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4 Valuable Strategies To Streamline Restaurant Kitchen Operations

Having spoken to a wide range of restaurant owners and managers, the team here at Abacus knows the challenges of running a successful business operation all too well. You work hard to delight customers with exceptional customer service, while simultaneously delivering wonderful dishes and achieving a bottom line that covers all expenses and produces a healthy profit margin.

How Much Time Do You Have to Focus on Hospitality?

So much of a restaurant’s success is determined by the kitchen and how efficiently its operations run. As a manager or restaurant owner, you’re often required to be the bridge between front-of-house and back-of-house staff. You ensure wait staff are on the ball, customers are enjoying themselves, and the kitchen is staying on top of meal preparation.

But then there’s balancing the books, managing accounts, hiring staff, and compliance with food and safety regulations …

If a spanner gets thrown into kitchen operations, it’s you who needs to put the fire out. This is stressful, so we’ve put together this valuable list of 4 ways to streamline kitchen operations. Prevent meltdowns, minimise risk, and feel secure you’ve proactively set up a system you can rely on when waves inevitably arrive to rock the boat.

1. Hire the Right People

What does this mean? People are people, right? Skilled staff are skilled staff … Yes, this is true, but if you’ve been running your kitchen for a while now, you’ll know a staff member’s relevant experience is not the sole determining factor of whether you’re building a high-performing team. We need to play the long game, which entails finding people who you can foresee as being strong foundational pieces to your long-term plan.

What are a staff member’s values? Do they match with your own, and those of your other team members? How emotionally intelligent is the prospective hire? The kitchen is a hot place to work, so you don’t want sparks to fly via heated tempers. You need people with adaptable mindsets who are willing to be trained because they know there’s always more to learn.

Kitchens are like sports, music, and theatre groups – ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’

Ever played on a team or been part of a closely knit group working together towards a common goal? You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so you need to be strategic about who gets to be a team member, and when they would be best put into action. As kitchen efficiency becomes more and more dependent on new technologies, you want the type of people who aren’t afraid to tackle innovative processes and systems, and who may even have their own ideas on how to improve operations.

Would you let someone join your cricket team simply because a team member recommends them? This is business, and although word-of-mouth hiring used to be the norm, these days knowing someone has a flexible, sharp, quick-thinking mindset for both training and stressful rush periods proves to be more valuable.

Be proactive and always keep your eyes out for exceptional talent, doing your utmost to retain the best operators. As opposed to solely looking for great employees when you’re short-staffed, build up a solid foundation of talent so there’s always someone ready to come on deck.

The proof is in the pudding – literally!

Ever notice the food tastes better when all the staff look happy? It’s true, so do your best to retain talent, especially in periods where labour is in short supply. The hospitality industry is notorious for its high employee turnover rate.

The conductor of an orchestra is only as good as their musicians, so make sure your employees are talented, have a positive mindset, and are happy with their working environment. Taste the chocolate pudding. How would you honestly rate it? Is it top notch?

2. Embrace and Update Your Kitchen Technology

Stand back and look at how much new digital technologies have changed so many aspects of our lives. Work in the food and beverage industry is the same. The question is, are you living comfortably in the past (even if it’s not comfortable)? You may even have older tech that works okay, but if you only knew how much implementing the cutting-edge solutions currently available could boost your revenue … you wouldn’t think twice about making the change.

Point of Sale (POS) and payment systems have moved to the cloud

Long gone are the days when you purchased a one and done POS system and payment method. With a cloud POS system, just like your mobile phone, new features are consistently being released, as well as updates to older, outdated, or potentially obsolete functions you no longer require or find useful. This works to save your staff time and energy, minimising the potential for errors. The result? More time and energy available to focus on providing your customers a delightful experience.

Why is having more time for your customers good for business?

The technology may be new, but the goals have been the same for millennia. A comprehensive POS system can provide a broad range of solutions, including saving customer preferences, and tailoring personalised offers based on previous habits. This type of approach leads to old-fashioned word-of-mouth referrals, and positive online customer reviews. Attracting new clientele and solidifying loyalty amongst your current customers leads to genuine business growth.

Change with the times, or be left behind

In an industry that evolves continuously, you need to ensure your operations are running at their optimum. If competitors are using modern tech tools and systems to increase efficiency and access new opportunities, they may grow and expand while you remain in the small pond – if you aren’t eaten by a bigger fish first!

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to bring certain changes into our operating rhythm. Social distancing and the fear of catching the virus by touching surfaces brought contactless payment methods in across the board. Successful restaurant owners know how to adapt to changing times, which has also included the ‘new normal’ of consumer ordering and dining habits.

We know the old saying, ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’, but even if your restaurant has been successful for decades, these changing external circumstances call for agility. This means moving past long ingrained systems and processes to meet the ever-changing needs and expectations of contemporary staff and customers.

3. Invest in Communication Solutions to Minimise Confusion

Now, let’s get back into the kitchen. Streamlining kitchen processes is imperative to achieving an efficient operation, resulting in delicious meals being delivered on time, every time. Using a kitchen display screen (KDS) empowers staff to seamlessly communicate with one another, ensuring front-of-house and back-of-house is always connected.

Crystal clear orders equate to lower error rates. A KDS shows kitchen staff all your orders as digital tickets on a single screen, immediately after being placed on your POS. Scroll through detailed views, receive sound alerts, and group items all in one location.

It doesn’t matter how many orders there are, with a KDS, you can ensure they’re all delivered accurately. You may still have to handle the occasional extremely particular patron who thinks they know better than the chef when it comes to the difference between medium and medium rare for their steak, but this is something even the toughest operation will always have to deal with!

The team in the kitchen will love not having to manually manage orders, again empowering them to enter that famous ‘flow state’ where they can create edible works of art people will rave about.

Using a POS with omnichannel integrations

All your new digital tools need to be integrated into one simple, easy-to-use system. When inventory management, reporting, and even third-party take away and delivery app orders are brought together into one system, this doesn’t just streamline operations, it gives you power. Every aspect of your operation can be reviewed any time you like – and from any location, including your mobile phone if you’re on the move.

Seamless communication between both people and systems

Front-of-house and back-of-house communications need never falter again, as a cloud POS system with built-in comms tools ensures all stations are on top of the overall picture, as well as their specific responsibilities. Good communication naturally leads to improved efficiency, less chance for error, and a reduction in waiting times for customers.

4. Optimise Self-ordering, In-house Dining, Online Ordering, Takeaway, and Delivery Orders

These days, patrons can order their meals in a multitude of different ways, so why not integrate them all into one platform? An integrated POS system encapsulates every type of ordering required in this post-COVID era.

It used to be that you either went to a restaurant and paid for your meal afterwards, or you ordered takeaway or delivery over the phone. The latter orders only comprised a small percentage of a restaurant’s revenue, but these days the shoe is on the other foot. The use of third-party delivery apps is huge in Australia, as are restaurant online ordering systems, self-service kiosks for restaurants, and restaurant table ordering systems.

A good POS system allows kitchen staff to view every type of order on one easy to navigate KDS screen, so they have a clear perspective on when a delivery order is due compared to a  dine-in or takeaway order.

Self-ordering solutions improve operational efficiency

With the pandemic’s effect on labour shortages, self-ordering kiosks and restaurant table ordering systems have come in extremely handy. These systems minimise the number of mistakes made on orders, as the customer is the one tapping in exactly what they want on their table iPad or SOK, thus reducing sunk costs.

Want to improve your restaurant’s overall operational efficiency? Contact the friendly team at Abacus now and we’ll guide you towards growth and stability through simplicity.