Finding the problem: Equipment, employees or procedures?

cartoon detective


I want to know if I can use a flash-bake oven to heat fully cooked chicken tenders, fully cooked wings and potato wedges and throw away my small fryers. I am sick of dealing with my employees not filtering the oil and giving my customers dark chicken tenders and burnt wings. We actually do them from scratch and I am looking for a better way.

– Juan Vazquez, Owner, City Salads, Nogales, Ariz.


When I work with operators, I often feel like a therapist who is challenged to get to the root of the problem. To be sure, having the right equipment for your menu can make your operation more efficient, consistent and profitable. And the quick answer to your question is, yes, you can use a flash-bake oven rather than a fryer to prepare those menu items. The real question is: Will that solve your problem?

It seems to me from your question that the real problem is a lack of clear Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and management oversight, or a lack of consistent standards for your menu and operation. Equipment can help fix that, but by focusing on the equipment rather than the core problem, you are likely to make a substantial equipment investment and still be struggling with the inconsistency and quality problems you mention.

Before worrying about equipment, let’s focus on getting staff to maintain standards for the existing equipment and these items. How often should your frying oil be changed? During what part of the day is it done? What filtering equipment and methods are in place? For how long should each menu item be fried and at what temperature? What sort of timers, alarms or controls are cooks using to remember how long baskets have been dropped? It sounds to me like you are frustrated that your cooks are not turning out consistent high-quality product, but I’m not convinced that the guidance is in place for them to do so.

My advice would be to start with the establishment and implementation of clear guidelines for your existing setup.  If your results are not what you’d hoped, look at equipment options later.

More on SOPs here.