Another way to grill meats. Want to reduce customer wait times without compromising texture or quali

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What is the best method to precook the meat (at approx. 80%) in the day time with our prep, so that when a customer orders later on, it is just tossed on the grill and ready within 5 minutes, without losing texture or flavor?

I'm the operator and line cook for a Mediterranean grill. We are opening a new location in a business district and it is crucial we reduce customer wait times. Especially for menu items such as pita wraps and souvlaki platters.

Many of our customers order chicken/beef/lamb/pork pitas and platters. It takes approximately 15 minutes to grill these items. This is causing our walk-in business to suffer. Customers want to drop by, order, receive their food within 5 minutes. When it takes us 15 minutes to cook their food, it doesn't make it feasible for someone to walk in on their lunch break and order from us.

Our food quality is not something we want to sacrifice, and at the same time, we want to enhance our customer experience by reducing wait times.
 
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Do you have any experience with sous-vide? If not, you could look into it.
 
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Encourage call in orders...

Blitz the area with mini menus with 5 or so dishes....reward those callers with a cookie or drink (or $ off but IMO value added is better than a discount for your bottom line).

mimi
 
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Some ideas without seeing your menu. 

     I don't know the terms so bear with me. Gyros are sliced off of the cone of meat so that should be quick. No grilling required, right?  

Other meats could be cut in smaller or thinner pieces that will cook faster on a grill. 

Buy an Alto Sham cook and hold unit or holding cabinet. They aren't cheap but would help in your situation. You can have enough meats precooked an hour before service, held in the unit and grilled per order without losing quality. I don't know how you would do it without the Alto Sham without losing a lot of quality. 

     Once you have made all the adjustments you can to the preparation of ingredients, offer only those items in your business location that can be done quickly. If there is a menu item that will take 15 minutes no matter what, put a disclaimer next to it on the menu or don't offer it at all. 

   The term "platter" is making me concerned. How many items are on the platter and why does everyone order that for lunch? Are they really eating a platter of food for a quick business lunch or are they interested in the meats and the sides that would be included? Are they eating in house or getting it to go? The sides could be pre-portioned, ready for service so some of the 15 minutes is not spent getting the platter ready. 

It's tough to answer all this without seeing your operation. 
 
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Do you have any experience with sous-vide? If not, you could look into it.
I agree with eloki but while I'm a proponent of SV and a seller of accessories for it I would think it would depend on what 80% cooked is?  Maybe someone with more experience can help out here but if you're par-cooking meat below the pasteurization temperature (low 130's) is there a danger of pathogen development that post-grilling would not deal with?  If it isn't a worry or if your pre-cook temperatures are 130F (55C) or above I would consider SV.  If cost and/or capacity is an issue you could go with a circulator and 5.5 gal polycarb pan for <$280 USD.  Still would have the bother of vacuum packing but well worth the cook time savings I would think.  
 
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What kind of numbers are you talking about? Can you see a consistent pattern to walk in business, such as volume and times of day?
 

kuan

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You throw it on the grill the minute you see them walking in.  That's all.
 
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We already offer incentives for call in orders. In this day and age its all go go go. Customers expect to be able to place an order, pay, and receive their order with their change. Obviously within reason. I mean we're not a McDonalds, but if we can't serve some of our staple menu items on the fly, we'd lose that business to someone else who can. Probably not to McDonalds /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif. I certainly hope not. 

There is an array of businesses that offer decent to good food on the go. Most pizza franchises offer slices on the go. You have chipotle who is  doing a very good job. Subway, etc..   

Our skewers take about 15 minutes to cook. I know we can decrease that significantly without sacrificing any food quality. 
 
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We already offer incentives for call in orders. In this day and age its all go go go. Customers expect to be able to place an order, pay, and receive their order with their change. Obviously within reason. I mean we're not a McDonalds, but if we can't serve some of our staple menu items on the fly, we'd lose that business to someone else who can. Probably not to McDonalds 
smile.gif
. I certainly hope not. 

There is an array of businesses that offer decent to good food on the go. Most pizza franchises offer slices on the go. You have chipotle who is  doing a very good job. Subway, etc..   

Our skewers take about 15 minutes to cook. I know we can decrease that significantly without sacrificing any food quality. 
 
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   The term "platter" is making me concerned. How many items are on the platter and why does everyone order that for lunch? Are they really eating a platter of food for a quick business lunch or are they interested in the meats and the sides that would be included? Are they eating in house or getting it to go? The sides could be pre-portioned, ready for service so some of the 15 minutes is not spent getting the platter ready. 

It's tough to answer all this without seeing your operation. 
A platter consists of a half pound skewer of chicken,lamb,pork, or beef. It is served with rice, potatoes, bread, and a side of salad. Rice is precooked in the morning and placed in a steamer. Potatoes are also cooked 80% and need only two minutes. Salad is part of morning prep. 

Basically, we can have the whole platter ready in 2 minutes. The meat is the bottleneck.
 
Other meats could be cut in smaller or thinner pieces that will cook faster on a grill. 

Buy an Alto Sham cook and hold unit or holding cabinet. They aren't cheap but would help in your situation. You can have enough meats precooked an hour before service, held in the unit and grilled per order without losing quality. I don't know how you would do it without the Alto Sham without losing a lot of quality. 
The way the cuts are made and subsequently skewered, we can't significantly change the size without changing the food.

Our meats are always cooked and served fresh. A holding cabinet will hold it for an hour or so without sacrificing quality, but beyond that, consider a drop in quality, or an increase in food cost via waste. Especially given the unpredictable nature of orders and rushes. We can afford this for rice and potatoes, but meat costs are on a different scale.
 
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What kind of numbers are you talking about? Can you see a consistent pattern to walk in business, such as volume and times of day?
The first number is average customer wait time. Even if we don't factor in walk-ins, if we can do this without sacrificing quality or safety, we'd be getting rid of potentially our biggest bottle neck. Also, most of our walk-ins are pickups preordered. We have a lot of that, but we're also located on a busy street, and what we don't have is a piece of that business; customers and students on the go who just want to pick something up in time to eat and enjoy the rest of their break. I get embarrassed when a customer walks in, orders a $10 pita wrap, and has to wait 15 minutes for it to be ready. Why would they when they can get a subway or shawarma in under 2 minutes?
 
You throw it on the grill the minute you see them walking in.  That's all.
Can't predict what will be ordered. Even if we could, the time it takes for them to walk in is not more than a minute, i'm looking to shave 10.
 
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Joined Jul 23, 2015
 
I agree with eloki but while I'm a proponent of SV and a seller of accessories for it I would think it would depend on what 80% cooked is?  Maybe someone with more experience can help out here but if you're par-cooking meat below the pasteurization temperature (low 130's) is there a danger of pathogen development that post-grilling would not deal with?  If it isn't a worry or if your pre-cook temperatures are 130F (55C) or above I would consider SV.  If cost and/or capacity is an issue you could go with a circulator and 5.5 gal polycarb pan for <$280 USD.  Still would have the bother of vacuum packing but well worth the cook time savings I would think.  
Cost is not an issue (within reason of course). We have more of an issue with space.

80% is just a guesstimate. The point is I don't want a skewer to take 15 minutes to prepare. It will encourage more walk-in, and at the same time increase output efficiency, especially during rushes.

We cut, marinate, skewer the meat, then put it in the fridge. We've made our kitchen open so customers can see. Customers like to see their food being grilled.

 Ideally, i'd like to cook it to a certain point then refrigerate it. When a customer places their order, we'd throw the skewer on the grill to complete cooking and to grill mark.
 
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Sandbagging will only do so much. And it's not feasible outside a rush.

I'd really like to cut the cooking times . what would be the best method?

Does anyone have a tried and tested methodology?

I think what I'll do is cook at low temperature to retain moisture. Once it's 80% cooked, I would let it sit at room temperature until it cools, slap on a bit of butter, and store it in an air tight container, ready to be grill marked and fully cooked when ordered.

What should I watch out for? Which step should I improve? What about SV, would it be better if I chose that route?

Thank you all for the quick responses and advice.
 
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On the topic of using a Shaam, i ran a test on a FWE moisture holding cabinet to stage stakes. we could hold NY Strip for a couple of hours no problem.  I would assume if you can get the right setting in most moisture holding cabinets you could at least cut down times on one specific protein, or proteins that can stay held at a similar internal temperature.

Loaded raw steaks and let the holding cabinet bring up and hold at 130F.  Seared to order.

 
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kuan

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Sandbagging will only do so much. And it's not feasible outside a rush.

I'd really like to cut the cooking times . what would be the best method?

Does anyone have a tried and tested methodology?

I think what I'll do is cook at low temperature to retain moisture. Once it's 80% cooked, I would let it sit at room temperature until it cools, slap on a bit of butter, and store it in an air tight container, ready to be grill marked and fully cooked when ordered.

What should I watch out for? Which step should I improve? What about SV, would it be better if I chose that route?

Thank you all for the quick responses and advice.
Frankly you can so tell when you're slowing down.  Adjust accordingly.  SV and other methods are basically doing the same thing except you don't have instant control over how much you do.  You have to do cook a lot of it and hope you don't run out since you can't do SV on the fly, and then you have to chill your extra product and then reheat it back the next day if you want to use it again.  Safe but not exactly tops on quality.

If you really do not believe you can gauge the ebb and flow of your lunch service then the solution would be to par cook it on the grill or even fully cook it, and then put it back on the grill.  You will still have to bring it back to temp.
 
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Frankly you can so tell when you're slowing down.  Adjust accordingly.  SV and other methods are basically doing the same thing except you don't have instant control over how much you do.  You have to do cook a lot of it and hope you don't run out since you can't do SV on the fly, and then you have to chill your extra product and then reheat it back the next day if you want to use it again.  Safe but not exactly tops on quality.

If you really do not believe you can gauge the ebb and flow of your lunch service then the solution would be to par cook it on the grill or even fully cook it, and then put it back on the grill.  You will still have to bring it back to temp.
Rush time afternoons are exponentially more valuable than mornings. A proper technique for par cooking and storing the meats in the morning will remove our biggest bottle neck during rushes and allow us improve our walkins.

You can't do SV on the fly, but we'd be doing what we're currently doing in the mornings with meat prep. The only difference would be the addition of a few steps to relieve some of the pressure in the afternoons. 

Usually mornings we'd prepare between 40-100 lbs, so even if we were to do SV, we'd prepare enough that we wouldn't worry about running out. 

I want to cook at 80% so the meat would only take 4 minutes to cook. Its also crucial to avoid or minimize as much as possible loss in humidity, texture, or taste.

From what i'm seeing thus far SV may be the best option, but i haven't been able to confirm that yet.

cook in oven, store, then refrigerate or SV, store, then refrigerate? Where do i experience the least/no loss in quality? is there an alternative

I'm also wondering what type of equipment i would need to SV 100 lbs. of meat. at a time. 
 
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I thinks Nate's suggestion is the most feasible one. Just load up a Shaam with raw skewers and keep it at 130(FYI only useful if you know your volume pretty well, as you will need to cook or trow out any leftovers after the rush).

SV is awesome but not ideal with high volume.
 
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Is there any "law" that says the grilled item HAS to be 3/4" thick? I
If you pound the meat items thinner, they will obviously cook faster, and can be griiled to order.


Just a thought.
 
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I thinks Nate's suggestion is the most feasible one. Just load up a Shaam with raw skewers and keep it at 130(FYI only useful if you know your volume pretty well, as you will need to cook or trow out any leftovers after the rush).

SV is awesome but not ideal with high volume.
volume is predictable within a certain range based on the day or event, but underestimate and wait time suffers, overestimate and increase food cost.

I'm going to try with chicken first. I'll cook it until it reaches about 130 degrees in the oven. I'll let it cool to room temp, then store in the fridge. 

Later i'll grill it for about 4 minutes (or until it reaches 165)

i'll be looking for change in texture, humidity, or taste. I'll play around with the numbers and timing until i get it right.

Let me know if anyone has any suggestions or tips
 
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