Mass Production Cooking/staffing needs


Hello Chef Todd,
I am trying to determine how many cooks are necessary to prepare 900 to 1300 meals in a campus dining operation which serves 3 main line hot areas with 5 full hotel pans in each area with different foods in them, as well as a fast food area, with a fryer and grill serving omelets and eggs to order, as well as a w bin pasta line. Within this service many items are vegan, vegetarian and gluten free.
Also the food preparation is fairly high end with appropriate garnishing and batch cooking as much is reasonably possible.
I would be most appreciative of any answer you could give me, as I am involved in this situation and discussions about staffing around it, and there does not seem to be much information out there.
Thank you,

Hi Michael!

WOW!  That's quite a question.  You want me to design an entire production system for you to feed 1300 people?  I'm not sure I can answer that in a few paragraphs.

I've designed many cafeterias for this type of service and there are many considerations that I won't know from just reading your question.

I'm going to assume that you have a hot line for entrees and a grill for "a la minute" cooking.

I'm also assuming that all your customers in campus dining will come within an hour of each other, making the staffing even more difficult.

First, you will need production staff to make the food on the hot line.  To produce food for 1300, you'll need at least three chefs or cooks doing the prep work.  Upon service time, two of the cooks can move to the service line and one can stay behind for batch cooking.  

You'll need a grill cook or two to prepare the quick serve items, along with a prep cook in the back to replenish items as you run out.

The pasta line will need two staff members as well, in the same theory that they both do the prep before service time, one serves the customers at service time, the other backs up.

Don't forget cashiers, maintenance people, dishwashers, and storeroom clerks as well.

In general, staffing needs come from the menu design more than the number of customers expected.  My suggestion would be to create a "cycle menu" of three or five weeks that repeats on that schedule.  Design the cycle menu so that each station supports the other and leftovers have a place to go after service.

For example, if you have hamburgers on the grill, they can turn into meatloaf the next day, or ground beef for lasagna on the pasta line.

Roast turkey can turn into Turkey Tetrazzini two days later and so on.  The better the "flow" of food, the less demand on staffing.

The logic behind designing a system like this will come from your sales history.  You should be sure to have a Point of Sale (POS) system so you can see how many people are buying entrees, how many want burgers, and how many eat pasta.  The sales mix will dictate production and production dictates staffing.  

If you are trying to feed 1300 people within an hours time, I would also suggest a "grab and go" section where salads and sandwiches are made ahead of time and placed in a cooler to reduce wait times and long lines.  This production can be done by staff before service who then can help serve the hot line.

That's a start, but to fully design a system for you I'd have to know more about the facilities, the staff skill level and the expectation of customers, along with your food cost percentage and labor budget.  These are all considerations in designing such a large operation.

So, this is a question not easily answered in an email, it has taken me weeks and months in the past to accomplish this task.  And honestly, something that restaurant consultants like me charge thousands of dollars for.

If you have more specific questions, I'd be glad to help but the current question is just way too large to give a complete and workable answer.  

Mass Production Cooking

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Chef Todd Mohr. CCE


I'd be glad to answer your questions about how basic cooking methods apply equally to cooking for two in your home, or 1000 for an event. Please don't ask me how much to order from the caterer or deli. That's up to them to consult you on. If you are doing the actual cooking, I can help. My expertise is in cooking for more than 100 people. Your questions concerning cooking methods, amount to purchase, portioning, strategies for food service, and food safety for large production are welcomed. There are plenty of recipe websites on the internet. Please don't ask me for recipes. I don't believe in written instructions for cooking anyway. The more information you give while asking your question, the better response I can give. "How do I feed 100 people at my daughter's wedding?" is too broad of a question. "If I plan to offer chicken and beef for 100 people, how much chicken should I purchase?" is a better question. Visit my website at LIKE ChefToddMohr on Facebook Subscribe to ChefToddMohr on YouTube


I'm certified by the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Culinary Educator. I'm currently a Chef Instructor at three different culinary schools in Baltimore, Maryland. Previously an Executive Chef at a large hospital, feeding 3000 people three times daily over 8 different menus. Also a Chef at The National Security Agency in Washington, DC, part of a team feeding 15,000 people twice daily. Then, General Manager/Executive Chef of various Business Dining Cafeterias, feeding thousands daily. My catering company has hosted many large events, feeding up to 1000 people.

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Bachelor of Arts, Long Island University Associate of Arts, Baltimore International Culinary College

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My catering company has had many of the nations largest companies as clients.

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