Restaurant front lines can be the most difficult area for controlling product cost. In our experience, it’s usually on the front line that many restaurants lose their profits. The likely reasons include incorrect portioning, waste, overcooked or cold food returns, items being prepared without a food ticket, or unrecorded sales. Of course, we all know that communication failures between kitchen and service staff that result in incorrect orders are a sure-fire recipe for lost revenue.
You might want to consider a few ideas that will help you control your food cost:
- No ticket, no food – This is probably the most effective policy for controlling food and beverage costs. By employing a policy that all orders must be rung up on the point-of-sale system or cash register before they can be made, you eliminate the possibility of unrecorded sales. It is common knowledge among POS vendors that restaurants using requisition printers typically enjoy as much as 5% or more in cost savings than those that don’t.
- Keep a waste log – Waste is a controllable cost. Every restaurant experiences some degree of waste, but you can manage it by creating systems to minimize and record wasted product, such as production yield, meals returned by the customer, kitchen mistakes and spoilage. Keeping an accurate accounting of the value of wasted product can help account for variances between ideal and actual food cost.
- Portion control tools – Poor portion control is one of the leading causes of food cost variances. If your prep and line cooks have gotten in the habit of “eyeballing” measurements rather than sticking to the exact recipes, chances are your food cost variance could be as much as 5% or more. Proven portion control strategies include the use of portioning scoops, scales and measuring spoons and cups. Pre-portioning can be effective in controlling costs by using portion baggies and a scale to pre-weigh product before stocking the cook line.
- Recipe quick-reference charts – The fast-paced environment at most restaurant kitchens makes it impossible to use the recipe manual for every menu item. Usually, cooks are required to memorize the proper portions and steps for preparing each item on their station. The recipe “quick reference” is used as the name implies ‑ providing the cook with an at-a-glance list of ingredients, portion size and proper portioning utensil for each preparation step. We also recommend photos of each plate for visual reference and consistency. Proper portioning along with a photo reference of the properly prepared plate help to ensure consistency in both taste and presentation.
We can help you take the necessary steps to ensure your product cost is managed efficiently and responsibly. * abridged from NRN.