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By using resources more effectively, restaurants can improve their bottom line.

5 Steps to Making Your Restaurant More Efficient

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Use these tips to improve your processes and the bottom line

By Juan Martinez November 2016 Vendor Bylines

When operating a restaurant, it is critical to make sure that all the operating parameters, processes, and procedures are optimally design and in alignment because efficiency is crucial to the success of a restaurant. Here are some tips on how to drive a higher level of efficiency in full service restaurants that can help drive better unit economics and profitable hospitality, even at low sales levels.

1. Review Processes and Procedures
Take a look at the steps employees have to follow to get the menu done and deliver service. This should include from the time the product is delivered in the back all the way through prep, cooking, assembly, and delivery of service. Steal a page from principles of industrial engineering and do some process mapping for each of these processes. You will be surprised of what you find. Process mapping, or “spaghetti diagrams,” as they are affectionately known, will look messy and inefficient, but they can give you key insights into where your processes work and where they are lacking. By mapping processes, you can see where service tends to slow down and target which parts of your operations need to change to improve efficiency.

2. Check Your Platforms and Resources
What equipment and technology platforms are you using? Technology and equipment must be part of the integrated solution for it to truly have the most impact, so it is important to review how technology is being used to see where more is needed and where it isn’t.

Too much equipment is a waste of capital, while too little equipment capacity can inhibit the restaurant to deliver the right hospitality during peak business volumes. Delivering efficiency of equipment and technology means truly understanding the right resource in the right place at the right time, including prep and storage.

Consider that when you get done with deciding on a more efficient design, the equipment and technology cost may be higher, but as long as there are other benefits that provide a payback for these applications, then it should make sense to make the investment.

3. Consider Layout Size
The design of the overall facility, both in the front-of-house and the back-of-house, is a critically important piece in the efficiency battle. The bigger the space, the more employees, energy, construction costs, and repair and maintenance will cost you, in addition to the fact that delivering good service and hospitality will be more challenging. Inefficiency in the physical space will drive inefficiencies in the other areas, like service and operating cost, so it is important to analyze these elements. Physical and cognitive ergonomics allows your employees use their surroundings to deliver the brand promise.

As you look at layout design, make sure that the design considers both customer journey, primarily the front-of-house, and the employee journey, in both front and back of house, and that these are integrated, while right sizing the capital cost to build the concept.

4. Assess Products and Promotions
How difficult is it to prepare your products during a busy period? This is a vital question to assess, since it requires that all the stations of your restaurant work together. If one area of the kitchen or the service model runs well while another one does not, the experience of the guest will not be efficient, risking the likelihood of them returning.

Make sure that all our dishes can be produced efficiently even when your restaurant is busy to ensure your guests receive quality food and service. If you find that some dishes are too hard to prepare during busy times, consider replacing them with simpler offerings.

5. Manage Labor Deployment
Labor is currently either the largest or second largest line item cost in many restaurant budgets, and the cost of employees is going to go nowhere but up. Some of the states have already instituted legislation that would take the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Developing the right deployment strategy is critical to the success of a restaurant.

The key is to have the right labor in the right place at the right time to drive sales. The best way to manage labor is by applying a work content and activity-based process and to let the financial metric be influenced by the output. Unfortunately too many concepts make the financial metric the input or the goal. When you follow a detailed activity-based labor system, if the output (percent of sales financial metric) is not acceptable to the shareholder value desired, then the information will provide the baseline for re-engineering activities, to get it back in line.

If you do right for your employees by simplifying what they do and taking bottlenecks and roadblocks out of the way, they will deliver the right hospitality, and that will result in higher sales and profits, resulting in better unit economics that will drive brand growth. The key is to apply all of the operating parameters previously mentioned in unison so that they support each other. Driving efficiency is the only way to have the right unit economics that can fuel profitable hospitality that lead to brand growth, the ultimate goal of all concepts.

Juan Martinez
Juan Martinez is a 33-year foodservice industry veteran. He is principal and founder of PROFITALITY, an Industrial Engineering Consulting Company that helps foodservice brands optimize their investment to drive better unit economics that support brand growth. This experience spans to nearly 150 concepts, including more than 50 percent of the top 100 brands in terms of yearly revenue. Juan is a licensed professional engineer with a BS in industrial and systems engineering from Georgia Tech and an MS and PhD degree in engineering management and ergonomics from the University of Miami.