Is a central production unit (CPU) the secret ingredient driving restaurant growth?

It could be. In fact, for some restaurants, it definitely is. It’s a great way to scale your business, minimise food costs, and streamline inventory management. 

But running a CPU is easier said than done. You need to meticulously plan the entire operation to ensure it’s efficient, seamless, and profitable. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place to find out how to do this! 

In this article, we’ll walk through some of the crucial activities you need to do to successfully launch a CPU. But first, let’s clarify how a CPU works. 

What is a CPU in a restaurant? 

A central production unit (also known as a central production kitchen) is a kitchen space used to prepare ingredients and meals for different locations. Instead of each restaurant having an independent kitchen for food preparation, the central kitchen does most of the work.

Two chefs working in a kitchen preparing food

When done well, a restaurant CPU runs like a well-oiled machine. Food is prepared and assembled in one location and sent to another for the final touches before being served to customers. 

Why are restaurants investing in central production units?

Here are some of the reasons restaurants opt for the CPU model:

  • To scale the business. With a centralised kitchen, it’s more manageable to replicate successful models and expand to new locations. 
  • To reduce food waste. Preparing everything in a central location gives you better control of your inventory, reducing the chances of over-purchasing ingredients and minimising food waste in the process. 

“It’s easy to track food waste from a CPU and identify how to minimise wastage. It’s also easier to make changes to one site than to twelve different sites, so it’s a win-win.” – Marta Morillas Escobar, Operations Manager at Buns from Home

  • To control costs. Bulk purchasing, centralised staffing, and optimising equipment usage can reduce costs across the board. 
  • To streamline supply chains. Instead of shipping ingredients and equipment to different locations, everything is sent to one place. 
  • To provide consistency. Preparing ingredients and meals in a single kitchen ensures consistency across locations. 

How to launch your own CPU

Are you thinking about launching a central production kitchen? Follow these steps to get started on the right foot.

1. Pick the right time to expand

The first step is to make sure your business is ready for a CPU. If you try to open a central kitchen when you’re not ready, you risk losing money and causing issues across your entire restaurant operation. 

So how do you know when it’s time to open a CPU? 

The right time to open a CPU depends on how your current operations are running. If you’re struggling with capacity or don’t have the funds to invest in more kitchen space in each restaurant location, using a CPU could be the right decision. 

🔥Hot take from industry expert 🔥Marta Morillas Escobar, Operations Manager, Buns from Home comments about what stage of growth is the right time to launch a CPU. 

At Buns from Home, the team struggled with limited capacity in their kitchens. With the size of their machinery (and the cost of finding somewhere to put it), it made sense for the business to open a CPU. 

She says: 

“Before using a CPU, we had limited capacity in our kitchens. Now, we have more control over what we produce, where our raw materials come from, and the way we use these materials. It has totally changed the game in terms of being able to scale. Without the CPU, we couldn’t have opened any other stores.” 

2. Create a budget

Although a CPU can save money in the long run, it requires start-up costs to get off the ground. Plus, the additional logistics and support to create food in one location and move it to another — it all adds up. 

That’s why it’s crucial to clarify your budget. Determine how much you’re willing to spend on the space, equipment, staff, and transport to make sure you’re in a good financial position to be able to run a CPU.

3. Find the right venue 

Choosing the right location for your CPU is essential to its success. Here are some questions to ask yourself to ensure you find a venue that’s right for your business:

  • Is it within budget? Find a venue that’s within the budget you’ve already outlined. Overspending will cut into your profit margins.
  • Is it in the right location? You need a location that’s close enough to all your restaurants so that food can be delivered quickly and without compromising quality. 

Does it have the right layout? The structure of your CPU kitchen plays a big part in its success. Where the equipment sits, how the food is stored, and the space for people to move around can all impact the effectiveness of the operation. Find a venue that suits your operation and ensures maximum efficiency.

Chef preparing food in a kitchen surrounded by kitchen equipment and crockery

4. Hire (and retain) the best staff for the job

Hiring the right people for your CPU can make or break success. You need a competent team of hard-working people who can deliver a seamless and efficient food prep experience.  

Start by advertising positions to attract potential hires. Think about the skills you want people to have, the experience they need, and the type of person that fits with your company culture. This will help you find candidates that fit your requirements. 

After finding the right people for the roles, you can now focus on retention. 

It’s safe to say that retention is important, especially in the current industry climate


Because labour shortages are prevalent. 

70% of restaurant operators don’t have enough workers to support demand, and they don’t expect a reprieve anytime soon. And with the changes to the immigration system (which sets the minimum salary to £38,700 to get a skilled worker visa), the talent pool is even smaller than it already was. 

To keep retention rates high, you need to prioritise the employee experience. Offer competitive salaries, good benefits, training opportunities for career progression, and create a positive work culture. 

George Hartson, Food and Beverage Director for Hartshorn – Hook, talks about the value of creating a positive work environment to increase retention: 

“Our staff and our staff retention is what we are most proud of. Being able to work with the same people creates a fantastic work environment, which plays a big part in retention. It means that we can get on with our jobs and focus on what we can do best without having to constantly worry about turnover.” 

Find out more about how to create a people-first work environment: Power to the people teams: Why successful restaurants are investing in their people function.

5. Choose the right CPU technology 

Technology plays a crucial role in central production kitchens. With so many moving parts, you need software that helps you track performance and ensure operations are running as smoothly as possible. 

No matter what type of software you use, one thing to consider is usability. You want technology that’s easy for everyone to use, especially when working across different locations. 

Another consideration is real-time data. With instant access to performance, you can make quick and informed decisions about your entire operation. This means you’re in a pretty good position to ensure success. 

Now, let’s take a look at some of the technology you might want to consider as part of your CPU operation. 

  • Sales performance. Track your sales performance across locations to identify areas of improvement. See which venues are performing well, what menu items are the most popular, and which items are no longer worth preparing. Marta also touches on how using technology with CPUs makes it easy to spot problems in performance: 

“If you have a lot of bakeries around, each with its own production operation, it’s very difficult to spot the root cause of any issues. But when everything comes from the CPU, we can easily spot what’s going wrong and put things right.” 

  • Communication tools. Remove the barriers of operating across different locations with communication technology. Teams can stay in touch at the click of a button by sending messages, asking for updates, and keeping each other in the loop with any relevant updates. 

For a platform that offers all of these features, why not use Nory? Our restaurant management software helps you keep tabs on key CPU information, ensuring everything is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

Tracking inventory performance and food waste with Nory

FAQs about restaurant CPUs

How does a restaurant CPU work? 

A restaurant CPU centralises food production. It prepares ingredients and dishes in bulk for multiple locations, ensuring consistency, minimising waste, controlling costs, and streamlining supply chains.

Can a restaurant CPU grow your business? 

With the right planning and execution, a CPU can grow your business. It makes it easier to scale, streamlines operations, and ensures consistency across all your locations — all of which can increase your profit margins and help your business thrive. 

So, what are you waiting for?

Our restaurant management software helps you keep tabs on key CPU information, ensuring everything is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

Book a chat to get started!
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