The kitchen lies at the heart of every commercial restaurant. And, because it is in constant use, it requires constant maintenance.
Maintaining it can be a tricky job, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve let standards slip below what you’d typically like and expect. Keeping on top of differing customer requests whilst simultaneously preparing and managing your ingredients makes it a place prone to mess.
But, at times, the front of the house can reflect what’s going on in your kitchen. A messy and unmaintained kitchen could negatively impact your customer experience. In short, as any seasoned restaurant owner will be aware, the success of your kitchen determines the success of your restaurant. For this reason, it’s well worth having a plan: a series of measures you can take to ensure that you’re always on top of kitchen maintenance.
1. Don’t let your dishes and washing pile up:
Whenever you prepare a meal, there’s no doubt that dirty dishes will pile up, and cleaning will need to be done. Not to mention all the dirty plates coming back after customers have used them. Dishwashing can be a burden to those who let it pile up, not to mention it can create an unproductive work environment. The last thing you want is for things to be dirty when you need them in a hurry.
It may sound small, but it is exactly these kinds of small touches which can slow your kitchen’s productivity right down. When it comes to dealing with washing up you’ve got two main options.
First and foremost, you could consider bringing on board a dedicated pot washer. This is an easy position to fill but for that small spend, you could hire a potentially invaluable member of staff. Having a dedicated pot washer means you, your chefs or your front of house staff won't need to waste their precious time when they could be doing something else.
Secondly, despite the great addition that a pot washer is to any team, one thing that is unmatched in usefulness is a commercial dishwasher. The right dishwasher is indispensable for your kitchen, it’ll automate a task and allow you to save on staff-spending.
A solid piece of kit such as our maxima commercial dishwasher is going to set you back between $750 and $1900 depending on the size of the unit. However, when it comes to maintaining your kitchen this is well worth your money.
Another benefit of a commercial dishwasher is its speed. Dishes will be washed in minutes, and when I say washed, I mean deep cleaned. With this in your kitchen, all your equipment will be maintained like a pro.
2. Clean up as you go:
Whenever you’re working and cooking in a busy kitchen it’s inevitable there will be spillages and mess. During busy periods, especially, there’s a high chance that drops of liquid and offcuts of food are being dropped. Whilst it can be tempting to prioritise getting food out and telling yourself you will sort the mess out later; this is a bad trap to fall into.
Since you never know for sure if you’ll get a quiet moment to clean up, it is highly beneficial for you to keep on top of cleaning as you go. It could be disastrous for what seems like a small spillage to creep its way into your equipment, as this could cause serious damage.
Also, the longer that you leave a spillage on the surfaces or floor the more likely it is to cause a stain, which is only going to rack up higher cleaning bills in the future. Therefore, having a ‘see it, clean it’ routine embedded within your staff ethos is greatly beneficial for your overall kitchen maintenance.
To help, it’s worth preparing a kitchen cleaning checklist to ensure everything in your kitchen is getting the cleaning love it deserves. Whilst checklist templates can indeed be found online, it's worth constructing your own so it is well suited to your kitchen’s needs and requirements.
3. Protect yourself from pests and rodents:
On the topic of kitchen cleanliness there comes the important subject of pest control. Restaurant kitchens can be a hotspot for irritating critters and dangerous rodents to try to make a home. Drawn in by a warm space with plenty of easy food to snack on, thousands of restaurants every year are faced with pests and rodents.
And these have the potential to bring harmful pathogens and viruses into your restaurant premises. If a customer was to fall ill due to rodents or insects in your restaurant, this would be undoubtedly catastrophic, with severe detrimental consequences for your restaurant and its reputation.
It is likely that they will make their way in through cracks, vents, drain pipes, and any small space that they can squeeze themselves through. So, that’s the first thing you need to watch out for. Whilst you may think the small crack behind the fridge is hidden, this doesn't mean it isn’t a potential opening for rodents or insects. For this reason, it is important you fix and cover these potential entrances.
This tip also ties back to my earlier mention of cleaning as you go. Pests can be attracted to any small bits of food you leave lying around. So, this is another reason for you to remain on top of cleaning up after yourself. I’d suggest placing rodent traps as a preemptive measure in every kitchen.
These reasonably cheap investments could save you a potential nightmare in your kitchen. It’s worth placing them behind equipment units and under surfaces to attract and deal with pests.
Something to keep an eye on are rodent droppings. This could be an unfortunate sign that there is a pest invasion - if this is the case then do not hesitate to call in a professional pest control team.
4. Stay on top of your kitchen inventory:
Whilst it can seem like you have an overwhelming list of things to do, you need to keep tabs on the constant ordering, along with what you have and need in stock. Your kitchen inventory is key to understanding what is going in and out of your restaurant. Therefore, effective management of it is essential to efficient kitchen maintenance.
The benefits of effective inventory management are countless. Firstly, you’re going to have an idea of what's selling well and what isn’t. For example, say your grilled chicken dish is flying out the kitchen, but the risotto isn’t doing so well. Being on top of inventory management will allow you to clock this and make adjustments on which dishes to order in order to meet demand.
Therefore, when it comes to keeping your kitchen clean and organized, you’re not going to end up with a huge supply of a dish which isn’t selling very much. When keeping a tidy kitchen, another thing you’ll want to avoid is having an overload of stock which isn’t being used – so kitchen inventory systems are invaluable here.
When it comes to organizing your inventory you’ve got a couple of options. First off, you and your staff should be familiar with your par levels. This is the amount of each item you want to stock in-house. This lets you and your staff know what needs to be on the next order and what doesn’t.
Thankfully, this doesn’t all need to be done by hand nowadays as technology is there to support you. The right POS (point of sale) system can really save you a lot of time here. So, with inventory management, I’d highly recommend getting yourself a POS system with item tracking built.
5. Ensure you hire the right staff:
It’s easy to cut corners. After all, qualified and experienced chefs can be in short supply. However, when it comes to maintaining any restaurant kitchen, there is nothing more important than the team of people operating it. Consider your kitchen like a ship sailing the ocean, as the captain you’re going to want trained and dedicated hands on deck otherwise you risk sinking.
If your restaurant lacks a skilled team of staff, your kitchen will suffer. For example, consider the impact inexperienced staff would have on your professional equipment. Staff without knowledge will likely be harmful to your kitchen’s overall maintenance as they won’t know how to properly treat the equipment.
What’s more, you’re going to end up with more waste in your kitchen due to mis cooked dishes - with all this adding up, poor staff will be detrimental to the longevity of both your kitchen and your restaurant. So, whether you’re hiring your initial team, or bringing a couple of additions onboard, look for those who have solid experience at the level you’re operating.
In addition, it’s also vital they have a clear eagerness to learn the ropes at your restaurant. In my time I’ve seen far too many arrogant chefs be harmful to a kitchen’s daily operations because they constantly think they know best.
If you’ve got your sights set on running the most successful restaurant in town, don’t just try and rush to the finish line. Right from the bat, it's essential your team are all on the same page regarding the operation of the kitchen. This means spending time with each individual member of staff that you decide to bring on board. Ensure that you show them the task they need to perform and have them try it alongside you to build up their confidence.
Many chefs will need a few weeks before you let them take the helm alone, but dedicating your time here will undoubtedly benefit you and your restaurant in the long run.
6. Maintain a high morale amongst them:
Talking of your staff, kitchens can become very heated environments - and I’m not just talking about the temperature. Working in a kitchen can get tough, especially during the busier times of the shift. As soon as service begins, the kitchen can often become overwhelmed with tickets to prepare. It's quite common for things to start lagging, and equally common for this to have an impact on your employees’ emotions.
As you’ve probably seen English chef Gordon Ramsey on his show ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ irritated staff won’t treat the kitchen right, won’t cook the food right and are generally inefficient. If you want a well-maintained kitchen, angry chefs are not who you want operating it.
Although it’s natural, as a busy manager, to tell people to relax, or to get irritated at the lack of efficiency in the kitchen, this is not the way to a solution. Your staff see you as a leader, the glue binding the team together. Therefore, it's up to you to listen to staff issues and work out a solution which is both helpful and fair to your team.
Also, try to avoid spending all the time in the office. If your team is struggling a little out there a short appearance from you to restore morale and give a helping hand will go a long way.
7. Regularly clean down your fridge:
As mentioned earlier, it's important you’re on top of cleaning. And there’s nothing more important than a well cleaned refrigerator unit, since it sees all kinds of different goods going in and out of it.
Firstly, something to note regarding the fridge is to ensure the food is kept fresh. If the temperature goes up due to it having accidentally lost power or having the door open too long ensure, you need to check all goods.
Also, when you go to clean the fridge, check it's not overpacked. It’s essential that cold air circulates around the food in the fridge to keep it cold all over. Therefore, when placing things back make sure there is some room between each item.
With regards to giving your restaurants fridges a deep clean there's several things to look out for. Straight off you’ll want to check the gaskets – in particular, whether there are any cracks in them. Gaskets with splits in can cause your fridge to lose temperature due to cold air escaping through the gaps. Ensure you give them a good clean off in order to make sure there’s no grease present which could wear them down.
Next up, check the air filters are not dirty or built up with dust. If they become clogged, then your fridge isn’t going to circulate air properly. With regards to removing any dust that has accumulated on the filters, make sure you don’t just wipe it as this won’t get it all off. Instead, use your in-house vacuum cleaner to efficiently remove it.
Thirdly, clean off both the evaporator and condenser coils in your unit. In order to keep your professional fridge working properly you’ll want to do this step every month or so.
Finally, as a health and safety measure ensure the floor is kept dry and anything spilt on it is immediately cleaned up. This will prevent any of your staff members potentially injuring themselves.
All these steps are vital when cleaning your fridge, since it is such an important part of the kitchen to maintain. What’s more, any repairs or replacements can be costly so financing wise it is wise to keep on top of it.
8. Make sure you’re conscious of germs:
Just a quick note here, be conscious of germs in your kitchen at all times. Unlike physical mess and spillages, you can’t keep an eye on these - because they’re invisible to us.
Just because you cannot see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. For this reason, it's incredibly important you always use appropriate sanitising spray when you're cleaning your kitchen.
A dirty kitchen can become a breeding ground for bacteria and could therefore cause infections for your customers. So, whenever you prepare on a surface or use a knife on raw meat, make sure it is cleaned and sanitised
Having a solid understanding of how often you need to sanitise surfaces will always keep your kitchen in tip top working condition.
9. Create habits, don’t give yourself chores:
So hopefully this article has given you a few things to consider when it comes to kitchen maintenance. Don’t see the things on this list as chores - or boring additional tasks to get done day by day.
If you go about it this way, you and your staff are more likely to forget or delay performing these essential duties.
Instead, when it comes to maintenance, create habits instead of assigning chores. That way you will fall into a routine that leads you to naturally get these jobs done, without even thinking. And before you know it, you’ll be a pro at maintaining your restaurant kitchen.