Consultant chef and Club Management columnist Paul Rifkin.

Paul Rifkin is a former club executive chef and now chef consultant to the club industry advising on menus, kitchen design and catering analysis. This is the first of a regular column.

Ten 10 years ago, the club I was working at informed the management team we were going to build a business disruption manual, just in case there was an event that caused the business to shut down. If it did, then we’d all know what to do and how to manage the turmoil.

It all sounded a bit ho-hum. I thought, “This place will never burn down!”

I live on a river in a small village that floods regularly, mostly just wetting the street and no real damage each time, except that one time in 2017, but that was five years ago. A once in a 100-year level, which caused mass damage and turmoil.

I had a similar approach to flooding, with each warning that did nothing much, I did less to protect my property, rarely moving my vehicles, such an inconvenience!

Then the 2022 flood hit and it was 800mm higher than 2017. It caused even more damage and personal turmoil to everyone in the village. The effect on the small population of the village was, and still is, huge.

Paul and Virginia Rifkin’s house was inundated in recent floods.

The personal experience has changed me for life… how I look at risk, how I respond to warnings, what I do to prepare and how to deal with the emotional fallout.

I have worked as a chef for more than 40 years, with 30 years as an executive chef, 17 years of which were at a very large club. For the past four years, I have been consulting to clubs and fine-tuning their catering operations. I know a bit about how catering runs and the associated challenges that occur.

Right now, there are more challenges than ever before, and yet the majority of clubs are not making changes. Most keep rebooting the same old strategies and trying to manage with past solutions. In a word, “wake up”, re-examine your business model and make the necessary adjustments now.

Chefs will not appear if you don’t train apprentices; managers will not appear if you don’t have traineeships; menus will not evolve if they don’t relate to new customer demands. And please, invest in the training of the kitchen department, they are too rare at present to take for granted.

Paul Rifkin

Paul Rifkin is a former club executive chef and now chef consultant to the clubs industry on menus, kitchen design and catering analysis.

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