Washingtonian critic Todd Kliman's excellent long-read profile of Chef Geoff's and its owner Geoff Tracy is finally online and well worth a read. Though Chef Geoff's may never make Washingtonian's Best Of list, Kliman writes that the chef "minds the middle. And he minds it as few in this city ever have."
And how does he do that? Well, in part thanks to some insanely detailed performance standards that the mini-chain is constantly evaluating in search of improvements. Kliman declares "To go to work in one of Tracy’s restaurants is to join one of the most organized, forward-thinking, technologically advanced operations in the local industry." Seriously, go read the thing in full, but in the interest of appetite-whetting, here are 10 insane facts from the piece.
1) On Chef Geoff's mission: "One of the greatest compliments you can pay him is to tell him you loved your recent dinner at one of his restaurants but you can’t recall what you ate, who served you, or even, come to think of it, where you dined."
2) Among Chef Geoff's 800 performance standards: "Did Elizabeth bring your Pinot Gris within three minutes of the time you ordered it? Were your appetizers delivered within seven minutes, entrées within ten, desserts within seven? Were these plates described at the table before they were set in front of you? Were napkins refolded when you went to the restroom? Was non-bottled water referred to as “ice water” (correct) or “water” (incorrect)?"
3) One of the ways in which Tracy evaluates his restaurants: "That couple sitting across from you picking at a plate of hummus might be catching a light bite before a movie, or they might be working secretly for Tracy."
4) On training: "Every dish at every restaurant—more than 1,685 items—is digitized, with links to recipes and information for servers. There are custom-made training videos on everything from how to tourné a potato to how to enter an invoice. ... Tracy’s team has broken down his operation into 70 training courses—from cost control to “Wines of Italy”—along with comprehensive tests and rigorous study sessions for those tests."
5) Chef Geoff's expansion plans: "There are plans to add another five restaurants by 2020, a number that would bring him close to that of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group, which currently owns 14."
6) On Tracy and his wife Norah O'Donnell, chief White House correspondent for CBS News: "The couple has been spotted working out at the gym together, holding hands between sit-ups."
7) On Tracy's own education in operating a restaurant by working for Roberto Donna: "Galileo was an education—in what not to do. Purveyors were strung along with a hundred excuses as to why they weren’t being paid. Shelves of high-priced food were going to waste. The kitchen was tense, full of shouting."
8) On some of the top talent spawned by Chef Geoff's: "Tracy was blessed, also, with an eye for talent. A guy he’d hired to work the salad station turned out to be an exceptional cook. Tracy promoted him twice, making him executive chef overseeing the kitchen at Chef Geoff’s downtown. ... But after only a couple of years under Tracy, a 24-year-old Johnny Monis struck out on his own and open DC’s acclaimed Komi in 2003."
9) Just an example of the data mined: "Recent scrutiny of a spike in bar-supply costs at one restaurant revealed that a manager had been spending too much on mints. A small cost, perhaps, but it’s minding the little things, Chris [Tracy] suggests, that distinguishes a successful company from a struggling one."
10) Ridonk employee incentives: "Among the managerial staff, the crucial number—the one they all anxiously await—is the score on the quarterly report card that measures the rate of profit relative to the previous year’s quarter. A positive number, and the managers take home 40 percent of the profit growth; one year, a manager earned $30,000 for three months' work."
· Everywhere at Once: Chef Geoff Tracy’s Data-Driven Empire [Washingtonian]
· All Previous Chef Geoff's Coverage [-EDC-]
· All Previous Geoff Tracy Coverage [-EDC-]