Portion Control In Your Restaurant

How's your portioning? Any improvement in this area should result in happier guests, lower food cost and a healthier bottom line. tiny-mealFood portion control ensures value to the customer and helps protect restaurant profits. It effects your guests' experience, food quality and food cost.

It is a well known axiom in the restaurant business, "controlling portion size controls food cost." Controlling food cost is essential to your profitability. Consistently over portioning a $6.00 per pound product just half an ounce adds almost 19 cents to the serving cost. Say you serve 100 a day, that's $133 lost per week or almost $7,000 in a year and that's with just ONE product!

Added benefits of portion control are an enhanced customer experience and consistent recipe out come. Think about it. If you are a customer and your serving is less than another patrons at the same or near by table would you be happy. If recipes are not prepared consistently won't the foods flavour and texture be affected.

The major reason many operators exceed their target food cost is fairly simple to identify, but much harder to fix. Making food is no different than any manufacturing process. We buy raw goods, assemble them and sell them for a profit. Let us look at, and analyze all three parts of this profit equation.

Buying Raw Goods

Dealing with a reputable supplier like Findlay Foods is a big step in the right direction. Talk to your sales reps, don't be afraid to ask for their advice and recommendations. After all, you're in this together. This is a co-dependant relationship. You win, they win. You lose, they lose. It's that simple. "Helping you succeed" is not a catch phrase it is the Findlay Foods Motto.

Ingredient Assembly

This is the step that takes the most work, to nail down your costs. No two restaurants are the same so there is no formula to fit all situations. Your goal is to determine what your ladlesmenu items cost and to standardize the ingredients. Once you get this data assembled then it is really simple math to arrive at the true cost of your menu item. Creating a spreadsheet on a computer is one option. Certainly a spreadsheet will offer ease of replication, make it easier to update a cost or two as prices change with time.

Ways to standardize ingredient portions when preparing food include:

* In-Line Digital Scales
* Spoodles, (flat bottom ladles)
* Cups with ounce graduations.

Anything you can do to help your staff do a better job of portioning is usually money well spent. Does your staff have the appropriate sized cups, scoops, ladles and other measuring devises at their disposal and are they consistently using the correct ones?

By far, the best, most accurate method for consistent ingredient portions is utilizing digital scales. There are many models of production scales available. There are some models scale2that can be build right into the preparation tables. Some models include foot operated zero (tare) switches with a pedal on the floor. This allowed the kitchen staff to use both hands and not have to reset the scale back to zero with a greasy finger.

The first place to address portions is with proteins. A good portion scale can weigh out protein portions quickly and simply, giving you an extra measure of control over what is probably the most expensive item on any entrée plate.

Secondly, your starches, veggies, soups, etc. need to be portioned out as exactly as possible. Even a half ounce over the serving size called for in each entree can translate into thousands of dollars in lost revenue over the course of year. The easiest way to control these portion sizes is with kitchen utensils that measure portions accurately

Sell at a Profit

Once you have your costs figured and have created a system(s) to standardize the ingredients used in your menu items you are well armed to set your prices knowing that you can reliably serve the same item at the same cost over and over again. When you set the selling price of an entree or side dish, the selling price of that item is established based on the cost of that item. The cost of the item is based on the portion size. Controlling the portion size is fundimental to standardizing costs and being able to project profit on sales.

Never Expect What You Don't Inspectinspect

Never expect what you don't inspect. Get into the habit of pulling one item off the line each shift and weighing the key ingredients. If you use a streamline or dip table in your restaurant, ring up a ticket without the cooks knowledge. When the food is prepared, weigh or measure to check portion sizes. If somethings not right, addresses the issue immediately with your kitchen staff. This one practice, more than any other, will help you control portion sizes and keep food costs in line.

Recipes by Gina - Recipe of the Moment

Fusilli with Sausage, Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • 3/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced,
  • 2 tablespoons of oil reserved
  • 1 pound Italian hot sausages, casings removed
  • 2 (8-oz) packages frozen artichoke hearts
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 16 ozs fusilli pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 8 oz water-packed fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed,  
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the sausages and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces with a fork, about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer the sausage to a bowl.
  • Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Cook the fusilli in boiling water until tender, about 8 minutes.
  • Drain the pasta (do not rinse).
  • Add the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup parmesan, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture.
  • Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta.
  • Stir in the mozzarella. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  • Serve, passing the additional parmesan cheese alongside.

“This is a delicious recipe! If fusilli, sausage and sauce are all prepared ahead, the meal can be assembled in about 7 minutes, basically just heating ingredients through. Perfect for a quick lunch special on a cool autumn day!”