Operating a successful restaurant requires more than just high-quality ingredients, exceptional recipes, and state-of-the-art equipment. Efficiently maximizing your space plays a major—but frequently overlooked—role in creating a frictionless operational process and ultimately, driving ROI. According to RestaurantKitchens.com, a well-organized commercial kitchen can spur up to a 30 percent increase in productivity. No matter the size and space of a kitchen, the stress of maneuvering and optimizing the layout to meet the individual needs of your team remains the same. The common mistake operators often make is thinking their space is simply too small to optimize. But, as I’ve learned throughout my career, there is opportunity in every challenge.

For back-of-house pros who have given blood, sweat, and tears in kitchens, navigating the chaos of orders – take a second to picture a meticulously designed kitchen. A space where every square foot is perfectly optimized for efficiency and productivity, minimizing wasted space, and streamlining operations to ensure every aspect of a restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. These three components make up what we’ve coined as the 400-square-foot engine, representing a paradigm shift in today’s restaurant designs, to focus on compact—yet highly functional—spaces that optimize workflow and minimize waste.

Leveraging technology

Efficiency isn’t just about physical space—it’s crucial that operators also understand the importance of leveraging technology and innovative designs to simplify processes and empower team members. From efficiency partners like Kitchen Armor and automated cooking equipment, to fully integrated POS systems like Toast and loyalty programs like Thanx, today’s restaurateurs have a wealth of tools to enhance efficiency and drive profitability.

By embracing these advancements and investing in specialized staff training, restaurant owners today have the opportunity to create a culture of excellence where every team member is fully equipped to succeed. With partners like EdApp, teams can receive a customized, focused and easy-to-use digital training platform, while helping management teams focus on more of the hands-on training. Furthermore, by removing unnecessary complexity and focusing on the essentials, restaurants can create a streamlined operation that runs like clockwork, where anyone with the proper training can create the same high-quality meal as a five-star chef.

Technology-driven solutions also offer greater adaptability to the ever-changing demands and operational requirements common in the restaurant space. For instance, digital menu boards through Neon and ordering systems like OLO allow for quick adjustments to menu offerings and pricing, while mobile POS systems enable seamless transactions and order management, even in non-traditional dining environments like stadiums or casinos. By embracing technology, restaurants can future-proof operations and stay agile in response to evolving consumer preferences and industry trends, while also ensuring smooth operations and minimizing downtime, ultimately maximizing productivity.

A better-for-the-body kitchen

When thinking about maximizing a small space that includes a cooking line and a service line, it’s important to step back and take into consideration and visualize exactly how team members would interact and function within the space. For example, how they would move, where they would sit, how far they would have to reach, etc.

By embracing this mindset and prioritizing the well-being of employees, businesses can create a culture of safety and care, ultimately improving morale and reducing turnover. A workplace that prioritizes ergonomics signals to employees that their health and well-being are valued, which can in turn boost job satisfaction and brand loyalty. Additionally, fostering this type of positive work environment can attract top talent and contribute to higher retention rates, reducing recruitment and training costs in the long run.

Taking care of team members is a paramount component to the success of a business. It’s important to always seek new ways to grow into a “human-forward operator,” ensuring your employees are eager to get out of bed in the morning to return to work. As a result, this improves efficiency and enhances the overall dining experience for customers, who benefit from shorter wait times and consistently high-quality food.

Creating efficiencies in labor

Think back to the most dreaded tasks at your first restaurant job. For me, when I was working a fry station on a Friday night, the last thing I wanted to do was clean out the fryer at the end of a shift. Something as simple as self-cleaning fryers can alleviate team members from a daunting task and eliminate laborious jobs that might be weighing employees down, creating efficiencies and positivity among team members.

Investing in state-of-the-art technology and equipment can streamline operations and enhance working conditions. By automating tasks that are traditionally labor-intensive and potentially hazardous, restaurants can not only maximize productivity but also create a safer and more comfortable working environment. In turn, this can contribute to improved labor retention by reducing the physical strain associated with manual cleaning tasks. Adopting this approach not only addresses the current labor retention crisis but also sets the foundation for long-term success and sustainability in the industry.

Altogether, these three solutions reveal why efficiency isn’t just a buzzword—it’s the secret sauce that separates successful industry-leading restaurants from the rest of the pack. The 400-square-foot engine you’ll find in our brand’s kitchen represents a new frontier in restaurant efficiency, offering an innovative model for success in an industry that is in constant demand for innovation and adaptation. By embracing intentional and ergonomic designs, technological integration, simplicity and employee empowerment, restaurateurs have the opportunity to significantly drive profit, improve team morale and maximize efficiency while creating an unforgettable dining experience for guests.

Michael McGill is the president of Bobby’s Burgers by Bobby Flay, the ultimate burger experience co-founded by renowned chef Bobby Flay. As a reflection of his successful 40-plus-year career in the restaurant industry, Flay has handcrafted every ingredient and menu item to create both a craveable and approachable Bobby Flay dining experience. Backed by a team of veterans in the restaurant industry, Bobby’s Burgers offers tailored support from experts to ensure that every location has the highest-quality burger experience.

Fast Casual, Outside Insights, Story, Technology, Bobby's Burgers by Bobby Flay