So you're not a chef, but responsible for the kitchen...

If you're accountable for the profits of a food operation, you need to know all about how the kitchen works and move in that space with confidence.

Here's a quick guide to how a non-chef can become much more skilled in managing 'secret kitchen business':


  1. Improve the ordering systems. Make sure ordering is done online, or from standard printed lists, not on greasy diaries or scraps of paper. Set re-order levels to ensure enough is on hand for 3-4 day's supply - usually plenty unless deliveries come from a distance. Do regular spot comparisons of orders against invoices, and let your staff know you're aware of stock levels.


  2. Upgrade food delivery and storage systems. Treat it with the same care given to alcohol. Have heavy-duty scales available for checking the weight of delivered items. Install locks on store rooms and label shelves. Delivery people are always in a hurry so have your rules about signatures and delivery times up on the wall and also printed on the invoice. Is there enough cold-storage so stock is not piled up where it will be lost, pilfered or damaged?

    Food Safety systems are now high priority in most areas: this gives you another way to assert yourself. The training can be undertaken by anyone, usually in short, practical courses - no knife skills required! It's also an area that many older chefs have neglected - work together on making your kitchen conform to modern requirements.


  3. Supply updated commodity and ingredient prices every week. Current increases are alarming, and keeping track of them takes time. Where possible, have the chef enter price changes into the recipe system. Some chefs also enter invoices into the accounts system, giving them an immediate awareness of price and supply changes.


  4. Organise the work-flow. Observation can tell you whether staff are working efficiently, or if equipment needs to be rearranged. Watch them working when it's busy and trust your instincts. Just because people have worked there for a long time doesn't mean they take the shortest route between A and B.


  5. Insist that recipes are written down and costed. This can be a good project for a junior member of staff who has more time (and enthusiasm) for it. Otherwise, offer admin. help if the chef has not time - typing may not be her best skill. New menu items should be presented to you fully costed for approval. Simple software such as the Profitable Recipe Manager makes the task easy, or a standard Recipe Card format.


  6. Provide good equipment and keep it repaired. Commercial stoves, fryers and microwaves are needed to get food out quickly, and nothing frustrates staff more than poorly maintained equipment. Don't offer easy excuses for why it 'can't be done'.



    Essential equipment for costing

  7. Install Electronic Costing Scales: one of your best investments - buy a set similar to those used in a deli that weigh the goods AND work out the cost. The price is much less than you think. Toss out the old round-dial ones. When you want to check the actual cost of 5 scallops or a juicy steak, the result is instant - and a shock!


  8. Stop Improper Use of the Point-of-Sale: this will show you exactly what's selling (and what's not). Check the most and least popular items, and how well side-orders are moving. Disable the 'Open Key' which is often used by staff in a hurry to ring up unkown items, and corrupts the accuracy of your sales data. Make the correct use of the POS a 'holy obligation' in your business.



  9. Check and discuss the figures every week. The quickest way to find out food costs is to compare purchases (from delivery invoices) against sales. This gives you a 'close enough' figure and identifies problems quickly. It is also valuable to know per-head sales for food, side-orders, desserts and beverages. Many chefs rightly complain they are kept in the dark and only told about problems when it's too late - share as much as you can. A short weekly meeting is the chance to assess performance and plan improvements.


  10. Help to build the menu's 'profit strength'. A strong menu has a variety of items that are both profitable and popular. Check the dollar-profit margin on each dish rather than just working on percentages. Watch the big (and slow) sellers. Make sure you have a good range of desserts and grazing items. A modern bistro menu should aim for overall food-costs of 25% or less. As the chief of marketing and finance, you should have the final say on menu prices. They should be based on what the market will bear, not a strict formula.


  11. Employ truly competent kitchen leaders. Staff who are good at getting the best from a team, knowledgeable about food issues, strong, fast, able to train staff quickly, reliable with numbers and happy to report to you regularly. The Head Chef's Job Description should be a key document, but used as a guide, not a weapon.


  12. Finally, play dumb (to be smart). Cooking is manufacturing, so ask lots of questions and watch closely how the process works. Compare it with the operation of a well-organised bar or even a trade that's not in hospitality. Successful manufacturing needs good modern equipment, affordable quality supplies, precise systems and a willingness to repeat processes the same way every time.

    Plus a positive, motivating work culture with staff committed to doing a great job...



  *Staff Policy Manual* 


This Kitchen Manager helps to establish a uniform way of handling all staff issues and decisions.

Allowing yourself to have an open mind when working with different attitude and personality gives you a strong advantage in the 'talent wars' - the battle to find and keep great employees. It's also an great  dealing with people who are beginners to restaurant, cafe, hotel or bar.


The Kitchen Manager Outlines: (NEW EMPLOYEES)


1. Introduction to the Company 
2. Company Policies and Work Rules
3. Pay and Administration
4. Holidays and time off 
5. Workplace Health and Safety

6. Offers vital support when they need to handle contentious issues such as grooming, schedule changes, time off and questions about harassment and appropriate language.

7. Clarity about being treated fairly policies in workplace.


  *Human Resources Manager verses Kitchen Manager


Recruiting and retaining quality employees is one of the biggest challenges in hospitality.

The industry is well-known for staff turnover, and there's a lot that a professional Kitchen Manager can do to help create a productive, stable and harmonious workplace.

This Job Description sets out the main responsibilities of the HR Manager: for recruitment, retention, employee systems and performance management - all the way through to exit interviews if required. You may not have a person in this role full time, but it's important to have the tasks clearly defined when they are being handled  over to the Kitchen Manager.

The Kitchen Manager  may also be responsible for compliance with employment laws and regulations, and training other supervisors and head chefs to implement the employment systems that are in place. It's an important job!


  *Good Health Guide for Employees* 

As a Kitchen Manager  shows staff your commitment to their welfare and good health. How many of your competitors do this?

Areas  include:

  • Exercise and fresh air

  • Good food and nutrition

  • Sleep and breaks

  • Avoiding drugs, alcohol and bad nutrition

  • Limiting coffee and sugar intake


  *Internal Communication Policy* 


 Text messages, phone messages, face-to-face communication, written notes and email.

Make the rules clear about how staff and managers should communicate with other - it’s easy for this to become very casual, unclear and abrupt to the point of rudeness. Plus many staff expect Kitchen Managers to reply instantly to requests.

This Internal Communication Policy sets out the rules and examples very clearly, and is based on 4 important principles:



  1. Clear messages get better responses

  2. Support the business by communicating quickly and efficiently

  3. Complete the Cycle of Communication – reply to messages, don’t leave them unanswered

  4. Respect for others in what we say and do

Areas that may not be applicable to kitchen staff but are clear bullet points, include:

  • Mobile Phone Texts

  • Mobile and Phone Messages

  • Internal Message Systems and Email

  • Answering the Phone to Customers

  • Speaking to Customers

  • Handling Customer Complaints

  • Using Social Media

Use this policy with the Social Media Policy, the Mobile Phone Policy and the Cyber Bullying Policy also on this site.

  *Employment Agreement* 

This is a model Employment Agreement for a full-time employee.

It covers the national employment standards and gives you space to add your company details and information about the employee, plus pay rates, work hours and additional benefits.

Its used in conjunction with the Job Description and your Staff Manual.

This Agreement is a pro-forma and should only be used in conjunction with advice from your legal or industrial relations adviser. Your industry association (eg Hotel or Restaurant Association) may also be able to assist and review.


  *Drug & Alcohol Policy* 


Excess consumption of alcohol and drugs is linked to a wide variety of health, social and workplace problems, including accidents, injuries, violence and poor productivity.

It's essential to have a clearly written and comprehensive Drug & Alcohol Policy for your restaurant, cafe, hotel, club or bar. Especially as staff are working in an environment where the sale and consumption of alcohol is encouraged.

Plus there is increasing social tolerance of 'recreational drugs', and the line between what's allowed and not allowed can become blurred. Late nights, intoxicated customers and loud music can all create an environment where staff are tempted to do the wrong thing.

This Drug & Alcohol Policy covers:

  • Applicability to staff and managers

  • Ban on consumption of alcohol on the premises

  • Ban on consumption of illegal drugs on the premises

  • Prescription drugs - what's allowed

  • How to tell if someone has a problem

  • What happens when someone is identified as having a problem

  • Exceptions for social events and training


   Jobs for When It's Not Busy* 


A long list of tasks for front of house and bar staff, ready for the quiet times.

Add to or edit this list so there's always something for employees to do. Get them involved in the update so they really 'own' it. Tasks for staff working by themselves, with a team and for managers. Ask for a report in the daily logbook on which tasks they covered - raise your expectations!

Task include cleaning, tidying, equipment, short training sessions, checking information and stock checks.


  *Mobile Phone Use Policy* 


A clear company policy on mobile phone and tablet use is designed to manage the expectations and needs of staff, management and customers.

Most staff are very dependent on the small communication device in their pocket - they're part of daily life. Modifying their behaviour during work hours can be a challenge, but there are few things more annoying than seeing service staff focused on their phone rather than on customer service.

Because of the widespread use and ownership of mobile phones, tablets and mobile devices, clear guidelines are essential to ensure there are no negative results from their use, and no misunderstandings.

A well-worded policy should include a strong commitment to privacy, and also to the security of company information and assets.

This policy includes is written in clear, simple language, and includes options (for you to choose) on:

  • How much access staff can have to their phone during work hours

  • Use of company-owned phones

  • Security measures and passwords

  • What to do if a phone or device is lost or stolen

  • Payment of phone expenses

This Mobile Devices Policy should be used in conjunction with a clear and well-publicised Social Media Guidelines and Prevention Guidelines.


  *Annual Leave Form* 


This Annual Leave Application is ready for full-time or permanent staff to fill in and submit to management.

Using a standard form ensures that dates are properly set out and expectations of holiday pay are clear. Managing annual leave for staff in a busy restaurant, bar or catering business can be complicated - its essential to have good systems established so that you're not short-staffed at busy times.


  *Reference Checking Form* 


Use this standard Reference Checking Form to ask the important questions and gather information about the previous employment of job candidates.

With a standard form your discussion with previous employers will save time by being more efficient and covering all the critical areas. You'll also sound more professional when you make contact with - some employers may not want to give information to someone they don't know.

Candidates for employment may interview well, sound convincing and pass a variety of skill tests. But until you've heard from at least two former employers, you won't know if what you see is more than just a front. Using a reference checking form makes it much more likely that you'll choose the right person instead of wasting your time.


  *Staff Meals & Breaks: Guidelines* 

Clear rules about staff meals, beverages and breaks are an important part of the employee rule book.

These rules should cover meals before and during service, coffee and hot drinks, sodas and cold drinks, consumption of alcohol, smoking and rest breaks.

Present them in the context of caring for staff health as well as business cost control. They should also conform to local employment rules - staff usually know their entitlements!


  *New Staff Orientation Checklist* 


Adapt this checklist for training and induction of new employees – refer to the relevant systems and policies you download from Profitable Hospitality.

Areas covered in this Checklist include:


  • Introduction to the Workplace

  • Pay and Attendance Important Paperwork and Documents

  • Job Description and Performance

  • Good Behaviour at Work – avoiding potential problems

  • Safety and Hygiene Rules

  • Front of House and Bar Duties and Procedures

  • Host or Hostess Duties and Procedures

  • Kitchen Staff Duties and Procedures


  *Server and Waiter Training* 


Standard procedures for the key responsibilities of a confident and skillful restaurant or cafe waiter.

This staff training guide includes techniques and suggestions for how to improve staff skills quickly. It can be easily adapted to your style of business.



  • Correct Use and Carrying of Trays

  • Suggestive Selling – with role-play and practice suggestions

  • Taking Orders, Setting the Table and Serving Food

  • Presenting the Account and Farewelling Customers

  • Understanding the Sequence of Service


  *Photo Release Form* 


When you have staff photographed or videoed for publicity or promotional purposes, make sure they have all signed a proper release form.

This ensures that the photographs and recordings can be used at any time, even after staff have left your employment.

This form is also called a Media Release Form or Talent Release Form.


  *Social Media Manager JD* 

Social Media Manager Position Description ready to use or adapt for your business.

Showing the responsibilities, skills, knowledge and behavior required for a Social Media Manager. This person would be responsible for blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Picasa Photo Albums, Foursquare and other social media services. Plus reputation management and tracking customer feedback.

The Job Description outlines General Responsibilities, Main Activities, Special Requirements and Other Features.

Quality, career-minded staff expect to see a Job Descriptions when they apply for a position - it's an excellent way to attract the people you want and also filter out those who are unsuitable.

Job Descriptions are essential tools for performance reviews, and are required if you need to issue warnings for poor performance or bad behaviour.

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