How to Maintain an Organized, Efficient & Clutter-Free Restaurant Kitchen

By Devin Morrissey, Contributor

Running a restaurant is about fresh ingredients, special food, great service, and providing an excellent customer experience. However, any restaurant owner knows how much behind-the-scenes work comes into play to make the restaurant function. In addition to accounting, managing schedules, and hiring the right employees, restaurant organization and efficiency is key to a successful establishment. 

Whether in the kitchen or the back office, maintaining organized and clutter-free workspaces encourages productivity and positively affects employee morale, workflow, priorities, and overall efficiency. Here’s how you can use the right tools to help you breathe new life into your restaurant.

Employee Morale and Workspace Organization

An organized workspace makes for happier staff.

In a study on workplace productivity, software engineers Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister evaluated 600 workers from more than 90 companies in completing a task. Their performance was assessed on several different criteria which revealed that the best workers performed better than the worst by a ratio of 10:1. When compared to average performers, the most productive workers were twice as efficient.

Surprisingly, higher performance was not tied to higher salary or years of experience. Instead, workspace satisfaction was the biggest factor in determining top work performance: 

“What DeMarco and Lister found was that those who are more satisfied with their workspace were more likely to excel in their work and were overall far more productive. DeMarco and Lister’s study indicates that environmental factors, such as noise levels, privacy, the frequency of distractions and interruptions can all have a significant impact on employee productivity.” 

The findings of the study can be applied to restaurant management. If restaurant employees are not happy with their work environment, it may impede their ability to perform at their best. This, in turn, affects quality and the time from ticket to table.

The organization of the back end of the restaurant is thus extremely important in optimizing the kitchen staff’s ability to do their jobs. How can you ensure the kitchen staff can do their jobs correctly, leading to the kitchen being a well-oiled machine?

Re-Evaluate Your Kitchen Layout

Reorganize your restaurant kitchen layout

The kitchen the heart and soul of a restaurant, and the quality of the food made there will determine your success. It’s essential to give your kitchen team every tool you can for them to function at their best. The study on workplace productivity also found that employees are generally happier with their work environment if they have some degree of control over their physical space. Combine these two concepts by letting employees have input on kitchen layout. 

While you don’t need to follow every piece of kitchen staff’s advice, making them feel heard and using the feedback that does make sense can potentially improve productivity in your restaurant. Not only will you have happier workers, but research shows that employee retention can increase restaurant success

Here are some tips to organize and declutter your kitchen:

Remove and Relocate

Remove and relocate kitchen gear to useful areas.

If you are even slightly concerned that your kitchen is not running as efficiently as it should be, it’s time to re-evaluate the layout of your kitchen space. To do this, remove everything from every cabinet, drawer, and shelf. Remember to let your staff have a say in where to put everything back in an order that makes the most sense to them.

Removing everything gives a fresh start and a fresh perspective. It helps declutter, as items can be evaluated for their usefulness and discarded, upgraded, or moved to better suit the staff’s needs.

The Right Place for the Right Tool

Reorganize your restaurant’s kitchen so items are placed in areas that make sense to cooking staff.

As you are relocating your items, make sure to find a functional place for everything. The kitchen staff that use these objects every day will have the best idea of where an item is best stored. Let them take charge of making sure the new layout of the kitchen is optimal for efficient cooking and plating. By making sure that every item has a place, you can avoid a messy kitchen in the future, improve efficiency, and employee satisfaction.

This also allows you to evaluate workflow. Is the kitchen laid out in a way that makes sense when creating a dish? If staff are running over each other to try to finish plating a dish, the layout likely isn’t optimized for efficiency. The right tools need to be in the right place. Obviously moving large appliances -- like ovens -- is impractical. Small appliances, however, are easily moved.

Clean and Polish

Polish everything in your restaurant’s kitchen.

As you reorganize the items in your kitchen, be sure to clean and polish everything. Of course, your pots and pans, dishes, and other kitchen utensils should always be pristine. However, this is a great chance to ensure that no drawers, shelves, or cabinets are dusty or sticky. Would Gordon Ramsay be happy with the state of cleanliness in your kitchen, or would he launch into a swear-laden tirade?

It’s also important to keep cleanliness up. This may seem obvious but can often fall to the wayside as time goes on.  

As far as organizing the rest of your restaurant, you can use the same principles. Make sure that every room is clutter-free, and don’t be afraid to test out new layouts. Tabletop cleanliness is crucial for diners, so ensure that you are using best practices in keeping your tables sanitized and clean.

Devin Morrissey

About the Author

Devin prides himself on being a jack of all trades; his career trajectory is more a zigzag than an obvious trend, just the way he likes it. He pops up across the Pacific Northwest, though never in one place for long. You can follow him more reliably on Twitter.