The year 2010 has arrived and everything start anew or not. The restaurant and wine industries of California have been having a not-great couple of years. Many people and causes have been blamed and the next few years may not look any better. I was just in the process of reviewing my stuff from last year and I came across something I had marked. I cannot speak for most of California, from experience, but as far as the city of San Francisco, I strongly think the industry should put out some kind of handbook for the people who work in the related industries of food, beverage, wine, restaurant, hospitality and so on. A person who is more than a simple employee in any of these industries has to work toward being a professional and this requires more than professional training and work experience. A good deal of knowledge that is not specifically related to food or beverage has to be acquired and utilized by any such professional (not basic employee). The process of accessing the available resources and staying up-to-date can take a great deal of time. I know from personal experience by doing this. The outcome of such difficult process is the low number of people who do strive to be professionals in the true sense of the word.
The industry needs to put a handbook out, at least, once each year that is not a food and wine training book. The problem with this process is the political side-effects of it. Many establishments operate and remain by breaking the law and working under or against the standards. If the number of people who are well-versed in all aspects of the industry increases, the number of establishments which appear legitimate but are shady in many ways will decline in proportion. The bottom line is the SF restaurant entities will fight to stop or modify such handbook for the obvious political reasons. The city establishment is extremely corrupt so no help will arrive to keep the process legitimate. I personally think a large body, even if political, can do a better job of this than a local political body. National Restaurant Association is a political lobby and special interest but has the resources to do a fairer job than the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. A review of the people who run GGRA will tell anyone who impartial they are and what direction their decisions will go. I do not think the restaurants, the establishments, and associations located in San Francisco can do the job. A bona fide handbook will raise the standards of the industry up a huge notch but will result in fundamental changes in how business is done in the long run. The local industry is ill and has always been. We have been seeing its worst in the past two years and if it becomes truly healthy (which has never been), many who have done EASY business in the city will be in a new world of business. They will not help make industry healthy.
I think a university, located outside of San Francisco, and its politics in conjunction with the local unions and non-political associations (such as CMS or WSET for wine) can do a fair and impartial job. Universities do this on a regular basis for many fields and can do for our industry. A good handbook will be very thick and probably will be 500 pages plus. I think it is best published in a binder with loose pages once-a-year and new updates should be made available online for readers to print and replace pages in the binder and be up-to-date until the next edition. Many things related to the industry change regularly by on an irregular schedule. The handbook will be obsolete in a short time unless updated as changes occur. A good handbook should provide answers to all the questions a ‘professional’ working in food, wine, beverage, hospitality, and restaurant (and many more businesses) may have while working in Northern California Bay Area. Any person who does one’s homework and has been in the business long enough will acquire a good part of this knowledge together with much garbage provided by local media such as San Francisco Chronicle and local restaurant websites.
An impartial and qualified body can put together a complete handbook (which will be large in size) not only as a reference but also as a way to organize the industry. One of the reasons the industry has been and gets sick is because it had just been put together and was not thoroughly thought out at some point. A business should have a solid business plan. The business plan serves several purposes. One purpose is to fund the business and start it by providing a roadmap. That is what people think of a business plan but a more important function is to serve as an owner’s manual. The person who runs a business ought to be able to consult the business plan at times to figure out the best course of action because the plan is supposed to consider many things and provided proper ways to deal with them. The industry needs a business plan that can be consulted by the professionals in the industry. This business plan best can appear as a professional handbook and has to be thorough to cover everything. Such book is not a training volume about food types, cooking, wines and service, etc. It ought to cover all the boring government and industry regulations related to industry and keep them up-to-date. It ought to provide all reference people, addresses, phone numbers and etc. It should have a huge glossary that answers hundreds (if not thousands) of questions that people working in the industry should answers to and do not. It should cover history of the industry locally accurately. It should map out the industry accurately so business can be done. The task of putting such volume together is done for professional bodies and are used by professionals working in the industry. The volume serves many purposes and must be put together by qualified people and special interest must be kept away. NRA, GGRA, wine lobby and so on are not friends of the industry contrary to what people may think. If they cannot write the handbook, they will try to influence it by offering money to the university (in grants or research money) to influence it indirectly. The final handbook will still be much better off than if written by the university, even if influenced by the corruption, than by the special interest itself.
A handbook such as this serves to provide useful and accurate information in good and bad times for the professionals and everyone working in the industry. Publishing a handbook takes a long time and the information will be obsolete. That is why the actual handbook should be a work in progress and kept online. It will be difficult for many to read it online. The solution is to have a printed copy for sale but print it for a 3-hole binder because the information will be going out of date within one week and pages have to be replaced. The owner of the handbook can get the pages online and print to replace them thus having an accurate handbook always. The volume can be available as ebook for computers or kindle. An electronic volume can be updated a thousand times each year and would not matter in any way. The information will be always up to date and useful. The nature of handbook which covers such huge industry results in a huge handbook and that is what it really takes for one to function as a PROFESSIONAL in the local industry. I think the task of creating and keeping up to date can be done simply by going to the RIGHT people at the right university OUTSIDE of San Francisco. No impartial work can be created in a corrupt city run by criminals pretending to be city officials and employees. It has to be done outside the political realm of San Francisco and protected from special interest interference and money meddling as much as possible. What is most important is not what goes into the volume or who writes the volume (just go to the right university and it is done) but WHAT DOES NOT GO INTO THE VOLUME AND WHO DOES NOT HAVE A SAY IN WRITING IT.
An industry handbook of all necessary information for professionals working in the food, wine, hospitality, beverage, restaurant and hotel industries will serve as a daily guidebook in handling what matters may require decision-making by these individuals. The end result is a healthy industry for everyone involved with the industry. That is millions of people.