Oct 182010

Electronic Toys for Chefs.

Although the last Luddite on earth has yet to read “Computers for Dummies”, most chefs by now are pretty technically savvy.  You order online, write spreadsheets, do projections and rely on Open Table for guest information. Courses in restaurant technology are even offered by the University of California at Berkeley in the extension program.

Beyond this battery of the standard technical arsenal, a growing selection of technological products and applications not only offer advantages in the job search and hiring process, but are very  useful in day to day operations. Some of them are pretty nifty.

Iphone or Ipod/ Windows Mobile Phones. These are useful for a lot more than tweeting, Four Square and music storage. Unfortunately the programs created for the kitchen for the first generations of PDA’s  (scheduling, ordering, inventory) seem to have all but disappeared, but online ordering systems, document storage and editing software like Documents to Go or just the Windows Mobile System) and handheld database apps like HandBase make it possible to read and create documents,   (aka schedules and ordering lists), menus, to do lists etc in your pocket or access them online. Scanner Aps such as Turboscan with OCR (optical character recognition) turn the camera of IPhone into a mobile scanner, which can translate menus, receipts, lists into text documents (consider, for instance, the amount of literature offered at a wine tasting or a restaurant show.) Shared shopping applications for private use are equally useful for purchasing plans for single restaurants.

Netbooks. You may already have one. Small laptops with net storage and up to about 200GB drives, which you can dump in any briefcase or shoulder bag for work and home. They’re much handier than fifteen inch screen laptops for travel, taking to events and meetings and just about anywhere you need connectivity.   Some  come with several gigabytes of online storage, and all take storage cards and usb storage devices. A caution: If you look at one, find one with a right shift button you won’t confuse with the up arrow. A laptop mouse makes them easier to use.

IPad: Pricier than netbooks, it offers a wide number of programs include full office suites, and can be synced with other programs. Competing and competitively priced touchpad computers are expected on the market soon.

Business Card Readerss.  If you use more than a few cards a month, you you also collect them. You’ve probably got a box or a drawer full of them, which you rarely look through. If you are organized you carefully enter them into an Excel spreadsheet. What a waste. Card scan and other card readers let you feed business cards into a palm sized scanner  and builds a searchable database from them with a picture of the card attached to the contact information. It will synchronize your address list with your Ipod,  ACT, Outlook and any number of programs.  You can organize your contact in categories. Shape (poor reviews) and Abby offer card readers for the Iphone for   $3 and $9 respectively (Desktop OCR programs can cost up to $200).  Some lite versions are free. Neat receipts scans not only business cards but scans and organizes hard copy receipts and integrates them into an accounting program. It is reported to be harder to set up than Cardscan.

Compact Cameras tend to take better pictures than most smart phones. If you are serious about documenting your work, but don’t want to carry around a five pound camera, you will live them. Canon is considered the gold standard, but all of the new models are better than the best four years ago. Or take pictures of the bad shipment you received to send to the broker.  Desktop reader programs like One Note and Top OCR can turn your camera into a mobile scanner.

The Cloud: SkyDrive and Google Docs: Free, secure online storage space combined with online productivity software. Let’s you produce Word documents, graphics, spread sheets from a netbook, smart phone, Ipad or any computer anywhere. Work on menus, wine lists or business plans with your sous chef or partner using these or “WIKI” services like OneBox.com. Access your job search or candidate folders from any cafe.

Thumb drives: Keep any docs or spreadsheets you need on your key chain. The main advantage of a thumb drive is its small size.

E-Readers: To be more precise, the Sony E Reader, which permits you to store and carry most document formats in your pocket or backpack.  Store magazines, cookbooks your personal documents, plating diagrams, itineraries and more.  Thousands of out of copyright books including many old cookery volumes are available on line. Books from the E Reader Store cost less than hard copy, but Amazon’s books on Kindl are more reasonable, and the Kindl has both free connectivity (you can buy on a whim) and lower book prices, but only stores PDF and the Kindl proprietary book format.  The Ipad offers much more, but also costs more. A Kindl Reader is available for the Ipod, Iphone and probably the Ipad and probably other smart phones. Of course, they’re good for books as well.

What does this have to do with job search and hiring? A lot. Organizing data and having it accessible is essential to seeking successfully. These toy-tools also allow you to access or pull up information, pictures and more during an interview, beam or send your resume or references from any coffee shop, organize your candidates with pictures in a database or keep information on line in a cloud for your decision making staff to review and comment together, or scan hard copies of information brought to interviews on your netpad.  Keep pictures of candidates.  As a bonus you can continue to use all of these tools and toys when there is no position to be found or filled.