Chef: Elizabeth Maddison
Store: Kroger 146
City: Katy, Texas
Average Weekly Sales: $5,000
The Snowfox Standard: Tell us about when you first worked at JFE headquarters.
Chef Maddison: The company was still pretty new then, and we were all wearing many different hats. I started out as an inspector. Later, in addition to inspecting, I did research and managed special projects as they came up. In my last year I managed our Food Safety department. That’s been a big help in running my sushi bar the right way.
TSS: How was that?
EM: I enjoyed it because it was challenging, and it wasn’t the same monotonous thing over and over again. Handing out violation fines could be difficult even though they’re important to reinforce food safety and maintain JFE’s image. But doing a lot of different roles has helped me because I was learning from both the company’s point of view and through the chefs’ eyes.
TSS: What can you tell us about how you incorporate all the knowledge you got working for JFE with running your own sushi bar?
EM: I’m very comfortable with the sushi because, of course, balancing food production with attention to details like food safety was something I already knew. But [Kroger’s] Pan Asian hot food is a totally new thing. With sushi we have a master plan where everything is already set. But with hot food we’re learning all those lessons in real time about how to make the food quickly and tasty but still create efficiencies.
TSS: What’s the hardest part about running a sushi bar?
EM: Making the right amount of product because you don’t want to make too much because you’ll have to throw that away the next morning. Or not making enough so there’s a variety for the customers who come in after 7 p.m.
TSS: Speaking to newer chefs here also, was that a gradual realization or a wake-up call right away?
EM: You figure out if you’ve got a problem quickly, but how fast you learn it depends on the individual. You have to keep a record of what you’re throwing away if you want to learn fast. If you don’t write it down, you’ll think you’re going to remember but you won’t. So you have to write it down. You can also look at your sales after 7 p.m. for more details.
TSS: You’ve probably interacted with more franchisees than all but two or three people at JFE, what can you tell us about customer desires and sales patterns from store to store? How different are they?
EM: You can pick up on differences in item movement between stores very quickly. You’ll know if you have nigiri people in this neighborhood or Crunch Roll people over there, but seasonally, total sales volume-wise, they’re all very similar. And at those times, for example on New Year’s Eve, if you’re sampling you’re going to sell tons.
TSS: What personality traits do you think our most successful chefs share?
EM: Well you do have to be all-around talented, but I’d say be open to having a relationship with the client grocer’s store team. Be social. Be open. You can be closed off and keep to yourself, but you want that relationship with the grocery store team because if you’re open, they’re the ones who are going to help you out like getting you sales data or small supplies that you need.