Maximising productivity in the kitchen

With most kitchens running a payroll % against food turnover of between 18-25%, labour is large part of your costs. As a Chef/manager this is an area you need to keep a tight control of. It is quite common in many kitchens that this can fluctuate from month to month and can very quickly run away with you. In this article we look at some key points to help you manage this in your kitchen. By John Wood

The 4 key factors

There are 4 points to be considered in regards to maximising productivity. You must have:
  1. The right people…
  2. …with the right skill set…
  3. …in the right place…
  4. …at the right time!

Right People

  • Many successful top chefs and restaurateurs all agree that the most important attribute you need to recruit for is the right attitude.
  • We recommend using the 60/40 rule with 60% attitude and 40% skill/experience.
  • Running a kitchen with positive, like-minded chefs is much easier than a team that is negative, so keep this in mind when recruiting.

Remember: You can teach skills but you cannot teach attitude.

Right Skill

  • Once you have a team of like-minded chefs with a positive attitude they either need to possess the right skills, or you and your senior chefs need to train your team.
  • It is quite common that chefs will get promoted up through the ranks purely because they have been there the longest and are “DUE A PROMOTION”.
  • Try to develop everyone in your team for their next position – for example if you have a good Chef de Partie it does not automatically mean he/she will be a good Sous chef. You need to develop them and they need to learn what skills are needed for their next role.
Tell your chefs: Act and work for the position above where you are currently employed – not the one you are paid to do. That way when a position does come up they are ready for it and do not have to learn the position first.

Right Place

Very often in kitchens I see too many chefs at the wrong time of the day or everyone starts at 10h00 and they all go home when dinner has finished. Review what each one of your chefs is doing and ask yourself, “Are they being productive?” When maximising productivity, ensure that everyone is busy during the whole time they are at work.
Try to plan your kitchen thinking around the following key points:
  1. Do I have Prep/Mise en place sheets in place and are they being written at the end of the previous day’s service, so the team can start working as soon as they get in?
  2. Are the sections set up for service so your chefs do not have to move more than 1-2 meters at any time during service? You will be amazed how much time they waste running around in service, when you add it all up!
  3. Do they have enough equipment on each section so they do not have to look for it and waste valuable seconds? This again all adds up. (Have you ever heard “ Who has got the cling film?” shouted across the kitchen?)
  4. Recipes for all – having clear, easy to use recipes on every section saves hours in every day in both production and labour costs.
  5. Are they trained? Ensure the team have been properly trained for the section they are working on.
  6. “Is this right Chef?”- With correct training on how you would like everything done and clear photographic standards and procedures you will avoid unnecessary questions taking your time and theirs. (N.B. This is where Kitchen CUT adds real value by providing recipe specs, methods and photographs on how dishes should look to avoid confusion and provide dish consistency for your customers).

Right time!

Did you know? If a brigade of 10 chefs waste seven minutes of every hour they are at work during a five-day week (9 Hour day):
  • They waste 1-hour everyday they work!
  • That is 5 hours each per week
  • That is a total of 50 hours a week = 1 chef
Imagine in your kitchens if you could get everyone being productive, whilst ensuring they do not work more than 8-9 hours a day. It is better to have 9 productive hours a day than 12 hours a day being on ¾ productive. You get the same amount of work out of them but it costs you 30% more and the chefs are tired!


In every kitchen I have used this approach we have either reduced the amount of hours the chefs had to work and/or reduced the amount that was needed in the team.

Work smarter not harder.

Kitchen CUT is the complete digital kitchen. This kitchen management software has been designed to save time and money, and help you run your operation more efficiently. Take a free trial now!


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