A Well-Oiled Machine
Chef and manager advice
During peak times, does your kitchen remind you of an old Keystone Cops movie, with all of the actors scurrying here and there and bumping into each other?
It doesn’t have to be that way. With a well-planned kitchen layout, organization and efficiency, any operation will function more smoothly. A well-trained staff and advance preparation can make all the difference, too.
Busy Chef Offers Sage Advice
Adolpho Garcia is executive chef and proprietor of La Boca Argentinian Steakhouse, High Hat Café and Ancora Pizzeria & Salumeria in New Orleans.
“When you open your first restaurant, it is a learning process,” Chef Garcia said. “Your first priority must be the food you serve. Streamlining kitchen functionality comes a few months later. As time goes by, the areas that need improvement will become apparent. If you find that you have a difficult balancing act, changes must be made. The layout should allow for effective mise en place. Food should flow seamlessly from the prep area to the line to the dining room.
“You might find that a menu item takes more labor and time than it is worth. Try to keep labor-intensive prep to a minimum to prevent bottlenecks. Look for ways to cut labor without sacrificing quality. For example, we used to make homemade sausage at LaBoca, but we also make it at Ancora, our pizzeria. Now we make it at one location and share it with the other. Sometimes, it makes sense to bring in food items from other sources – an excellent bakery, for example. Sometimes, a device or piece of equipment can add to your efficiency, and pay for itself in labor savings.
“Be proactive. Fix problems so they do not crop up again. A workplace should have a friendly, happy atmosphere. When this happens, the turnover rate drops dramatically.” – Jim Ferschinger
“If your kitchen is small and cramped, with pots and equipment stashed in every corner, it is difficult to remain organized. Hang lightweight shelving from the ceiling or place metal shelves with racks and hooks atop work tables to hold pots and utensils at arm’s length. Pot racks are also an option for easy overhead access of the things you use all the time. Always keep efficiency top-of-mind. Time is money.”
Veteran Manager Says “Take One for the Team”
Jim Ferschinger is an industry veteran with over 45 years of management and management consultant experience at Milwaukee area restaurants and country clubs. He provides excellent advice to streamline kitchen operations through staff training and advance preparation.
“Effective training of the kitchen staff together as a team is invaluable,” Ferschinger said. “The key is to ensure that each player understands their position, can execute their job flawlessly and is willing to step up to the plate and help out the other players if the need arises.
“Ideally, a kitchen team grows together as time goes by. Each player acquires more confidence in what they do, becomes more and more efficient and less likely to make a costly mistake that could impact your business. The kitchen line gets to the point where they know what needs to be done and where to pitch in when necessary. A kitchen team that is not cohesive is constantly playing catchup, while guests in the dining room are wondering where their meal is.
“Each chef, cook or assistant on the line must be assigned to a particular job and know what is expected of them. An effectively run kitchen operates from a checklist, similar to the checklist that an airline pilot follows prior to takeoff. Each team member is aware of their responsibilities. Eventually, everything becomes automatic, like a well-oiled machine.
“There are a lot of variables in a kitchen setting, and lots of things can go wrong. That’s when people just naturally get upset and tempers flare. Be proactive. Fix problems so they do not crop up again. A workplace should have a friendly, happy atmosphere. When this happens, the turnover rate drops dramatically.”