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98 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • APRIL 2017 by going around and talking to the managers and hourly employees at our restaurants. I think we conducted about eight roundtables in all and just asked them for ideas to get more efficient. The info they gave us was very enlightening." In some cases, for example, the chain just didn't have enough space to hold the ingredients for specials and would have to hold some in ice baths. In others, production on certain items was overly complex and time consuming. Taking feedback from the restaurant em- ployees, the chain eliminated approximately 40 items from the production line. This simplified work for the line cooks. Some production items were automatically eliminated when the chain removed some of its low-selling items from the menu. In other cases, the chain consolidated ingredients. Four cuts of tomato were reduced to two, for instance, while two slaws, differing in just one ingredient, were combined into one. Naturally, the changes helped lower labor costs. One area where this has helped is in prep, where having fewer items to prepare simplifies the job and reduces workload. The chain's prep area typically contains three main stations. As part of a scratch cooking operation, staff begin working at these stations at around 9 a.m. These work areas can stay busy until closing time. The stations include a table with a vegetable sink for prep- ping produce, one for portioning proteins and one that handles prepping bulk items like potatoes. That station also has a large tabletop mixer — a relatively recent addition made to help make pizza crust, which was added to the Rusty Bucket menu. The production kitchen itself features a straight-line set up. Hot-side equipment sits against the back wall, with team members' backs to the expediting window. After finishing a dish, a staff member will turn 180 degrees, plate the item, add sides kept in holding equipment and put the finished plate under a heat lamp in the expo window. The expediting chef oversees the process to ensure orders come out in sync and then places items on trays. The first station on the hot side is the grill, which has both a charbroiler and a flattop grill. The charbroiler, says Sauter, previously handled plenty of work during busy hours. Staff now use this equipment to primarily cook proteins made during the prep process, such as ribs and chicken breasts. Staff cook the majority of made-to-order-proteins on the griddle, including burgers, toasted sandwiches like Philly cheesesteaks and reubens, as well as quesadillas. The station below the grill and charbroiler has three undercounter drawer units that hold proteins and one oven. The chain uses this oven to bake chicken in bulk; make desserts like the triple chocolate cake and sticky bun bread pudding; and parbake meatloaf, which staff later finish to- order in the same oven. Following the grill comes the fry station. Depending on volume, the station has three to four fryers, with units dedi- cated to seafood, poultry and french fries to preserve flavor integrity. The station has one freezer that holds french fries and another that stores to-be-fried proteins such as cod and chicken, with cold wells on top for batters. Completed fries are held in a dump station in the expo window. In some stores, this setup may take up too much space. Rusty Bucket, though, relies on a fry monitoring system that shows how many fry orders are ready and how many should be in the grease at a given time. As a result, the dump station has a minimal footprint. chain profile The new Rusty Bucket design features a much cleaner appearance with more limited wall decor than in the past and a more upscale appearance overall. Approximately 40 items were eliminated from the product line, which makes prep far more manageable for staff.