Making space on the griddle for all-day breakfast

commercial kitchen empty

The griddle is the workhorse behind a majority of breakfast offerings, but keeping the large, energy-sucking equipment efficient all day requires operational planning. “It’s driven by what your menu is,” says Jon Kotez, senior manager of field operations support for IHOP. “That drives what your speed of service model looks like, and influences the equipment layout.”

McDonald’s all-day breakfast strategy may have proven a success, but when the chain permanently added biscuit and muffin sandwiches to the menu in September, it faced a new challenge: Units needed separate griddles to safely cook the whole raw eggs. So McDonald’s found a small model that fits on a rolling cart to save on premium counter space.

Have staff divide and conquer

IHOP’s griddle is bigger than a one-burger system and laid out to maximize efficiency; there are five stations divided across four flat-tops—some wet and some dry, including two for pancakes.  “Everything is cooked to order, and you’re building toward a single plate: eggs any way, toast, protein,” says Kotez. “Even the hash browns are dropped and maintained in the corner,” he says.

One person, dubbed the leadout, stands at one of the dry stations and is in charge of sandwiches and pancakes, as well as calling out orders as they come. “It’s a great model for us, because on a busy Sunday, we’re producing 200,000 to 225,000 combinations coming from all sides of the grill. That’s where it makes a difference,” Kotez adds. It also prevents flavor transfer between wet items, like burgers and onions, and IHOP’s signature pancakes. 

How IHOP divides it up

The family-dining chain divides its four griddles into five stations to keep ingredients—and flavors—separate.

ihop breakfast process

Maximize downtime

“Given the demand for our all-day breakfast menu, we generally have two griddles operational at all times—especially during lunch, dinner and late night when we’re serving our guests everything from burgers to pancakes,” says Sharon Lykins, senior director of product development at Denny’s.

When traffic is slower, Denny’s takes the opportunity to take one of the griddles down. “We may assign different parts of a griddle to different items to allow us to save energy, and use the downtime to clean the other,” she says.

Equipment-driven menu creation

The culinary team at IHOP develops all new dishes based on a 350-degree grill temperature, and all four griddles are maintained at the same temperature. This makes training easier on the cooks and ensures a more consistent product and greater efficiency, says Kotez. 

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