I recently took over a restaurant/bar that has been in business for over 38 years. However, it has the reputation of extremely slow service. The cooks say it is due to the length of time it takes to cook the hash browns (breakfast is served all day) and the amount of space they take up on the grill. The grill is 48 inches and there are four burners. I'm trying to figure out how to help the cooks with this dilemma while still providing customers their hash browns.
– Sherry Andrus, Owner, Mickey B’s Restaurant & Tavern, Estacada, Ore.
This is an example of a problem that I commonly see in independent operations—menus not matching kitchen design and layout. One of the mistakes restaurateurs (especially those without a strong back-of-house background) make is to menu items based on sales potential, food cost, and/or customer appeal without having considered the operational limitations of executing that menu. For example, it is relatively easy to say that fried chicken is popular, has good margins, and the chef makes a great one; it is quite another thing to be able to execute this item consistently and quickly if you do not have the fryer capacity to do so.
James Feustel, an account manager and commercial kitchen designer at Singer Equipment Co. in Bellmawr, N.J., says, “We see this problem a lot in concepts where short ticket times are one of the priorities. If it's not possible to add any more equipment under the exhaust hood (like a longer griddle or more burners) the best option might be to consider adding a hot holding cabinet or drawer unit. There are several manufacturers and a large array of options to choose from, but the biggest determining factor is going to be the food that needs to be held and for how long. Holding hash browns for an entire service may not be feasible, because crispy foods—no matter how good the holding unit—will eventually degrade.
“For hash brown potatoes, there are two options to consider:
1. Consider cooking them through … and storing them in a hot holding cabinet, and then finishing/crisping individual orders as tickets are printed.
2. If the product is moved quickly enough, serving finished hash browns right from the hot holding cabinet without any use of the griddle. (This will depend on the particular qualities you're looking for, like the crunch of the exterior.)”
In short, something has to give—if hash browns are key to your concept and guests love them, invest in the equipment to deliver the guest experience at the speed and quality they demand throughout the day. If modifying your kitchen is cost prohibitive, find alternative menu items to get the job done.
More on matching menu to equipment here.