A long, narrow commercial kitchen with stainless steel finishes has several chefs in white busily preparing food.

How to get your back of house in tip top shape

Tips for keeping your back of the house clean and moving smoothly

  • In the restaurant industry, efficiency starts in the back of house. From food prep to clean up, each step done here is critical to your restaurant’s success. That’s why it’s so important to not only have a solid plan to manage your back of house, but also a way to evaluate your process – that way, you can catch potential problems before they happen.

  • A commercial kitchen worker scrubs a pan at a sink.

    1. Before “order up,” put your clean up in order.

    Keeping the back of house clean is a no-brainer. Not only are cleaning procedures required to pass regular health inspections, but they help ensure safe, sanitary locations for food prep, keep staff safe from slips and falls, and help maintain the restaurant’s reputation. But cleanliness means more than wiping things down once in a while – it means being organised.

    From floor to ceiling, having the right cleaning tools on hand for each task can boost efficiency and help make dirty tasks more manageable. For example, Scotch-Brite™ Kitchen Cleaner & Degreaser Wipes with Scotchgard™ Protector are designed to clean, degrease and protect stainless surfaces while eliminating the need for deep cleaning – they leave a protective layer behind that makes future cleaning easier.

    In addition, making sure that all high-traffic areas are clear, clean and safe helps avoid accidents and keeps staff moving confidently throughout their day. Particularly around sinks and greasy areas, using the right floor cleaners, treads and mats can make all the difference. Planning ahead with 3M™ Safety-Walk™ Wet Area and Anti-Fatigue Mattings not only provides extra slip resistance and long-term comfort, but also makes it easy to clean without slowing things down.

    Organising your cleaning also means keeping tools stored and stocked correctly so that they’re accessible when needed – nothing’s worse than realising you’ve run out of a necessary cleaning supply right after a huge mess. And to top it all off, implementing a thorough cleaning schedule (like the one at the end of this post) that includes the entire staff and holds everyone accountable can help fairly distribute dirty tasks and make sure things get done.

  • A chef carefully adds an accent to a bowl of pasta in a commercial kitchen.

    2. Focus on food safety.

    Food safety should be top priority in every restaurant. It may sound obvious, but in a hectic commercial kitchen, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. In fact, according to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans to get sick from foodborne illnesses each year. So how do you help guarantee every plate that comes out of your kitchen is safe?

    It all starts with a food safety plan that includes storage, temperature, sanitation and contamination-prevention standards for your entire restaurant. Consider instituting an HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) plan. While not required for commercial kitchens, this internationally recognised system helps identify, monitor, correct and document possible food risks – protecting your customers as well as your business.

    In addition, every restaurant should function on a rotational, first-in, first-out (FIFO) storage system to ensure ingredients are used at their freshest and nothing goes to waste. In order to avoid errors and hold everyone accountable, this process should include accurate labelling, such as with 3M™ Foodservice Labels identifying the item, who prepared it and when.

    However, none of these systems work without thorough, consistent staff education and training. Create a culture of safety by not only creating, enforcing and maintaining food safety protocols but educating staff on the reasons these standards are in place. Because turnover rates in the food service industry are notoriously high, it’s important for staff to understand the severity of even a minor mistake and that adherence is for everyone’s safety, not just the customers’.

  • 3. Waste not, want not.

    Even if you produce consistent, delicious meals and have a thriving customer base, you’re probably still wasting a lot of food. In fact, a 2014 study (PDF, 911.56 KB) to by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84.3 percentage of unused food in American restaurants ends up being thrown away. This is not only detrimental to your bottom line, but to the environment and your reputation – and reducing waste starts with evaluating your back of house.

    Begin by tracking and reviewing your inventory, your purchasing habits, and what’s going in the trash. From there, you can explore your options, starting with waste prevention. From menu or portion changes, to altering your ordering habits, you can cut waste and food costs dramatically. And don’t forget to keep restaurant staff in the loop – the more eyes on your waste production, the more you can catch.

    But this transition isn’t always seamless, which means seeking solutions for the waste you still produce. Rather than filling another trash bag, consider donating leftovers, composting or using sustainable tableware and packaging. These efforts not only cut down on waste, but will have a positive impact on the environment, and your budget; It reflects well on your brand to modern, eco-conscious customers.

  • Two chefs in white coats confer in a commercial kitchen

    4. Strong communication for a strong team.

    A great restaurant doesn’t just have good food, it has a staff that works well together. And that starts with communication – not just between the chef and the prep crew, but between back of house, front of house and management. This level of communication not only keeps issues from falling through the cracks, but also helps staff feel more like a team and more empowered to do their best if they feel they’re being heard, the more likely they are to speak up and problem-solve together. This could include introducing a restaurant-wide mobile communication app, hosting staff meals (also a clever way to use up ingredients near expiration, or the last of a bin), or having regular manager/employee check-ins.

    In addition to the training suggestions in the points above, cross-training back of house staff can help fill gaps where needed – for example, making sure your entire staff knows where shipments go and how to organise them can help avoid losing valuable produce to mis-shelving – and help staff appreciate what everyone else does. Front of house and back of house can sometimes become a dividing line; by giving everyone a taste of the “other side,” you can curb rivalries and keep the entire restaurant moving smoothly.


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