Whether your pizzeria has four wheels, is a takeout joint, fast-casual concept, or a full-service establishment, you must provide timely service. Although timely has a different meaning in each of these concepts, speed of service begins in the kitchen.
Efficiency in your kitchen starts well before your cooks step onto the line. With good planning, preparation and communication you can help your team be more organized, less frantic and lightning fast!
Prep to the containers you use on the line
For example, stock pepperoni into the pans you use on the line instead of a large container in the walk in that the cooks need to restock from.
Prep as much as you can ahead of time
Prep cooks are expensive, you say? Well, so is wasting time. If your line cooks have to stop in the middle of a dinner rush to slice tomatoes, that is time that they are not in production.
Keep backups of commonly used ingredients handy
When possible, store backups of your most commonly used ingredients under the makeline. Any ingredients shared between two stations should be stocked in both stations to eliminate running back and forth. You can also create an area in your walk-in that is close to the door to store any ingredients that either won’t fit underneath the bench or don’t need to be restocked as often. Clearly mark the area as back stock only to ensure other items don’t add confusion and clutter the area. Additionally, “use first” stickers are a great way to help your team find what they need quickly.
Steps count and not just on your Fitbit!
Steps take seconds which may not seem like much, but if your team has to take 10 steps to the dough cooler, three steps to the dough table and another eight to the makeline, this adds up fast. Think of your kitchen as an assembly line, keep common stations together as much as possible and direct the flow of the product toward the expeditor.
Have a plan!
Have you ever seen a football team take the field and no one knows what position they are playing? Of course not. Aces in their places! Before each shift, assign positions. You can write it out or make a line map. In either case, on any given shift, each team member knows their area of responsibility. Tiffany is on skins, Joey is on build, Bob is on ovens and that is where they stay. Then you can assign a floater who can move from station to station during busy times.
Let me hear your chatter!
While some POS systems can fire items based on preparation times, it is rare and only somewhat successful. So, communication about timing is key. If we fire the pasta too soon, it will die in the window before the pie on the same ticket is done.
More information please!
Utilize your menu item sales or similar depletion reports to set up your makelines. First, identify what your top three sellers are. Then make a list of the ingredients in your top three. These are your most reached for ingredients. Put those ingredients up front. Any outliers can go in the back and of course, items that commonly go together stay together.
Stick to the Menu
Although modifications are common in our industry, your team should know which ones are acceptable.
You’ll bring your line to a screeching halt if your sauté cook has to run to the walk-in to grab eggs because someone decides they want scrambled eggs in their ‘Boli on a busy Friday night. Every guest after that will have to wait that much longer for their meal. Menus and recipes are the backbone of what we do, they are the road map for a successful operation. Ad libbing not only causes chaos on the line but can wreak havoc on your food cost and inventory, especially if your team is using the dreaded “open food” button.
MISE EN PLACE!!!
For the Love of everything Wholly, put it back where you found it! Confusion and chaos are the enemy of speed and efficiency. If your cooks are wasting time looking for the “peel”, they will become flustered and make mistakes. You can apply this same philosophy to your walk in and other storage areas. A place for everything and everything in its place makes it easy to find what you need and move on.
Front of the House.
Think of your hosts as the gate keepers. They control the pace of the entire restaurant. They have the power to overwhelm your team or keep things running at a nice smooth pace. So often hosts just want to avoid the ugly of telling guests that they will have to wait when we have open tables, instead they slam butts in seats as fast as thy can. Now we have a full restaurant, and all of those orders will hit the kitchen at the same time. Your cooks are white knuckled — waiting for all of those orders to flood in.
Wait times can be a matter of perception but we can control this to some degree. The clock starts ticking for your guests the minute they are seated. Remember that waiting in the “waiting area” is far more acceptable than waiting in the “eating area”
Wait times should not only be based on whether you have open tables, rather it’s more of a matter of timing. Don’t be afraid to pause between seating to give your servers a chance to give each guest the service and hospitality they deserve and keep the flow of tickets to the kitchen at a steady pace.
Menus, guest behavior and technology are constantly changing. What worked for me five years ago is obsolete today. Times change and so must we. Take time to review your operation. Get in the kitchen and hop on the line with your team. Look at the workflow through a fresh lens and find those little improvements that collectively will increase your overall kitchen efficiency and speed.
Melissa Rickman is co-founder of Wholly Stromboli in Fort Lupton, Colorado, and member of the World Pizza Champions.