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Brinker International Demonstrates How Restaurants Can Thrive In The Post-Pandemic Era

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Brinker International Demonstrates How Restaurants Can Thrive In The Post-Pandemic Era

While the COVID-19 pandemic and all the troubles it brought are far behind the restaurant industry, restaurant owners are still facing serious challenges to their operations. Indeed, we have left the era of social distancing and masks only to walk into new obstacles affecting everything from manpower to equipment. As rising inflation pushes operating costs ever higher, job openings throughout the restaurant industry threaten the productivity and efficiency of restaurants across the country.

But just like with COVID, as dark as the days may seem, restaurant owners are finding ways to adapt and overcome. Brinker International CEO Kevin Hochman, whose company owns the Chili's and Maggiano's Little Italy chains, is a definitive leader in that respect. At this year's FEDA Annual Conference, Hochman discussed Brinker's "Kitchen of the Future" initiative, which implements technological changes that streamline and expedite kitchen processes at over sixty Chili's and Maggiano's locations. For example, one of the core components of the initiative is the use of ovens and griddles that simultaneously cook both sides of a steak, burger patty, or other meat. Naturally, this has reduced cooking time and the likelihood of undercooked orders.

Hochman has also thought to streamline the breadth of his restaurants' services in order to improve productivity and save money. The "virtual kitchen" concept for Maggiano's, titled "Maggiano's Italian Classics," was discontinued recently in the spirit of those aforementioned goals. The concept, implemented during the pandemic, operated under a unique menu and offered online customers the opportunity to order and pick up meals without needing to come into a Maggiano's restaurant. However, sustaining this spinoff menu proved to be a burden on the kitchen, which had to adapt between the main menu and the online one. Thus, the concept was ended to reduce costs and to simplify kitchen operations.

What Hochman and his chain restaurants have done is show the potential for every restaurant to have a "Kitchen of the Future"—one that is well-equipped to deal with the rapidly-changing economy and consumer tastes of today. The key to building such a kitchen is to work smarter, not harder, prioritizing efficiency and sound spending. While the pressures of the present are limiting, the Maggiano's and Chili's examples prove that it is possible to work—and succeed—within those limits.

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