Top QSR Kitchen Mistakes: 5 Common Practices That Lower Speed and Quality

Are Your QSR Kitchen Crews Committing Any of These Mistakes?

The quick service restaurant kitchen is a high-stakes environment. It might not appear so on the surface, but there is much more at stake than just the experience of a single guest and the quality of one meal.

With increasing guest expectations for speed and quality in a competitive landscape that offers consumers more prepared meal options than ever, your QSR crews must strive to give every guest the kind of experience that builds lifelong loyalty.

This is the reality of operating in today’s competitive foodscape. If the quality of a single meal is off, your guest might never return. If your drive thru is backed up and not moving, your potential guest likely has a direct line of sight to several other restaurant options.

In order to meet these demands and provide every guest with fast and delicious food, your QSR kitchens can’t afford to make certain mistakes.

Let’s explore 5 common blunders in the QSR kitchen that increase customer wait times, decrease your food quality, and destroy guest loyalty.

1. Not Cooking the Right Amount

Deciding how much food to cook is a delicate balance between two bad outcomes: having customers wait too long for their food or throwing away cooked food that was not sold before it expired.

If there are spots in your parking lot constantly occupied by guests waiting for their drive-thru order, you might need to increase the amount of food you have on-hand. But how can you hit the sweet spot while also keeping food waste down?

It starts with historical usage. Since the traffic in most QSR environments follows predictable patterns by hour and day of week, your kitchen management system should begin by forecasting your daily needs with your historical usage.

With that critical baseline in place, the system can adjust for fluctuations in daily demands by integrating with your point of sale system—allowing for the kitchen to have the most current information and even prepare for variables not accounted for in historical patterns, such as the demand for a new LTO.

This keeps your kitchen crew out of the bad position of having to drop pans of chicken or burgers during a rush and forcing your guests to wait.

2. Holding Food Too Long

It’s inevitable that some food will expire in the Product Holding Units and need to be thrown away. Holding the product beyond the limits risks that food is served that should not be served, resulting in decreased quality or, even worse, food that’s not safe to eat.

The challenge, and potential problem, is keeping tabs on the status of all the product in the PHUs. This part of running a QSR kitchen should be automated, so you’re not relying on human memory or crew skill levels and leaving the door open for mistakes.

The right kitchen management system will also maintain the flexibility to customize the rules and parameters on the holding times for each product based on the requirements of individual brands.

3. Waiting Too Long to Thaw and Prep

Thawing frozen items and prepping condiments can be one of the most time consuming tasks in the QSR kitchen. Even if your kitchen crew knows exactly how much food to cook and when, the thawing and prepping stages can throw a wrench in the process if they are not started at the right time.

This process should also be automated. Your kitchen management or restaurant management system should give your kitchen crews all this information ahead of time, and provide the necessary reminders and alerts to keep everyone on track. Consistency like this will allow your crews to handle any bumps in the road that can occur from varied levels of skills and training.

4. Outdated and Inaccessible Recipes

In a QSR environment with a steady rotation of LTOs and new menu items, your kitchen crews must be working from the same recipes across the whole organization. This requires anytime access to up-to-date electronic recipes.

If crew members don’t have that level of accessibility in a fast-paced QSR kitchen, they might rely on their own memory or the memory of others. That might work for some, but it opens up a door for costly errors and the possibility of misinformation spreading throughout the organization.

5. Not Connecting Your Kitchen Management System to the Rest of Your Kitchen

In the modern QSR kitchen, integrations are king. Not connecting your kitchen management system to your PHUs and the rest of your kitchen equipment is a huge missed opportunity that will lead to longer customer wait times and decreased food quality.

When it comes to connecting all your kitchen equipment into one system, this can conjure the image of a completely automated kitchen and handing over everything to the machines. That’s not the case at all.

The end goal here is to divide and to delegate the tasks that technology does well (monitoring and updating data, providing consistent information) from the tasks that humans do well (making adjustments on the fly, communicating to others when things change). Ultimately, this gives your crews the freedom to do what they do best.

SICOM Chef™ Kitchen Management

SICOM Chef Kitchen Management enables restaurants to move the needle on speed and quality by optimizing preparation and cooking processes in the restaurant kitchen, then empowering your staff to carry those changes into action.

Kitchen Management Quick Guide

Learn more about the power of the connected kitchen.

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Ryan Hildebrand
June 27, 2018

Our resident expert in all things middle of house, Ryan provides an insightful perspective on how kitchen and drive thru technologies can be harnessed to make a meaningful impact on speed of service and food quality.

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