A commercial kitchen is full of excitement and energy. And when things are busy, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of efficiency. But if you want to maintain a profitable restaurant or business, you must pay attention to the details.
Here are some useful pointers to jumpstart the process of improvement:
- Rethink Layout
Kitchen layout is very important. The right layout can save you significant time in the long run by limiting friction and bottlenecks.
“To prevent bottlenecks from happening in the kitchen, make sure there are clear work spaces carved out in the kitchen for different duties,” restaurant consultant John Moser writes. “Also have separate areas for inventory to come in the door and for finished meals to go out to the customer. With smaller kitchen staffs this might not be as feasible, but try to find what works best for you.”
Don’t be afraid to try new layouts and make quick changes when necessary. Avoid getting married to a single idea or way of doing things. Flexibility will serve you well.
- Get Serious About Cleaning
Cleaning is probably the least enjoyable part of working in a commercial kitchen, but it’s arguably the most important. Having a clean kitchen improves safety, food quality, productivity, and efficiency. So take it seriously!
The key is to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for cleaning. There are cleaning tasks that need to be addressed during each cooking shift – such as brushing the grill, wiping down prep areas, switching cutting boards, emptying trash, etc. – as well as tasks that need to be done after each shift, at the end of each day, and at the end of each week.
- Pay Attention to the Details
Details matter. In particular, be mindful of the items and systems that you don’t see on a regular basis. Your kitchen’s commercial grease trap is a great example. If you don’t have the right grease trap installed – and if you don’t do a good job of maintaining it – your lack of oversight could result in clogs, injuries, horrible smells, and even grease fires.
When you pay attention to the details – whether it’s your kitchen’s grease trap or how you schedule your staff – you’re able to spend more time executing your big picture goals and initiatives.
- Create Stronger Feedback Loops
Communication in a kitchen goes far beyond barking out orders. If you want to maintain an efficient kitchen, you need to develop strong feedback loops.
A feedback loop is a process by which you gather feedback from employees, listen to what they say, and then act when appropriate.
Good feedback loops serve a couple of purposes. First and foremost, they make it easier to identify key areas of improvement and act quickly. Secondly, they show your kitchen staff that you care about their opinions and are willing to make changes that benefit them.
- Plan for Downtime
Downtime can be good – everyone needs a rest – but you must have a list of tasks that your kitchen staff can tackle during slower periods of the day/week.
Whether it’s chopping produce, doing inventory checks, or cleaning, a proactive plan for downtime will help you stay ahead of demand when the busy times hit.
- Invest in Your Staff
“Of course, the most important ingredient for an efficient and successful kitchen is highly-skilled and hard-working staff,” Moser mentions. “And for that you need to be willing to invest time and money in hiring and training the best kitchen crew possible.”
Develop a set of strict criteria and hire people who fit this bill. (It’s better to be slightly understaffed for a couple of weeks than to prematurely hire someone who doesn’t fit your kitchen culture.)
Once hired, show your staff that you care about them by offering benefits like paid time off, longer breaks, encouragement, and bonuses. People who feel like you care for them are more likely to stick around, work harder, and exhibit reciprocal displays of loyalty.
Never Stop improving
The moment you think you’ve “arrived” is the moment that you start to settle. And once you settle, things begin to slip. This leads to an inevitable decline and negative long-term repercussions.
The key is to never stop improving. You must keep a long-term vision of where you want to be in six months, a year, and three years from now. And by continually moving the goalposts forward, you force yourself to keep improving and becoming more efficient. This is the sort of mindset that allows you to thrive.