So, while many restaurants worldwide aim for a 60:40 ratio with their dining and kitchen spaces, you can drive profitability upwards by shifting this ratio and feeding more diners with less kitchen space.
What’s the best way to set up a small restaurant kitchen, and optimise the efficiency of your F&B business? Hopefully, these tips can offer some useful insights.
Simplify your menu, strategically
The most successful chefs in the world agree that when it comes to your menu, less is more. This applies whether you run an established restaurant or modest café. In fact, smaller F&B businesses tend to get this right more often, due to resource constraints.
Here’s our advice. Instead of mesmerising guests with an enormous selection of gastronomic pleasures, focus on dishes that complement one another and add to the theme of your business’s offerings. For example, if your restaurant sells western food, but you also have Asian mains and desserts to “appeal to more diners”, you can consider dropping the Asian dishes to keep your menu more manageable.
When planning your menu, think about the ingredients that your recipes use. By having recipes that share ingredients, you can keep a narrower collection of ingredients in your kitchen – while still giving diners the illusion of a menu that’s varied and exciting!
Get your food prep done, early
For many F&B operators, food preparation is the most time-consuming part of the day. And in a small restaurant kitchen that may not have the personnel or space for food preparation and cooking to be done concurrently, it’s simply more efficient to get your food prep done before the crowds start coming in.
Study your past receipts to get a good understanding of your crowd sizes on each day of the week, and the menu items that are typically ordered during various times of the day. Then, use this information to accurately plan your food preps.
Create workstations to optimise workflows
Workflows are essential in any kitchen as they prevent bottlenecks and ensure food is sent out of the kitchen efficiently, as new orders continue streaming in. And the first step to optimising workflows is creating workstations for everyone in the kitchen.
Ideally, this means separate areas for food preparation, cooking, cleaning and food storage (with different areas for storing food and non-food items). Of course, this is an “ideal situation” recommendation – the number of workstations you can realistically create in your kitchen, will depend on the size of your kitchen and its layout (which we’ll talk about in more detail, later in this article).
Think about the actual “flow” of your kitchen and meal preparations, understand who needs access to different kitchen equipment, anticipate if any possible cross-contamination may occur due to the placement of the workstations, and make sure everyone knows their role and workstation well – and how they’ll need to communicate and collaborate with everyone else.
The tighter your processes are, the smoother your workflows can be, even in a small restaurant kitchen.
Invest in technology that promotes efficiencies
Digitisation is becoming more prevalent in restaurants, and it’s not only front-of-house operations that are seeing the benefits of digital technologies like cashless payment solutions and digital menus.
Technologies like kitchen display systems can allow your back-of-house staff to view tickets in real-time and efficiently organise orders in the kitchen, rather than relying on traditional paper chits – which can be accidentally dropped, lost, or result in mistakes because of bad handwriting.
Keep your kitchen layout simple
Your kitchen’s floorplan should prioritise function and safety over everything else. This means keeping things simple and easy to navigate. Know that even though space constraints exist, movement is incredibly important in the kitchen, and must not be compromised. Your kitchen staff should be able to go from station to station unhindered, even when carrying ingredients, food, cutlery, etc.
The kitchen layout should also take into account the flow of your inventory and supplies, with special consideration for eliminating (or at least, reducing) the possibility of any accidents taking place. Your guests may never see how nicely planned your kitchen is, but they’ll certainly benefit from a well-planned (and simple) kitchen layout that allows them to receive their meals quickly and consistently.
Save on kitchen space with innovative dressings
Here’s a neat “kitchen hack” that’s especially popular now, given the rising demand for “burnt” food with smoky and charred tastes – dressing!
What do innovative chefs do, when their small restaurant kitchens don’t allow them the luxury of using smoking equipment to create these trendy meals? They get creative and use ingredients like Hellmann’s Smoked Chilli and Hellmann’s Charred Tomato and Capers dressings – which lets them imbue their dishes with aromatic smoked, charred and burnt flavours in minutes.
With no smoking equipment needed, chefs can easily create smoked and charred delights, even in the smallest kitchens – including cafes, hawker stalls and kiosks in shopping malls!