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July 25, 2011

Written by: Chef Randall Sansom

Do you believe in capitalizing on new tech in your kitchen or are you old school and think cell phones and such should be left at home?  I have watched as several companies tried, in vain I might add, to ban all cell phones in their kitchens.   I understand the worries and even the possible problems employees with phones might pose, but I do think that there are just as many if not more reasons to allow them.

The Pros

Calling – This one is about as basic as it gets, but is often overlooked in it’s simplicity.  I have managed large properties and the ability  to call my cooks where ever they are working has improved my life considerably from the days when I had to walk all the way across the property to talk with an employee who wasn’t stationed by a wall phone.  This has also become an absolute necessity when doing caterings.

Texting – Even better than being able to talk to distant cooks, is the ability to text them.  I have on many occasions been know to text a list of items to be prepped or directions for recipes to my staff.  This is a great way to be able to give instructions that staff can refer back to when they have time over the course of their shift.

Evernote- This is one of my favorite programs of all time.  I will be posting an article soon on all the ways (and there are many) that Evernote can be used in professional kitchens.  The short version is that Evernote is an online database of all of your notes, recipes, diagrams, etc. and has some awesome searching capabilities that can be accessed on any internet connection, on your computer and, yes, on your cell phone!.  One of my favorite ways to use Evernote with my staff is with my recipes.  I have collected hundreds of recipes in my Evernote account that I have then shared with my staff.  Now they can be standing in the bake shop and type chocolate chip into their cell phone and instantly pull up my chocolate chip cookie recipe without flipping through big notebooks of recipes!

Twitter- One of the best uses of Twitter for restaurant marketing that I have seen has been by Rick Bayless (@Rick_Bayless).  He uses his phone to take pictures of that night’s special or tasting menu and then posts them right then (from the line) on Twitter.  This could really help drive traffic if your staff or yourself were posting exciting kitchen specials and such to Twitter in real time.

Cameras- Do you ever see something in the kitchen that needs to be taken care of, just not right now?  Whip out the phone and snap a reminder.  How about that product you only order every few months and can never remember the product number? Snap a picture.  I’ve even used this to record examples of poor performance to discuss with employees on their next shift.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

Alarms- Here is another simple but great use for cells in the kitchen.  All cells have the ability to set alarms and most have the ability to set multiple alarms.  Need a cook to remember to start the baked potatoes everyday at 3:15? Have him set an alarm.  I’m sure you can think of hundreds of uses for this simple feature.
The cons:

I can hear the old school managers grumbling already (these are usually the same managers who don’t allow music in the kitchens either!). I know the argument, every ounce of freedom and discretion you allow your staff is an invitation for abuse. However, a smart leader manages people and situations individually in a way that compounds and improves the teams natural strengths.  Just the other day I had a cook who had abused his access to his cell phone by hiding outside for a very extended “smoke break” and talked on the phone for 40+ minutes.  This wasn’t a problem with my cell policy, but rather an opportunity for me manage this individuals time management and priorities a little better.

Besides, if we are honest, how are you really going to stop your staff from carrying their cells anyway?  I realized the improvability of trying to ban phones, when a few weeks ago, even my church started embracing cell tech, by allowing the congregation to Twitter in questions and comments for the Q&A section at the end of the sermon! Some schools are even beginning to get on board with supporting the benefits of this growing technology.

Cell phones are not going away, so the questions is, how are you going to put them to work for you?

About Randall Sansom: Chef Randall Sansom, a twenty year veteran of the food service industry, is an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College in Austin, Texas. His blog is entitled: Being the Chef. This article was repurposed with permission by Chef Sansom.

 


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