There’s truth in the concept of the intense kitchens of hospitality, but the fast pace doesn’t have to mean chaos.
When you’ve taken the time to design your kitchen workflow (and ideally managed it via some sort of nifty kitchen production tool – stay tuned!), the daily hustle and bustle just becomes a kind of high-speed choreography. Roles and movements are clearly defined, communication is standardised, technology assists, delicious meals get made on time and mistakes are few and far between.
A well-defined workflow helps you plan for an exceptional customer experience. This level of planning was once reserved for high-end restaurants, large banquet facilities and big chain eateries that could afford the consultants and equipment needed to develop highly customised workflows, for both front- and back-of-house.
This is no longer the case. Advancements in hospitality technology have levelled the playing field for smaller restaurants, bars and cafés and, let’s face it, any hospitality business – large or small – can no longer afford to provide anything less than an exceptional experience.
The spike in online reviews and hospitality-focused social commentary means any little mistake or disruption has the possibility of spiralling out of control with the wrong kind of customer. Timely service, order accuracy, and an all-round hassle-free experience are crucial to keeping modern diners happy.
Here are our tips for keeping your kitchen working like clockwork.
Step 1: Define your back-of-house workflow, starting with inventory
Restaurant procedure planning should begin with the back of house. The menu is the heart of a restaurant, and every action taken inside the restaurant pushes toward the goal of preparing and serving those dishes. So, the food is where we begin, with these two directives:
- record every item of food that enters your kitchen into your Kounta Purchase system; and
- record every item of food that’s wasted, and the reason why.
Setting aside that half an hour or so to record the receipt of new inventory directly into Kounta Purchase. This means you’re able to stay on top (in real time) of stock levels, and everyone involved with food prep is able to quickly assess if what’s needed for the day is on hand and ready to go.
Making sure your inventory is updated every day also takes the pain out of stocktaking. The same goes for recording wastage. According to a study by RMIT University, over 250,000 tonnes of food waste from Australian restaurants and cafés end up in landfill each year. That translates to an enormous cost for hospitality businesses, not to mention how bad it is for the environment – rotting food and other organic materials in landfill release methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 25 times more potent than the pollution that comes out of car exhausts.
If you’re in the business of serving food and maintaining an inventory of hundreds of ingredients, it can be hard to avoid waste – food can spoil before its expiry date, become contaminated or just not sell very well on a particular day. That’s why Kounta Purchase includes an element to monitor food wastage, which makes it easy for businesses to keep on top of how they’re managing their waste.
Pro-tip: One in two of our customers actively use Kounta to manage their stock and wastage.
Kounta Purchase replaces a large chunk of our original inventory tool and automates the sync of information from received orders to stock levels, and your accounting package.
Our wastage feature allows you to record what ingredients get consumed as part of which menu item, tracks the cost of each dish, and records the sale of each item (alone or as part of a recipe). All this helps you accurately record what you waste, understand how much you’ve lost in terms of cost and revenue, and identify ways to address the problem.
Step 2: Make it easy to see what tables need attending to
If you offer table service at your business, your operational protocols begin the moment a customer walks through the door. It’s a familiar dance, a warm welcome followed by the confirmation of the number of guests to be seated, and then you lead them to an empty table.
But what if the dining room’s full?
In a well-run restaurant, waitstaff stay in constant contact with the host, giving updates on the status of soon-to-be vacated seats. In a more casual place, the host may just have to take a quick survey of the landscape to figure out how long the wait might be.
In either case, there’s a combination of math and art to arrive at the estimated wait time. And then there’s the time it takes just to figure that out or flag down a server to get the best estimate.
But what if your point of sale could help you manage your dining room in a customised layout, and let you know if a table is in need of attention, has just arrived, or has just requested the bill?
Kounta’s table management tool, lets you see, at a glance, how your service is performing. Instantly see the status of each guest with colour-coded tables – tables that have been filled but haven’t ordered, guests that haven’t been attended to in a while, and the ones that have just asked for the bill.
Drill down further and you can get instant stats on the length of time each table’s been occupied, the order associated with the table, or how long they’ve been waiting for their meals.
When service is finished, Kounta Insights will show you your best- and worst-performing tables, staff members, and registers, to optimise your layout to drive more sales, or coach your staff for higher ATV.
Step 3: Taking orders accurately
The order-taking phase of your customers’ experience is possibly the most critical. Even the best waitstaff are at risk of human error, so it’s important to do everything possible in the preparation to set them up for success.
Starting with the menu.
Nearly every item in your menu will have its own discrete order flow. Even simple things such as a cup of specialty coffee can get complicated. What size? Milk? Soy? Cream? Black? Sugar? Artificial sweetener?
For ordering, the first workflows you’ll design should be in your point of sale, for each item on your menu where it’s needed. This way, the selection of an entree causes prompts with variations and modifications. So when someone orders a steak, there’s no forgetting how to proceed.
How would you like that cooked?
Which side would you like?
Do you want us to pair it with our recommended wine for only $5 a glass?
You can create order flows that are as detailed as you need them to be, including custom modifications at the customer’s request. And notice how the workflow can include clever little upsell opportunities like the one at the end.
Step 4. Sending orders to the right place
Once an order is placed at the point of sale, the next step is to let the kitchen know what to make. In smaller venues or during non-peak hours, it’s easy to walk over to the chef/barista and to let them know what needs to be prepared.
But if your venue is larger with more components (say a bar, a kitchen with different stations and a few seating sections), or enjoys plenty of foot traffic and is therefore always packed, production printers can be a real lifesaver.
Using remote production printers or displays means that the details of each order are automatically sent where they need to go. This is another case of advanced preparation that sets your establishment and staff up for success.
You can also define at the item level where the order prints. This means the people who receive the printed dockets only see what they need to. Ring up a customer who wants a cheeseburger (with tomatoes, pickles and extra sauce) and a beer, and you can send the food order to print in the kitchen where it’s picked up by the chef, while the beer order goes to the staff tending the bar.
If you prefer to go paperless, a bump screen works just as well. The principle is the same – sending orders from the point of sale to where they need to go – but instead of printing it out on a slip, the orders get sent to a screen instead.
These printing and display setups can be as robust as you need them to be, but keep in mind that production printers should be facilitating kitchen workflow, not dictating it. For example, fine-dining establishments – where specialisation in the kitchen is a given – might want to put printers at various stations in the kitchen, while a single printer is probably all that’s necessary for a small cafe.
Letting the point of sale automate communication keeps everyone focused on their jobs:
- your wait staff don’t need to run handwritten tickets back to the kitchen – they can just move on to the next table or head right back to get drinks;
- your kitchen staff won’t need explanations of special requests because they’ve got all the info they need on their production ticket;
- the host will know that the people at that table have only just ordered and will look elsewhere for the next available opening for customers at the door. And no one will have to go back to the guests and explain they can’t have what they ordered because the kitchen ran out of the ingredients.
With the right preparation, supported by a clever tech solution and thorough training, getting your workflow nailed is a piece of cake that will pay off in spades.
Embedding these workflows in your business means your dining room might be full, and the kitchen might be getting slammed, but your team will be clear and focused, knowing exactly what needs to be done and how it needs to happen. That’s what good operations design does for you, and the best design starts with a simple system that’s sophisticated and scalable, and that’s where we come in.