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Executing a Menu with only 2 Hot Stations

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Sorry for the long winded post in advance but we need advice! We need advice on how we can work together in a two man team with limited space and equipment. Not so much food ideas but how we execute the dishes. Like I said the line is a two man team, one, printer, no expo, no one there to help plate or bail us out if we are busy. 

 

We are a small casual place, about 60 seats in total counting the bar. We have two hot stations (plus GM) those being grill and saute. Grill has a 36" grill, one fryer and a convection oven, saute has an 8 burner range with one working oven. When I first started there basically everything was grill's responsibility because the owner worked saute every night and was tired. For example, if a pasta dish comes in it was grill's responsibility to go across the line and drop the pasta, grill guy had to arrange all tickets on the board, it was grill's responsibility to plate ALL items, grill had to finish all pan roasted items (fish, statlers etc.) in his convection oven because the owner refused to even turn on the oven under the range because it would require him to cook it himself. Much easier for him to sear everything and pass it off to grill. The menu wasn't saute heavy either he was just tired and wanted his hourly grill guy to get worn down instead of himself. Not to mention grill was running around like crazy plating, going between a fried items, grilled items and oven items and arranging tickets. All entrees were "cross-over" for example a steak with risotto is cooked between both stations (grill the steak and saute the risotto).

 

So now after much debate I've kinda convinced him that his older system doesn't work and isn't efficient, not to mention food quality drops. I haven't convinced him fully but at least it's a start, he still won't turn on his oven but at least he will drop his own pasta and plate his own dishes now LOL.

 

Currently our system is this:

1.) Grill dictates the flow on the tickets. In my mind this works better because grilled items take longer to cook than sauteed items. For example grill will call out "2 minutes on table 6" or "let's walk on bar 7 in 3 minutes" so he is basically the inside expo but doesn't call out the items, just when it's time to sell each ticket. It's been working nicely.

2.) Stationalize and Reduce Cross-Over. Saute had to take better care of their own station including plating their own items and doing things like dropping their own pasta, this was just common sense to me. This is your station, this is my station kind of idea. Take care of it. We reduced cross over by a lot by designing the new menu accordingly for example a steak gets roasted fingerlings now instead of risotto (grill does everything for that dish, grills the steak and pops the fingerlings in the oven) and most sauteed dishes are exclusively made by saute.

3.) Simpler Appetizers. No more breading things to order for fry (we are doing spring rolls which are simply dropped without breading as opposed to fried calamari) and reduced to the number of sauteed apps to one, This shaves minutes off sauteed app ticket times because we only have 8 burners and when we are busy by the time we free up enough space to get to that app it's already been like 10 minutes. This has been working well too.

 

It is working better but we are still not perfect. We still need saute to turn on their oven and we still have other kinks to work out too. Does this system make sense? What do other small restaurants do? But most importantly am I making a mistake by reducing cross-over too much? We did a lamb special where grill did the protein and saute did the other component in one pan and it flew out quickly and easily. Should we consider doing more cross-over?

post #2 of 7

If the stations are side by side, having plates where both cooks assist in building works well.

If a dish comes completely from one station, you could find yourself with a ticket full of dishes from one station and no way for the other cook to assist.

By having the saute' cook plate starches and veg. (for example), it promotes teamwork.

I think the saute' station needs to have their oven on and finish their own dishes.

They can pan sear a halibut fillet, stage it on a sizzle pan, then finish in the oven when grill calls for it.

Grill dictating pace makes sense, especially when steaks are a factor.

I think you're on the right track.

The owner needs to carry their own weight or place someone in there who can.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #3 of 7

It can be done. It might not be optimal, but it is definitely workable. I work in a restaurant where under the best conditions there are two people working oven, pizza, grill, and sautee, one person on cold station, and one person expediting for a 100 seat place. And this is with an expediter that the others as a collective think is an idiot, but that's another story. The printer on the line happens to be in front of sautee/grill (usually myself) so that is where tickets are called when there is no expediter. There have been times during Friday and Saturday dinner service where for some reason or other there are only two cooks on all the stations. This scenario works best with people who are in sync with each other, and are well aware of what needs to get done, and are able to cross stations and fire and finish dishes like instinct. 

 

You are part of a team in the kitchen, you need to work as a team to get it done. We have numerous items that require multiple stations (salad from cold station with hot chix from oven, roast chix from oven with green beans from saute, etc); you need to help each other out. I'm not sure what to think of the owner helping you guys in the kitchen: on one hand it's nice to hear they're helping you out in the trenches, but on the other should they really be on the line? Just saying :p 

 

You need to work with people you can trust (as of yet there's only one other cook I work with who, when we work together, say very little but help each other out on all stations). If you work with people who don't have the team mind set, get them out of the kitchen. You could also hire a better/an additional cook if you are constantly in the weeds? But with the right people you can be just as efficient as a 4 man team.

 

Our kitchen is rather small, making it easier to do cross-over, but it definitely works for us. Another thing to consider is incorporating items into your menu that are easier to execute during service.

 

Good luck!

'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Just Jim View Post

If the stations are side by side, having plates where both cooks assist in building works well.

If a dish comes completely from one station, you could find yourself with a ticket full of dishes from one station and no way for the other cook to assist.

By having the saute' cook plate starches and veg. (for example), it promotes teamwork.

I think the saute' station needs to have their oven on and finish their own dishes.

They can pan sear a halibut fillet, stage it on a sizzle pan, then finish in the oven when grill calls for it.

Grill dictating pace makes sense, especially when steaks are a factor.

I think you're on the right track.

The owner needs to carry their own weight or place someone in there who can.


Thank you for the input!

I do agree about both people plating different components of the dish promoting teamwork, the lamb special seemed to go at lighting speed with grill plating the protein and saute plating the veg and starch. We were both in sync, communicating and the dishes were flying out. Also, you were completely right about one station getting overloaded with dishes when a ticket leans heavily towards either saute or grill. The other night saute had 8 chicken picattas off a ten top and it bogged him down, that is one disadvantage to this system.

 

Any other input guys?

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Junglist View Post

It can be done. It might not be optimal, but it is definitely workable. I work in a restaurant where under the best conditions there are two people working oven, pizza, grill, and sautee, one person on cold station, and one person expediting for a 100 seat place. And this is with an expediter that the others as a collective think is an idiot, but that's another story. The printer on the line happens to be in front of sautee/grill (usually myself) so that is where tickets are called when there is no expediter. There have been times during Friday and Saturday dinner service where for some reason or other there are only two cooks on all the stations. This scenario works best with people who are in sync with each other, and are well aware of what needs to get done, and are able to cross stations and fire and finish dishes like instinct. 

 

You are part of a team in the kitchen, you need to work as a team to get it done. We have numerous items that require multiple stations (salad from cold station with hot chix from oven, roast chix from oven with green beans from saute, etc); you need to help each other out. I'm not sure what to think of the owner helping you guys in the kitchen: on one hand it's nice to hear they're helping you out in the trenches, but on the other should they really be on the line? Just saying :p 

 

You need to work with people you can trust (as of yet there's only one other cook I work with who, when we work together, say very little but help each other out on all stations). If you work with people who don't have the team mind set, get them out of the kitchen. You could also hire a better/an additional cook if you are constantly in the weeds? But with the right people you can be just as efficient as a 4 man team.

 

Our kitchen is rather small, making it easier to do cross-over, but it definitely works for us. Another thing to consider is incorporating items into your menu that are easier to execute during service.

 

Good luck!


Thank you!

I know exactly what you mean about owners working on the line, it shows a lot more dedication than most owners BUT if they aren't being a team player 100% is it really a good thing? We are almost never weeded up and our ticket times are usually good, I do think the owner, the other cook and I are all strong behind the line but we do want to be better.

post #6 of 7

How big is the menu? The most important factor to production speed is the menu makeup. If the menu items are weighted too heavily on one piece of equipment, the whole line goes down. If the menu has too many items for the number of cooks who fit in the kitchen, the whole line goes down. The more items there are on the menu, the more separate pans and separate hands are necessary to get food out timely. When either the balance across equipment is off, or the total number of menu items is too much, it can be impossible to get food out in a reasonable amount of time.

 

Some rule of thumbs I suggest following are:

  • No more than 10 items on the menu per production employee in the kitchen. 6-8 per employee is optimal. The more seats you have, the less number of items per production employee there should be.
  • In a full service restaurant, an efficient employee can reasonably be expected to put out around 25 plates per hour IF they aren't responsible for more than 8-10 menu items themselves. The more menu items they are responsible for, the less plates per hour they can be expected to put out.

 

As with any "rule of thumb", there are exceptions. Restaurants that can pre-make a good portion of their menu prior to service (like Mexican restaurants and non-fresh Italian restaurants) can serve more items per production employee and expect more plates per hour out of an employee. The trade-off is food quality though. Pre-making too much means the quality drops.

 

When I work with a restaurant, the first thing we look at is the menu size. Is it reasonable for the size of the kitchen, the amount of cold storage available, the number of seats and the number of employees that can fit on the line? After the menu is the appropriate size, I make what is called a "menu matrix". This requires creating a box for every piece of production equipment in the kitchen, then listing every item or component that gets made on that piece of equipment in that box. This helps you determine if you are overburdening one piece of equipment or station and helps you avoid inevitable bottlenecks that come from doing that. A good menu will have the menu items/components evenly distributed across all the cooking equipment, adjusted for the volume each piece of equipment is capable of. For example, a 6 foot flat top can handle a lot more volume than a 2 foot char-broiler.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon ODell View Post

How big is the menu? The most important factor to production speed is the menu makeup. If the menu items are weighted too heavily on one piece of equipment, the whole line goes down. If the menu has too many items for the number of cooks who fit in the kitchen, the whole line goes down. The more items there are on the menu, the more separate pans and separate hands are necessary to get food out timely. When either the balance across equipment is off, or the total number of menu items is too much, it can be impossible to get food out in a reasonable amount of time.

 

Some rule of thumbs I suggest following are:

  • No more than 10 items on the menu per production employee in the kitchen. 6-8 per employee is optimal. The more seats you have, the less number of items per production employee there should be.
  • In a full service restaurant, an efficient employee can reasonably be expected to put out around 25 plates per hour IF they aren't responsible for more than 8-10 menu items themselves. The more menu items they are responsible for, the less plates per hour they can be expected to put out.

 

As with any "rule of thumb", there are exceptions. Restaurants that can pre-make a good portion of their menu prior to service (like Mexican restaurants and non-fresh Italian restaurants) can serve more items per production employee and expect more plates per hour out of an employee. The trade-off is food quality though. Pre-making too much means the quality drops.

 

When I work with a restaurant, the first thing we look at is the menu size. Is it reasonable for the size of the kitchen, the amount of cold storage available, the number of seats and the number of employees that can fit on the line? After the menu is the appropriate size, I make what is called a "menu matrix". This requires creating a box for every piece of production equipment in the kitchen, then listing every item or component that gets made on that piece of equipment in that box. This helps you determine if you are overburdening one piece of equipment or station and helps you avoid inevitable bottlenecks that come from doing that. A good menu will have the menu items/components evenly distributed across all the cooking equipment, adjusted for the volume each piece of equipment is capable of. For example, a 6 foot flat top can handle a lot more volume than a 2 foot char-broiler.


Thanks for the advice Brandon!

 

We have 10 entrees, 7 hot apps (one sauteed, 2 flatbreads, 2 fried items, 2 nachos). All the hot apps go through grill except the sauteed one obviously. As for entrees they are basically half sauteed half grilled with "cross-over" on  about half of them (IE grill does the swordfish and saute does the sauce for it).

 

Equipment wise we have one 8 burner range (with an oven underneath that the owner will not turn on) on saute's side and on grill's side we have one 36" grill, one two basket fryer and a 5 rack convection oven. With large parties the oven does seem to get loaded up and during busy times the fryer might get a little backed up. Getting bottle-necked rarely occurs and if it does it's usually when saute gets weeded up. I think we do a decent job overall spreading the load over each piece of equipment. I am very strong on grill but a lot of times I am doing a hell of a lot more than saute but I think this has more to do with grill having the apps and the bar ordering sandwiches and burgers which all through grill. If we have anyone else on grill they do get slower ticket times and sloppier cooked food, luckily I am doing grill 90% of the time.

 

Ticket times are decent, I would say nearly all entrees go out in 15-20 mins max. On Fridays and Saturdays it may be a tad longer though. 40 minute ticket times are non-existent here.

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