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Central kitchen: operation and benefits

For simplified operational management, the use of a central kitchen, also known as a production laboratory, can be set up.

Clément Renard

Clément Renard

14

May 2024

Central kitchen: operation and benefits
In this article :

Centralizing operations in a central kitchen offers many advantages to catering establishments. By pooling production, economies of scale are achieved, costs are significantly reduced, meal quality is standardized and inventories are efficiently managed. This approach also facilitates compliance with hygiene and food safety standards, as well as enabling the preparation of varied, well-balanced meals. By concentrating resources in a single location, restaurants can streamline their production processes, improve operational efficiency and customer satisfaction, while maintaining consistent food quality.

Introduction

To facilitate operations in the field, it is possible to source part of your requirements from a central kitchen. This production unit can be used for intermediate preparation of your recipes: marinated meats, cuts, pastry sauces... or even complete preparation of certain recipes, such as pastries. With this process, you retain culinary techniques, you control manufacturing methods and you reduce your network's production costs.

How does a central kitchen work?

A central kitchen (also known as a production laboratory) is a centralized food production facility that prepares and delivers meals or products to several establishments in your network. Its role is to guarantee dish quality and standardization, while optimizing production costs.

Definition and role of the central kitchen in the catering business

The central kitchen is a place dedicated to the preparation of food and dishes that will be served in the various establishments of your network. With this production process, you guarantee :

  • Consistent product quality.
  • Reduced costs.
  • Centralized know-how for recipes that are long or complex to prepare on a day-to-day basis.
  • Reduce the number of items to be ordered and received at the point of sale, thus saving time.

All this ensures a high level of product consistency across all the restaurants in your chain, delivering a uniform customer experience of consistent quality.

Importance of centralizing food production

Setting up a central kitchen enables more efficient coordination of food manufacturing processes. This is crucial for large-scale operations such as chain restaurants. Greater efficiency means shorter lead times, and simpler logistical tasks such as food transport. Streamlined processes also reduce the scope for error in meal design. By implementing standardized systems and procedures, it is possible to maintain high standards of service quality. This applies not only to the quality of the food, but also to its availability. Constant monitoring of these processes and the ingredients used, ensures consistent quality of finished products.

Large quantities are made in one place, which means more qualified staff, simplified inventory management and therefore less food waste. Kitchen know-how is essential for optimizing costs and simplifying the staff recruitment process. This approach makes it easy to modify recipes to suit market trends and your product typology. In the bakery, for example, pastries can be quite complex to make and require special skills.

Procurement and inventory management for your laboratory

Relying on an inventory management tool like Inpulse enables you to forecast your supply needs and place the right orders with your suppliers for raw materials and those for your kitchens. You control the entire supply chain for your entire network. Centralized purchasing and production optimize stock levels, minimize shortages and reduce food waste. Inpulse automatically calculates the ingredients to be ordered, based on the recipes that the production manager indicates he wants to produce each day.

Compliance with food safety standards

The impact of the central kitchen on food management and customer satisfaction cannot be underestimated. It enables us to better manage associated risks, such as product recalls or preparation errors. Control and monitoring procedures can be reinforced to minimize risks, as food safety is an absolute priority. In line with European regulations such as the hygiene package, it is imperative to set up a Sanitary Control Plan (SCP) and follow the HACCP method to identify, assess and control food hazards. By complying with these standards, you can guarantee consumer confidence and regulatory compliance.

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Strategies for maximizing economies of scale

When it comes to profitability in the foodservice industry, economies of scale play a crucial role. By pooling the production of several restaurants within a central kitchen, manufacturing costs can be significantly reduced. The benefits are manifold: lower raw material costs, optimized inventory management, energy and personnel savings, reduced maintenance costs and standardized recipes. It's a win-win situation. Customers benefit from dishes at prices that don't explode, while the network controls its costs and operational management.

Manage your material costs

Centralizing your food production enables you to optimize your material costs. By pooling raw material purchasing and preparation, you can achieve significant savings. This translates into lower ingredient costs, better purchasing planning and minimized waste. Managing a central kitchen goes far beyond simply preparing meals. It includes menu planning, inventory management and supplier management. Investing in the digitization of operations, staff training and rigorous monitoring of all aspects of operations can contribute to effective and efficient management.

You can make wholesale purchases for :

  • Obtain advantageous rates from your suppliers.
  • Reduce the number of orders thanks to a larger storage area (for long CSDs).

Human resources planning and training

Today, commercial lease prices are high and rising. Kitchen space can be limited on site and generally too small to meet increased demand. By centralizing your production in a laboratory, you can plan with greater precision the number of staff required for each period. This avoids the overcapacity or understaffing that can occur when each restaurant manages its production independently. Employees can be trained uniformly on standardized procedures, reducing the time and costs associated with training and ensuring consistent quality and performance across all operations. Your managers can supervise staff and ensure compliance with standards without having to travel between different sites.

All these actions help to achieve a better allocation and use of your employees' time. You can reduce overtime and the need for temporary staff, which are often more costly. The savings here can be significant, especially for large restaurant chains.

Improving manufacturing processes

By centralizing production in a single location, all aspects of meal preparation can be coordinated more efficiently. This reduces the duplication of work and inconsistent tasks that can occur when several sites work independently. Streamlining also enables better communication between staff, reducing errors and increasing production speed. They enable improved planning and monitoring of workflows. This includes everything from inventory management to meal preparation and delivery. The use of management software such as Inpulse can help track every step of the production process, enabling rapid adjustments in response to fluctuating demands. One of the main strengths of this centralization lies in the ability to standardize procedures across all levels of production. This ensures that every finished product complies with established quality and food safety standards, boosting customer confidence and reducing the risk of non-compliance.

With Inpulse's production planning, you can aggregate all your network's needs in an instant to anticipate production. Either according to orders placed by the restaurants with the head office, or thanks to sales forecasts from the restaurants themselves.

Conclusion

Central kitchens offer numerous advantages for catering establishments. By centralizing meal preparation, costs are reduced and inventory management is simplified. What's more, it ensures better hygiene and food safety. The central kitchen makes it possible to offer varied, well-balanced meals, while guaranteeing economies of scale.

This financial dynamic can have a significant impact on the profitability and viability of the entire network. Communication between sales outlets and the head office is crucial for anticipating production and responding effectively to demand. How can you facilitate this communication to optimize operations and avoid stock-outs or unnecessary surpluses? With Inpulse, you can facilitate collaboration and planning between the head office and the points of sale.

To go further

More than 2,500 restaurants and outlets use Inpulse every day