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Oct 14, 2007 09:45 PM

Restaurant Staff Meals

Just curious about the staff meals restaurants provide? Do they provide meals of the same caliber of the meals the restaurant sells or is it something else? Does the restaurant use this meal as a way of introducing new flavors and dishes to the staff so that they can "sell" the dish to the restaurant patrons?

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  1. Depends on the place. Usually, staff gets scraps, leftovers, whatever is cheap or needs to be gotten rid of. At one French place, we always got the trimmings from the turned potatoes, usually deep fried. At another place, we'd get the leftover mashed potatoes from the night before (which were super rich with butter that would separate upon reheating and turn into a soupy potato butter slick - much better the first day), whatever meat trimmings there were, and a salad. In Oakland, the mexican guys would make tacos for the kitchen and usually pasta and salad for everyone else, with hot wings on Fridays. Still another restaurant didn't do staff meal, the cooks just all made themselves burritos (we kept tortillas and pepper jack specifically for staff) or munch on the housemade bread, and the waitstaff could order off the menu for half price. The servers there were very knowledgable about the food, so I think that method paid off.

    Staff meal can be good or not, depends on who is making it, how much time they have, what they have to work with. I'd say not quite up to the same caliber. It's usually the same cooks and the same ingredients, but less time and creativity is devoted to staff meal, if it's busy, staff meal becomes a hassle and an afterthought, and it shows.

    1 Reply
    1. re: babette feasts

      The 1 place that i worked that did do a staff meal usually did the same thing. We served the meals consisting of leftovers, Scooby snack(butcher cuts) meats and occasionally experimented with new flavors and dishes on the staff to gauge whether they were ready to go on the next menu.

      The kitchen staff tended to look at the staff ingredients in almost the same way as Iron Chef is themed. I looked forward to the staff meals because it was different and we could experiment, unlike the menu which was the same 20-30 dishes for 4 months at a stretch.

      We had the occasional bomb, but they were many "EUREKA" moments and meals.

    2. As Babbette says, it depends on the restaurant. If you're talking about a nicer restaurant, it's pretty rare that they will serve anything from the menu or anything of that caliber. if the house does its own butchering, there are often scraps. PLaces that do a staff meal (most independent places I think) usually order less expensive stuff--pasta, chicken, etc. to have on hand for staff. In my experience the quality ranges depending on how the restaurant feels about its staff and the cook making it. One place I worked would sometimes just not bother to make meals. On bad days there would be giant trays of mac and cheese (from sysco) or plain hot dogs from the deep fryer (quickest way to cook them). The place I worked right after that would make meatloaf one day, roast whole chickens the next.

      as for introducing and selling foods, often a restaurant will make an order of the special or a new menu item so that the staff can see it. After a description, everyone dives in for a bite or two. Not all places do this, but those who do see how valuable it is for the servers to know what the food tastes like.

      3 Replies
      1. re: nc213

        Most places I've worked didn't do staff meal. One place that opened as a new restaurant started out with the best of intentions to do staff meal, but there always ended up being little time and money to serve it, and the restaurant management didn't like employees in the restaurant eating at the tables, they said it looked bad to the customers. After awhile it was always whatever was quick and cheap and eventually it was abandoned.

        1. re: rockandroller1

          Eat at the tables? Never! Stand in the kitchen, crouch in the storage room, whatever, but staff should not be sitting at the dining tables, especially if there are guest in the restaurant (maybe OK if it's a table in the back or it's between services)

          1. re: babette feasts

            We were actually discouraged from eating on the line, but to be perfectly honest we never really listened to them anyways. Otherwise we ate in a claustrophobic locker room in the bowels of the establishment.

      2. Staff meal??

        whats that? places I worked back in the day did not have such a thing. Luckily as a cook there was always some food to be scavenged. At the Italian restaurant I cooked at we would grill off some chicken breasts for a quick sandwich on some italian bread, or if the chef wasnt looking deep fry a piece of the breaded veal, either item quickly scarfed down on your feet while working.

        The other option was buying a meal at a discount, but I asnt about to give any of my paycheck back to the "man"

        1 Reply
        1. re: swsidejim

          I certainly never got a staff meal when I worked at restaurants. We got a discount on leftovers, but since it was mostly meat-centric, that was a no-go.

          I got more free stuff working in bars than in restaurants: I always got at least a free beer at the end of the shift, and one owner insisted we all take shots at least once a night (which is where I draw the line - there's a difference between being generous and pushing alcohol on your staff).

        2. At the cafeteria we used to just get something off the line about half an hour before opening, and we'd all sit down to eat it. And there was one woman who found it necessary to make caustic comments about everyone else's food. (I used to would just get a baked potato and have it with butter, salt and pepper; and she repeatedly told me about the horrible things that all that pepper would do to my insides.)

          Now and then the cooks would have a little extra time on their hands and would do some experimenting, and we'd all share that. But that didn't happen all that often.

          1. I've been pretty lucky in all the places I worked. At a hotel where I worked for five years, we set out a hot buffet for all of the staff. This consisted of leftovers from our many banquets, so we often had prime rib and the like. Overcooked, but still. When we didn't have banquet leftovers, our largely Brazilian staffed cooked homestyle Brazilian food. Yum. And when we didn't have that, we had Stouffer's entrees.

            When I worked for the dining services of a film company, we ate whatever we wanted from what we were serving that day.

            At the catering company I work for now, staff meal is whatever is left over. Sometimes that means nothing at all. Other times, it's a feast.