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Clean Up Your Act! Maximizing your kitchen’s efficiency by bringing in the pros.

As a restaurant owner, manager, or proprietor, you probably wake up each morning and go to sleep each night, thinking about your bottom line. You understand the importance of maximizing production while minimizing cost, and you are always looking for ways to cut costs without upsetting your employees or your guests. Fortunately, we here at KNG think about these things, too. My husband is the Sous Chef at one of the fabulous restaurants in town, and as I was sending him off to work this morning, he reminded me that he wouldn’t be home until 2 or 3 AM because tonight they would be deep cleaning.

I shut the door, pouted for a minute, and then began to think quite seriously about the merits and disadvantages of having your kitchen staff clean the restaurant each night (and deep clean every two weeks). My husband is a salaried employee, so his wages remain the same whether he works a 10-hour or a 16-hour shift. But most restaurant employees are paid by the hour. If it is your goal to get the most out of your staff and keep them happy all the while minimizing your labor costs, you might consider taking a different approach. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Hire a late-night cleaning crew: You might think that employing extra laborers is the opposite of minimizing costs, but hear me out. This clean-up crew can be hired at minimum wage and will be completing a significantly shorter shift than your kitchen staff. This eliminates your having to pay any of your hourly workers, kitchen staff included, for overtime. Not only will this save you money, but it will also ensure that your kitchen is spotless from top to bottom. Who do you think is going to do a better cleaning job: your cooks who have already worked a grueling shift on the hot line, or a fresh bunch of folks whose primary objective is to make your kitchen shine like the top of the Chrysler Building?
  2. Hire a part-time janitorial staff:If it doesn’t make financial sense for you to bring in a cleaning crew on a nightly basis, consider employing this secondary staff just a few times a week. You could also consider hiring a small. Part-time staff to deep clean on a bi-monthly basis.
  3. Let your clean-up crew double as prep-staff: If you choose to hire a late-night clean-up crew, consider training them to do basic prep work. This will increase your production and efficiency, reducing your main kitchen staff’s workload, while eliminating the need to pay any of your staff overtime.
  4. Do not take advantage of your salaried employees:Chances are, you have hired a handful of phenomenal, classically trained cooks. These guys (and girls) are the backbone of your establishment. They know their way around a kitchen and are the main reason that your guests keep coming back for more. Keep in mind that you hired them for their skills, and the fact that they are on salary doesn’t mean that they should be working 80 hours a week, or more. Get the most out of your chefs by paying them fairly to do what you hired them to do, not the things you need to have done but can’t afford to pay your hourly laborers to do.

Sure, cleaning is part of the job. It’s what you sign up for when you decide to become a chef. But there comes a time when you, as a manager, need to step back and take stock of who is cleaning your kitchen and why. If your Executive Chef is regularly up in the hood vents, you might need to redirect his energy so that he is focusing on accomplishing the tasks that you actually hired him to complete.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a separate staff to help out with cleaning your restaurant? Has it helped to increase your overall productivity? Have you found that hiring more hands has been a financially wise decision? Please feel free to leave us a comment below.