Traditionally, stainless steel has been one of the most widely-used materials in commercial kitchens. And there's a reason for that.
Party in the front, business in the back. We're being forced to acclimate ourselves to both a new way of doing business and a new way of dining as consumers.
We’re living in the golden age of street-side dining, whether we like it or not. All across the country, the back-of-the-house is migrating to the front-of-the-house. This is the result of the void filled by the front-of-the-house moving to the patio, the sidewalk, and in some cases, even the street. Tables are now filling parking spaces that have been roped off. Streets are closed off to cars. In places nationwide, cities are turning roads into restaurants. In New York City alone, nearly nine miles of city streets are shut down to traffic to help provide for outdoor dining spaces for restaurants and bars. While this is a positive thing for restaurants helping them to move forward in the warmer months of summer, this street-side dining trend also creates some challenges.
What steps should you take to ensure the safety of your foodservice operation?
COVID-19 Basics in the Food Industry
In the midst of this global pandemic, it is critical for our customers to be aware of COVID-19 and what it means for our industry. The coronavirus and subsequent COVID-19 disease has made its way across the globe, and it’s having impacts on the foodservice industry that have never been seen before.
First, it’s important to know the coronavirus is spread through direct contact of person to person and airborne droplets. If the virus makes its way onto a surface, it can live anywhere from 24-72 hours.
If someone touches a surface that has been contaminated by someone else with the virus, they can contract it if they do not wash their hands immediately. Washing your hands before touching your mouth, nose, or eyes will kill the virus and the best type of prevention.
More details and guidelines can be found here from the CDC.
If you run a professional kitchen, you are well aware that a smooth flow of staff can make or break a successful evening of service.
From avoiding tickets getting hung up in the kitchen to ensuring there are clean plates, every individual's contribution is critical to success. One key role that can often go overlooked is the busser. Read on to better understand the critical role of the busser and to pick up a few tips to help staff members successfully clear tables and improve customer experience.
Bussing: A Critical Component
Every person operating in a restaurant contributes to the success of the group, and this includes the busser. They serve a number of important functions that require experience and training.
Focus on Service
Happy guests are a must for a successful restaurant, and bussers are on the frontline of preserving the guest experience. When guests arrive, they should be met with a clean table and quickly provided a glass of water. The water should be replenished as needed, and guests shouldn't be left with dirty dishes in front of them. These are all obvious ways that bussers contribute to positive guest experiences.
There are less obvious ways that bussers can contribute – or detract – from the customer experience as well. Leaving tubs of dirty dishes in the line of sight of guests isn't appetizing. If a busser is frazzled, this contributes frenetic energy to what should be a welcoming atmosphere.
Regardless of how your establishment employs bussers, there is no doubt that having a skilled and highly trained bussing staff will elevate guests' dining experience.
Encourage Kitchen Flow
While keeping guests happy is of vital importance, it isn't the only way bussers are important to a restaurant kitchen. Bussers are responsible for delivering an essential item to foodservice: flatware and dinnerware. Restaurants need to optimize their budgets, which means they can't keep a never-ending supply of dishes and flatware in stock.
Bussers are responsible for getting dirty dishes back to dishwashers, who then get dishes cleaned and back in circulation. If bussers aren't appropriately staffed or trained to efficiently move dishes, this could cause a backlog for the entire kitchen.
Tips for Training Bussers
One of the most important factors in efficient bussing is having well-trained staff. Make sure your staff is trained with the following in mind:
- Have a restaurant-wide plan. Be clear on what your establishment's position is on bussing. Must all guests' plates be cleared at one time, or should they be cleared as each guest finishes? Is there an order of priority in which dishes should be cleared?
- Read the table. While bussers may not interact with guests as much as the wait staff, they still need to read guest preferences. While guests don't want to feel rushed, they also don't want to sit with empty dishes for an extended period of time. Work with your bussers to help them pick up on guest cues to avoid guests feeling rushed or ignored.
- Communication is key. Bussers need to feel comfortable with the rest of the staff so the entire staff can communicate concerns or needs.
- Understand the basics. Bussers need to be well-versed in basic restaurant service skills, such as folding napkins, when silverware should be replaced, whether plates should be removed on a tray, and how to properly crumb a table.
Having a highly-operating bussing staff will ease the burdens for the rest of the kitchen.
Find the Right Equipment
Even if your bussing staff is well-trained, they can't operate at the highest level without the right equipment. Lakeside offers personalized solutions that help foodservice directors manage their responsibilities by providing knowledgeable experts to advise on products and equipment. Lakeside can help your team select the best bussing products to optimize your kitchen experience. Contact us today to find out how we can help.
As you look at the organization of your commercial kitchen, you likely have mise en place front of mind.
This French term for "to put things in place" is a method that helps chefs prepare ingredients and organize equipment in anticipation of a busy service.
In order to execute an effective mise en place strategy, it is important to have the right equipment. With over 70 years of experience, Lakeside offers a diverse product line. This product line, along with collaboration with end-users and foodservice consultants, allows Lakeside to provide its customers with the equipment they need. Lakeside offers three mise en place solutions to help set your kitchen up for success.
Read on to learn more about how our mise en place stations can help optimize your kitchen's efficiencies.
Lakeside Mise En Place Carts
Lakeside's three mise en place stations offer a number of great features. Each model includes a stainless steel top frame built to hold a full-size pan. It can also accommodate smaller pans with standard inserts or a cutting board.
The cart has integrated handles on both sides, allowing it to hold a 1/3 pan or two 1/6 pans. A detachable speed rail with an integrated towel bar allows you to use the carts to arrange and hold the ingredients for your mise en place, including spices, seasonings, bottles, and sauces.
All models are ADA compliant so can be used by any member of your staff.
This model can be moved and adjusted as needed for your space. It includes a cantilevered H-base with four small casters that are all-swivel with brakes. This enables the cart to roll under ranges for optimal use and storage options. Adding to its versatility, Model 140 is 21x38 inches but has an adjustable-height top, so it to be modified to suit your needs.
This mise en place cart is Lakeside's classic model. It has an overall size of 17.5 x 38 x 35 inches and includes four 3.5 inch casters that swivel.
If you are concerned about shipping costs and are confident in your assembly abilities, you can consider opting for Model 145. This offers the same, classic set-up as Model 146 but comes unassembled, reducing costs associated with shipping and storage. We know some people just like building things, so with our easy-to-follow instructions, it should be a sinch!
Benefits of Lakeside Carts
Each of the Lakeside mise en place carts assists you in providing menu innovation without compromising the existing kitchen layout. Efficient layout will allow the chefs in your commercial kitchen to organize ingredients and equipment in a way that makes the most sense for their process. The carts are also versatile, perfect for tableside meal prep and customization.
Lakeside mise en place carts will enable chef and staff in commercial kitchens to:
- Organize cooking equipment and utensils;
- Peel, wash, chop, or dice vegetables;
- Trim and portion meat;
- Prepare fish fillets; and
- Keep spices close at hand
The above are just suggestions. The beauty of Lakeside mise en place carts is that how they are used can be unique to each member of the kitchen staff. In addition to organization, mise en place carts also promote menu planning, inventory management, and kitchen cleanliness.
Contact Lakeside Today
Whether you know exactly which mise en place carts are right for your kitchen or you need help strategizing the best fit, Lakeside is here to help. If you don't see exactly what you need, we are happy to work with you to develop exactly what you need by modifying a standard product or specially designing a product for your unique application
Uniformity is important when it applies to the food coming out of your commercial kitchen. You want everyone to experience the same beautifully plated food and your diners expect food that tastes the same as it did the last time they tried it.
Unfortunately, the people preparing that food are not uniform in size and stature. The same countertop that is comfortable for a 5' 6" prep cook can cause a 6' 2" cook to hunch over in pain. The one-height-fits-all set up typically found in commercial kitchens isn't ergonomically sound. In fact, it's frequently the cause of neck, back, and shoulder pain.
The High Cost of Poor Ergonomics
Muscle strain resulting from a hunched position may result in employee absences or even Workman's Compensation claims. According to a study done by the University of California's Ergonomics Project Team, food preparation was one of the five areas chosen as being at most risk of ergonomic-related injuries. Those injuries were very common and often severe due to the nature of working in a kitchen. It's frequently quite physical, involving awkward positions, physical exertion, and repetitive motions. All of these factors increase the chances of employee injuries.
The Ergonomics Project Team based their choice of the five areas on:
- Analysis of the various tasks being performed
- Direct observation coupled with front line experiences at different locations
- Analysis of Workers' Compensation claims
- Literature review
One of their suggestions for reducing the risk of ergonomic-related injuries was to: "Adjust the height of work surfaces to better fit individual employees." Wow, we could have told them that! So could any kitchen worker whose height doesn't match that of standard countertops.
Uncomfortable Workstations Impact Productivity
It's hard for employees to focus on the task at hand if they're in pain. Just being uncomfortable can negatively impact their efficiency and productivity. It can also increase their chances of injuring themselves. A user-friendly kitchen keeps employees' comfort and efficiency at the forefront of its design.
Designing workstations that make your employees' comfort and safety a priority improves workplace morale while increasing efficiency and productivity. Providing workstations that are as varied in height as your employees will make many jobs easier to accomplish and more comfortable. That, in turn, can reduce employee stress.
It will also improve productivity since ergonomic design is all about helping employees complete the most tasks in the shortest time with the least amount of effort. An ergonomically-designed kitchen is better for your employees and better for your bottom line!
Finding the Right Solution
At home, you can simply stack cutting boards or stand on a step stool as a temporary solution to an uncomfortable counter height. However, neither of those home kitchen hacks are feasible for a busy commercial kitchen. In fact, they could be downright dangerous!
Solutions for commercial kitchens involve creating workstations of varying heights. These can include the standard countertops, perhaps installed at varying heights. Mise en place carts, work tables with adjustable legs, and utility carts of different heights are other options for flexible workstations that will fit a range of employee heights and statures.
Any height differential solution should also include Lakeside's cutting board riser. This stainless steel riser elevates a prep station to a comfortable working height. Slide a waste pan into the open end for easy cleanup or use it for storage. The cutting board riser even features a handy recessed lift handle to make it easier to move between stations. Its sleek, stylish design allows it to double as a culinary display riser when it isn't needed in the kitchen. Having several of these versatile risers on hand will allow you to make full use of all of their great features.
Cutting Board Riser
Life in a commercial kitchen can be fast, hectic, and stressful.
Having a well-stocked and organized kitchen can go a long way to ensure the kitchen's smooth operation, which will ultimately lead to happier guests and greater profitability. One way that commercial foodservice operations can optimize for efficiency is by preparing stations with mise en place best practices.
What is Mise En Place?
Most lovers of food will agree that cooking is an art, and it requires the same amount of intentionality that a painter would bring to a creation. Mise en place is a French term that translates to "to set up" or "to put things into place." In practice, mise en place is the preparation of food and organization of equipment before a chef begins to cook. Mise en place serves a crucial role in the cooking process, similar to an artist who sets up his palette with different hues of paint before beginning to work on a canvas.
It is unclear how long mise en place has been around in the culinary world, but it likely dates back to the late 1800s. Regardless of when it originated, it is a strategy that chefs take incredibly seriously. Some go so far as to call it a religion, while others have it tattooed on their bodies.
An effective mise en place strategy allows culinary professionals to coordinate labor and materials while promoting focus and self-discipline. To get the maximum benefit out of mise en place, a chef should be able to navigate his or her workstation blindfolded.
Preparing Mise En Place
Every chef in a commercial kitchen will have their own strategy for executing mise en place. At its core, however, this plan will center on ensuring that kitchen tools and ingredients are prepared and organized in the most efficient way to prepare food.
The first step in creating a mise en place plan is to prepare a list. The list should include all the steps, ingredients, and tools necessary to execute the kitchen's tasks. It should detail prep tasks necessary for execution of the dishes.
Next comes organization and preparation. While the exact preparation will depend on the menu, it could include:
- Gathering and organizing all cooking implements, such as mixing pools, knives, and pans;
- Washing, peeling, and chopping vegetables;
- Trimming and portioning meat;
- Deboning and filleting fish;
- Measuring spices;
- Portioning liquids such as broth
Finally, mise en place should include a focus on cleanliness. An organized station will allow chefs to clean as they go. This ensures that all tools and implements are clean and accessible when they are needed.
Benefits of Mise En Place
The most critical benefit of mise en place is its ability to bring efficiencies to commercial kitchens. Some of the ways mise en place maximizes efficiency include:
- Planning work in advance: Preparing ingredients and work spaces allow chefs to spot any items that are missing or low in inventory and can plan necessary modifications ahead of time;
- Streamline the work process: Having all items for a dish prepared and in one location reduces the amount of time a chef must spend moving about the kitchen;
- Promoting ownership: In a kitchen with multiple stations, each chef can feel in control of and take ownership over the preparation of their station; and
- Keeping things clean: The theory of "clean as you go" is important in many professional kitchens. Having an organized station allows chefs to more effectively plan for cleaning throughout the cooking process.
Institute Mise En Place in Your Operation
If you are looking to institute or improve the mise en place method in your foodservice operation, Lakeside has the equipment that will allow you to create the most effective and efficient workspaces. Our products including action stations, utility carts, and stationary and mobile kitchen support equipment – all which can be configured to optimize the flow of a commercial kitchen. Contact us today to find out how we can help or check out more on our mise en place cart below.
Flexibility is a great way to create happy customers, and it's an even better way to increase profits.
All across the landscape of food and beverage, we're seeing certain types of operations go beyond their traditional services as they look for greater potential. C-stores are becoming more like coffee shops. Coffee shops are gaining fast casual characteristics. Fast casual restaurants are taking on more fine-dining type elements. And all across our industry, cross over is becoming commonplace.
Essentially, it's up to operators to think outside the box. How are they doing this? For starters, they're rethinking common conceptions about food and beverage service times and are coming up with some creative alternatives.
Just because an operation thrives as a high-end coffee shop during the day doesn't mean it has to close its doors at night. A serving cart that provides pastries and cereals for breakfast can also double as a dessert bar at night. Omelet stations for brunch can shift out their service to a pasta station at night. That coffee shop we mentioned? What if it doubled as a cocktail bar at night?
The key here is flexibility -- flexibility in thought, flexibility in concept, flexibility in execution, and the flexibility in the equipment it takes to pull it all off.
When it comes to flexible serving options, the first thing to consider is the ability to serve multiple types of menu items from the same location. This means a given piece of real estate can be attractive to customers and guests for greater periods of time. This is the ultimate in flexibility and profitability.
The next step in flexibility is having the ability to take foods and beverages to the guest instead of the guest needing to come to the operator. Mobile serving stations are an easy way to transform the point-of-sale from point-to-point.
The final aspect of flexibility is to find equipment that is known for its usability. How easy is it to transform a serving cart from breakfast service to lunch? Are carts easy to move? How long does it take to clean? What about service and maintenance? The bottom line is flexibility is only implemented by staff members, so equipment needs to be easy to use.
MISE EN PLACE
For the ultimate in flexibility, consider the Lakeside Mise En Place cart. It easily transitions from a back-of-house helper to a front-of-house money maker. Explore ideas and get inspired with more information here.
There’s a popular phrase made famous by an old movie. Build it, and they will come.
While this may be true in many respects, restaurant owners and foodservice operators are getting smarter about how they drive up sales, and a new phrase has emerged.
Bring it, and they will buy.
What does this mean, specifically? Bringing menu selections directly to the customer is an easy way to help entice those customers to buy. Instead of selling at the point-of-purchase as they do so well in retail, restaurants have figured out they can actually bring the point-of-purchase to the table.
In reality, this is not a foreign concept. Well, in the case of Brazilian steakhouses, maybe it is. But think of how many times you’ve witnessed a roving cheese cart or the end-of-meal dessert cart as it made its way through a maze of diners until it reached your table.
Later, this idea grew to include other popular tableside items. The tableside Caeser salad. The tableside guacamole cart. Tableside preparations of desserts like Baked Alaska or Banana’s Foster. Now that we think about it, rolling food carts have been popular across a wide range of dining periods in our country.
But, it doesn’t have to stop with only what we’re used to. Tableside dining options and rolling food carts offer restaurateurs the ability to literally make the appetizers more appetizing. Think about it.
Imagine if you’re at a restaurant with your significant other, a place you’ve never tried before but heard was good. Before you even order your main dishes, a server comes by with a cart full of beautifully-made appetizers. At that moment, when you’re the most hungry, you are much more likely to not only order one, but several of the options presented.
For the diner, this type of service is more engaging and allows for greater participation. For the operator, it’s more profitable. Everyone wins, and anything you can say that, it’s an advantage for your restaurant.
Even more important, though, is the experience tableside service can provide to customers. From glamorous tableside in LA to old-school, traditional tableside dishes in NYC, this area is sure to see growth in the coming years. And in an era when diners are looking for experiences at the same time operators are looking for new ways to create profit potential, tableside service seems like a no-brainer.
For more information on carts for your restaurant, please contact us. We love to talk carts!