How to turn your dark kitchen into an extremely efficient production unit
A dark kitchen should be a hardcore production kitchen. That is, if you want to keep your head above water. Let there be no doubt about that.
The purpose of a dark kitchen is to produce large quantities of dishes hyper-efficiently, and at a speed that makes F1 pilots dizzy. And with a menu optimized for delivery.
In other words: in order to be profitable, there must not be an ounce of fat on your business operations.
A dark kitchen may not suffer from the traditional restaurant bottlenecks, such as too few seats, but the other side of the coin is that the cost of delivery is rising rapidly. And you don’t have much control over that. If you want to earn money, all other costs – food costs, personnel costs, rent – have to be in line.
A delivery kitchen must be purified to the bone, from idea to execution. A successful cloud kitchen is all about efficiency. If not, your profit margins will melt away faster than butter.
But don’t let these dark thoughts (pun intended) make your blood boil. The market for dark kitchens is booming and the possibilities to keep costs low are plentiful.
In this article, we reduce that stubborn notion that food costs are hard to get below 28%.
#1 Monitor F&B digitally
We’re starting with the sharpest knife right out of the block: anyone who believes that pen and paper are the weapons par excellence to efficiently manage F&B will end up on the chopping block sooner or later.
Regardless of whether it concerns a dark kitchen or another food service company: keeping food costs low is about fine-tuning sales analysis, purchasing, inventory, product development, staff training, and waste management. That’s a lot of hot water you’re in when it comes to spreadsheets. But, with the right software, it’s just a matter of pressing the right buttons.
Smart entrepreneurs scrape several percent off their costs for F&B by getting a clear picture of each step.
#2 Automate stock reduction
There is nothing that threatens margins as much as a bad purchasing policy. What you want is a high turnover rate for your stock. A daily delivery of small quantities of fresh produce is a thousand times better than bulk purchases, 10% of which remain on the shelf.
Smart purchasing depends on the extent to which your recipes complement each other (the more dishes that share ingredients, the easier it is to estimate the purchasing volumes correctly). But the accuracy of your stock counts also has a major impact on the turnover rate.
Stocktaking is a manual action. That takes time, so there’s also hourly pay creeping in. And people make mistakes. A small miscalculation can often be expensive. Automation excludes a lot of those problems. If you Integrate Deliverect with Apicbase, for example, every online order that Deliverect registers automatically reduces the stock in Apicbase.
And after the shift, your kitchen team generates the orders for the next day, to the nearest gram, at the touch of a button.
#3 Standardize recipes
A dark kitchen with perfectly measured procedures has the resilience of a stack of fluffy pancakes. If the processes leave something to be desired, then you have to make do with the well-preserved elastic band for a washed lunchbox.
This applies to the recipes in particular. If every chef works with exactly the same SOPs and technical sheets, production consistency is assured. This is important because customers expect the same excellent experience with every order.
But above all, standardization allows the chefs to work more efficiently. Cost price calculations are better followed up and the agreements are clear to everyone. For those who aspire to run a well-oiled machine, the latter is no less than crucial.
#4 Limit spoilage and food waste
Remember that, in the UK today, approximately 1,000,000 tonnes of food from restaurants still disappears into waste bins every year (EUR 747,000,000). Converted, that is 22 tons per location or 1 euro per order. There is nothing to suggest that other countries are doing much better. If you want to give the bottom line of your dark kitchen a boost, do everything you can to bring your food waste to zero.
#5 Use videos for staff training
Staff turnover in the hospitality industry is high. It’s no different for dark kitchens. Sometimes, you just can’t keep a member of staff. So, you have to find new people and organize onboardings for the umpteenth time.
Accelerate the training process by making step-by-step videos of the composition of dishes. New hires can (must) view them before their first day at work.
But most of all, so that they can re-watch them when they have been in service a little longer and might have forgotten it. Those are the dangerous moments. Then they develop their own way of working, which is seldom sharper than what you have noted in the procedures after long hours spent testing your recipes. When production threatens to spoil, the videos provide a much-needed dash of spice.
In order to optimize profits, dark kitchens need to gain insight into the entire chain, from customer order to purchasing and production. In this century, that means more than juggling spreadsheets - it requires software. After all, it’s not about a bag of flour and two bananas, but about data. If businesses also link smart actions to these data, they can achieve small (and large) percentage differences throughout their processes, which together push the food cost below the legendary 28%. And can even bring it to a lean 20%.
October 16, 2020by Apicbase
Apicbase is an F&B management platform for multi-unit food businesses, hotels, restaurants, ghost kitchens and large scale catering. This includes food costs, sales analytics, procurement, inventory, production, product development and dietary information.
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