Restaurateurs are incorporating versatility and efficiency into their kitchen designs by leveraging the introduction of equipment that streamlines food assembly and throughput.
Equipment is increasingly working with digital ordering and kitchen display technology to optimize the workforce, especially as digital ordering and off-premise dining add complexity to operations.
When Wendy’s designed a new global next-generation restaurant prototype, equipment efficiency was a top priority. This prototype features a double-sided grill, galley kitchen layout, and modular design. Deepak Ajmani, Wendy’s U.S. chief operating officer, said these elements work together to streamline workflows, provide flexibility for future innovations, and create a better experience for employees. Stated.
“We know that increasing efficiency creates a more enjoyable and energizing environment for our crew, which ultimately leads to a great customer experience,” he said. “When designing Wendy’s new global restaurant standards, we adopted a ‘crew first’ mentality, which means constantly asking ourselves, ‘How can we remove friction points for our restaurant teams?’ I meant that.”
The first store with the new design is scheduled to open later this year in New Albany, Ohio.
Adjumani said the new galley-style kitchen, which runs from the front to the rear of the restaurant, allows crew members to see all ordering channels and move more easily between positions throughout the day. . Additionally, a modular equipment package on wheels allows for ease of installation, ease of crew cleanup, and flexibility when menu innovations require equipment changes.
“While the basic design supports 95% of current restaurant capacity ranges, the package is flexible and can easily accommodate additional horsepower such as additional fryer vats or grill platens,” Adjumani said. states. “Also, because they are off-the-shelf equipment, these parts have shorter construction lead times and lower initial and maintenance costs.”
He said the design is also capable of handling digital orders and can handle 400 times the current amount of digital capacity.
The global next-generation kitchen appliances, which also include prep label printers and dishwashers, were chosen with the goal of bringing “more Wendy’s to more people, with an emphasis on convenience, speed and accuracy,” Adjmani said. said. .
“The new design also offers proven labor optimization improvements that add up to valuable savings,” he said, citing the positioning of the order placement and order facilitation areas as an example.
“That means our front counter and pickup window teams can easily move between positions throughout the day,” he said. “Everything from the use of technology and automation to where the equipment is located reduces unnecessary labor costs and reduces the number of steps and minutes it takes for crews to deliver Wendy’s orders to customers, while helping franchisees… It’s designed to give you better returns.”
Labor is a major concern
Chris Monico, Vice President, Indianapolis-based C&T Design and Equipment Co., Ltd.said improving labor efficiency is becoming increasingly important to its restaurant customers.
“Before the pandemic, it was important. After the pandemic, it’s essential,” he said. “Labor is probably the biggest issue for most business owners. We try to do everything we can to help them run their kitchens successfully with minimal effort.”
At the same time, many restaurants are also looking to reduce their footprint, putting a huge strain on kitchen design. As a result, Monico said, C&T is working with operators to group workstations more efficiently, allowing one kitchen employee to monitor multiple workstations at once, for example. I am.
“Workspace consolidation in general is increasing,” he said. “You end up with a lot more work for one person to do in a smaller space.”
In this environment, not only high-speed cooking appliances but also multifunctional appliances such as combi ovens, including small wall-mounted versions, are becoming popular. Ventless cooking techniques can also increase efficiency in kitchen design, Monico says.
“For example, if you can create a dessert station and put a small combi oven on top of it, that person doesn’t have to go back and forth to the hotline,” he says.
kitchen designed by a chef
Big Chicken, the Shaquille O’Neal-backed chicken sandwich chain, focuses on chef-driven recipes and high-quality ingredients, with every kitchen designed by the chain’s culinary team to optimize efficiency. said CEO Josh Halpern.
“They work in conjunction with kitchen designers, but every kitchen approved from Big Chicken is approved by our own chefs,” he said.
Big Chicken’s operating system is centered around creating and delivering spices, sauces, and other specific ingredients to specifications, minimizing in-store preparation effort. Halpern said the equipment configuration will further improve efficiency.
Some of the equipment that helps Big Chicken optimize throughput includes a toaster with a butter wheel that automatically butters the buns and a high-recovery fryer that quickly returns to cooking temperature. This is an important feature in large chain stores that can process 800 to 900 pieces. He can make sandwiches in a two-hour window and also has an automatic pasteurized ice cream machine that requires less cleaning.
Big Chicken typically has one person who prepares the fries and one person who prepares the chicken, while other people specialize in assembling sandwiches and other dishes. Using a breading table, bread the chicken to order using a breading recipe prepared by the supplier using the Big Chicken recipe.
The restaurant also has a flat-top grill, which prepares crispy chicken grilled cheese sandwiches for the few customers who order grilled chicken.
Despite the compact size and layout of many Big Chicken locations, including a few non-traditional venues, the company envisions its kitchens to be versatile and its equipment multifunctional, Halpern said. he said.
“We asked ourselves, ‘How else can we use this device? “and. ” he said. “Whether it’s equipment or raw materials, that’s at the heart of who we are as a company. We’re always looking at ways to do that.”
Smashburger combines theater and efficiency
With Smashburger, the company combined the need to operate efficiently with a desire to bring theatricality to food preparation. The chain used to use a clamshell-style grill to fry its signature smash burgers, but in recent years it has switched to a traditional single-sided flat-top grill where customers can watch the burgers being crushed, Carl said.・President Bachmann said. chain.
“We redesigned the kitchen so that the grill is centered right in front of the window, so our guests can experience that too,” he says, adding that the grill’s location allows for It also makes it easier for cooks to place cooked burgers on plates, he added. At ‘Set Table’, toppings are applied before boarding the expeditor.
Using a flat grill gives him more control over the quality of the burgers, Bachmann said, citing a special process that “sears” the burgers and locks in the juices.
In addition to the flat grill, Smashburger has also added several technology implementations to further increase efficiency and meet the increased demand for off-premise dining, including drive-thru and delivery orders. In addition to storage space systems for order pickup, the technology includes Olo’s technology for digital order processing and order assembly to optimize the timing of cooking fries for off-premises orders, for example. Includes use of Curbit’s technology to assist with timing.
“It’s less about the equipment and more about how you use that equipment,” Bachmann said.
Among the other equipment the company is testing are various warming systems to optimize product quality.
Bachmann said the cubby pickup system, increased digital ordering and other changes have allowed the company to operate more efficiently.
“Our workforce has definitely improved over the past few years, even though wages have increased significantly,” he says. “These efficiencies have allowed us to improve our actual transactions per person-hour.”