To combat slim margins, restaurant kitchens should prioritize efficient and productive kitchen operations. With over 15 years of experience as a chef, and thanks to some of the new developments in tech, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way to help increase productivity and increase the bottom line in your restaurants. Here are five of them:

  1. Reduce paper clutter

I don’t mean picking up scraps of loose paper around the kitchen, but that’s not a bad idea if that’s a problem you have in your kitchen. I mean reduce the need for physical paper and switch to digital. Like me, if you’ve worked in a kitchen, you’ve probably had lists of daily tasks you were required to mark off with a pen or highlighter while getting checked for completion by a supervisor. Removing the tedious practice of printing, updating and reprinting prep sheets while trying to keep the workspace clean and organized can increase productivity significantly. Digitizing the prep lists allows them to be updated in real time with prep cooks marking off tasks as they go on their phones or tablets. When I did this in my kitchens, I got time back in my day by removing the need to walk through, look over everyone’s shoulders, and make sure their prep lists are checked off when I could now easily check my phone for immediate updates. With less micromanagement, cooks were given more autonomy, resulting in confidence in their work as the task lists they were working off of were up-to-date and accurate.

  1. Digitize Recipe Books

For most of my time in the kitchen, we didn’t have a digital interface to see all of the restaurant’s recipes. We either relied on unorganized and inaccurate binders full of oil stained recipes, or were trained verbally by someone who likely had their own opinion of how the recipe should be made, which can turn into a game of telephone across the chain of command and training process. Digitizing recipes ensures everyone is on the same page and removes any confusion that can come from verbal training or out-of-date recipe sheets. Consistent recipes equals less food waste, a higher quality product, in sync staff and overall higher productivity. Consistency is key in the kitchen and ensuring the recipes are known by everyone on staff, and made the same way every single time, is an extremely important quality of an efficient and well-run kitchen.

  1. Centralize communication

In an environment where everyone needs to be on the same page for a smooth service, communication is one of the key components of a productive kitchen. We used to use white boards, notes, emails and verbal communication during pre-shift to go over changes and important information. Things got missed, misinterpreted and often just lost in the daily kitchen commotion. Establishing one central communication channel made my job as a chef so much easier. A chat that can be accessed on a smartphone where all employees know where to look for correspondence between management and each other keeps everyone synchronized. If you didn’t see it in the central chat, it’s probably not accurate.

  1. Give digital access to all members of the team

You can implement steps 1 through 3, but if everyone in the kitchen doesn’t have immediate ease of access, you’re not really solving the problems. Given the existing technology and tools, most restaurants only provide management-level employees access to where the digital copy of prep lists, recipes and employee contact info live, leaving the rest of the kitchen staff to rely on verbal communication and paper clutter. The more people have access to information, the less time spent communicating, updating and training, resulting in more consistency in your staffs’ operations. Higher consistency equals happier employees, a higher bottom line and more productivity and higher profit. Workflow apps make it easy for all employees to have access to digital prep lists, recipes and a centralized communication channel.

  1. Work on building a culture every day

It may not seem like steps 1-4 are part of a company culture, but having systems in place are at the core of building a culture. If an environment isn’t thriving, it’s surviving–and that is not a good basis for a happy and productive place to work. These steps help employees feel more autonomy in their positions, helps them get through the onboarding process more quickly, and allows management and chefs to dedicate their already limited time, energy and focus toward the bigger picture. Happier employees in a strong system and culture are the ones who go above and beyond because they feel supported and walk into work every day knowing the tasks at hand and exactly what is expected. Culture is something you have to work on every day but if you implement steps 1-4, you’ll have more time to do so and a strong system to begin from.   – Source: James Passafaro


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