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With the current dining landscape subject to change, you need to evaluate new ways to run your kitchen more efficiently, especially with staff shortages. Take a look at some practical ways to help you repurpose your kitchen operations with portion control and win this winter

Running a lean and efficient kitchen isn’t nearly as exciting as introducing a successful new dish to your menu, but it could be the difference between keeping your head above water or struggling to make ends meet.

Setting aside time to plan, review and adapt, has always been good practice. With the dining landscape currently subject to frequent change, it might be wise to conduct a more regular evaluation of your kitchen operations over the next 12 months to improve kitchen performance.

In particular, here are some areas to focus on to make sure your kitchen is humming:

  • Inventory management.
  • Fresh vs frozen and convenience foods.
  • Menu rationalisation.

Let’s explore each one in more detail.

  • Maximising returns from takeaway and delivery.
  • Up-skilling and cross-skilling staff.
  • Minimising food waste.
The art of inventory management

1. The art of inventory management 

Suffice to say, tight inventory management is vital right now. But let’s not mince words, it’s also hugely challenging. Disrupted supply chains and a cautious return to in-venue dining mean inventory can be somewhat of a guessing game.

Automated systems, such as a fully integrated POS, are helpful with analysing ingredient demand, but nothing beats a manual assessment of inventory by a staff member who understands the way your kitchen operates. Even the best POS system cannot account for spillages, spoilage, theft and returns.

Rigorously employ the first-in, first-out method of ingredient use. Clearly label fresh and perishable food with expiry dates and place the oldest ingredients at the front of the refrigerator to be used first. 

Taking a disciplined approach to inventory will also allow your kitchen to prepare unique dishes that use excess ingredients before they go to waste.

Smart choices around convenience foods

2. Smart choices around convenience foods

Clever kitchens are seeking out ingredients that offer maximum versatility to improve kitchen efficiency.

The question Chefs need to ask themselves is: What do I need my kitchen staff to be doing, and what can I easily replace with a convenience product? When used sensibly, frozen and pre-prepared ingredients can offer outstanding menu support.

Not only can these products save valuable preparation time, but they can also assist kitchens in providing consistency in taste, texture and presentation. Better still, exact portions can be used while the remainder is safely stored in the freezer or pantry until it’s called upon next. 

Another significant benefit of frozen and other convenience ingredients is their stable cost, allowing venues to avoid highly variable market pricing and confidently run a menu that won’t wildly vary in price.

Make your menu work for you

3. Make your menu work for you

Establishments are turning their backs on bloated menus, choosing to strip their offer back to focus on core dishes.

There are many benefits to a streamlined offer. Holding on to an ordered item can occasionally be costly in terms of inventory, especially in an unpredictable environment. Plus, a focused menu can be engineered for maximum profitability. And, importantly, for any business that has endured staff turnover, a simplified menu can be more straightforward for new staff or a smaller crew to execute.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to streamlining your food offer, we’ve created a helpful guide that shows you how to use point-of-sale data to engineer a more profitable menu for the post-COVID world.

Maximising returns from takeaway and delivery

4. Maximising returns from takeaway and delivery

Takeaway and delivery as a significant source of sales are here to stay, so it’s essential to maximise your efficiencies in this space.

You can start by working through your mark-up policies, making good choices around cost-effective packaging that works for your particular dishes, and reviewing your menu to make food preparation easy for either in- or out-of-venue consumption.

If your back of house is a hotbed of chaos during peak times as it tries valiantly to service the differing needs of in- and out-of-venue diners, look into a kitchen display system (KDS). For takeaway and delivery customers, a KDS can provide the convenience of real-time order tracking that matches up with your kitchen’s capacity and doesn’t adversely impact meal fulfilment for in-house diners.

A KDS can also make dietary-based requests easier to manage and provide your wait staff with reliable information to pass onto diners.

Investing in staff to improve skills

5. Investing in staff to improve skills

Staff with multiple skills are worth more to your kitchen now than they’ve ever been. Data from IBISWorld suggested as many as 400,000 people may have left our industry as the pandemic took hold and work became unstable.

Many of these people will never return, and their talent will be hard to replace. Making an effort to up-skill and cross-skill your current kitchen staff should help insulate your establishment against the talent drain.

For example, on a quiet night in your kitchen, there is great benefit in having a single staff member who can both tend the grill and plate up.

Not only does your kitchen run more efficiently with multi-skilled staff, but those staff members also appreciate your investment in them. The net result should be a reduced staff turnover, which is a terrific outcome for kitchens right now.

Minimising food waste in hospitality kitchens and what to do with surplus food

6. Minimising food waste in hospitality kitchens and what to do with surplus food

Your best efforts to minimise food waste during kitchen operations may not always be enough in an uncertain environment. If your kitchen is occasionally left with surplus food, there are ways you can put that food to work.

Firstly, consider donating meals or selling them at a reduced cost through an app such as Y Waste, which connects kitchens with excess food with people who live with food insecurity. Designed to work with charities but minimise the load on volunteers, Y Waste is a great way to keep food from being thrown out while also earning your venue points for corporate social responsibility.

A second solution is the community composting initiative, ShareWaste. Also, an app-based platform, ShareWaste connects those who have food waste with those who seek it.

It aims to encourage people to see their organic waste as a valuable resource and help them turn that waste into new soil and fertiliser by putting them in touch with community members who can make good use of it.