Kitchen Prep 101: How To Create A Daily Kitchen Prep System

By: Jim Berman

4 Minute Read

Nov 22, 2017

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kitchen prep system

No one likes a messy, ill-prepped kitchen.

Not your cooks. Not your customers. Certainly not you.

It's time someone stepped up to manage the kitchen prep in your restaurant's back of house, and if that's you, here are some simple steps you can take to create a daily kitchen prep system for your restaurant.

Short-Term Kitchen Prep: Gearing Up

Spreadsheets, a checklist, and a par sheet are all jumping-off points for stronger restaurant kitchen prep.

A pad crusted with caesar dressing, splattered butter, and mystery goo is not the canvas for an effective blueprint for your back-of-house operations.

For short-term kitchen prep wins, create a system for daily preparation and production to get the restaurant running right. There are some great kitchen management templates available for free to help you do this.

That said, these tools are just the making of the framework for the puzzle. You still have to fill in the rest of the pieces throughout the day - but there's no better way to manage your kitchen.

Mid-Term Kitchen Prep: Prep Down the Road

Sort out the daily tasks from the long-term tasks - all those that do not go in either list are your mid-term kitchen prep duties.

Items that require longer production and foods with longer shelf life are easier to schedule for. Having an established process reinforces structure, dictates equipment needs, and dumps some of the bugs out of the prep schedule.

Making chicken stock, for instance, can be a twice-weekly task that falls into a routine. If cleaning the walk-in is too massive a commitment for daily cleaning, have a daily rotational schedule of which shelves to clean when.

This also ties into inventory ordering. Just because your supplier is offering a discount on bulk orders for heads of lettuce does not mean you should jump on this. Perishable inventory takes up space in your walk-ins, creates back-of-house disorganization, and oftentimes ends up in wasted inventory and dollars.

Long-Term Kitchen Prep: Station Checklists

These kitchen prep tasks require ongoing planning and execution in your restaurant.

A punch list - station by station - is a productive mechanism to get ready for service.

Daily slots need to be filled for the next meal’s service. This is where sliced tomatoes, filled sour cream bottles, and croutons land. Drilling through the checklist and having a short list of station needs makes sense and is well worth the time.

When should this be done? Have the closers for the respective station set the needs. Item, par, quantity on-hand, quantity needed. Break up your kitchen opening and closing checklists by category and by who should be doing what.

Just make this process part of your team's everyday routine and ensure these steps are being followed. It's that simple.

Reminder! Don't Eat Off the Back of the Truck

Today’s delivery should not fundamentally feed the morning’s guests. While freshness is key, give your team a safety net for food prep time.

If Thursday’s feature includes Bananas Foster French Toast, using the bananas coming in on Thursday’s produce delivery is not necessarily the conclusion of an exceptional mind.

That is playing prep roulette.

While perishables can be a tough gig, dry goods are an easy call. Inventory should not be overflowing, but dry beans, rice, and brownie mix can sit comfortably in dry storage without risking the day’s prep waiting for the big rig to pull in.

This is easy enough to keep systematic when everyone in your restaurant is on the same page for an inventory costing method. For the foodservice industry, FIFO - or first-in, first-out - is the most common and cost-effective.

Kitchen Technology Matters


Overproducing can be as perilous as under-producing. Make your life easier with kitchen technology.

How many crab cakes do you portion for this particular Tuesday afternoon? Is it a random quantity, or is it based on some historical data? Pulling numbers from last Tuesday’s sales may be helpful in knowing how much of a certain food to prep in your kitchen.

Having to do that for every menu is a chore.

There are restaurant technology tools tied to point of sale systems that can use historical data to project purchases and prep. Kitchen tech that helps with menu engineering, integrates with kitchen display systems, and manages inventory usage takes so many weights off your shoulders and those of your back-of-house staff.

Kitchen Prep in Your Restaurant

There are no callous truths, just truths.

The truth is that we are in the restaurant business and our product is food. If we overdo the prep we are on the hook for possible spoilage and less-than-optimal product for the next day or two. Being on the hook on a busy night with dwindling prep and the dreaded ‘item count’ is not stable footing.

It doesn’t take a mental firepower to be proactive. And it doesn’t take that much work, either.

Instill that mindset in your back of house and kitchen prep will always be a breeze.

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