Seven ways to solve restaurant kitchen friction

Often it’s easy to blame the kitchen when issues flare up inside a restaurant. But it could simply be that your team is missing an essential ingredient — the right tech.

Restaurant teams can thrive on the buzz and banter of busy service. But the demands of a high-pressure environment can sometimes tip over into stress, blame and arguments, killing morale.

In particular, production bottlenecks, food delays, ordering mistakes and customer complaints can create massive friction, especially between the front and back-of-house.

Often, managers try to diffuse situations and placate customers. But then something similar happens again, with a lack of clarity about what really occurred and how issues can be solved for next time.

It’s all taking a toll on staff. Just recently, Business Insider reported that one third of former hospitality workers won’t return to the industry, citing “a stressful workplace” as one of their top reasons.

But the question arises, should we just accept this as part of the business or is there a way to fix it? Fortunately, there’s a proven solution that works.

How to keep a cool head

Employing calm, well-rounded individuals will help. But having the right personalities on each shift isn’t the answer alone. Even the best staff won’t be immune from issues that escalate beyond their control, impact service, and trigger customer meltdowns.

What you need is next-generation restaurant technology that supports your entire process — from before diners arrive, to long after you close up for the night. In particular, the kitchen needs to be ‘plugged in’ to your system, rather than being left adrift.

Crucially, the right tech will provide the planning, communication, transparency, visibility and direction that front-of-house and back-of-house staff crave, so they can work as one team.

Seven friction points you can fix

With intuitive, all-in-one system and touch-screen tech supporting every process — and feeding information from one stage to another in real-time — you can eliminate critical points of failure. Here are seven of them:

#1: Too few staff on the night

It’s a common complaint from staff if the shift is underpowered and they feel overwhelmed. But should managers have seen it coming?

Next-gen tech makes it easier to schedule shifts people to support your restaurant’s smooth-running. In a matter of clicks, you can match staffing levels with how busy the restaurant is likely to be, based on AI-driven forecasts that help you get it right.

#2: Inadequate prep plans that leave you struggling to catch up

If kitchen prep starts too late or calculations misjudge demand, this can disrupt service as well as causing waste. However, next-gen tech can use algorithms based on historical data and external events to produce sales forecasts with 95%+ accuracy. From these forecasts, the system can then automatically generate your prep plans for mornings, evenings, or on an hourly basis.

Everyone can be kept on track without needing a manager to oversee everything.

#3: Running out of popular dishes on the menu

Poor inventory management can sometimes result in a depleted menu as the evening wears on, leaving customers disappointed. However, next-gen tech allows you to manage your stock in real-time very easily. Staff can complete regular stock checks in moments using tablets and mobile devices. Log wastage and keep their fingers on the pulse with stock movements.

This means you can avoid running short of ingredients at critical moments. In fact, the system will even create and send timely purchase orders automatically for you, based on forecasts and supplier delivery schedules. This approach also saves you from blind ordering, costly guessing or careless bulk buying.

#4: Orders from the restaurant floor all arriving at once in the kitchen

It’s a common scenario for waiting staff to move between tables and keep taking orders before they have a chance to queue up at the POS terminal and key them into the system. The problem here is that all the orders arrive in the kitchen at once, instead of following a natural flow. Immediately, this puts chefs on the back foot.

The problem can be alleviated with Smart Table Service. Using a tablet, smart-phone or dedicated device, staff can take accurate orders from customers and then send them to the bar or kitchen in a single click before they move to the next table. Orders are no longer delayed so the kitchen can get into a steady rhythm and produce meals on time.

#5: Orders arrive from different channels, causing confusion

Many restaurants now take orders from multiple channels as well as from seated diners. Customers may be ordering from different aggregators, as well as your own apps or website. This can disrupt production and there’s the risk of orders being lost or being handled in the wrong priority. Juggling a mesh of tech and different apps can be challenging.

With a next-gen system, you receive all your orders via one till and then channel them all through one funnel — directly into your system. From that moment, you can streamline kitchen management and production, with cooking time countdowns and key actions through one pipeline.

#6: Customers are kept waiting — and no-one seems to knows why, or dares to ask

When the kitchen is working at full tilt and orders seem to be backing up, communication can be fraught between your FoH and BoH teams.

However, the kitchen management and display screen (KDS) system, as part of your solution, can take the heat out of the situation. This can provide direction for chefs and visibility for managers and everyone else. You can see which menu items have to be cooked right away, which items belong to the same order and need to be served at the same time, cooking steps and progress, and which items are ready.

The system has built-in functionality to escalate issues. For example, the screen displays the cooking time for the dish. If half of the default cooking time has passed, but preparation has not yet started, then items would automatically become urgent.

The kitchen management system is part of iiko platform, so no extra software vendors or license fees and no process bottlenecks and information ‘black holes’!

#7: Managers feel they’re losing control and unable to detect what’s really gone wrong

Any of the problems we’ve described have the potential to create major issues and put managers in a near-impossible situation. They can spend their time fire-fighting the symptoms of a problem and getting sucked into disputes between staff without really understanding the root cause.

However, next-gen tech provides the real-time insights that track how the restaurant is functioning and why it’s succeeding or struggling. Better still, managers can check their screens, track production and avert potential bottlenecks and other problems before they happen. That’s because events within the restaurant are captured and displayed in real-time.

When the shift ends, managers can also review sales, waste and a whole range of KPIs.

For example, Customer Service Reports can provide a wealth of kitchen insights, including:

  • Waiting time to be served showing the time a guest spent waiting for an order.
  • Kitchen work hours showing how much time the kitchen spends cooking dishes.
  • Cooking start delay showing how fast the kitchen starts to cook new orders.
  • Cooking time for how fast chefs prepare dishes.
  • Serving time showing how long it takes for a waiter to take dishes as well as serve them.
  • Cooking delay showing how much the kitchen falls behind default cooking time.
  • Serving delay shows how much a waiter lags behind the standard serving time.

From this data, processes can be fine-tuned, star players can be praised and struggling employees supported with extra training, so your team keeps improving.

It’s time to ‘plug in’ your kitchen — and everything else

The kitchen is at the sharp end of the restaurant operation. As a result, it can become perceived as the source of friction and ‘weak link’. In truth, problems often occur because the kitchen has been kept out of the loop. Now’s the time to make sure it’s plugged into your system.

Ultimately, every team in a restaurant needs the tech that keeps them connected, informed, on task, and supported at every step. Next-generation tech from iiko is the answer.