We all believe that our customers and guests like to eat delightful and delicious food all the time that is simply the best in the world. Well this may sound very true, though there is a twist or a tweak in the above statement. The reality is more like – “Guests and patrons of a restaurant or a chain of eateries like to eat same good food (just like the last time) that always maintains the identical level of taste, quality, goodness and does not entail any surprises be it too positive or overly negative.”
The need or reliance on centralized kitchen to provide right quality of food and beverage products for a restaurant company that operates several outlets in a city or at multiple cities is crucial and decisive. Let’s look at an example from a chain of restaurants – Kebabs & Curries Company (KCCO) – which started to expand from the first outlet to the second outlet, almost 9 years ago. Handi Mutton at KCCO was a superhit delicacy for many of the patrons. To ensure that they could continue serving same Handi Mutton, they started to make this delicacy at the first kitchen for both our outlets (old one and the new one).
When they started to receive positive reviews for the dish from both the locations, the thought of cooking from one location or a centralized kitchen strengthened further and the foundation for a full-fledged centralized kitchen was engrained well in the minds and the exciting journey of hub kitchen started, for this brand, serving multiple outlet locations – never surprising our guests and keeping us all smiles, listening to steady good reviews from our customers. A centralized kitchen that can feed and serve multiple outlets across the city or even beyond the city limits, is a value-add to a burgeoning food and beverage business.
As a food and beverage entrepreneur, here is my take on the why having a centralized kitchen is a fantastic way to ensure food quality and how the pros overweigh the cons, on this one.
Pro 1: Identical taste with no shockers: As discussed above, because all main and key food items are curated at one location, the surprises in terms of taste of food and quality of offerings is altogether removed. This keeps the taste and food quality consistent for the guests and patrons.
If we look closely at an Indian kitchen, the main mother gravies like makhani gravy, veg Mughlai gravy and chopped masala could be cooked at the hub kitchen and then shuttled to various outlets. Thus, ensuring that the finished product like paneer butter masala, malai kofta or dal tadka when dished out from all outlets, to our patrons, across, would be of the same quality ensuring identical taste and happy customers.
Pro 2: Full control over material cost and raw material quality: A centralized kitchen also ensures centralized purchasing and this in turn helps a restaurant chain to make the best of bulk purchase prices from its vendors. Also, it is much easier to control the quality of goods being received, stored and used in cooking.
Pro 3: Steady training for team at the hub kitchen: As all action happens at one location – training the team members on various aspects of cooking, food safety, team building, and many other guru mantras can be infused well and with ease. Knowledge consistency is a key when it comes to building teams for a food and beverage company.
On a daily basis when 600 kilos of meat and vegetables are to be marinated in tandoori masala and then grilled to perfection in numerous tandoors – having this all done at the centralized kitchen under the supervision of the master chef paired with on the job training – every dish thereof is going to sing the same delicious story to each and every customer at every outlet, devouring the KCCO delights.
Pro 4: Reduced dependence on manpower at individual outlet level: An all skilled and highly trained team has to be placed at centralized kitchen only and at the outlet level junior team members could be stationed who can still dish out high quality dishes because main cooking work has already been done at the hub kitchen by experts.
Eg: Dal batti churma is a Rajasthani delicacy and not an easy recipe to master. It is a work of experts only. When a restaurant chain dreams of serving mouthwatering dal batti churma thali at numerous of their chain outlets – hub kitchen is the only solution that would come for the rescue and facilitate the serving of this specialty. There is a need for only one Maharaj (Patron Chef) at the centralized kitchen who can sprinkle his culinary magic across the thali locations.
Pro 5: Complete control over essential kitchen operations: Kitchen operations are complex and specialized, food safety standards are to be followed at every step, and each and every food item being made has to be closely watched. Hence, one main kitchen location makes all the expert involvement much easier and possible. All eyes on hub kitchen and all outlet operations are more and more well managed.
Most significantly the expansion of the chain outlets can magnify many times, allowing the restaurant company to expand because the backend centralized kitchen is well settled to cater to new and existing outlets alike.
All things considered – we all simply want to consume consistent goodness of our preferred food and beverage choices. No one likes surprises especially when it comes to their food and beverage selections. To tackle this nuance, restaurants and eateries should look at an efficient and well-operated ‘centralized kitchen’ (hub and spoke model), which could serve consistent product at every step to all outlets. This is the most important aspect when it comes to dishing out consistent taste and quality without over dependence on team members at every outlet level.
Varun Behl, Managing Director, KCCO India Pvt. Ltd.
Varun Behl is a Jaipur based restaurateur operating a chain of restaurants and QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants). Varun is a seasoned food & beverage and hospitality management professional with experience spanning over 17 years; a decade of which is with Marriott International in India and its global operations. Food and beverage and entrepreneurship are his forte – which he lives every day and is keen to share his insights with peers and mentees alike.