So here is my question. I work in a small restaurant, fine dining, scratch kitchen. Just two on the kitchen staff. Me, the chef, and one employee who serves as the sous, line, prep and dishwasher. We are open from 5 til 9 each night. How many customers is reasonable to expect us to be able to handle in a service?
How many customers should a kitchen be able to handle?
I have been in a similar setup in a few different restaurants, depending upon seating capacity, three turns, 80 - 120. Totally insane but doable, but like beastmasterflex said 60 -80 is more reasonable.
Like the others have mentioned there are lots of factors (size and complexity of the menu, amount of seats, and FOH staff is a very critical part of the equation, too).
I currently run a tiny kitchen at an upscale vegetarian restaurant. We seat 18+6 at the bar, seatings from 5:30 to 10:00. We have a staff of 2 on (including myself) working on average 11-12 hours from prep to close, and a night dishwasher. We have a small but ambitious menu, 4 induction burners as our only cooking area and a two-shelf convection oven that can fit half trays. If we cram all the seats the entire service ands turn them fairly quickly we can do about 60 though we top out at around 55 generally, any more is not particularly reasonable from a quality (either we throw food on the plates or people wait), speed, or efficiency point of view. If we did 60 every night basically we'd be looking at 65-70 hour weeks for the cooks.
We make everything from scratch, the only prepared product in the fridge is a jar of chinese spicy preserved mustard tuber and a bottle of sriracha for staff meals. Labour cost is higher than average, which is balanced by a low food cost. It also doesn't help that people can get a decent meal for 30 dollars each where in a meat focused restaurant that's the price of a relatively pricey main course.
Ultimately the numbers you can do, as said above depends on the menu, the clientele, the machine resources you have, etc. 2 people can do vastly different amount of things depending on the layout of the kitchen executing a similar menu
I work in a 110 seat restaurant with a private dining room for private parties, like the OP it would be me (or the head chef, it's my mom's restaurant) and one other person on the fryer side. The kitchen is extremely small. We can do 200+ from 5-9 as long as everyone is on their game it's smooth sailing. Sometimes if it's that busy ill expo/run the pass which helps a lot.
Thanks for opinions. Sounds like most of you are thinking about like me. We can turn about 50-55 before it just gets insane and my day goes from 12 hours to 15-16 hours. I am a bit limited equipment wise with a six burner stove/24 inch flatop/double oven combo unit. I also have to deal with a 25 item menu with nothing pre-made or pre cooked and a strong focus on presentation.
We seat 25 so we are basically turning the place over twice on a night like that. We also have a large wine cellar and encourage people to stay and linger as opposed to turn'em and burn'em.
I was just looking to be fair to me and the staff, as well as the owner, when making predictions for the summer. We are in a highly touristy area and are going into our second season.
Thank again for the input,
Speaking as a experienced chef/owner of a similarly staffed restaurant, 12 hour days are short ones. 15-16 hour days that you mentioned are more the norm in that scenario.
It is good that you want to be fair to the owner because to make the restaurant more economically feasible I would imagine that you need to bump the guest count from 50-55, to 70-75. You can still achieve thoseincreases and provide a 2 hour dining experience which doesn't exactly fall into the "turn'em and burn'em" category. Those increased numbers will not turn the restaurant into a goldmine, just make it more viable. Especially when you consider that the owner has to figure out how to pay a chef's salary, which is not an expense that I had to contend with.
I still can't believe that anyone would open a small fine dining restaurant and not be the chef. It is no wonder that the average profit margin in fine dining restaurants according to the National Restaurant Association report from 2010 is 1.8%. A very important number and reality check for a chef to remember.
All this boils down to is how much is the restaurant currently making and what are the costs associated with it? If you are doing a certain dollar amount on a weekly basis you can pretty much figure out your labour and food cost numbers. If your labour numbers are too high then the only solution is to do a higher volume, simple as that. If your labour numbers are in line to make a profit, then you ask how much the owner wants to comfortably earn, presumably the owner is doing front of house work. With those projections you figure out what additional staffing you need, if any, or any additional resources you may require.
If one does 15-16 hours (And I'm talking about 'real' work, the prep/service work, ordering/menu development, costing is petty office work and I don't count that in my hours) a day to bring in more profits for the owner, I think the chef should be compensated for it... especially since the current chef isn't the owner and unless he's making something along the lines of 70 grand I think it's fair for both sides.
A good rule of thumb for staffing and production says that an average kitchen, with an average menu, should plan for each kitchen line employee to be able to produce about 25 plates per hour. Another good rule of thumb says that any single employee should only be responsible for 6 to 10 dishes, depending on the complexity of those dishes and how many components of the plate that one station is responsible for.
The more complicated the plates, the lower both those numbers should be. The more items that are cooked in advance, the higher. A "turn and burn" Mexican or Italian restaurant for example, that precooks most it's product, may be able to churn out 35 to 40 plates per employee per hour. A restaurant with a very complex, $200 a head menu may only put out 15 per hour per employee.
A restaurant will always be limited by the menu size and scope, the kitchen size and layout, and the skill of the employees. Trying to do too much out of a small kitchen extends ticket times, slows production and results in poorer food quality and a poorer guest experience. The menu has to fit the kitchen and the number of seats in the restaurant. Better to be too small than too big. Ideally, a menu should be as small as possible while still being appealing enough to fill the seats in the dining room. Too many owners think that "more is better".