Equipped For Efficiency

by Katie Lee

— By Herschel Pazornick —

Turning to design and technology to streamline restaurant operations.

There are numerous reasons restaurant operators prioritize streamlining operations. The main reason being that efficient and effective operations are crucial to long term success. Staying ahead of technology, incorporating the latest innovations and being mindful of space layout can lead to faster service and reduced wait times for customers. Here are a few ways operators can streamline operations:

Keeping Design in Mind

To optimize speed of service, kitchens should be designed mindfully to allow chefs to prepare and produce meals in a timely manner while still guaranteeing quality. This practice is, of course, easier said than done — but is quite possible.

First and foremost, when designing a kitchen for optimal efficiency, you need to put the pieces of equipment involved in similar tasks together. For example, if your restaurant utilizes an all-fresh menu where you are consistently cooking refrigerated products, putting your cooking station as close as possible to the refrigerator can save a lot of time so your chef does not have to take as many steps to retrieve product. Although it may not seem ultra-time consuming, those steps add up over time.

To further limit steps, streamlining layout beyond refrigerator placement so your chef can simply reach down, up, left or right to access the needed product and equipment vs. taking many steps helps them prepare meals as expeditiously as possible. For example, the sink and prep area should be as close as possible to the stove.

Operators can also invest in equipment with technology available to streamline how chefs perform certain functions. Simply investing in equipment with timers and automatic shut off can go a long way.

Innovative Equipment

We are fortunate to live in the 21st century where we have access to technology previously unimaginable. The restaurant equipment industry especially has evolved greatly in the last few years. One of the biggest recent innovations are convection or “Combi” ovens. Combi ovens have been a gamechanger because they typically cook 25% faster than traditional ovens, and at temperatures that are 25 degrees lower, thus saving time and energy. They also lead to a more consistent product and better browning as they do not have “hot spots” like conventional ovens.

Combi ovens are also capable of several different kinds of cooking in just one piece of equipment. For example, you can cook in steam mode, convection or a combination of both. There is also a plethora of technology built into these units to assist the chef in letting them know when the product has reached temperature. Chefs can even cook overnight in these ovens, which can be a real time saver. Once the product has reached the temperature designated by the chef, the oven goes into a holding mode automatically.

The cleaning technology available for these ovens is also quite innovative. These ovens utilize cleaning pellets where you can simply put the pellets in the oven, put it in cleaning mode, walk away and the next morning it will be perfectly clean — leading to even greater labor and time savings.

Labor Savings

If finding labor is a challenge, restaurant operators may want to consider investing in equipment that reduces labor. Although expensive up front, the cost savings pay off in the long run.

Restaurant operators should consider combining new and old technologies to save on labor and optimize efficiency. There is new technology available for almost every function imaginable. For example, machines that crack 10,000 eggs per hour are now available. There is also technology available that has been around longer such as built-in filtration for deep fryers. While expensive, the equipment eliminates labor costs and can help maintain the quality of shortening, which is a high-dollar item.

Manufacturers in the industry are always innovating, and it can be difficult for restaurant operators to stay on top of every innovation. The annual National Restaurant Show is an amazing opportunity for operators to see all the new technology available at once and determine what may be a good fit for their restaurant.

Technology in Action

There are many great examples of restaurants that incorporate technology and design to streamline operations. One current example is a pizza restaurant our team is working with that is slated to open in a few months and was primarily designed with maximizing efficiency in mind.

For example, the restaurant has invested in technology to reduce labor and save time such as equipment that automatically rolls out pizza dough. They are also utilizing a ventless pizza oven where the chef puts the pizza in one end, and it comes out the other end completely done to the customer’s specifications vs. a traditional wood-burning pizza oven where the restaurant would need someone operating the oven and consistently moving pizzas around.

The restaurant also offers a full coffee bar and is incorporating a piece of equipment that makes high-quality coffee without a specially trainied barista. The automated espresso/cappuccino machine makes consistent, specialty drinks in just 30 seconds, allowing for perfect portion control.

The bottom line is being mindful of kitchen layout and investing in the right equipment are key to streamlining operations. If you are looking to streamline operations but do not know where to start, consider scheduling a consultation with a restaurant design consultant to review your goals. A good consultant will collaborate with you to determine what you like about your current layout, what you do not like and make impactful recommendations that fit within your budget.

— Herschel Pazornick is executive vice president of Acme Paper & Supply Company’s restaurant design and equipment division. He has been a member of the Acme Paper team for over 20 years. Email the author at [email protected] and visit https://www.acmepaper.com/.

You may also like