Better time-management?

Joined Nov 27, 2010
Hello guys,

For those of you who haven't read it, I am including a link to my bio so that there is some idea of who I am and what my experience level is.

One thing I didn't mention is that I cooked in my first restaurant for nearly a year, and have been cooking now at my current restaurant for less than two months.

So.... I am a grill master at my current restaurant. Was not my first choice, but because of circumstances, I was willing to do it, and now it seems they want me to keep doing it. Which is fine by me.

Anyway, here is a link to a very crude drawing of how my kitchen is set up:

Underneath the counter top is our plate storage, as well as 2 Assembler boxes (for sauces and bagged broccoli / linguini). Down near Fry there are 2 line freezers for all the various fried food that needs to remain frozen until cooked, as well as the Fry Box for refrigerated items that will be fried.

Anyway. Since I became a CGM (Certified Grill Master), I have been told that one key thing is time-management, even on a minute scale, taking 1-2 seconds less to get something accomplished. I can see in many cases how that would be true, and have implemented some of those suggestions, but when I am working the line on a typical lunch shift (when I am by myself), I still end up running 16 - 17 minute check times (with an average of 12:30) because I get behind, when I know that there are other cooks who could do the same work I am doing, and their longest check time would be maybe 13-14 minutes (avg 10:45 - 11 minutes).

I am still feeling my way around the cooks line, so I am still trying to develop a personal system that works for me, and was just wondering what, if any, tips you would have for a dishwasher-turned-grill-master who is still struggling to rise to the level of other cooks. 

EDIT: Also just wanted to say that I have taken the time to read through some of the other threads about improving as a cook, I am just wondering if there any specific suggestions that people may have in regards to my situation.
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Joined Apr 3, 2008
having looked at the pic I have to ask. Where are you pulling your proteins from? do you have a lowboy cooler under your grill station? or do you have to walk around to that cooler on the other side of the production line? I am assuming you have the menu memorized and I am also assuming you work on the side that says "line Walkway" and your posted by the broiler box and grill. If you have to leave that area for anything (ANYTHING) your wasting precious time. Are you dropping food as soon as the ticket comes in (optimum) or are you finishing a ticket then dropping the next ticket in line (if so, this is a time killer). Plating is the next biggest time waster, have as many as possible set out and waiting (garnish is on it waiting for sides and protein) if you can have your mains ready before the fry guy has finished his part you are doing the best you can.
Joined Nov 27, 2010
All of the proteins come from either the line freezers, the fry box, or the broil box, depending on how the item is cooked. Fried food in the freezer / fry box, broiled/grilled/steamed is in the broil box.

Our kitchen system does not rely on the standard method of printing checks; rather we have a computer system that times EVERYTHING. When an item should be started, it pops up on the appropriate screen.

As far as garnish / etc, most of that is taken care of by the servers or the alley co-ordinator at high volume.

the coolers in the production line are more for Backup and extra food storage... For example we may have a tray full of a certain protein in our broil box, and there may be additional trays in the coolers in back. Also, we have a microphone on line so that should we need something, we can make it known to whoever is working in production, and they will bring it up to us, rather than us having to go back and get it ourselves.

The one tip from your post that I do think will be useful is putting the plates out on the counter ahead of time. I have been pulling plates as I needed them to plate food, but perhaps having them set out ahead of time will not only help me save time, but work cleaner as well.
Joined Apr 3, 2008
I would be suspicious of a ticket telling me when to fire my food. You may want to keep track on how accurate that thing is in telling you how fast something should go down and how long it actually takes to cook it. best of luck
Joined Aug 6, 2010
I work at Longhorn, which is owned by the same corporation. The way they do things really doesn't fit any sort of intelligent manner to someone who works in a scratch kitchen, or family restaurant (which I did for 7 years). The best way to speed things up is to 1 make sure you have a good way of knowing temps when you put it on so yo dont have to read the ticket (or screen? we have tickets) repeatedly. Also, when you hit volume, try to drop your orders in groups so that they get plated in groups. This will help you be able to speed things up by having time to really focus on either dropping, or plating. It's easier to drop four slips, then turn around and set up four setts of plates, then plate, send, then drop four more. By the time your done with that, the next four should be about done. That's how we try to do it (not taught by corporate btw) and it seems to work out well. That way you don't lose track of whats on your grill, you have a second to breath and make sure everything is going correctly, and your ticket times will very likely drop by adding an extra minute to time things. And trust me, no matter how smart a computer is, it always times for optimal conditions. We are held to a 3 minute standard for apps, but when the fryers are full it never happens. My suggestion... throw out that stupid time slip and put out a great product and it will be better than the slob throw s*** out the window in one or two minutes less.
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Joined Dec 16, 2010
i agree.

unless you are getting told your times are "too long" for their standards, i would -- in regards to personal satisfaction -- take an extra minute to put out a plate the diner is going to enjoy, than pump sub-par food through the window.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
I could not and would not work in a robotic place like this. People are not checkers on a board and should not be dealt with as such.What to remember here is who invented the computer and it's abilities? Us or other computers. Why don't they just hire robots.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
I  would be wary of a computer timing my orders and telling me when to fire stuff.  The day to day things that happen in a kitchen make for a different environment each day and a computer is not set up to deal with that.

I work in a chain place too and our standard time set by corporate is 12 minutes from when it prints off until when the bill is sold.  Most of the time we can adhere to that but on busy weekends, ticket times run longer.  We have only so much space to cook so much food and well.. we can't send it out raw.  Usually 20 minutes is the longest order time when we are busy but my personal longest time is 35 minutes.  Bad,  I know but it was just the way it went.  I was on my own on the lunch (and it is the biggest pain in the a... on the weekends) and all at once I got hit with 20 eggs benny plates.  The plates come to me garnished from fruits so I had to wait for my plates and then I had to build them and make sure I got all of the mods right while still sending out paninis and melts.  I got myself out of it ok and no one gave me a hard time over it. The owners saw that I was moving at top speed and one did come to me and ask why my orders were running so long when I was moving so fast and I told him... I am alone on here and I just got hit with 20 eggs benny as well as the usual round of paninis and melts... he was fine with it and that was the end of that. 

What has your KM said to you regarding your ticket times?  If he/she is ok with it then don't sweat it and do your best to improve yourself as you see fit. 

You have been given some excellent advice here...

Best of luck and please keep us posted as to how you are doing
Joined Dec 16, 2010
You could cheat... if you can control the temperature of your grill. I got my start at a corporate place like that and on nights or days when I knew it would be busy and I had to get things done faster, I just turned the temperature up a bit on the grill. That being said, if you find this to be an option, you don't want to crank it up because then you'll end up with a charred exterior and marginally cooked interior. A few degrees can make a difference but too many can be detrimental.

Another option, when you're the only person on the line, is to have your or a monitor set to the expo screen, so instead of just seeing what the system is firing, you see whole "tickets." That way you know whats coming and can prepare accordingly. Most of those computer timing systems in chains are just based of numbers and corporate expectations,

The rest comes with time. As you get used to the line your movements become faster because you don't have to think about it. When you see a order come up on the screen your body just knows what to do and does it as opposed to thinking about each step. You'll also get used to the placement of things, you can watch the screen while cooking because you instinctively know where things are.
Joined Jul 3, 2012
In my opinion, to gain better time management, learn proper cook times for accurate temperatures.  you will have hot spots on a flat grill or chargrill that you can find either over time or with an infrared thermometer.  using this hot spot you can depending on location, find proper places for rares, meds and wells...obviously mid temps would be nearer to the hotter spot.  once you learn these u can remove the thinking aspect and it should become second nature by location.  this also takes out the stress of remembering temps and gives you quick reference for callbacks or echos to the headcook/chef.  this also allows you to concentrate on consistant plating, timing with sautee, fry, pantry so everything can go out smooth and stress free.  the time you free up isnt rest time at all...theres time to rest when you clock out...clean your area and santitize your utensils and organize your area.  replenish stock.  in my kitchen, no one is rewarded for doing there job, however they can reward themselves after a hard pounding for 3 hrs with the knowhow of achieving a perfect, consistant service, with minimal mistakes because they were organized and utilized their time wisely, elliminating stress which is the biggest problem in any kitchen.  i always push for someone to strive for their best and never put them in a position they cant handle or that is outside their ability. 

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