Your restaurant kitchen is that inevitable part of your restaurant which single-handedly decides the success of your establishment. Think of it as a battery of a car. If it is kept in good condition with regular analyses and maintenance, the car runs smoothly. Ever since the restaurant world adapted to modern technologies, kitchen management is no longer a headache.
The back-of-house operations of a restaurant are always the busiest and the most hectic. Basically, the restaurant kitchen. It is not your everyday kitchen. In a restaurant kitchen, food is prepared on a large scale. Multiple batches of the same dish are made throughout the entirety of a day. The kitchen staff is always on their toes creating and recreating enjoyable meals for customers. The pressure is naturally more when chefs get repeat orders.
Keeping in mind the significance of a kitchen in a restaurant, kitchen management becomes an inescapable task. Therefore, how one must manage a restaurant kitchen effectively? What are the challenges faced by restaurateurs? And since it’s not a straightforward job to manage a fully functional kitchen in a busy restaurant, what are the factors to be kept in mind while managing a restaurant kitchen?
How to manage a restaurant kitchen?
“A well-run restaurant is like a winning baseball team. It makes the most of every crew member’s talent and takes advantage of every split-second opportunity to speed up service.” — David Ogilvy
A restaurant kitchen is the powerhouse of any restaurant establishment. Kitchen management is directly linked to a restaurant’s profitability. Let’s look at some of the ways you can manage your restaurant’s kitchen. And do so efficiently.
1. Inventory and stock management
Your restaurant kitchen inventory list gives you a brief of everything that goes into making the food. Basically, the raw materials and ingredients. A detailed inventory list helps manage food costs while making sure that only fresh products are used in the kitchen. Inventory management dictates a huge part of kitchen management solution.
- Logically group different food ingredients so that they’re easy to spot and use. Grains, spices, fruits, and vegetables can be kept in separate shelves Even better if the containers for dry ingredients are marked appropriately and grouped together. All the dairy products and frozen items go inside the refrigerators. Make sure each member of the kitchen follows the, “First in, first out” rule.
- It’s a weekend. People are rushing into your restaurants. Everything is going well until you realize you’ve run out of tomatoes. A major ingredient that is used for preparing various kinds of sauces. Or let’s say you’re out of milk. What happens to all the pies and cakes then? Nothing is more embarrassing than telling the customers that the dish they earnestly want to eat is not available that day.
- Always keep a track of all kitchen supplies. Make sure you buy all those food ingredients well in time for the weekends and other busy days. Conducting regular inventory stock audits will also help you save food costs and greatly reduce kitchen waste. Once you have your inventory sorted, you will know exactly how much of stock you require weekly or monthly.
- Prep sheets make restaurant kitchens more orderly. It’s nothing but a kitchen plan that notifies the chefs and other cooks about all the food production that’s going to happen in the following week. Also includes notification regarding any ingredient shortage.
- Being from the restaurant industry, you tie-up with multiple food vendors who provide you with vegetables, meat and other ingredients that you need for your kitchen according to your requirements. Tying up with them and placing your order well in time is very important and must be done cautiously.
Want to know how restaurants do inventory?
2. Menu Management
What are you going to serve in your restaurant? Is it going to be cuisine specific or multi-cuisine? Deciding your restaurant’s menu is a part of the kitchen management plan since that’s where all the cooking is going to take place.
Creating the menu
- Your menu should be made by keeping the food costs in mind. Not mentioning the prices of dishes on the menu, or doing so alphabetically rather than numerically are some of the many hacks that have worked.
- An elaborate menu with hundreds of dishes calls for a larger inventory and a higher chance of waste. Therefore it’s always better to have a menu that’s more centric, having dishes that share common ingredients. This makes managing inventory slightly easier.
- Your restaurant’s Point Of Sale System should be able to give you a constructive report on the highest and lowest selling dishes. Discuss this report with your head chef and concentrate on cooking dishes that are worth keeping on the menu.
- After the dishes are set and the prices have been decided upon, go ahead and create the ingredient list of each menu item and their respective prep time. This gives clarity to all the chefs and cooks in the restaurant kitchen.
Designing the menu card
- A restaurant menu card is the first touchpoint of the customers to your restaurant. If designed well with a balanced amount of creativity, your restaurant menu can get you, multiple customers.
- Your restaurant menu must focus on your specials. Make sure they’re highlighted and instantly catch the customer’s attention. They are more likely to order dishes placed in the center of the menu, use this to your advantage.
- To keep up with the newest trends and food prices, it’s important to update the menu as well. And since many restaurants are now focussing on creating an online presence for themselves, you might want to consider creating captivating digital menus for your restaurant.
3. Proper equipment
You must aim to make your kitchen well-equipped, less chaotic and more streamlined. Once you have everything in place, you can focus better on cooking exceptional dishes for your customers. Chefs wouldn’t have to go around the kitchen looking for, say, blenders or cooking pans.
Buying quality equipment that is made of non-corrosive elements like aluminum and stainless steel, prove to last longer. Apart from this, buying commercial kitchen equipment for your restaurant helps reduce labor costs and increases overall productivity. Wondering how? It’s quite straight-up. Head and Sous chefs don’t have to spend time doing the initial few steps of food preparation like, chopping the veggies, grinding tomatoes or blend a garlic paste. All this is a matter of only a few minutes, thanks for the new-age commercial kitchen equipment.
4. Maintaining your equipment
Efficient kitchen management requires you to have all your kitchen equipment in place. However, if not serviced regularly and maintained well, you might have to switch equipment sooner than you would’ve predicted. Many pieces of equipment need regular cleaning (Refer restaurant cleaning checklist here), whereas the heavy ones can be serviced on a weekly or monthly basis. Many restaurant owners often forget this part and end up spending a dime in either buying new kitchen equipment or getting them fixed.
5. Hiring well and managing better
The people who are going to help you manage your restaurant kitchen are the ones working there. You must invest well in hiring and training your kitchen team, as an important part of kitchen management. They are the ones who are going to work day and night, diligently creating new dishes for your restaurant.
Staff recruitment includes some intensive steps that must be followed in order to build a super team.
- Before hiring anyone in your team, do a background check. In the restaurant business, it’s not uncommon for employees to change their jobs before completing a year in a particular restaurant. So this is not necessarily a warning sign. We recommend hiring for skill and an appetite to learn.
- Have multiple rounds of the interview, where you test not just their cooking skills but also leadership qualities and other abilities that are important in a restaurant kitchen. You could probably ask them to make the highest-selling dish of your restaurant and not something they excel at cooking.
Deciding on the number of staff
- Make sure you have sufficient people in your restaurant kitchen. Kitchen staff includes head chef, sous chef, line cooks, runners, servers, dishwashers and more. Given how stressful the kitchen environment is, you would need specific people to man each role.
- If the kitchen staff roles are clearly defined and each employee knows their respective work, the restaurant works without any friction. There is no confusion between employees and their job roles.
Rotate your staff
Hiring specialists in your kitchen is important however someone who is willing to learn can cook almost anything and everything. Instead of restricting employees to working in their respective job roles, let them explore and try out new things. You have to prepare each of you chefs and cooks for situations where they might have to fill in for one another. For example, a grill cook must be able to prepare a sauce. You will have to use extra hands in times of mad rush.
Provide them with the latest technology and equipment
- You must not only provide them with the best technological equipment but also give them fun incentives to reward them for their hard work and thereby reducing the attrition rate.
- Providing employee manuals that clearly lists down the restaurant guidelines and other details must be provided to each person who joins the restaurant.
Struggling with the whos and hows of staff recruitment? Here’s how you can hire the best team to run your restaurant.
6. Essential tips for Scheduling
Scheduling plays a key role in restaurant kitchen management. Start a few hours prior. The initial processes of cooking in a restaurant kitchen are significant and time-consuming.
- It’s always better to plan and start well before the service in your restaurant begins. That’s the time when you can brief the head chef and sous chef who can further pass on the instructions to their team members and then start cooking. Based on customer reviews and past experiences, you can spend some time with the kitchen staff and decide mutually on new ways in which you can improve employee productivity.
- Run the prep sheet with all your employees at the beginning of the day or towards the end of it. This is especially important for restaurant kitchens that make everything from scratch. Create elaborate prep sheets based on sales reports. This way you’ll know how much time will certain dishes take to make and who to assign those to. If anyone of the kitchen staff members has a leave scheduled for the coming week, discuss who is going to fill in for them.
- You need staff in your restaurant kitchen according to the days. To put simply, you’d clearly need more people on weekends as compared to Mondays. And having regular updates and insights into individual employees, you’ll know exactly who to keep for longer hours and otherwise. Individual employee’s track sales on your POS system will also help in the same. The workflow needs to remain undisturbed.
- Before starting the services, make sure you have all the ingredients in place for your specials and regular menu items. Discuss the serving procedures with the wait-staff. Things they must keep in mind, about the seasonal dishes and the regular ones, while interacting with customers.
- Staff scheduling is a critical part of restaurant kitchen management. Keeping a track of their shifts, organizing and reorganizing their schedules on certain special days and occasions, comes under this arena of schedules. It also includes team outings and in-house events for the kitchen staff.
- Brace yourself for multitasking in your own restaurant kitchen. Even though your team is well capable of handling things on their own, you might have to step in and do many of the tasks yourself. For example, you might have to plate the dishes before they’re sent out to the customers. Or make a gin and tonic, if the bartender is busy with other customers on a Saturday night. This will encourage other members to work even harder.
7. Tools and technology
Using the right technology in your restaurant kitchen will help overcome any shortcomings of kitchen management. Restaurant kitchen technology includes a Kitchen Display System that comes integrated with a Point of Sale system. An efficient KDS digitizes Kitchen Order Tickets. As soon as the orders are punched in, they’re displayed on the KDS. Not just the current orders but your KDS also gives you all information regarding past orders daily performance updates, segregates orders according to priority and different cook time. It helps connect your restaurant kitchen with FOH.
Here’s a complete guide to restaurant software.
8. Food safety and hygiene
A very significant part of kitchen management is sanitation. Nobody likes to work in a place that is messy and unclean, let alone cook. Your restaurant’s kitchen staff will be more efficient if they cook in a kitchen that’s organized and all equipment washed or cleaned. Once they enter the kitchen, they wouldn’t have to spend time scrubbing the pans and cookers before they start cooking. Being a restaurant owner, one has plenty already on their plate. However, regular visits to the kitchen will make sure that the staff is helping in keeping the restaurant kitchen tidy. Regular cleanliness checks and sanitation audits are a regular affair in a restaurant kitchen. Here are certain things that are absolutely necessary for such situations.
- Make sure there is zero chance of contamination in the products you’re buying for your restaurant kitchen. Each member must be aware of the safety measures.
- Have a checklist made where the task of cleaning is assigned and maintained by the cleaning staff.
- Have your own audits and surprise checks to ensure attentiveness of kitchen staff.
- Have some assigned specially to check on food preparation and how they handle things in the kitchen.
Here’s how you plan your kitchen layout for optimum results if you’re starting a new restaurant
If you’re just starting out, constructing and executing a “kitchen plan” makes sense. It falls under systematic kitchen management solutions. Your kitchen plan is nothing but the blueprint of your entire restaurant kitchen. Given below are the various segments of a restaurant kitchen plan.
- Kitchen layout
All back-of-house operations are executed in the restaurant kitchen so one can only imagine the high-pressure environment. Therefore, it becomes important to equally divide different prep stations and counters so that no two operations are disturbed. Apart from this, the kitchen layout would also include things like the total number of wash stations, air ventilation, areas for commercial kitchen and safety equipment and more.
Next comes storage. There must be designated areas for storing kitchen equipment and stock. That not only makes the kitchen look more organized but also makes it easier for the chefs and other cooks to fetch these while cooking. Avoid crowding your kitchen. Replace those 2-3 bulky pieces of equipment with a single one that performs multiple functions. For example, a blender does the basic functions of chopping, slicing, grinding and more, making the functions of knives redundant and unnecessary. Going vertical always makes sense when it comes to storing those long handle pans, spoons, knives, etc. Fixing shelves and racks on kitchen walls help in decongesting the storerooms.
- Stock needs
You need to decide on your restaurant menu and it’s only then that you would know the ingredients for them. Your restaurant POS system when integrated with an inventory system will you complete visibility into your stock purchase. The inventory contains many many perishable items and your inventory sheet will help prevent unnecessary purchases or overordering. Everything can be tracked accurately.
- Guidelines on staff roles, food preparation, and kitchen sanitation
You must have set guidelines for your kitchen staff regarding their respective jobs and common rules that apply to everyone working inside. A mutually decided procedure must be followed by all chefs and cooks before they start preparing the food. Basic sanitary practices like washing/sanitizing hands before entering the kitchen and cooking food. All these sets of rules must be decided beforehand so that once the restaurant kitchen is functional, it runs well and without any errors.
- Number of staff for BOH operations
A list of all the employees you would require to run the kitchen. Right from chefs to prep cooks and servers. You must have a clear layout of their respective roles and areas inside the restaurant kitchen.
This is broadly everything that a kitchen plan must include. It may vary according to revenue generated and the type of restaurant establishment.
Challenges faced during kitchen management
A Mexican restaurant chain in the UK, Wahaca reportedly had to temporarily close nine of its outlet because a lot of the team started getting ill. As good as 200 staff members and around 160 customers were affected by a vomiting bug known as norovirus. However, the founders, Thomasina Miers, and Mark Selby continued paying those employees who were unable to find work. And within a few weeks, the restaurant was able to recover and they reopened their outlets.
It’s very common for restaurants to shut down within the initial months of their opening. The reasons for this could be many. Some of which directly link to poor kitchen management.
1. Restricted space
Often chefs find themselves in tiny kitchen spaces where there is not enough room for movement. It gets even worse when kitchen equipment is not kept in the order. This not only leads to confusion between staff but also results in messed up orders.
2. Poor/old equipment
Restaurant kitchen staff must be given the right tools to work with. Nobody likes to work on worn-out equipment since it contradicts the entire concept of machines and electronics. Traditional equipment also takes up a lot of electricity which then results in high electricity bills.
3. Differences between staff members
“Although the skills aren’t hard to learn, finding the happiness and finding the satisfaction and finding fulfillment in continuously serving somebody else something good to eat, is what makes a really good restaurant.” – Mario Batali
If the restaurant kitchen environment is chaotic there’s bound to be differences between employees. For example, the line cooks must make sure they do all the chopping and peeling before the chefs come in. Whereas the chefs must brief others so that efforts don’t get wasted and each employee makes themselves useful.
Related article – Hire a chef in India – Doing it the Right Way
4. Unsafe kitchen environment
You never know when a restaurant critique or health and sanitation inspector pay you a surprise visit. Constant smoke, fire, and other fumes tend to blacken the kitchen walls and block the ventilator fans. This not only makes the restaurant kitchen look bleak but also makes it unhealthy for people to work and cook there. This is one of the reasons for a growing attrition rate in restaurants. As a part of kitchen management solution, safety must be looked into as a priority.
5. Irregular flow of orders
Even if one function gets interrupted, the entire flow gets disturbed, almost like a chain reaction. Imagine the maintenance and cleaning staff forgets to clean one station before shutting down the kitchen. The next day, the chef will not have clean utensils to cook in or the line/prep cooks would have to do both the jobs, clean and do initial steps of cooking. The work keeps piling up thereby affecting the subsequent processes of cooking, plating, and serving.
6. Technology breakdown
When the kitchen technology hardware and software are not updated on time, a technical glitch is bound to happen. If not rectified immediately, this problem temporarily slows down the entire restaurant. And using the latest technology is a huge part of kitchen management. Therefore, it’s important to regularly update and use new software that’s compatible with the different devices that you use in the kitchen.
It’s time to cook!
“Although a great restaurant experience must include great food, a bad restaurant experience can be achieved through bad service alone. Ideally, service is invisible. You notice it only when something goes wrong.” ― Dana Spiotta
A well-managed kitchen plays a huge role in your restaurant’s success. Just like a well-oiled machine. Kitchen management, if done systematically makes it enjoyable and easy for everyone working in your restaurant. The guests waiting on the other side of the restaurant are constantly waiting to be awed. Every commercial kitchen should aim at doing exactly that. Customer experience should be of paramount importance and a good one is mostly dictated by the kind of food that comes out of a restaurant kitchen. Adapting to the latest trends and adopting efficient technology in the kitchen will help your restaurant grow tremendously.