If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or professional kitchen, then you know time management, organization, and keeping a close eye on the inventory is crucial, but if you’re new to kitchen management, then running it smoothly can be a real challenge. The key here is to learn how to run a kitchen efficiently. So, if you’ve found yourself in the new position of kitchen manager, we’ve compiled some great kitchen management tips that can help you to whip your kitchen and your staff into shape.
Management can be tricky. A kitchen that’s run efficiently will be prepared to cook the right amount of food based on service needs which can fluctuate on a daily basis.
Often, the complexity and size of your menu and the systems that have been put in place to prepare each dish can determine how successful and efficient your kitchen is. As a team, you’ll need to sit down with the head chef, sous chef, and other kitchen staff to discuss the menu’s size, serving system, budget, and volume of food served daily and weekly.
Key Takeaway: Have a plan. Organization is the foundation for any successful kitchen. Learning how to support your staff and provide the tools they need to handle high volumes of customers at peak times and the setup to get the job done quickly and efficiently will go a long way toward the success of your kitchen.
Running a Commercial Kitchen
You can have a beautiful, trendy restaurant, but if you don’t have the right systems in place and your team is not working together, then everything can fall apart pretty quickly.
Not only do you have to have some great tasting food, a good menu, and trained staff who are familiar with restaurant life, but you also need to ensure that the kitchen’s setup works for your staff, you, and helps your team get food out on time.
The heart of a restaurant is the kitchen. The kitchen is where food is stored, cooked, prepped, and delivered. It’s where food is cleaned and plated, and it’s the place where your staff will spend the majority of their shift. Regardless of the size of the kitchen, if it’s carefully planned out and designed to accommodate a streamlined prepping, cooking, plating, and serving process, your kitchen will be a success.
Whether you’re starting your own restaurant or you’ve just come on as a kitchen management position in a restaurant that’s already well-established, there are certain changes that need to be implemented in order to ensure efficiency and minimize waste. We’ll go over some great tips ranging from staffing and ordering to workstation setups and workflow efficiency.
If you’re opening up your own restaurant, playing an active role in the kitchen is an excellent way to determine the needs of your business and evaluate your staff. It can also give you a better idea regarding staff needs and the changes that should be made based on the preferences of your customers.
A kitchen with a large staff of chefs is capable of preparing a larger dinner menu, just as long as they have prepped for the dinner rush during the day. At the time of service, skilled chefs should be prepared to carry out the final meal preparations and cook up veggies, meats, and fresh fish efficiently and quickly.
If the kitchen is smaller and not well staffed, the kitchen should have a smaller menu with easy to prepare dishes that can be cooked quickly. This ensures that even sous chefs can handle all of the dishes on the menu with ease.
Setting up Your Kitchen for Efficiency
In any professional kitchen, you’ll find that different sections are delegated for specific jobs, whether it’s prep work, entrees, side dishes, or sauces and soups. Smaller kitchens may need to adopt their own special system in order to better accommodate a smaller team of side cooks and chefs.
In order to prevent bottlenecks from occurring in your kitchen, make sure there are designated workspaces set up. You will also need to set up a separate area for meals that are ready to go out to customers, and another area that can be used to accept inventory.
In a smaller kitchen, these separate spaces may not be possible.
The goal here is to make sure that your staff isn’t attempting to use the same equipment and space at the same time. This will help to prevent cross-contamination.
When you’re arranging these workstations, make sure the cooks and chef have all the supplies they need and that it’s easily accessible.
As it is, your to-do list is extensive, but if you’re new to a kitchen, plan on spending a day or two standing by to watch how the kitchen operates, what the workflow is like, and what can be done to improve the speed and efficiency of the kitchen, and the quality of the food.
Make sure you observe the restaurant’s busy times so you can get a clear picture of how your staff operates when under pressure and speak with each member of the team about what changes they feel are needed.
By speaking to your staff instead of going in and implanting new changes you’ll avoid being too controlling, which can easily backfire. A better choice is to teach your staff how they can work more independently. This will have your team members more invested in their work.
Making Changes to the Menu
Here is where you may run into some big problems. The size of a menu, in addition to what types of dishes are served, should be based on the size of the kitchen and the number of cooks and chefs. If the kitchen offers fifty menu choices and only employs one lead chef and two sous chefs, things can get complicated quickly with the lunch or dinner rush. It can also be problematic if the menu consists of a variety of complex dishes that are time-consuming to make, especially if you’re short staffed. The size of the menu can also hinder prep work. If you have more than twenty side dishes, the cooks can’t prep for every side and entrée. This will severely affect the workflow if a few dinner guests order something that hasn’t been prepped ahead of time.
So, it’s time to make some important cuts. Consulting your crew is a must. They’ll know what dishes take the longest to prep and make, which dishes are rarely ordered, and which dishes are guest favorites.
Every item on the menu should be something that your kitchen staff can easily handle without slowing down the workflow.
You should also only choose the dishes that contain ingredients that will fit your budget.
The Importance of Prep Work
A kitchen that’s poorly stocked and dirty will set your team back. Even small tasks such as washing dishes or sharpening knives can slow your staff down. To avoid this, assign a trustworthy team member to head in early and make sure the kitchen is spotless and ready to go before your crew arrives.
Preparation is key, and it’s one of the most important cooking tips for beginners that every chef, side cook, and sous chef learns very early on, but not every kitchen crew follows this rule.
Meal prepping can save a lot of time in the kitchen. While freshness of ingredients is essential, there are still certain tasks your cooks can take care of ahead of time that will increase efficiency during busy times. As an example, side salads can be prepared at the beginning of the day and refrigerated, as can most desserts such as cakes, pies, and custards, fresh fruit plates, and dinner rolls. Have one or two team members come in early to handle all the prep work, otherwise, these duties can really eat up your chef’s time.
The Right Tools for the Job
Aside from checking out the setup, you’ll also need to check out the tools of the trade. This means looking at the refrigerators, freezers, appliances, and pots and pans. You’d be surprised to learn how many kitchens function with very little. Broken freezers or stoves with only a few functional burners should be repaired promptly.
How are the knives and cookware? Is it time for an upgrade? The quality of the cookware can play a major role in the quality of the food and workflow efficiency.
You can click here to learn more about chef-quality cookware, such as the Matfer 915901 8 Piece Bourgeat copper cookware set, in our epic guide. Your staff should also know about the copper cookware benefits and how it can help save plenty of time in the kitchen.