A key ingredient for success is consistency. You don’t need to be the best, but you need to be consistent in your quality.


In past articles, we looked at how consistency and quality were impacted due to cooking techniques based on ideal situations and equipment rather than reality. In this article, we will talk about how poorly laid out and unorganized work areas lead to not only inconsistent or poor customer service and quality, but also to dissatisfied employees and turnover.

There are a couple of ways that the workspace setup can affect the service and quality:

    • Poor organization,
    • Inconsistent setup, and
    • Lack of standards.

1.  Poor Organization

The importance of the organization, setup, and processes at the workstations can not be understated. They are the key to successful and consistent service and quality and the difference between a good and bad day at work. Everyone has different skills that they bring to the table, and let’s face it, some are better at organizing and developing systems than others.

When it comes to setup and organization, the example that I often refer to is how surgeons work. Why is that? While working with a team that specialized in lean management, they explained how they were conducting an assessment and observation of a specific type of surgery. They mapped out every hand movement the surgeon made using string from start to finish. The goal was to reduce the surgeon’s hands crossing over, which could lead to them cutting themselves, and they also needed to ensure no instrument was left behind. The setup, procedure, and cleanup needed to be perfectly mapped out.

One may say that we do not need the same precision in food and beverage, and no, we may not need to map out every movement, but a proper setup leads to better, more efficient flow. Searching for items in a messy workspace and backtracking reduces efficiency, the potential for accidents increases, and both can be costly to the company and employees.

There are a few key principles to an effective setup:

    • What items are needed for each task, and what is used most frequently?
    • How can crossover or backtracking be prevented?
    • Eliminate clutter and overstocking. It is better to stock more frequently to avoid congested work areas.
    • Does it flow? Try it out – watch employees work during peak business to see where bottlenecks occur.
    • Design your setup for the busiest times (worst case).
    • Don’t leave the layout decisions up to the employees. Find the best people to organize the area, fine-tune and document the specific set up and ensure it is followed.

2. Inconsistent Setup

When a system is created there should be no good reason why it isn’t followed every day. But there are often two reasons it is not:

1) The “I like it set up my way” and

2) The “We should be fine, it shouldn’t be busy.”

I Like it This Way!

In most restaurants, there is more than one person working in an area, on a shift, or throughout the week. The station is designed for optimal performance, and although the person who sets the station may like to change it, the standards must always be followed.

It Shouldn’t be Busy

The challenge comes when business levels are high, there are staff shortages, or there is an unexpected increase in business. If the areas are not properly set up, the operation will not run smoothly, and it will make a bad situation worse if people are searching for items.

The word “should” or “shouldn’t” means the person is unsure. When people don’t want to set the area properly, it has nothing to do with projected business levels. It has to do with not wanting to do the work. It is not a form of efficiency. It is laziness and, in many cases, leads to service failure. No matter what, each section needs to be set up the same way no matter what the real or projected business levels are. This does not apply to the amount of food or beverage items to prep (that is a different discussion), this has to do with equipment and layout.

3. Continuous Improvement

In many cases, the initial setup is not perfect, and it is important to keep an open mind. Look to continuously improve the setup and organization, whether it is the physical layout or equipment that can improve the flow.

The employee that would like to have the area set up to their liking may have an idea that could benefit everyone. If someone has an idea to improve the system, it is important that it is considered as every new idea lead can lead to an even better system. If changes are suggested they need to be tested. If the change is adopted, the standard operating procedure will need to be updated, and all employees will need to be trained on the new standard.

An effective and structured setup will remove obstacles and dramatically improve all aspects of the service, eliminate frustration for employees, and make the tough days easier.

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