Behind the Apron: Asheville Independent Restaurants launches a new online industry resource

WEB COMMUNITY: Jeff Miller, owner of Luella's Bar-B-Que, volunteered to help with the development of Behind the Apron, a new online resource for the local restaurant industry. Photo by Dylan Ireland

In Asheville, many restaurateurs realize that cooperation trumps competition. The local culinary scene is well-known for its collaborative spirit, and behindtheapron.com, a new business-to-business website recently unveiled by Asheville Independent Restaurants, aims to enhance and expand that synergy.

Unlike AIR’s current website, which is mostly consumer-based, Behind the Apron was created to be a resource for the organization’s 120-plus member restaurants. Amy Garcia, AIR’s director of memberships and partnerships, came up with the idea of a resource-based website, then worked with Jane Anderson, executive director of AIR, to solicit input from members for its design. “Our members have a lot of common challenges,” Anderson says.

Rosetta Buan of Rosetta’s Kitchen volunteered her time as part of the team that put the website content together as her way to give back. “We’ve created this food scene with our farmers and tourism board,” Buan says. “We’re competitive on a national scale now, and AIR has helped us to do that.”

Jeff Miller, owner of Luella’s Bar-B-Que, also worked on developing the website. “It’s a trusted and credible resource for restaurant owners,” Miller says. “We already have a healthy independent restaurant scene; this will make our lives easier.”

FROM JOB TO CAREER

“We want to make the restaurant business more career-oriented, not something you do until you get the next job,” Anderson says. “Turnover is a huge cost in time and money for the industry.”

Before Behind the Apron, restaurateurs relied on Craigslist to post jobs, but the process was time-consuming and often fruitless. Now those looking to hire can post open positions, and those looking for jobs can find them quickly and easily in one spot and feel secure that they are communicating with an actual restaurant owner. “It’s possible that in the future people seeking jobs can post,” Anderson says, “but we’re not there yet.”

Enabling employees to turn their jobs into sustainable careers requires, in many cases, access to educational opportunities. “In the restaurant business, you can start out as a dishwasher and become front-of-house manager,” Anderson observes, “but [at that point] you have to manage your peers.” Behind the Apron offers listings and online registration for classes and seminars that help build employee skill sets.

Steve Rudolph is a former restaurant owner with over 20 years of management experience. Now a certified coach, Rudolph offers courses tailored to the food-service industry, including his Rising Manager class and Just Shut Up and Do What I Say: Becoming an Inspiring and Effective Leader, which are offered through Behind the Apron. Registration for mandatory education, such as the ServSafe food-handling class and test required by the health department for restaurant managers, is also available through the website.

STAYING INFORMED

Most of AIR’s member restaurants are small businesses and, as such, do not have human resources, marketing or legal departments. “Owning a restaurant is an encompassing career with lots of facets,” Buan says. “Besides food, we have to know the laws, how to train people, health department regulations, even tourism. And yet we are notoriously overworked with little time to devote to it.”

Attorney Sabrina Rockoff of McGuire, Wood and Bissette specializes in employment law and will be writing a blog for the website under the heading “Mise En Place.” Rockoff penned a recent post titled, “What Do Your Employees Hear? A Lesson From My First Grader,” in which she explains why implementing a new policy requires proper communication.

Rudolph will be authoring a blog for the site titled “Manager’s Boot Camp.” In his recent post, “Personal Power, Not Authority, Is the Key to Your Leadership Effectiveness,” Rudolph lays out a two-step management and leadership game plan.

Under the Resources tab, AIR associate members can post their services and advertise discounts and special deals for AIR members. Listings include restaurant suppliers, local food products, food and beverage distributors and other business providers for the industry.

The Exchange is an area of the website that allows members to post equipment for sale, as well as items they wish to purchase, encouraging sustainable practices within the local industry. “Restaurants are constantly wanting to buy and sell used equipment,” Anderson says.

LOOKING FORWARD

The second phase of the website will be a password-protected, members-only portal — still under construction — where members will be able to  share information and advice as well as a reference library. “As we keep adding substance, you’ll be able to go there every day and find what you’re looking for,” Miller says.

“I’m most excited to communicate honestly with each other; our frustrations and problems, what works and what doesn’t,” Buan says. “It’s like hanging out with my peers, but it’s available 24-7, and with our crazy schedules it’s the only way to get everyone together.”

Learn more at behindtheapron.com.

 

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About Toni Sherwood
Toni Sherwood is an award-winning filmmaker who enjoys writing articles, screenplays, and fiction. She appreciates the dog-friendly, artistic community of Asheville.

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