When people examine problems a restaurant is experiencing, much of the focus goes to the front of the house: Are hosts and bartenders driving down wait times by doing everything as efficiently as possible? Is the service attentive and professional enough? Is the ambiance just right? However, with this focus on the face of the restaurant, it’s easy to overlook the heart: the back of the house.
French-born celebrity chef Jacques Pepin would have to agree: “A great chef is first a great technician. If you are a jeweler, or a surgeon or a cook, you have to know the trade in your hand. You have to learn the process.”
A failure to master techniques in the back of the house can lead to disaster for a restaurant. Here are a few potential problems that start in the back of the house and the best ways to fix them.
Safety issues for workers in the kitchen are always an important consideration, but specifically, regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, they are more important than ever. Kitchens across America are making headlines for having poor ventilation, not enforcing social distancing, and staff not wearing masks. This could result in an outbreak, resulting in seriously ill employees and mandatory shut-downs, which means lost days of business. Prevent these massive losses by updating any current safety training programs to include information specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poor Communication Between FOH and BOH
How are orders delivered to cooks? Are they simply written down or do they go into a POS system? If everyone isn’t on the same page about ordering protocols, misunderstandings will occur and tempers will flare. An online training program can help ensure synchronous action between the front and back of the house. Beyond that, consider hosting menu tastings to bring both teams together for a bonding experience.
Unfortunately, many poorly managed kitchens can result in injured kitchen workers. A study out of Japan found cuts and burns to be the most common on-the-job injury, and these were directly linked to how high-stress these cooks ranked their work environment. Kitchen injuries could lead to missed days of work or even a workers compensation lawsuit. Ongoing online training programs, especially when new pieces of machinery are introduced, could drastically lower the risk of such injuries. It’s also a good idea to cultivate an environment that minimizes stress, even when things get busy.
Have systems in place to include a date on every food item so workers know when they must be thrown out. This is crucial for food safety. A study from 2018 published in Public Health Reports estimated that foodborne illness could cost a casual dining restaurant anywhere from $8,030 to $2.2 million for a five to 250-person outbreak. Including information about the safety of food items in your online training program, particularly meats and dairy, is essential.
Too Much Waste
In 2017, the National Resources Defense Committee published an updated report that found that restaurants generated 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste a year. As a matter of fact, on average, they threw away four to 10 percent of food before it could even reach a customer. Not only does this contribute to an overall problem of food waste, but it also equates to a waste of money. Train the back of the house to use foods in a way that gets the most out of them. Have them check expiration dates frequently. When ordering shipments of food, always double-check inventory to prevent ordering more than you need.
Lacking Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) create a workflow and protocol for how all things are done in a restaurant. One fatal error some restaurant startups make is approaching these casually. They need to be written down and staff needs official training on them. A situation like COVID-19 might cause them to need frequent updates. An online training program can help a restaurant roll out these changes as they happen and keep all staff up to date on the changing protocols.
A great restaurant is great because of consistency in the back as well as the front. With the right procedures in place, restaurants can devote a healthy amount of care and attention to all aspects of their service.