Is the current skills shortage impacting your kitchen? Here are five kitchen hacks that could save you time and money.
The chef shortage has taken Australia by storm. Therefore, now is the time to invest in your venue, helping you save money and fill the skill gap.
Shortages of chefs and skilled workers are not a novel issue, but it is an issue that has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move beyond lockdowns, restrictions and border closures, venues across Australia are now facing unprecedented staff shortages in both front and back of house.
According to reports conducted by the National Skills Commission, Australia lost around a quarter of its chefs during the pandemic. Many left the industry for more stable jobs, offering a greater work-life balance. It is therefore important that a future-focussed approach is adopted in these uncertain times.
To help create a brighter future for your venue, we’ve highlighted five ways you can aim to fill the skills gap, helping you save time and money during this crucial period.
Investing in technology is one of the easiest, and most convenient ways to help fill the skills gap within your venue, whether that’s front or back of house. This is because technology can help ease the workload by automating otherwise time-consuming tasks, such as inventory management. Automating these tasks can save your skilled staff time, allowing them to better utilise their skills elsewhere in your kitchen. According to reports when the right technology is implemented, you can save up to 250 hours a year. This is time that can be reinvested back into your business.
Some other potential benefits of using technology in your restaurant include:
Technology solutions to consider for your business include:
While technology implementation may require some initial investment, it can contribute to the profitability of your business in the long-term. In the short term, it can act as an efficient solution to some of the skill gaps you may be facing. Ultimately, when implemented correctly, technology has the capability to improve the experiences of both employees and customers. Therefore, your business must carefully choose which systems and tools offer the most effective return on investment, whilst helping to solve your restaurant’s short and long-term needs.
Whilst convenience food has historically been the subject of criticism regarding its nutritional value, quality and taste, there appears to have been a shift in attitudes following the Covid-19 pandemic. A report published by Deloitte suggests 90% of professional kitchens have started incorporating the use of convenience products regularly to help manage the shortage of skilled workers. Similarly, this switch has also helped address the demand for flexibility, as well as the need to reduce costs and waste.
Although fresh may be the preferred option, frozen or pre-prepped items can offer a convenient solution in the form of pre-portioned, pre-cooked, or pre-prepared foods for your menu. This can help save on labour costs and minimise food waste, as these convenience foods often take longer to spoil, which will ultimately contribute to cutting costs.
For example, using vegetables like onions, carrots, celery and parsley can help save prep time and can be used in dishes such as pastas, tacos or stir fries, as flavour enhancers. Similarly, frozen or canned fruit, can be used in smoothies or as dessert toppers, particularly in instances where consistent sizing and/or portioning is important.
If you’re unsure where to start with pre-prepped ingredients, speak to your supplier partners and they can make suggestions for the most appropriate products to choose, whilst still maintaining quality within your dishes.
Gone are the days where your menu needs to be two pages long, with a seemingly endless range of entrees, mains, and desserts. To help overcome the staff shortages across the country, many venues are now opting to simplify kitchen operations by streamlining their menus and/or making them smaller.
This approach appears to have become more popular across the industry, as the more menu items offered, the more labour is required. Condensing your menu may not only reduce labour within your kitchen – it may also offer a better customer experience. This is because it may help the customer make their dining selections sooner – in turn, preventing decision fatigue.
Other potential benefits of smaller menus include:
While making your menu smaller may be a potentially effective solution for your business, there are also other options. For instance, finding ingredients that can be used in multiple ways. By utilising ingredients more efficiently across your menu, it can help minimise prep work, costs, and food waste.
Moreover, if you do choose to explore new menu options, it is suggested that your team read through the entire recipe, including the ingredients and methods listed, from beginning to end, before starting the cooking process. Emilie Bousquet-Walshe, Chef de Cuisine of Go Burger Bar and Grill says, “The most time saving device is reading recipes to their fullest before starting, that way you have time to start and sometimes finish certain instructions, while others are in the works”.
It is beneficial that your kitchen always be set up, to maintain easy access and maximise efficiency. Kitchen preparation is one of the most critical aspects of running a successful hospitality business.
But why is it so important? A kitchen that’s set up for success can help you streamline production and provides an efficient workspace, while also lessening the risk of injury in a busy environment, especially during peak service times.
By providing enough space and allocating sections for equipment, raw materials, and inventory, it allows operations to run more efficiently. Arranging tools in your kitchen for easy access may also help shorten overall prep and cooking time, because searching for tools and ingredients while customers wait to be served is not the most effective way to operate.
Unexpected moments can happen, but these unexpected moments on top of staff and skill shortages can be particularly challenging. For example, finding staff at short notice is an issue that the hospitality industry is currently facing.
To help alleviate the pressure of finding new staff, investing the time to cross-train your existing staff could offer a solution to this issue. This cross-training allows you to have a kitchen that is more flexible, efficient, and well prepared for unexpected absences.
When it comes to cross training your staff, assess your current staffing assignments, and try to make sure each employee has at least one person who can step into their role. Where possible, ignore front and back of house specific roles, as when you have cross-trained staff, it is likely easier to reshuffle the floor chart.
Cross-training can allow your venue to function effectively, even if understaffed. This could be particularly helpful during the busy periods. When you properly cross-train your staff, your restaurant becomes:
Along with the benefits for your business, cross-training can also help empower your staff to take on new responsibilities, learn new skills and up-skill. Cross training your staff members can make the entire staff work as a team – in turn, improving your service.
While managing the juggle of staff and skills shortages can be challenging, these five hacks could help you save time and money. Take the time and assess your current position and evaluate how you can make the changes needed to help fill the gaps that you may be experiencing.
When times are tough, the most important thing you can do is encourage a work culture where your staff’s efforts are acknowledged. This approach can help you keep your existing staff, as well as building a positive working environment – especially during these tough times in the hospitality industry.