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Countering Kitchen Challenges to Improve Restaurant Performance

Kitchen management tips to help you resolve restaurant operational issues.

Waste. Aging equipment. Safety concerns. Water quality.

Regardless of the type or concept, virtually all restaurants face a variety of potentially problematic food service challenges that can impact everything from equipment longevity to the overall success of the business. But you have the power to circumvent serious problems before they ever occur. Investing in the right tools, strategies and people gives you the leverage you need to address these issues and improve the customer experience, the operation at large and, most important, reduce expenses in the restaurant.

Keeping your food service business running smoothly

Operational efficiency starts in the back of the house with proper kitchen management tips. Restaurants face myriad tasks in procuring, storing, preparing and serving food—and any misstep can spell big problems for the business, says Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy, Philadelphia region, with the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, based in Harrisburg. Food waste reduction and elimination start team and simple processes like proper food storage, “first in, first out” inventory use with clearly visible expiration dates, and even designing new dishes with cross-utilization in mind, he says. 

One way to reduce expenses in a restaurant and foster ownership among staff members is to give them a budget for creating new food items and challenge them to find new ways to prepare items you already offer. “Make sure when you order products, they’re not being used just for one menu item,” Fileccia says.

Giving employees the proper tools to do their jobs quicker and more effectively is another way to improve restaurant performance and manage a kitchen staff for retention in a tight labor market, says Carolina Bautista-Brown, marketing manager, food supply business, at 3M. For example, 3M’s Scotch-Brite™ cleaning pads are made from springy, non-woven polymers and various types of abrasive particles that are “tuned” to be more effective for specific cleaning tasks, allowing them to be done two to five times faster in some cases, which saves time and meets restaurant cleanliness standards.

Protecting business assets and increasing operational efficiency

Restaurant owners and managers have a variety of business assets to protect. Whether it’s equipment that breaks from improper care or accidents that threaten worker and customer safety, taking good care upfront can minimize monetary and operational losses from events, such as:

  • Equipment cleaning: Proper cleanliness and maintenance can help extend equipment life, Bautista-Brown says. Using the right tools on the right surface prevents scratches that can mar the surface of pots, pans, or griddles. Products like the Scotch-Brite™ Quick Clean griddle cleaning system can be applied to hot flat top griddles and cleaned up in 3 to 5 minutes saving time and money and prevent scratches. For example, products like 3M's Quick Clean can be applied to hot griddles and removed with a squeegee. This prevents the temptation to try to quickly cool a hot griddle with water or ice for cleaning, which could damage the unit’s ability to regulate temperature. “Our products are solutions to the real challenges restaurant owners have,” Bautista-Brown says. “That’s why we talk about them as help for extending the life of the equipment.
  • Floor care:  Slipping is a big concern in restaurants, both in the front and back of the house, as it can lead to  injuries and even legal risks. Products like disposable and soap-dispensing mops help make cleanup easier and keep grease from making floors slick. Picking up debris throughout the day and ensuring the front of the house looks impeccably clean is essential for enhancing customer experience, keeping employees safe and meeting restaurant cleanliness standards. 
  • Regulations and compliance: Of course, adhering to federal, state and local laws and regulations that apply to your business is essential. Such rules and regulations keep customers and employees safe. And failure to adhere to them may result in expensive fines or penalties. Joining your local restaurant association is a great way to stay on top of the rules that apply to your business and get regular updates about advocacy issues that affect you, Fileccia says. You may also find other information on commercial kitchen trends, food service trends and how to improve restaurant performance.
  • Water quality: Hard water can cause build-up on equipment over time, causing it to break down or be less energy efficient, increasing down time and costs. And municipal water additives can affect the taste of everything—food and beverages. Enhanced water filtration and water treatments can improve food and beverage quality and help your restaurant conserve energy and experience less down time.

Fostering business growth

While addressing food service challenges may seem like the routine work of restaurant staffs, it has an enormous impact on overall customer experience and loyalty. A clean, well-maintained restaurant is better able to serve customers safely and effectively, and the proper tools make employees feel appreciated, which may lead to your restaurant improving its reputation as a great place to work. The right tools may even reduce restaurant labor costs.

Once these baseline issues are part of your operating protocol, you can devote more time to growing your business. You may have more time and resources for increased promotion and networking, making menu improvements to accommodate different dietary needs and restrictions, or finding other ways to grow your business.


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