Consistency proves true at P.F. Chang’sTop Highlights Thursday, April 5th, 2012
I don’t often write about chain restaurants as I feel that not all of them have what it takes to be in the market with the independents. Most do not have notable executive chefs and menus tend to be set by the corporate office.
During my days as a corporate traveler for hotels, I had the daunting job of being on the road for close to twenty days a month. It was during this time that I was able to try pretty much every national chain restaurant across the country. Some were awful while others raised the bar. Today, though, there is one that stands out among them all.
Started back in 1993 in Scottsdale Ariz., P.F. Chang’s was nothing like its kind. Its concept was a China bistro and it was designed to be a step above the usual Chinese takeout, but yet a step down from the fine dining arena. Succeed they did and now there are more than 200 restaurants in operation in America and selected worldwide cities.
After having dined in thousands of restaurants, the biggest thing for me is consistency. P.F. Chang’s has mastered the art and other large food corporations should really take a look at their business model.
We are fortunate to have several P.F. Chang’s in San Diego and they are all exactly what you would expect.
Now being that they have the same menu in all of their locations, one would think that something is bound to taste different from one state to the next. When I started my study on this company, I chose three items off the menu that I would order in 20 different locations throughout the United States.
I would always start with their dumplings, which come in a choice of pork or shrimp, steamed or fried. The steamed shrimp ones that I ordered were always delicious and come with three sauces. The filling is always rich with tiny bites of shrimp wrapped in a perfectly steamed wonton wrapper.
For my entrée, I have been an avid fan of the wok charred beef. Tender slices of flank steak are combined with mushrooms, leeks, shallots, chilies, garlic and red and green peppers. Offering just the right amount of heat, this dish has to be one of the most consistent I have ever experienced in any restaurant I have ever been to.
This dish is really what made me start this experiment as I thought it would be impossible for them to recreate the exact dish in more than 20 different locations. Happily, I was proven wrong.
With many variables that could cause errors and inconsistencies, I contacted the corporate office to share my results with them and ask for their secrets. I’ve been in this industry a long time, and producing plates that are the same over and over again in even just one location is difficult. To be able to do it in 200 is astounding.
When I spoke with their corporate director of operations, he kindly declined to give me their secret, but offered me a bit of insight into how it is all done. Training was his key point. Their chef’s go through hours of learning how to make the dishes and most importantly are given the tools to train others at their own locations.
This was a true learning experience for me and one that I am glad I was able to do. It certainly makes me look at chain restaurants a bit differently now and I’m happy to say it was well worth the trips.
Fashion Valley, La Jolla, Chula Vista, Carlsbad
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