Master Restaurant Kitchen Systems for Seamless Operations

job of a restaurant owner restaurant kitchen systems
Master Restaurant Kitchen Systems for Seamless Operations

For some restaurant owners out there, the kitchen feels foreign. Sure, you know what you want your kitchen to create for your guests. You know how fast you like tickets to come out. You have a pretty good idea of where you want your food and labor cost to be, but unless you have a strong culinary background, you might be relying on one person to handle all that for you. That is a mistake because it makes you vulnerable and dependent. Let’s talk about unlocking restaurant success with restaurant kitchen systems for seamless operations so you are in control of your restaurant’s kitchen.  

Let me start off sharing with you why I can relate to this situation so much. I was the person I just talked about, being fearful of the kitchen when I was a manager because I didn't have a strong culinary background. Sure, I grew up in my family's restaurant and catering business back in Lynnwood, New Jersey, where I worked for the toughest manager possible: My mother. If you ever worked for your mom, you know what I'm talking about!

But the closest thing I got to becoming a kitchen pro, if you will, was being a dishwasher and a prep cook when I was 13 to 16 years old. Other than that I've never really worked the line as a full-time job. I didn’t place the orders, design recipes, or have knife skills or any of the things we associate with kitchen managers and chefs who work the kitchen from day to day.

My strength was in the front of house: buser, server, bartender and manager. As my career went on, I never spent time in the kitchen, so when I was a restaurant manager the kitchen felt foreign to me and left me dependent on the knowledge of the kitchen manager or chef.

This is super common in restaurants. It also leaves many restaurant owners vulnerable to abuse from these kitchen pros and/or stuck with a kitchen pro even if they aren’t a culture fit. Maybe they don’t even hit their numbers, but they have to keep them on because if they fired them, nobody would know how to order, or how to make the dishes. If the kitchen pro refuses to share processes and knowledge about how the kitchen runs, if you fire them, you’re left with nothing.

As a restaurant coach I see this play itself out over and over. I talk to restaurant owners daily, many of whom do not have strong culinary backgrounds and feel out of place in the kitchen. 

Master restaurant kitchen systems

Now, let me be clear. When you implement systems in your kitchen, it doesn't matter that you don't have a well-rounded culinary background. Heck, you could have no culinary background and with the right restaurant kitchen systems in place, you'll always be in a position that your kitchen isn't dependent on a single person. Systems put you in a position to not worry about when your kitchen leader moves on for good or bad reasons.

For example, when your restaurant has job descriptions, a training program, evaluations, performance reviews, for each and every position, even your front-of-house managers, everyone knows what their job is and how to do it the way you want it done. This makes it possible for anyone to any job in the restaurant – from front to back because it’s all documented and trainable.

As a restaurant manager, I created restaurant kitchen systems so I wouldn’t be without any knowledge about any part of the restaurant. I could do the scheduling because I had the budget and the projections. These days you use a schedule software like Seven Shifts and schedule the hours you need to match the sales. You know how many people you need in the kitchen for it to run the right way because you have systems. You don’t have to schedule the kitchen according to the chef’s requests but to the numbers outlined in your budget and software. You can even build scheduling templates for a $30,000, $50,000, or a $100,000 week. You know the perfect schedule, and you can just drag and drop people into those slots. You'll be able to track and control your labor costs and stay within budget. You can add to that a labor budgeting system that I teach my members called the Restaurant Payroll Guardian to control your labor costs because you're scheduling not only for dollars but hours, giving your management team the ability to know exactly what people should be working.

For running and controlling food cost, you can use food and beverage management software such as Margin Edge. This is software that I highly recommend and that many of my coaching members use. You'll be able to take inventory for ordering and calculating food cost, maintain recipe costing cards with ease by simply taking pictures of invoices and sending them up to the magic cloud. Orders are kept up to date and your next inventories update. Your recipe costing cards are up to date like magic, and you'll be able to assign prep, find out where you're bleeding money and ultimately control your kitchen.

I also teach my members a budgeting system called the Restaurant Checkbook Guardian that allows you to give up ordering without giving up your checkbook.  

Using checklists as systems also helps you maintain cleanliness and sanitation standards. I recommend a software called Jolt. When a member joins my restaurant coaching group, I actually pay for access to Jolt because it’s an essential tool for building systems in a restaurant. With checklists, you'll be able to ensure that everything is up to your standards from opening and closing side work, and Jolt has other modules for things like food safety. 

The key is using restaurant kitchen systems that don’t rely on what’s in your kitchen manager’s or chef’s head and only in their head. With systems like these in place, you're in control of your restaurant if a person leaves for good or even bad reasons. When your systems are in place and multiple people in management and line employees all know how to use those systems, your restaurant will continue to operate your way no matter who's running the kitchen no matter what kind of culinary skill you possess.

Even I could run your kitchen because I would have opening and closing side work checklists, I'd be able to schedule on budget to ensure that you have the right people and the right number of people working each shift. I'd be able to order, set up prep, take inventory, know the recipes, and hit your food and beverage and labor costs with ease.

Take control with restaurant kitchen systems instead of relying on one person's knowledge. The bonus is when you have a strong kitchen manager or chef who uses your restaurant kitchen systems – that’s when tour kitchen gets to rocking and rolling.

Be sure to visit my YouTube channel for more helpful restaurant management video tips.

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