Ah, the rising food cost. It never fails to create significant challenges.
Here in Australia, The recent widespread drought is making food more expensive, putting a strain on budgets across the country.
In a report by Trading Economics, the cost of food in Australia increased by 2.40 per cent in June of 2019 over the same month in the previous year.
As business owners in the food industry, the increase in food prices directly affects your business. For restaurant owners, your number of dining patrons may decrease since people will tend to avoid dining out and opt for budget-friendly home meals to save money. For caterers, the adjustment in your costing will affect your overall service pricing and may change the competitiveness of your business.
This article is the first in an eight-part series that I am writing on how you can control your food costs.
Let’s start with one of the obvious solutions which can be considered a fundamental aspect of kitchen preparation, and that is to exercise portion control effectively.
Portion Control is the method of ensuring your kitchen team uses an exact number or quantity of ingredients or food item in preparing and serving a dish. It reduces the need for estimation or eyeballing of ingredients.
The Role of Portion Control In Restaurant Food Service
- It controls food costs.
Overserving as result of estimation or carelessness will affect your food cost. Ideally, your Food Costs should be 30-40% of the Selling Price of an item. When food portions are more massive than intended, it directly results in food costs going higher than what you anticipated. This will affect the financial margins of your restaurant and most restaurants operate on tight budgets already.
Budgeting also becomes easier because you are creating an expected output.
- It minimises food wastage.
When the food portion is overserved, and customers did not finish consuming it, it automatically leads to wastages. The same happens when a customer is dissatisfied with a dish as a result of inconsistency in preparation.
To minimise food wastage, most restaurants now include the portion size of each order, indicated in their menus. This technique informs the customers of the quantity or how big the serving is, thus reducing wastage of food.
- It promotes consistency in your product
Standard portions mean consistency in the taste, the quantity and quality of food. When each similar dish is served using exact measurements, it is almost expected to have the same quality. Most customers prefer predictability in their food, especially if they return to your establishment specifically with your dish in mind. Consistency encourages customer loyalty as well as return visits.
Here are the 5 Key Tips to Portion Control and Protect Your Profit
- Have Standardised Recipes
A standard recipe describes the procedure and methodology in preparing and serving a dish. It includes the specific number of ingredients in a dish, and also the portion to be served. In this way, from a prepared dish, you can forecast how many diners can be served ahead of time. A standard recipe should also include:
- Weight and volume of each ingredient
- Recipe Yield
- Serving size
- Tools such as equipment and utensils to be used
Understand that customers may make special requests based on their preference or dietary needs such as substitutions, which can alter your planned costing. Be prepared for this situation and create a plan to identify what can and cannot be substituted as well as the portion size, and the price if the substituted food is of a higher value. As for extra side dishes that are not included with an entrée, they should be measured and priced as well.
- Exercise Right Measurement of Ingredients
Right measurement involves using the right measuring tools and utensils. Here are ways to measure the ingredients:
- By count- Actual counting of quantity of ingredients that will be used or served.
- By volume- Volume can be measured using measuring spoons or measuring cups, etc. In fast food services, foods like mashed potatoes and corn as portioned using spoons. Whereas in the more formal establishments, food moulds are available to shape rice or salads.
- By weight – A scale is used for this method. Use an excellent commercial kitchen scale for weighing meats and cheese.
- Implement Proper Plating of Food
Your Chef can write down or print out plating instructions for clarity and prevent guessing. These instructions can be printed together with the expected plating presentation for reference.
- Right Purchasing
Buying raw materials and ingredients with quality in mind can help solve with the implementation of portion control. For example, if vegetables purchased (and received) do not have any wilted or damaged parts, then those items are maximised. Take note of the yield of each item.
- Ensure That Kitchen Team is Trained
Implementation is key. Your kitchen staff should be trained to execute the portion control measures. Otherwise, all your other rules will be for nothing. Make sure that your team knows the proper portion size when plating food with presentation also in mind. Train your staff to use the right serving utensils and dishes consistently. For new staff, have an easily accessible chart where every menu item is broken down. Include photographs to help staff correctly portion food as it leaves the restaurant kitchen. Even the Chef should follow the exact recipe. It is essential that when preparing a dish, the right measuring utensils are used no matter how skilled one is. Besides, this should be known by heart so that no shortcuts are done.
When hiring short term chefs in cases of immediate need, it will be an advantage for you to hire skilled chefs who also know the importance of portion control. The roster of talents from our chef hiring agency, Anytime Chefs include highly skilled chefs who are knowledgeable about cost-effective kitchen practices who will work with you to provide excellent service to your customers.
Do you need short-term hire chefs quickly for emergency staffing? Give us a call!
Portion control is an effective procedure in keeping your food cost in check and thereby protect your restaurant profit. When food expenditure is predictable, you will be able to manage your budget and balance your inventory, preventing possible food surplus or shortages. Lastly, and I should say, more importantly, by controlling the portion sizes, you will ensure your customers receive consistent quality in their dish. You will bound to retain loyal customers and returning patrons which means continued business.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,