How to Optimize Your Kitchen to Reduce Wait Times for Digital Orders
When it comes to orders that are placed digitally, reducing back of house chaos means food goes out faster, employees are happier and your life as a restaurant operator is easier.
In this article, we’ll talk about the challenges you face with digital orders and how kitchen technology, such as an end-to-end restaurant management platform with an integrated kitchen production system and digital displays, can help you overcome them.
Challenge #1: Unanticipated spikes in order volume
Don’t be caught flat-footed when you turn on or expand into new digital channels. Make sure you have a strategy for your kitchen to be as effective and efficient as possible to deliver the best service and food to customers ordering inside or outside your restaurant. This means looking at ways to improve the performance and speed of repeatable tasks on the make lines, and decreasing ready times for long cook times. Kitchen technology can help by:
- Giving you access to historical sales data you can use to predict the item and volume you need to have prepped and ready.
- Routing orders intelligently – This can mean configuring items to be routed by video group, terminal or order mode so orders are routed to the right stations. And if a specific station is slammed, load balancing can automatically route the order to another. Production screens can include instructions for starting and finalizing food items, and expediter screens can include instructions to manage, assemble and deliver finalized orders – especially if they are for takeout or delivery.
- Display where the order originated, whether instore, takeout or delivery, using color coding or images on your kitchen display to help staff accurately quote timing.
Challenge #2: Adding extra production capacity
As off-premise orders (those that are ordered online or in store but consumed offsite by takeout or delivery) continue to increase, it’s wreaking havoc on restaurant operations, overwhelming staff and creating longer lines in store – which leads to unsatisfied customers. You can relieve some of the pressure in a few ways, enabled by kitchen technology:
- Add a second make line dedicated to digital orders. Use your POS and kitchen tech to control prep sequence and timing and you could reduce the wait times for mobile orders by over 60%.
- Create multiple expo stations. Depending on how many in-store and digital channels you have, consider having two expo stations that you segment by channel so you can enable different packaging or customer experiences.
- Consider an offsite kitchen dedicated to digital orders. These are called “dark” or “ghost” kitchens—and they can optimize capacity across your entire brand. And the right kitchen tech can integrate both your ghost kitchen and full restaurant, making operations even more efficient.
Challenge #3: Managing front-of-house chaos and communication
The volume of digital orders also can create log jams in your dining room or order areas (your front of house or FOH), as both customers and delivery drivers wait for their orders. Without planning how to transform your FOH and connect your kitchen with your FOH, you can risk negatively impacting your customer satisfaction. Kitchen technology can smooth your FOH chaos by helping you over-communicate so you never leave guests guessing:
- Send SMS/text messages. Bump orders when they’re finished. And, if integrated with your POS system, send automatic text messages to your customers’ mobile device to let them know their order is ready.
- Transform your FOH with digital displays. Display your customer’s order number, name and status of order to show your guests—and delivery drivers—their order status and where to pick up to reduce FOH disruptions. You also can advertise promotions to customers who are waiting.
Challenge #4: What to do with your kitchen data
With the advent of smart refrigerators, fryers and more, many restaurants are using the data running through their kitchen devices in new ways. And it’s really about time and inventory: how long it takes to a dish to be ordered, prepared and delivered. How staff is performing, cook-time variances and more. Use your kitchen technology to help you:
- Measure your kitchen health. When your kitchen is connected, you can gauge how off-premise orders are impacting your speed of service, identify bottlenecks and make staffing changes as needed. You can also use your kitchen metrics paired with comps and voids to find ways to reduce waste, or use your drive-thru timer to reward speedy kitchen staff.
- Improve your food quality and safety. Install temperature and humidity monitoring devices with an integrated alerting system to avoid product spoilage in your walk-in coolers, know whether cooler doors are not closed properly—preventing temperature fluctuations—and more.
With the meteoric rise of digital ordering, it’s even more critical to pay attention to your kitchen operations so you don’t alienate your in-store guests while fulfill increasing digital orders. And this is exactly where the right kitchen technology can help.