How to Make a Restaurant Kitchen Run More Efficiently

Efficiency, viability and profitability have a concomitant relationship in professional kitchens. Only efficient kitchens are viable, and only viable kitchens are profitable. Making a kitchen run more efficiently requires determining the kitchen's current state concerning production. You determine a kitchen's productivity by examining its food costs and yield, or how much product the kitchen takes in compared to how much it sells. This allows you to identify weak areas concerning staff, management and operating procedures. A kitchen's efficiency increases with yield improvement and food cost reduction.

Food Cost Percentage
Determine your beginning inventory (BI), your purchases (P) incurred during the business week, your ending inventory (EI) and your sales (S). Enter figures from the beginning of your business week to the end of your business week for the values in the food cost equation.

Calculate your food cost percentage (FC) using the following formula: (BI + P -- EI)/S = FC. If your BI is $5,000, your P is $1,000, your EI is $5,250 and your S is $2,500, enter the values into the equation as follows: (5,000 + 1,000 -- 5,250)/2,500 * 100 = 30 FC. The ideal FC in any kitchen ranges between 28 percent and 35 percent.

Use your FC to indicate the viability of your kitchen, and examine the figures to determine your kitchen's weak areas.

Yield Percentage
Determine the weight of a food as purchased (AP) and the weight of the edible portion (EP). AP represents the weight before prepping and EP represents the weight after cooking. For instance, if a tenderloin sub-primal weighed 5 lbs. before fabricating into fillets, its AP is 5. If after breaking the tenderloin down you have 4 lbs. remaining, your EP is 4.

Calculate the yield percentage (YP) using the following formula: (EP/AP) 100. Using the aforementioned tenderloin as an example, your YP equals (4/5) 100 = 80. A 100-percent yield isn't feasible, as any food loses moisture during cooking. However, ideal YP for vegetables ranges from 75 to 95 percent, and the ideal YP for protein ranges from 70 to 75 percent.

Use the YP to determine weak areas in food preparation.

Maintain a waste log for your cooks. A waste log tracks all food losses including overcooked food, poorly trimmed protein and any inventory discarded as a result of employee error.

Assign a closing employee to perform inventory at the close of the day. This will indicate any discrepancies not recorded in the waste log, such as theft of inventory.

Improve your yield. If the ideal yield percentage for iceberg lettuce is 90 percent, and your prep cooks are producing a 70-percent yield, it means they aren't using 20 percent of the product. Poor yields result from over-portioning, poor meat or produce fabrication or mishandling that makes the product unusable. Identify the problem and show your prep cooks their areas of improvement.

Lower your food costs and increase your yield percentage by utilizing usable trim. For instance, after cutting a beef tenderloin sub-primal you have approximately 1 lb. of meat and fat not suited for serving as a filet. Grind the trim, as well as the trim from other beef cuts, and use it as fresh ground beef. This cuts food costs by reducing the amount of ground beef the kitchen must purchase.


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