OPINION: The future’s bright for commercial kitchens that crunch data

Chefs in kitchen

Operators might feel like they have a tight grip on their kitchen operations and processes, but the latest analytical tools available to the market will verify just how true that is and illustrate where the real gains can be made, writes David Khanna of Arolite.

There is a huge amount of data out there — 2.5 quintillion bytes produced each day, to be exact. Paired with the growth of the Internet of Things and 5G, this explosion shows no sign of slowing down.

In commercial kitchens, data can be a huge blessing. When you have to keep on top of labour, quality control and customer demands for good service, insights can give you clear vision into the gaps that you are missing. Yet for an industry that isn’t always thought of as at the forefront of data, it can be nothing short of a minefield.

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What can caterers use data for?

Always-On Operations

Anyone can do maintenance, but not everyone can do it well. Caterers need to prioritise the assessment of their maintenance processes before their kitchen opens for service.

The status, quality and relevancy of your current assets need to be evaluated to ensure that your equipment is best for your unique business and is tailored to your needs.

That can be difficult to do. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but data is your friend in this situation. Analytics tools can give foodservice operators a much clearer eye on the current processes of their business, even if you thought your visibility was already 20/20.

It can give you a behind-the-scenes view of the current status of your equipment, what needs TLC before problems progress, and ultimately what works best for your requirements, location, size and customer needs. This will help you to be as proactive as possible in avoiding unnecessary costs.

David Khanna says operators can use data to determine targets for improvement on service.

Asset identification

Kitchens commonly have a lot of assets, so much so that it can be hard to keep track of the number of them, let alone which ones you use and which have a risk of being obsolete. Data enables you to easily track every single item of commercial catering equipment you have on site. Similar to an inventory, you can use this data to create an asset register and give every asset a unique ID.

This acts as a database and records and manages each activity, the costs and reliability of the assets, and allows you to devise a preventative maintenance programme which is tailored to meet the specific business needs. You can also use it to spot deteriorating components and replace them before major faults develop, which could cause a disaster should this happen during peak times.

Remember, prevention is always better than a cure. After you have looked at the flow of your data and assessed what is over- or under-used, you can work out the areas that are not cost-efficient and the areas that need bigger time management.

You can even go one step further and use data to look at consumer habits, like Deliveroo is doing by offering restaurants its insights, including the most common times that people order from them and average preparation times.

Ingredient synergy

Improving the service and experience of the business starts with the combination of food, people and your equipment. You can only improve on the things that you can measure, and that is the beauty of data.

With data you can understand every aspect about the speed of service, but also determine targets for improvement on the service, and use facts to back up your actions. Data ultimately allows you to spend less on equipment that isn’t serving you well, and invest it in your biggest asset — your people.

How do you put data into action?

With all the data that’s available to us, around 70% of it actually goes under-used in an enterprise and does not get taken advantage of.

Equipment that is used in manufacturing and commercial environments have features which record data and can be used to better customer experience, make processes more efficient and ultimately improve return on investment. But if a business does not know what to do with the data, it’s pointless.

Third-party assessors and advisors can be an invaluable way to invest. They are experts with data, kitchens and the best processes to gain maximum efficiency. They can look at your data from an outside perspective and unlock potential you never realised you had.

When kitchens have to keep on top of labour, quality control and customer demands for good food service, insights can give you clear vision into the gaps that you are missing”

They look at your business from an objective perspective and have the ability to give you the honesty you need to tell you if the road you are going down isn’t right, and use data to back up their recommendations.

You can keep your current business operations up and running 365 days a year, while a third-party team can give you the value add you need to solve problems, preventing breakdowns and optimising your equipment performance.

By having a good, trusted relationship with assessors and advisors, it can be a real benefit to your business and ensure that no data gets under-used.

Data-driven business processes work for a reason. With the support and insights that they offer, you can very quickly look at indescrepencies, things that are taking too much time and what is helping you to be productive. You can also adapt to meet changing customer demands and requirements and enhance the flow of your labour, people and equipment.

Ultimately, when translated right, the hard facts of data can be used to transform your business in ways that you never before realised.

David Khanna is director of operations at Arolite, a leading provider of end-to-end support and management of catering equipment for multi-site organisations in the UK market.

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Andrew Seymour

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