A good Consultant Breathes life into a kitchen

Most often the owners and the architects don’t focus on back end, away from public scrutiny areas like the  kitchen. They treat it as an essential part alright, but don’t consider it as a revenue source nor as the heart of the hotel. Tasty and healthy food presented well has the power of pulling the guests from far and wide. This has the potential to spin the desired effect on room occupancy and the F&B bottom lines. A good consultant is one who breathes life into the kitchen, his aim is to ensure that no costly mistakes are made and the life of  the hotel is free from  resultant  blunders. His main goal is GREAT FOOD AT ALL TIMES, at reasonable rates and crisp service. Having said this, I see a good consultant as one who makes it a point to see the following criterion are adhered to:

  • Correct functional layouts
  • All services are interconnected and co-existing with in the layouts.
  • Optimum lighting / sound systems.
  • Adequate kitchen equipment, with correct specs.
  • Kitchen control apparatus (read POS and food cost soft ware) and empower the chef technically vide touch screens, remote printers and CCTV panels.
  • Ensure that time and motion patterns are followed
  •  Standard trials are done, leading to set Recipe cards
  • Makes the bible for the kitchen (SOPs)…. motivating and training the staff

Owner’s Vision and concept:
A good consultant understands the central theme of the hotel and infuses those core values into the service drawings. He has the words and the vision to make the architect  realize the central functioning of the kitchen. Reviews the flow of the drawings several times till the concepts and the goals are clear on paper and in the implementation stage. He doesn’t believe in rogue kitchen brigades having their own agenda within the department, but ensures, that they are controlled by a single point through his sectional briefs.

Safety   :
This is a huge responsibility of an owner while opening a hotel/ restaurant, unfortunately he may some times gets into an awkward position due to faulty planning of an inexperienced consultant/ architect. Having causality is the last thing a kitchen requires and a good consultant goes through thorough safety planning, flow and motion study, leaving no room for disasters. He must ensure safety and fire fighting aspects in a detailed note.

Cost angles and wastage minimalisation:
The age old saying, costs saved is profit earned is very true in this scenario. The consultant has a singular goal, to make an efficient and effective kitchen. The food cost reduction even by 1 % is note worthy and definitely adds up to the bottom line.

It serves :
A) Optimum staffing – we don’t need scores of Ronaldos roaming around the field to score costly foul goals.
B) Kitchen as a stage – Trainees and students are an integral part of any kitchen, they learning valuable skills on this pupil pit stage which infuses strong work culture.  Professional layouts help them to unlearn first, and then go on to learn practicalities again. The consultant keeps this aspect and coordinates for correct equipment placement.
C) Costliest item in the kitchen = Garbage Bin! So true again. Throwing food cooked or other wise sends shock waves across the kitchen and affect the owners exponentially! Over flowing bins due to faulty layouts/ unskilled staff is upper most on the consultant’s mind. He takes pains to see that the refrigeration systems, cooking ranges or the Garde manger are smooth lined and not way off the flow, or else the staff tend to just chuck the food  into the bin due to laziness or pressure of immediate work. Why take those extra steps to the walk In or the range fridge when its lot easier to toss the unwanted food at hand in the bin!!  Sounds trivial. One might think, the chef can supervise all these, but in reality it doesn’t happen.

The layout plan makes or breaks the costing of the food in the kitchen, some chefs are irritated if the equipment is badly placed or they don’t have enough elbow room, wastage is definitely bound to occur. In one of the startup kitchens we found the entire kitchen with 9 foot walls for each section looking like pigeon holed compartments. In this scenario, the communication was very difficult and the chef couldn’t see the cooks at all. Luckily we could change it in the nick of time.  Wastage results due to over production, duplication, service delays, communication gaps…and many small things which are overlooked.

Happiness :
The concept of a busy kitchen is changing of late, the chefs should look and feel happy, be it the work flow or the general mood in the kitchen. Such positivity can be created again when the ranges are planned well, exhaust functioning or the lighting is 110% ! Superb. The back ground music makes a huge difference to the speed of the hands while working, they move automatically faster if there is a happy and pleasant back ground tune playing. Even if the waiter irritates the chef, many times!!  The chef is still smiling, as he is listening to Katy Perry’s California girls. Care should of course be taken to see that it doesn’t become a kitchen discotheque with dancing cooks all around. All this add to the wow effect that makes happy chefs who feed happier people!

Placing flat TVs on mute but showing famous chefs presenting is a good idea, which the consultant can Try. Few natural scenes interspersed by cooking shows will add value. The ‘Hairy bikers chefs show’ is a tremendous draw for young chefs. They are witty, teach and demo cook at amazing locations. Padma lakhsmi with her good looks and stylish accent is a good bet, her cook shows teach you a lot, yet are entertaining too.

As they say, a happy Chef makes tasty food. And for him to be happy, the consultant goes through the growing pain, reinforcing that his work life in the kitchen is comfy, clean and clinical. Unwittingly the Consultant either makes or breaks the chef- turns them into Smiley Potatoes or grumpy Karelas. Owners who understand this simple yet important aspect go on to make a landmark hotel. They are the true blue leaders, the real futuristic hoteliers….

The author is Venu Rao,
Peacock Group, Bangalore

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply