Talk to any chef or hospitality business owner about the most important aspects of a smooth service, and proper preparation will never be far away. Walk into any successful kitchen before service, and you’ll see prep lists pinned to every station.
Because effective food prep can help you serve better-quality food, faster. Plus, it can help you reduce costs, minimise food waste, and create a more effective kitchen workflow — all of which can create satisfied diners and loyal customers.
If you’re unsure how to create your own restaurant food prep list, then look no further. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what a food prep list is — and how great prep can revolutionise your kitchen operations.
Ready? Let’s get prepped!
What is a restaurant food prep list?
A restaurant prep list outlines the tasks and ingredients you need to prepare for service. It helps restaurant owners and kitchen staff plan ingredients, schedule food preparation, and makes sure everything is in place to run a smooth food operation.
The prep list (also known as a kitchen prep sheet) typically includes the following information:
- Names – The names of everyone working during the service.
- Station – The station that each person is responsible for (bearing in mind that one person can work across multiple stations).
- Items – An overview of all items prepared at a particular station.
- On hand – A breakdown of any items already prepared from previous services.
- Par – The amount of each item needed (which may vary during slow and busy periods).
- Need – The difference between the par and on-hand amounts (in other words, how much your chef has to prepare for the service).
- Units – The type of units you use for measuring ingredients.
- Storage – Where items are stored before and after preparation.
- Special requirements – Any additional notes outside of your regular preparation.
The specifics can differ depending on the time of day, day of the week, public holidays, or seasons.
The importance of a kitchen prep list
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons a kitchen prep list is beneficial for your hospitality business.
Reduce food costs
When you have a restaurant prep sheet in place, you can make sure your kitchen has the right amount of ingredients based on customer demand.
For example, let’s say that Mondays – Wednesdays are quiet in your kitchen. As a result, your prep list has fewer ingredients on those days. This means that you spend less money on food, and reduce your food waste in the process.
Find out more about how to reduce food waste in our whitepapers!
Improve staff management
With a clear picture of what staff you have available for a shift, you can improve the way you manage them.
Let’s say you have a busy Saturday night shift coming up. With a prep list, you know who’s working and what they need to do to prepare for the shift. There's no confusion about what needs to happen to get ready for the busy shift, and everyone knows what they need to do.
Essentially, with the prep list, you can make sure everyone’s time is spent in the best way possible to deliver top-quality food for your customers.
Increase guest satisfaction
Here are a few of the ways a food prep list can improve the customer experience:
- It helps you create consistently good-quality food. By performing prep tasks, measurements, and techniques ahead of time, you create a process for making delicious food every time. As a result, your customers get tasty food every time they order.
- It allows you to deliver food to the table quicker. With an efficient prep process in place, you can fulfil orders faster. This means customers aren’t waiting for a long time to dig in.
- It shows you your most popular food items. When you create a food prep list, you consider what ingredients you need and how often you need them. In doing so, you can spot which menu items are the most popular. Then, you can remove some of your less-popular items and add more meals that appeal to your customers.
How do I make a prep list for a restaurant?
Let’s take a look at some best practices for creating an effective prep list.
Decide what to include
The first step is to determine what you want to include in your prep list. We’ve outlined the common items above, but you might need additional topics to really plan every element of your kitchen service.
For instance, you might want to record when the food was prepped, how long it took, and who did it. With this information, you can track the time spent on food prep, and identify ways to speed things up.
If you’re not sure what you need in your prep list, ask yourself what you need to know to deliver a successful service. As time goes on, you might notice new areas you want to track or items that aren’t really helpful for your kitchen.
The more specific your restaurant prep list is, the better it’ll be. When you have a clear prep list, everyone’s on the same page about what they need to do, how much food to prepare, and so on.
Think about measurements as an example. If you list all your ingredients without clearly stating the type of measurement, you risk chefs weighing up the wrong amounts.
To avoid any mishaps, make sure your list is clear, concise, and easy to follow. That way, everyone will be on the same page and can work more efficiently within the requirements you’ve set.
Use a digital platform
Prep lists shouldn’t be handwritten notes. Well, they can be — but trust us when we say it’ll be much harder to manage.
First of all, you’d have to manually write a new list for every shift. And then, if you needed to make changes, you’d have to scribble things out and rewrite them.
It can get messy pretty quickly.
Instead, you’re better off using a digital system with data from restaurant management tech and point-of-sale (POS) systems. This allows you to create a flexible list that you can easily update and share.
Using technology to create your prep lists also means you can use existing data to inform your prep lists.
For example, your POS system can show you your busiest periods and your most popular dishes. As a result, you can update your prep list accordingly.
Update your list over time
Over time, the requirements of your prep lists could change. You might have different processes in place, new menu items to include, and so on.
And so, it’s helpful to periodically review your prep lists. This gives you a chance to make sure they include all the necessary information. If they don’t, you can update and improve them for future service.
As part of this process, you might also consider asking chefs and other kitchen staff to provide their feedback. After all, they’ll have the best insights into what’s most useful and what aspects are slowing them down. Then, you can incorporate their feedback to make a more efficient and effective prep list.
How do restaurants predict how much food to prepare?
The most common way to predict how much food you need is to review historical data.
Reviewing this data can help you figure out how much food you need for certain periods throughout the week. For instance, if you historically have busy periods from Friday – Saturday, you know ti prepare more ingredients to account for more orders.
You can also use your restaurant management system to track reservations. If you know you have a busy day coming up because all your tables are booked, you know that you need to prepare enough food for a full-house.
On top of this, there are external factors that can influence how much food you prepare. Music and sporting events, discounts and promotions, and even the weather can all impact how many people attend your restaurant.
Think about it — if you have a gloriously sunny day and there’s a big music event in town, chances are you’ll get more walk-ins through the door. So, you might prepare more food to account for a higher volume of customers.
What are tricks restaurants use to save time in food preparation?
Prep lists are just one of the ways restaurants can save time when it comes to food prep. Here are a few other tips and tricks to be aware of:
- Use multipurpose ingredients. Choose ingredients that you can use for multiple dishes to streamline your prep work (and keep your ingredient costs lower).
- Invest in training. Provide kitchen staff with proper training on food prep techniques to be as efficient as possible.
- Cook meals in bulk. Items like curries, soups, and sauces, and spice mixes can all be prepared in bulk and frozen to save time.
- Give everything a home. Make it easy for staff to find ingredients and equipment by clearly labelling all items and keeping them in the same spot.
- Assign roles and responsibilities. Give kitchen staff a clear overview of their role in food production to create a seamless and efficient workflow.
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Get in touch to find out more about how it works!