How Automation At Your Kitchen Can Reduce Operation Expenses?

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Building kitchens of tomorrow.

DB

Imagine this scenario – you walk into a neighborhood restaurant and the food on your plate is cooked and served by AI-powered robots. All our sci-fi fantasies are not yet fulfilled and we will have to leave the cooking servicing robot part to a sci-fi series. However, restaurants across the world are taking advantage of automation except for full-blown cooking and serving.

Before getting into how automation influences a restaurant’s operation costs, it is important to understand that automating a kitchen does not mean replacing all human staff with robots. After all, apart from the food, people stay loyal to a restaurant for its service by waiters, bartenders and maître des.

Most restaurants limit automation to tasks that occur behind the scenes of a kitchen and infrastructural needs such as inventory management, menus and communicating orders to the kitchen. And some others might have also brought in automation to the cooking table by embracing machines that preform task like cutting or washing.

How Can Automation Change The Game

Restaurants are opened and shut down with a higher frequency than any other business. According to a study published in 2005 by the Ohio State University, 60% of the restaurants stopped operations or change ownership within the first year of business. It is estimated that around 80% of restaurants cease doing business within 5 years of opening them.

One of the main reasons for this is the inefficient operating cost management. The foodservice industry has traditionally been dependent on human skills. The higher the skill level, the higher the salary commanded and hence the higher the operating costs.

Automation in the kitchen can help you run your kitchen efficiently and reduce these operating costs without compromising on the warmth and human interactive services it offers. Here’s how.

Make Repetitive Tasks Faster

Onions are one of the common elements used in restaurants. Imagine how much time goes into chopping and prepping these onions for service. Like onions, there are tons of other ingredients that need to be chopped every day too. Similarly, in Chinese restaurants, boiling noodles is a task that requires little skill but consumes time.

Automating such tasks frees up the time and energy of your human chefs allowing them to focus on other tasks.

A pizza delivery service named Zume brought in robots to make pizza bases from the dough and spread tomato paste over them. Human cooks then finished the pizza making process by adding toppings and putting them into the oven. By doing this, Zume halved the time it took to make a pizza.

Lets Operators Multitask

When you bring in a new trainee chef, they need to be constantly supervised. Similarly, when making a dish, a chef cannot afford to be distracted by anything else. The risk of burning the dish or adding a double dash of salt is something restaurants cannot afford.

Machines and robots can take over a range of tasks in the kitchen. From frying noodles in a wok to making doughnuts, automated machines can do it all. These machines don’t need supervision. Hence, the operator can multi-task and get several things done as a parallel activity.

Less Skill Intensive Hiring

In India, the average monthly salary for an executive chef is approximately INR 70,000 – INR 75,000 while Sous chefs get paid between INR 30,000 and Rs 35,000 per month. The salary a restauranteur pays chefs depends on many factors including where they went to culinary school, their years of experience, restaurants they’ve worked with earlier and their skill levels.

When you automate tasks you can reduce the skill level required by your staff. This not only makes it easier to find kitchen staff but also considerably reduces the salary packages you pay your staff.

Ideally, your payroll costs should account for no more than 30-35% of total sales in the case of full-service operations and 25-30% in the case of limited-service restaurants.

Reduced Recurring Expenses

The costs of running a restaurant can be categorized as one-time fixed expenses and recurring expenses. Salaries fall into the latter category while infrastructure costs are a one-time expense and are easier to recover.

Thus, each staff member has a recurring cost associated. On the other hand, the cost of installing a machine to take over simple tasks is a one-time expense.

Faster Turn Around

The faster a restaurant can serve orders, the more people it can serve and the higher its profits. Machines can do things much faster than humans, thus, allowing restaurants to serve people faster and serve more people.

Spyce, a Boston based restaurant has already experienced the benefits of automation. The restaurant offers a variety of healthy salad bowls. They introduced a robotic assembly line in place of line chefs to complete their orders. With this change, they were able to bring the time taken to make a salad bowl down to a mere 3 minutes.

That’s not all, Spyce was also able to transfer part of its savings to its customers. They were able to sell their salad bowls at prices starting from $7.50. This is much cheaper than salad bowls sold at other restaurants.

Reduced Work Force

Automating tasks in your kitchen doesn’t just reduce the skill levels required from your staff but also reduces the number of people required in your kitchen.

Depending on the size of a restaurant, kitchens can employ as many as 10-14 people. This number can be reduced by ringing in machines to automate tasks.

For example, at Spyce, hot water jet streams clean woks after a dish has been cooked. Thus, the need for a person who manually washes the dishes is no longer present.

Reduce Employee Turnover

It is believed that the employee turnover rate in the restaurant industry is amongst the highest. In some cases, it can reach as high as 80%. Every time you need to hire a new employee for your kitchen, a considerable amount of resources needs to be spent on finding the right person and then training them. If the person leaves within a few weeks, all of those resources go to waste.

Type of Restaurant Employee

Average Tenure

Cook
1 month 24 days
Bartender
2 months 11 days
Chef
3 months 1 day
Dishwasher
1 month 12 days
Server
1 month 27 days

The average tenure of a restaurant employee
Though some people worry that automated machines and robots will replace people, they actually only serve to assist them and make their jobs easier. By aiding with repetitive task and putting up consistently cooked dishes, these automated machines reduce the stress levels in the kitchen. This makes your kitchen employees happier and more satisfied. Happy employees will stay with you for longer thus reducing employee turnover.

No Worries About Low Attendance Days

No human being can work 365 days of the year. Your kitchen staff will need time off for a holiday or may need to call in sick once in a while. This can affect the functioning of your kitchen.
At the same time, having your kitchen employees work while they are unwell is never a good idea. The last thing a restaurants need is for a patron to fall ill after a meal.

On the other hand, robots and automated cooking machines can work 24×7, 365 days of the year. As long as these machines are maintained regularly, they will allow you to serve freshly cooked food every day the restaurant is open.

Reduced Chances Of Injury

No matter how many years of experience a chef has, there is always a risk that the chef may cut themselves while chopping ingredients or may burn themselves while cooking. Such injuries may affect the chef’s efficiency and the quality of food being prepared.

It can also lead to wastage of food. For example, if a cut bleeds onto the vegetables being cut, the lot will have to be binned. In the case of automated machines chopping and cooking, injuries are not something restaurateurs need to worry about. Thus, food is produced at an even pace with consistent quality.

Lesser Scope For Mistakes

When the kitchen sends out an undercooked dish or something that hasn’t been flavored properly, customers may send the dish back and ask for a do-over or a refund. This reduces the restaurant’s profit margin and eats into their operative costs.

However, the chances of this occurring for food cooked by robots are considerably lower. This is because the cooking is controlled by sensors. Hence, there is no worry about dishes being sent back to the kitchen and each order can be profitable.

In Conclusion

When the kitchen sends out an undercooked dish or something that hasn’t been flavored properly, customers may send the dish back and ask for a do-over or a refund. This reduces the restaurant’s profit margin and eats into their operative costs.

However, the chances of this occurring for food cooked by robots are considerably lower. This is because the cooking is controlled by sensors. Hence, there is no worry about dishes being sent back to the kitchen and each order can be profitable.

Automation in restaurants should not be feared but embraced as a way to be more efficient and make more profits. Major players like Rebel Foods have already adopted automation in their kitchen. There are companies like Mukunda Foods who are playing the role of torch bearer in the kitchen robotics industry. They have developed bots like DosaMatic, Doughbot, Chinese Cuisine,Pan cake Machine, Biriyani Machine and other oriental cuisine machines at their Bangalore R&D facility. With bots being installed in 22 countries,they are the fastest growing company in this segment.

According to a 2017 Restaurant Success Report, 95% of restaurateurs agree that technology has improved business efficiency. The same report also said that 73% of diners believed that their experience at the restaurant was improved by technology such as tablet menus, card payment systems and chatbots to make reservations.

When incorporated well, automated technology forms the base for good service. While the robots take care of making dishes with precise measurements and temperatures, the human element of your team can interact with customers to give them an all-around experience.

So, are you ready to see the impact automation could have on your operating costs?