If you’ve been in the restaurant business for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced the executive chef who prides himself on keeping inventory exact and proclaims low food waste and spoilage. And yet, your food costs are climbing to 40 percent on a regular basis. One area to investigate is portion control. Are plates coming back half-full? Are your dollars finding their way into the trash bin?
Food costs usually run anywhere from 25 to 40 percent and are calculated as a percentage of the total sales. If your restaurant is bringing in $25,000 and your food costs are $7,500 per week, your food cost is 30 percent. Now add an extra ounce of cheese to a few of your guest’s favorite entrees. If your average cheese cost is 60 cents per ounce and your serving, on average, 200 of these dishes per day, this one ounce of extra cheese is costing you $120 per day or $43,800 per year. That is the magic and potential pitfall of correct and incorrect portion control.
If your head chef creates incredible flavors and textures but is not geared toward measuring and weighing, training is in order. If there is a slight prima donna tendency, you may face some resistance when incorporating these techniques into the line and prep area. Hold fast to your commitment and soon even your all-knowing connoisseur won’t be able to deny the numbers. The bottom line is, unless you control this process, you will never control your food costs.
Weighing and measuring food can be fast and efficient. One of the best options is a digital scale that calculates weight and price. Other considerations are spoodles, portion control serving spoons, or cups which measure by the ounce. While definitely better than nothing, these latter techniques are not quite as consistent due to the tendency to over- or under-fill.
The next step is working with your head chef to determine the correct portions for each dish served. This may take a little sleuthing but, once in place, will lead to increased productivity and profits. Take time to really observe the plates coming back from the tables. How much food is remaining? Talk to your guests and staff. Take the time to create various dishes in different formulas and select a few employees with superb palates to join in a taste test. While a fine dining French restaurant may be able to pull off a high quality four ounce filet in rich bourbon crème sauce, you may not be aiming for the same clientele. Quality is, however, often more important than quantity. Take one dish at a time and write down the portions. Put the measuring devices into effect and keep the food costs in line. In addition to measuring devices, consider setting up your macro system to compute food costs and suggest menu pricing. If you have proper pricing in addition to portion control, you’re well on your way to increased profits.