As a restaurant business owner, you understand the importance of creating standard portions to increase the profitability of your restaurant menu items.  Once you’ve determined the standard portions for every ingredient and every item on your menu, it’s time to implement portion controls as well as effective pricing.  A portion control system helps your staff adhere to the standards you expect, which helps you cut costs.  Effective pricing increases profits and your restaurant cash flow.

Establish a portion control system

A successful portion control system helps minimize over-portioning and can include the following:

Precise measurement tools

Using scales to facilitate the preparation of standard portions improves accuracy and reinforces the importance of your stated goals for portion sizes.  When an employee has a four-ounce serving spoon in order to serve a menu item that needs four ounces, they’ll be able to portion correctly without second-guessing.  Make sure your utensils are properly stored and visibly labeled.  Make it easy for your staff to do what’s expected.

Pre-portioned items

Purchasing precut or prepacked items in the desired portion size can reduce over-portioning.  The guess work is gone, and potential waste is reduced.

Pre-portioned items can also improve restaurant profits by reducing labor costs for prep time and identifying inventory more easily.  You’ll want to weigh these advantages against things like quality or the risk of unavailability of pre-packaged goods.

Employee training

Many restaurant employees think a restaurant business is an extremely profitable cash cow.  Make sure your employees know that the average full-menu restaurant business yields a pretax profit somewhere between $.04 and $.10 for every dollar of sales.  Stress that over-portioning and wasting food impacts the bottom line and viability of your business and their jobs.

Over-portioning and wasting food are usually not deliberate (except maybe when a friend or family member arrives, and an employee wants to serve a little extra). Oftentimes, employees are simply unaware of what standard portion sizes are for your restaurant menu items.

Regular training sessions help to ensure that both kitchen and service staff know the importance of standard portions. Providing adequate instructions (including pictures of menu items with the recipe and ingredients) and emphasizing standard portions will go a long way toward ensuring portion control, adequate food inventory, and improved restaurant cash flow.

Management observation

The most effective way to determine if procedures and portion controls are being followed is through the active involvement of management.  When employees know the manager is paying attention and why, they tend to make a greater effort to follow established standards.  When your manager is in the kitchen to watch how the food is being prepared, it conveys the importance of standard portions, correct ingredients, and avoiding waste.  Managers can also weigh portions on a randomly chosen test basis to ensure compliance. As a restaurant business owner, you want to allow your managers adequate time to observe these details.

Separating food waste from trash

Doing this allows management to observe the amount of food waste occurring while food is being prepared and after customers finish their meals.  If a consistent amount of food is left on customers’ plates, this could be an indicator of excessive portioning. Asking employees who bus tables and clean dishes about what’s left over on plates can also help you assess possible over-portioning.

Food cost and inventory analysis

Once standard portions, ingredients, and inventory levels are established, then unexpected increased food costs or irregular inventory levels could also be an indication of over-portioning.

Calculate effective pricing

As you know, one of the benefits of developing standard portions and controls is that the expected cost for each restaurant menu item can be calculated.  Follow these steps to calculate the cost of menu items so you can ensure your pricing is effective and profitable.

Use “Menu Costing Forms” (editor’s note:  provide hyperlink if available)

These forms are available at Accounting Innovations.  Our restaurant financial experts can help guide you through the process.

Determine entrée cost

First list the ingredients necessary to prepare the entrée, obviously noting the difference between a simple entrée (like a steak) and a complex entrée, such as a burrito or a stir-fry dish with numerous ingredients.

Determine plate cost

The plate cost is the cost of everything on the restaurant menu except the entree and may include items such as salads, vegetables, desserts, garnishes, and rolls. When you determine the plate cost first, you save time by only having to cost it once.  The plate cost can then be added to the Menu Costing Form as a single line item.

The ingredients, purchase unit, cost per purchase unit, portion unit, cost per portion unit, portion size, and the portion cost are all variables in the total plate cost.  Our financial experts can help you calculate these strategic elements of effective pricing.

Consider the waste factor

Things that are considered waste are things like the amount of food lost during preparation, employee mistakes, or food that is returned by the customer.  Accounting Innovations recommends a standard waste factor between 5% and 10% per plate.

Meet with a restaurant financial expert

Need some help?  At Accounting Innovations, our team is ready to provide the financial expertise you need so you can focus on the pleasures of running your own restaurant business.  Schedule a free consultation here. We are just a phone call or email away.