The dynamic and all too often chaotic nature of kitchens is both a blessing and a curse. True veterans of the culinary world love nothing more than to be deep in the weeds, cooking their hearts out and hustling through the Friday night rush.
While most live for that burst of adrenaline, there is a difference between being immersed in your work and pandemonium. Simple steps can change disarray into order and streamline your restaurant kitchen operations.
It might not be the first thing you think of, but kitchen safety should be at the top of your list. A healthy and happy staff will come to work and be most efficient when not injured or sick.
No one wants to lose a crucial employee or employees due to something avoidable. So make sure that your safety standards are up to snuff and that you give your employees adequate time off when ill.
Inspect all vital equipment to ensure it runs correctly and isn't at risk of breaking down or causing injury. Additionally, regularly training your staff in safely using knives and other sharp machinery (such as deli slicers) can reduce workplace incidents.
Communicating in a Noisy Environment
It’s no secret that kitchens are busy places. But did you know that the accumulated sounds in your typical busy kitchen can exceed OSHA's standards of 85 decibels?
According to a report from the Hearing Review, many everyday noises in a kitchen exceed that.
Over 85 decibels, OSHA requires that you implement a hearing conservation program for your employee's long-term health.
You're unlikely to reduce noise in your kitchen entirely, but you may be able to give your workers tools to manage it and protect their hearing. You’ve probably seen some food service teams wearing two-way communication headsets to relay information to each other throughout the restaurant. Not only can these noise-reducing devices protect workers’ hearing, but they provide an effective communication tool that streamlines processes in both the front and back of the house.
If you can plan out your kitchen from scratch, consider the layout. You'll want food production to be an ongoing smooth operation. Consider where the walk-in fridge will be, where ingredient assembly and prep will happen, cooking, and finally, plating and picking up by waitstaff.
You'll want to avoid creating a layout that results in the workers continuously bumping into one another, which can also be a safety hazard or result in finished dishes all over your floor, and delayed dining times.
Let's face it, the age of pen and paper is fading away. Switching to an up-to-date POS system will allow your servers to take orders and send them to the kitchens electronically. That means no more interpreting messy handwriting and fewer chances for mistakes. That step alone will lead to a more streamlined kitchen operation.
And, of course, a POS system is more than just a computer on which your front-of-house staff will place dinner orders. In reality, that ticket will go on and be included in cloud-based POS reporting. You can know the projected sales of a night before it's over.
With the best technology available, you can even help your servers upsell by including specials and other incentives in their tablets. You can manage floor plans and track inventory.
Every seasoned restaurateur knows you need to watch your inventory like a hawk. A kitchen staff that doesn't keep up with the stock and engages in food waste can tank a restaurant's profit margins faster than you can blink.
In that vein, up-to-date POS systems can help you. Many companies providing restaurant management software have the option to track inventory digitally. With this ability, you can know exactly how much product is in your restaurant based on the orders going into the kitchen.
You'll know what should still be on hand by the night's end. Information like that can help you plan specials, use extra ingredients, and reduce food costs. It can also help determine if you have wasteful kitchen staff and need to take the time to train them to work more efficiently.
Dining Room Floor Plans
The upgraded software will allow you to manage the floor plan of your dining room dynamically as the night progresses. You'll be able to track where seats are and how many diners are seated in each section.
You want to get as many people into those empty seats as possible, but you may not want to get them all in at once. But by managing the flow of customers, you can ensure that your back-of-house staff doesn't become completely overwhelmed and thus streamline your restaurant kitchen operations.
Encourage your front-of-house staff to alternate between seating large and small parties so that your kitchen has enough time to react and cook appropriately. They may be able to handle a chaotic rush, but it can decrease morale if it's a frequent and common occurrence.
A flustered kitchen staff will also be more prone to mistakes, resulting in incorrect orders and frustrations between the front and back of the house.
Smart Menu Management
Having an extensive, sprawling menu with everything you've envisioned as options for your diners can be tempting. And while some restaurants can make that work, the sad reality is that most won't.
What's more likely is that you'll over-order some things, under-order others, and end up with a whole lot of food waste. Not to mention your staff will have to learn that entire menu and execute it flawlessly.
Instead, create a menu with food items that are used across multiple options. If done creatively, it's possible to use the same vegetables in several dishes. You'll be simplifying things by reducing the number of products you need to buy and, most importantly, ensuring that the kitchen will use everything.
There are endless ways that you can streamline your kitchen operations, from updated software systems to menu management. Even looking into something as simple as a noise reduction rating can improve your day-to-day, not only for yourselves but for your employees.
Rick Farrell is the president of PlantTours. Farrell is North America’s foremost expert in improving manufacturing group communication, education, training and group hospitality processes. He has over 40 years of group hospitality experience, most recently serving as President of Plant-Tours.com for the last 18 years. He has provided consulting services with the majority of Fortune 500 industrial corporations improving group communication dynamics of all types in manufacturing environments.