5 Secrets to Improving the Vibe in Your Restaurant Kitchen
A restaurant kitchen is a high-performance place, where everybody has to be consistently on their game. But a kitchen without excellent operations is a recipe for stress. A busy kitchen can be one of your toughest places to manage a thriving work environment. How do you do it? And how can Original Review uniquely help you manage?
How to Improve the Vibe in Your Restaurant Kitchen
None of us has 360 vision. Ask kitchen employees what needs improving. They can tell you what works best from their perspective. Observe, and then ask, “How can I help you…?” Open up lines of communication and build trust.
You also need to know how that feedback squares up with what customers are getting. Collect customer feedback. A new dish might be delicious and popular with customers, but it might be putting a strain on your kitchen staff to prepare. Conversely, your new chef may be a positive relational influence in the kitchen, but not produce a menu that’s impressing clientele. You need honest feedback from both perspectives.
Obey your limits
How do you succeed by obeying limits? Growth, challenge, and seasons of higher-intensity don’t equal always pushing the envelope. Some boundaries actually keep you focused on growth. The key to a successful restaurant business is working creatively and excellently within known limits of:
- Identity – what kind of restaurant you are
- Clientele – who you regularly serve
- Budget – how much you have to work with to stay in the black
- Energy – how much challenge to staff and self are possible without causing relational strain, burnout, or mistakes
As necessity is the mother of invention, limit is often the mother of excellence. If you serve chicken and waffles to an uptown urban crowd, don’t suddenly expand into gourmet breakfast tacos, too—until and unless you have consistent equilibrium, your kitchen staff has the current menu well in hand, and your restaurant is known for darn good chicken and waffles. If you know what you’re working with, first operate comfortably within those boundaries before trying to expand. You’re freeing up your kitchen to do its job and hit its stride.
Create standard operating procedures
Standard operating procedures clarify expectations, prevent miscommunication, keep operations consistent, and keep your team moving toward goals together. They also help you avoid legal problems by keeping kitchen regulations front and center. During training, make sure it’s clear how each part of the handbook corresponds to your identity and goals as a business. Employees need to know these aren’t just your preferences or whims, but best practices that will help everyone work efficiently to provide great food and service and to build the brand. With a manual, employees know what you expect, and should know what to expect from you.
Do you regularly run out of food during a rush? Do you often waste food? Don’t give your kitchen any reason to be frustrated with inventory. If you don’t already have one, you need a clear, standard workflow for inventory. Work with the chef as far in advance as possible to plan ordering, and ask kitchen staff to take note of when they run thin and when they’re throwing away way too much. You may also have some storage or other facilities issues that need to be improved. Kitchen staff is your closest allies in improving efficiency and saving money here.
Hire a chef with people skills
You might not see much about this on Food Network, but it can make all the difference in the world to hire a chef with good social and leadership skills. You don’t necessarily need a chef with a strong personality, artistic quirks, or an inflated ego to create delicious and beautiful food and to get along with co-workers. Don’t just look at a chef’s CV; talk to his or her former co-workers. Talented people are just people, too, and need to be accountable to the same rules of kindness and conduct as your other staff.
Finally, when you’re not around, your chef is also the de facto kitchen boss, so someone with some management skills—even willingness to mentor other staff—is a boon to your business and to the vibe of your kitchen. All the great technology and planning in the world won’t replace good leaders.
Clear out kitchen space
Is your kitchen itself organized for maximum efficiency? In the hurry, the heat, and the high-demand atmosphere, even small irritations or confusions can quickly become a big deal. You want to create a clean, clear, efficient space to reduce collisions, messes, cross-contamination, and irritation. Some ideas:
If possible, make sure your pathway for incoming inventory is not the same as the pathway leading out into the restaurant. Where does traffic become congested? Does equipment need to be moved or rearranged? Ensure prep spaces are as easy as possible for cooks and chefs to use, and convenient to sinks and ingredient storage. Get your top planner doing daily prep. And ask your prep person for feedback: What insights can they provide you on staying on top of things from the first moment, every day? Is all as it should be? The space sets the stage for the kitchen’s high-pressure “performance.” Be a good stage manager.
Improving the vibe in your kitchen boils down to staying in the know, being willing to change, and giving your staff a head start at success.
When it comes to staying in the know, nothing keeps you informed about guest experience like Original Review. We provide you with real-time guest feedback all day, so you can know how you’re doing hour to hour, from diners’ perspective. Ready for a restaurant revolution? Sign up for a free demo today.