How to Run a Commercial Kitchen

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With the popularity of television shows dedicated to running commercial kitchens, increasing numbers of people are considering careers in the culinary trade and facing the challenge of running a commercial kitchen. Whether in stores, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, colleges, fast food establishments or on cruise ships, commercial kitchens must produce consistent food products, quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. To operate successfully, a commercial kitchen requires an experienced manager to oversee a team of dedicated individuals that know their responsibilities and work diligently to fulfill them. These kitchens also require professional-grade, commercial appliances and equipment to assist ease of product production.

Maximize the practical use of the kitchen space. In addition to complying with federal, state and local health and safety and building code requirements for the operation of commercial kitchens, you must ensure that the kitchen is set up to make best use of the space and equipment you have. Speak to the kitchen staff and get their observations and recommendations. If they have worked in the kitchen for any length of time, they will know its pros and cons and will have ideas to improve it.

Perform an equipment inventory. Make sure you know exactly what equipment is in the kitchen and whether it works efficiently. If you have a number of items that need replacing, shop around commercial equipment wholesalers for the best prices. Consider leasing rather than purchasing expensive oven, stove and refrigeration units.

Build a team and meet with them regularly. It is important for everyone to know their specific duties and responsibilities and to whom they answer. From the head chef to the dishwashers, treat everyone equitably, firmly and fairly. Make your expectations clear and ensure that staff are aware of the consequences of poor performance.

Review your products. Whatever the kitchen produces, be it a high-end restaurant menu, meals for hospital patients or food products for retail sale, the quality must be consistent. Ensure that the head chef and sous chefs are all familiar with the recipes and processes required to produce your signature products.

Tightly control expenditure on raw ingredients. The profitability of the kitchen relies upon the acquisition of quality ingredients at the best prices and the most efficient use of those ingredients. According to Restaurant Accounting's website, "a profitable restaurant typically generates a 28 to 35 percent food cost. Coupled with labor costs, these expenses consume 50 to 75 percent of total sales." A commercial kitchen's profit margins are slim, you must control what is ordered, how it is used and prevent waste and theft. Failure to effectively control food costs will jeopardize the business.

Research your competitiors and keep abreast of culinary trends. Try to attend trade events and shows to get ideas and compare your products to what is currently popular. Identify niches that are currently underserved in your location. If yours is a city full of steakhouses, you may want to specialize in fish. Discuss ideas with your team and encourage their suggestions.

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About the Author

Helen Harvey began her writing career in 1990 and has worked in journalism, writing, copy-editing and as a consultant. She has worked for world-class news sources including Reuters and the "Daily Express." She holds a Master of Arts in mass media communications from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

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