Secrets of Poolside Kitchen Success
Back Bay Bar & Grill is the outdoor destination point for guests at the 400-room Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek, Orlando. Centrally located next to the Wyndham’s gracefully curved pool, the 120-seat venue serves not only pool deck guests (with about 70 seats), but also, potentially, visitors from the nearby 1,000-plus timeshare units surrounding the area’s scenic 10-acre lake. The Back Bay’s kitchen cook line measures 21 feet long, and there’s space for four cooks and an expeditor in the front. Yet, this minimalist cook line can crank out up to 1,000 covers daily, generating nearly $3 million in revenue based on checks averaging $14 to $15.
Back Bay is known for its burgers, chicken wings, wraps, and quesadillas. Menu favorites include the Back Bay Burger (in which the bun is a grilled Krispy Kreme glazed donut, paired with a free-formed burger topped with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon), which helped earn the property a third-place ranking for Best Local Burger in Orlando Magazine’s 2016 Dining Awards.
Hotel F&B spoke with Wyndham Grand Orlando Executive Chef Andrew Edwards for more details about Back Bay’s prodigious kitchen production.
Hotel F&B: How is the Back Bay kitchen laid out?
Edwards: Our kitchen covers 960 square feet. The walk-in, about 200 square feet, is where carts of prepared foods are held from the hotel’s main kitchen. Along the cook line, moving from left to right, we’ve got a reach-in refrigerator, a four-burner range, two flattops atop cold bases, a couple of salamanders over the flattops, a panini press, an under-counter cook-hold oven, fryers with dump station, and a reach-in freezer supporting the fryers. A second cook-hold oven is on the left side, off the line. The expo line is symmetrical. There are two cold prep tables on either side, a couple of hot food wells in the center and three POS points to print orders. The pass-through window includes food warming strips to keep hot food hot.
Hotel F&B: How have you organized work flow to optimize efficiency?
Edwards: Bulk foods such as hamburgers and chicken wings are prepped in the main kitchen, which is about a five-minute walk from Back Bay Grill. Speed racks of prepared foods are held in Back Bay walk-ins then transferred to the cook line’s and made fresh to order.
The kitchen’s work flow is set up so that waiters come in from one side, pick up food, and leave from the other. There’s no bumping into each other. Food comes from the line, onto plates, and out the door. As for soiled dishes, warewashing is off to the right, away from the servers’ path, and yet convenient to the kitchen for returning clean pots, pans, dishes, and silver ware.
Hotel F&B: Talk about your key menu items and how you make them work.
Edwards: Our burgers make up about 25% of our business—we serve up to 350 burger orders per day during busy times. Hamburger patties are seared on flattop griddles, then placed in the cook-hold oven at 155 degrees. As orders come in, we’ll customize the burgers and finish them under the salamander. They stay so moist, the juice drips down your arm as you eat.
Another popular item is chicken wings. Those are fully cooked from fresh, which costs about 75% less than if we bought them pre-cooked and frozen. We prepare the wings in a Rational combi oven in the main kitchen. Then we’ll blast-chill trays of cooked wings down to about 40 degrees and transfer them to the Back Bay kitchen. When an order comes in, we fry the wings until they are golden brown and then toss them in various sauces—Buffalo, Thai chili, or bourbon BBQ.
Hotel F&B: How does the blast-chiller in the main kitchen speed up operations?
Edwards: The blast-chiller, made by American Panel, is used to rapidly cool cooked foods down to 40 degrees and out of the danger zone. Every health inspector loves to see this piece of equipment in operation. Our chili, for example, is made from scratch in the hotel’s main kitchen, blast-chilled in shallow pans, transferred into Cryovac bags, and held in the Back Bay walk-in until needed. Other Back Bay menu items that go through the blast-chilling process include wings, cheese, pulled pork, and chicken tinga.
Hotel F&B: Which came first: the Back Bay menu or the kitchen?
Edwards: The Back Bay kitchen footprint was in place when Wyndham acquired the property in 2011. We enhanced the kitchen by moving some of the kitchen equipment from our banquet area to help expedite service. Our cook-hold ovens in particular have been critical to Back Bay’s success.
Our menu is based around storage and the kitchen’s production capabilities; we try to cross-utilize ingredients as much as possible, partly because of our limited storage space and because we rely on the main kitchen. Back Bay’s food inventory turns 12 times a month—more than double the usual rate of three to four times per month for our total F&B operation. We’ll analyze the menu twice a year to review what’s selling and what’s not. The menu gets updated once a year.
Hotel F&B: How do you staff Back Bay during peak times and slow times?
Edwards: The kitchen serves lunch and dinner, with operating hours running from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. During peak times, where we’ll serve up to 1,000 daily covers, we have four people working the line, one chef to expedite orders, and about five servers, and one or two people in the main kitchen dedicated to prep work. During the off-season, when we’re serving about 300 covers per day, we can get by with half the crew: two cooks working the line, one expeditor, and three servers—all without compromising taste, presentation, or consistency.
Hotel F&B: Will the Back Bay kitchen be duplicated at other Wyndham properties?
Edwards: Yes. In fact, the exact layout has been used at Wyndham’s new resort in Clearwater, Florida, which opened in January 2016.