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Catering for productivity: How to make your kitchen work smarter

By David Khanna, Arolite 

The productivity puzzle is one that is most complex in the catering industry. Skills shortages, margin pressures, and a high turnover, ‘revolving door’ culture contributes to a difficult environment to be time-efficient within, all while making sure you’re providing optimum customer service.

In catering, where long shifts are often thought of as synonymous with cooked food, a more productive environment can also contribute to a boost in staff morale, with less late finishes and tedious tasks.

In any commercial kitchen, there are assets which need monitoring. They can be vulnerable to failures if you don’t know the current status of the condition they’re in, haven’t recorded any faults, or worse – misplace your files.

An ice cream machine breaking or an oven that’s stopped working can cause a kitchen breakdown. A break/fix approach isn’t enough anymore, and it will have a critical impact on your ability to be productive and deliver that all important customer service.

To be productive you need to prepare.  Prevention is better than a cure, and an asset management strategy solution can work wonders for your kitchen. Being able to separate the important from the urgent, the needless from the essential is a huge blessing in the chase for better efficiency and bolstering revenue.

If you don’t assess your equipment and plan your maintenance, an unseen minor fault could interrupt the whole service. 

But how do you implement a great asset management strategy?

Asset Management Strategy

To devise a value-added strategy for your equipment management in the kitchen, an asset management plan of action should be developed.

This is one of the best strategies to catch faults before they happen. It can highlight the equipment that is saving the most time for the business, condition reporting, where equipment could be replaced, planned obsolescence, and help to identify recommendations for where investment could be made to boost efficiencies and make your kitchen work smarter.

What is Asset Tagging?

For equipment which is crucial to the running of the kitchen, asset tagging is the process of using physical tags to align them into a living management database. The asset will be assigned a unique ID reference, which is then used as a point of reference to pull up information about the asset on the database. When used in tandem with such database, asset tagging can provide a centralised location to maintenance records, when it’s due for its next service, its cost, performance history, planned obsolescence and where and when it was supplied.

This will allow the employer, employees, and any other third-party who has access, to effectively monitor asset records from one living database. This is important as in businesses – large and small – making commercial decisions is much easier when backed with business intelligence data.

With this data, you have concrete evidence and an accurate overview of operations, and you’re far less likely to make decisions that halter productivity.

An asset management strategy should cover:

  • Maintenance

By ensuring all of your equipment is serviced when it needs to be and is completed to a high standard, you’re less likely to have costly service call out fees for damages and breakdowns. If your assets are compliant, there’s also less chance your kitchen will be at risk, further boosting your productivity.

The strategy reduces the likelihood of you operating under the break/fix model, which is a dangerous mindset to have. You will see much better financial gain from preventing the problem, as opposed to calling out an engineer once your ice cream machine ultimately breaks. A good strategy seeks to nip small issues in the bud, rather than respond to problems once they become an issue.

  • Operator Misuse

You can also identify where human error or misuse has caused issues with the equipment. Instead of, again, having to regularly call out engineers, you can focus on training onsite staff and only having engineers come out when it is absolutely necessary, again saving you both costs and time. You can also log employee responsibility against an asset, boosting ownership.

  • Equipment Selection

Gaining a fully accurate overview of all of your corporate assets can bolster equipment selection. Making sure you’re supplied with the best assets that perform optimally, can help you to deliver your services within budget and for the needs of the customer. With a guideline of potential obsolescence dates in the database, you’ll find it easier to plan for this and resolve any issues – e.g. with incompatible software or spare parts – ahead of time. 

If you work with a service provider, they can also help you go one step further by tailoring the strategy to your specific business goals, whether that be an increase in efficiency of 20% or a reduction in downtime. They will analyse your assets to see what areas of your facility are under-performing, and advise on where to make changes. This again limits the amount of time and money which you are spending calling out engineers, and helps your kitchen to work smarter.

Plan Smarter

By developing an asset managing strategy, you or a service provider can identify the quality of the equipment and look at what needs to be repaired immediately, what may need to be replaced in the coming months and what is already performing to the best of its ability. It also gives you a wider concept of your strategy, whether it’s successful, and how time is being spent. Workers can focus on the most important element of their job – providing great customer service, without having to worry about something going wrong.

The bottom line for any business is profits, good customer/client experience and providing great service.  By understanding the flow of your operations better, it’s much easier to identify where problems or inefficiencies could arise.

Ultimately it can help to create clarity among the things that you need to prioritise, with set dates, actions and other pieces of information to help make sure that every single asset you have – whether it be an oven, a refrigerator or a dishwasher – has a direct impact on your operations.

This can also help reduce stress levels and boost morale, reduce risks of staff getting injured through faulty equipment, and encourage them to focus on the most important matters – delivering great customer service.

But an ignorance over the status of your machinery, unorganization or a reactive, break/fix strategy does not mix well when trying to be as productive as possible. By being more proactive with your managing of assets, you can serve a higher volume of customers, and reduce the chances of a costly breakdown scenario.

You don’t need to have fully automated machines to work smarter, you just need to have a well organised system so you can see what’s working, what’s not and efficiently make changes.