How to Identify Problems in Restaurant Kitchens?

How do you know if there's a problem brewing in your restaurant's work processes? We look at how to identify the signs and how to monitor for them consistently

"No Greg, taking selfies for tinder isn't an appropriate use of work time. Now put your hair net on and get to work!"

There are a lot of little things that can create frustration in the restaurant business.

Sometimes it just means getting Greg to do his job.

Other times it can get a little more complex and actually expensive.

For example:

  • Food waste is food you have had to pay for, but which doesn’t bring any income.
  • Quality problems, when they continue, ultimately lead to less people coming in, less income and you risk litigation to boot.

To start with it’s fine if something doesn’t go according to plan. Then another thing comes along and maybe that’s OK too, because on the whole everything is fine.

But once these things compound over time?

It’s like the old yarn about a frog that gets boiled alive when the water around it gets hotter little by little.


Identification, Please!

So how do you spot if the little things are starting to pile up?

If you’re not using a systematic approach to monitor activities in your restaurant, you’ll have to rely on observations to help you spot the problems.

Do people send a lot of food back? Or do you see a lot of food going to waste, either as plate waste or catering waste?

If that’s the case, there’s likely to be something wrong with either the food quality or portion sizes – in any case that’s some food you paid for going to the trash.

Wrong size portions has an easier fix, as long as you can identify the source of waste.

If the problem is with food quality, though, it may be a bit trickier to get to the root cause.

Maybe the quality of work doesn’t meet your standards. Or the ingredients might be inferior to what you’d expect to use. Were they always that way or did something happen while you had them?

Correcting the situation is all about identifying the source of the problems.


Let’s Set the Record Straight

But how do you tell if the problem is with the people or with the processes?

Obviously, you should already have rigorous restaurant management in place where it comes to scheduling and monitoring safety, quality and hygiene tasks.

This is a good avenue for identifying quality problems, because you should be able to see if something is amiss in the process.

Of course, this may mean combing through a lot of paper, but as long as your staff have been diligent in recording their activities truthfully, any problem hotspots in the kitchen workflow should show up.

(Although if that’s the case, the process probably has a disconnect between documenting a problem and correcting it, which you should definitely fix).

If process logs are all clean, or missing altogether the problem is more likely with the people. Of course, your process may be faulty too, but the problem starts with the people who have neglected to record process deviations.

However, people rarely do this kind of stuff out of malice. It’s more likely that what you’re looking at is misinformed (there are word-of-mouth practices in many businesses) or under-trained staff.


"But Greg told me motor oil and cooking oil are basically the same thing!"

Making sure your staff have been trained (and keep up their knowledge) in food handling practices and in your particular processes (including record keeping!) should then either correct your quality problems or let you identify where the problem lies.

You might also want to invest in a digital system for managing and monitoring your kitchen workflows (including training and process guidance) to make it easier to keep up to date on how everything is working.

It also makes it much easier to identify the problems when they happen, guide any corrections and even develop even better way of working based on the information you gather.


No Free Lunches

But all the solutions are so complex, I hear you say. And why would you want to pay money when you can just print a record keeping sheet out and give out pencils galore!

Essentially, why would you want to mess up a free and basically working system with computers and apps and clouds?

And that’s true. Paper works fine on paper.

Until it doesn’t.

It takes time to pinpoint problems if you need to comb through a stack of papers every time there’s something you want to find. So, paper is free only if you consider your time to be free.

Basically digital beats paper every time when you need to have access to a lot of information in any reasonable amount of time.


Just don't ask about the scissors.

The possibility of neglected record-keeping we already mentioned, and there’s also the threat of incorrect entries, illegible writing and missing records which can all lead to trouble.

And a certain type of digital kitchen management system can also help you with training and guidance, so that’s also a plus.

You can also do all this on paper and with a comprehensive training program, there’s no doubt about that.

But is that something you want to invest a large chunk of your time on?

That’s a totally different question.



If you’d like to hear more about how digital beats paper: contact us for a consultation.

Or learn more about how to succeed with digital solutions!

Hope to hear from you soon!

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