the restaurant must still build an exciting menu, attract customers through effective and creative marketing and execute great tasting and looking food. The creative process can never be absent from the formula for success. The opposite is also true. There are thousands of examples of creative restaurants with full dining rooms that can never seem to turn a profit. With a lack of controls including ordering, inventory, production, costing and selling price determination, waste and theft control, the busiest restaurants will eventually fail.

This reality is true in every business, every industry. Sometimes one or the other is not as apparent, but success cannot happen without a balance of creativity and control. Most would agree that Apple Computer is one of the most creative companies around and when asked, Tim Cook would repeat Steve Jobs statement that Apple is not about making money; they are about making insanely great products. This is certainly true, but underneath all of that creative process is a company with extremely tight controls leading to the biggest cash reserves of any company, anywhere. They can ride any storm from the competition because they are able to balance creativity and control.

Restaurants live in one of the most competitive environments you could imagine. Every source of prepared food is competition for every restaurant. To this end, successful restaurant operators need to make a real commitment to the creative process around product, service, brand building and marketing. Those same operators can never lose sight of the sensitive nature of restaurant profitability.

Just as in football or computers, it is rare if not impossible to find one person who can effectively be in charge of creativity and control in restaurants. It is not human nature to be insanely great at both, yet this is what a business requires. Chefs are, by nature, creative people; or should I say the position of chef attracts creative people. Most chefs are passionate about the process of ideation around menus, applying their talent to the preparation of food, building flavors, using the plate as their canvas, and connecting on an artistic level with their guests. Not dissimilar to how a painter or sculptor is passionate about applying talent to a canvas or stone. Chefs need that counterpart who is just as passionate about the control process.
The most effective restaurants are able to build partnerships with business managers and chefs. A perfect example is Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali or historically: Escoffier and Cesar Ritz. Business Acumen is equally significant if the restaurant is to reach its goals. The two make one and in the end, just like in football, computers or any other business, bring a level of success that you can go to the bank with.

Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and Training

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About Me

PAUL SORGULE is a seasoned chef, culinary educator, established author, and industry consultant. These are his stories of cooks, chefs, and the environment of the professional kitchen.


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