Impact of kitchen equipment and workplace layout on labor productivity in university campus foodservice operation

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Virginia Tech


Campus foodservice has experienced drastic changes over the twentieth century. Its cafeteria style service has some major advantages in catering the needs of the clientele: speed of service, convenience in food selection, and range of price, and so forth. As enrollments in colleges and universities have been continuously increasing during the past few years, campus foodservice operation is gaining its importance in the foodservice industry. Additionally, it serves as a part of the marketing mix with an appeal to increasing number of students.

The campus foodservice administrators are facing increased pressure of cost containment. Therefore, how to improve operational efficiency and productivity has been a major concern among foodservice managers. However, this is difficult to achieve due to the numerous variables likely to influence productivity with interrelating factors, such as policy and standard, employee and management skills, efficiency of facility layout, and so forth. There is a lack of published reports that single out these variables and provide in-depth analysis as to their impact on productivity.

Efficiency of kitchen equipment and workplace layout has been identified as a variable that influences labor productivity. It is the objective of this study to utilize the variables inherent in meal production of campus foodservice operations to assess the efficiency of kitchen equipment and workplace layout and determine their impact on with labor productivity.

Case studies were conducted in Owens Food Court, Shultz and Dietrick Dining Halls on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University. Work flow analysis and process time analysis of kitchen employees was utilized to collect data in describing work flow and utilization of labor time in meal production among the dining facilities. Ten entree items were purposively sampled from each dining facility.

The Product Process Gross Charts, often used in industrial engineering, were used as a major data collecting tool. A total of 150 charts, which included Move Charts, Distance Charts, Travel Charts, Description of By-pass, and Worker Process Time Charts, were utilized extensively for data collection and interpretation.

The differences in work flow variables and utilization of labor time variables among the dining facilities were studied. An analysis of the influence of work flow variables on the utilization of labor time was conducted. In addition, the differences in the functioning of work flow variables in affecting utilization of labor time among the dining facilities were also analyzed.

The results showed significant differences in absolute travel distance and percentage of time spent walking and (or) for delays among three dining facilities. Further more, collapsed information indicated that absolute travel distance was positively related with percentage of time spent walking and (or) for delays; and that percentage of backward movement was also positively related with percentage of time spent walking and (or) for delays.

Based on the findings, it is recommended by the researcher that a smooth work flow should be achieved in kitchen design, and some major equipment and workplace should be located within the direct line of flow. Equipment and workplace should be organized into different "functional clusters". It is also recommended that further research would be useful in identifying additional variables which would account for a great percentage of variance in the utilization of labor time.