How to make a restaurant more efficient: 4 tips for a better kitchen workflow

The restaurant industry has always been a leader in efficiency, but lately outside forces, from labor shortages to supply chain issues, not to mention a global pandemic, have transformed what is typically a strength into a challenge.

96% of operators report supply chain issues, and seven out of 10 say they don’t have enough staff to support their current service demand, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry 2022 report.

The industry is, however, still one of the most flexible, rolling with the punches and still standing, despite the hardships encountered over the past several years. We’re starting to look for new ways to grow, other areas to gain efficiencies.

AyrKing has been in the food prep business for more than 50 years, and we meet with our customers regularly to understand their challenges and needs. When it comes to commercial kitchen workflow, here’s how we’ve learned to make a restaurant more efficient.

Tips to improve restaurant efficiency

Time is one of the most valuable assets in the foodservice industry. In the restaurant business, time literally equals dollars. Improving restaurant efficiency can impact the entire organization. Here are some tips to help your kitchen work faster and smarter.

1.     Invest in your employees

Roughly 50% of restaurant operators expect recruiting and retaining employees to be their top challenge in 2022, according to the National Restaurant Association. If there was ever a time to invest in your employees, it’s now.

But “investing” means more than increasing wages.

Prioritize training

The better your kitchen staff is trained, the more efficient they can be on the job, making fewer mistakes and producing consistent product.

Skills training is one of the top perks younger workers look for in a new job, according to a 2021 Gallup survey, and several studies have shown that training helps increase employee retention and decrease employee turnover.

Managers, in particular, are a vital part of back of the house restaurant operations, and 57% of U.S. workers said their managers need to learn how to be better at managing people, according to a 2020 Society for Human Resource Management survey. In fact, 52% of those surveyed said they left a job because they didn’t feel valued by their manager.

Taking the time to invest in employee training can make a world of difference in restaurant efficiency and employee retention.

Prioritize communication

In the fast-paced restaurant world, it’s easy for an important piece of communication to fall flat or not be announced to everyone. An employee who isn’t aware of a procedure change can bring kitchen workflow to a halt and throw a huge kink in efficiency.

This is a problem that can easily be solved with regular meetings, accomplishing several goals:

  • Ensures everyone is updated on new policies, procedures or menu changes
  • Fosters an atmosphere of communication
  • Encourages workplace camaraderie

Taking the time to prioritize communication doesn’t cost anything extra and can help improve restaurant efficiency.

2.     Install labor-saving equipment

When you consider how to make a restaurant more efficient, you cannot overlook equipment. It is so important to choose kitchen equipment that will save you and your employees time. Time is so valuable that an inflexible piece of equipment can make or break a kitchen workflow.

To find a piece of equipment that will help improve your restaurant’s efficiency, consider these factors:

  • Usability: How easy is it to use? Will this require extensive training or is it simple?
  • Durability: Is it built to endure the stringent requirements for a commercial kitchen?
  • Reliability: How much routine maintenance is required? How easy is it to find replacement parts, and how expensive are they?
  • Flexibility: Does this have the versatility to prepare and maintain many different menu items throughout all dayparts?
  • Workflow: Will this effectively fit into your current restaurant workflow plan without major disruptions? Perhaps the most important question is: Will this equipment allow rote food preparation tasks to become more streamlined?

Consider, for example, how much time your employees spend performing certain tasks, such as hand-sifting breading. AyrKing’s Breader Blender Sifter (BBS) cuts that time by up to 80% and reduces ingredient costs by up to 40%.

In fact, all of AyrKing’s food prep equipment is built to make back of the house restaurant operations run more smoothly and save on labor because we recognize the importance a flexible piece of equipment can make in overall kitchen efficiency.

Bonus: Simplifying your employees’ processes can also help increase retention.

3.     Create a restaurant kitchen workflow plan

Getting the workflow right is another important way to improve restaurant efficiency. Workflow in a restaurant kitchen is a complex equation — one that could make a significant impact on your efficiency and profitability if it isn’t solved correctly.

Some tips to creating a restaurant kitchen workflow plan customized to fit your needs:

  • Consider your menu
    To ensure your kitchen workflow makes sense with your menu, detail the steps employees have to follow to complete the menu and evaluate for inefficiencies. Are they often crossing paths or needing to use the same equipment at the same time? Don’t forget to include prep time as well as execution time in your considerations.
  • Evaluate equipment workflow
    Energy efficiency can be significantly affected by a restaurant’s kitchen workflow. Plan your equipment placement well. For example, you’ll want to ensure refrigeration units don’t risk overheating by being placed directly next to an oven.
  • Check in on your facility
    Your facility’s design, both front and back of the house restaurant operations, is a critical piece of the workflow puzzle. Consider where exits and entrances are located and how that might impact the equipment and the employee flow. Think about where your facility is located and how the environment, such as weather or even construction sites, might impact your restaurant workflow plan.
  • Think about your employees
    Physical and cognitive ergonomics are important to setting your employees up for success in a commercial kitchen. Do they have height challenges, for example? You’ll want to ensure the workflow fits with any specific needs your employees have.

Kitchen workflow sample chart

4.     Streamline your menu

Your menu cannot be overlooked when you’re evaluating how to make a restaurant more efficient. Actively consider ways you can better streamline your menu for back of the house restaurant operations.

Although menu development is something operators are quite familiar with, here are a few efficiency tips you might not consider:

  • Overlapping ingredients
    Look for ingredients that might be overlapped or substituted to help streamline costs, space and ingredient availability.
  • Multi-use equipment
    What equipment do you currently have that could be used for additional menu offerings without the need for investing in a new system? For example, if you’re already using a BBS for breading chicken, using it for breading vegetables as well could add some menu variety without the extra investment and wouldn’t disrupt your restaurant kitchen workflow plan.
  • Quality concerns
    What menu items present the highest variability in quality or consistency? Consider a more condensed menu so employees can focus on quality and efficiency instead of a wide range of offerings.

AyrKing can help improve restaurant kitchen efficiency

Prioritizing your staff, investing in labor-saving equipment, developing a restaurant kitchen workflow plan and streamlining your menu are how we’ve learned to make a restaurant more efficient. These tips can help operators combat the myriad of challenges the foodservice industry is facing with flexible, efficient solutions.

Making rote, mundane foodservice tasks simpler and more efficient is exactly where our expertise lies. If you’re interested in learning more about our restaurant kitchen efficiency solutions, reach out; we’re always happy to chat.

Connect with AyrKing

No matter where you are around the globe, AyrKing is always ready to help you find the best commercial food prep equipment for your operation. Use our convenient online locator to connect with a distributor or representative in your area.