Restaurant Portion Controls and Why They're So Important

Do you ever wonder why it's so important to have portion controls in your restaurant? Eyeballing it seems more efficient, doesn’t it? Well, if you’re not using portion controls in your restaurant kitchen, it’s having a big impact on your food cost. Watch this video, or continue scrolling, to learn how to freshen up on portion controls and why.

I get it. You're busy, right? I can hear your kitchen manager right now telling you how you don't need portion controls because your guys are good. They can use their hand, right? But this is wrong because everyone doesn’t have the same size hand. If somebody with a big hand is putting the cheese on the pizza versus someone with a small hand, imagine what that’s doing to the cost of your pizza. Not only does someone putting on extra cheese on some of the pizzas cost you, it also costs you in consistency. The reason customers come back to you over and over again is because they can expect the same experience and that starts with your product.

So, let's talk about some solutions for portion control...

The first thing is you have to have scales. You’re probably thinking right now that the last thing you need is another digital scale. I bet if I walk in your kitchen right now, and I go to that stainless prep table, and I open up that drawer, there are three dead digital scales in there. But I have good news. You don’t have to buy another digital scale. Buy a springy one. They are cheap. The key is calibrating them. How? Go grab a stick of butter. It's a perfect pound. Put it on the digital scale and use it to adjust the scale so it’s show a pound. Then you know it’s calibrated and can test it from time to time the same way.

When it comes to the second fool-proof method for portion controls, I like to remind people I’m not a chef, but I do know something about ladles. I know if I go down the line, and I put a ladle in each one of the sauces, or anything that I need to make sure is ladled out during service, I want to make sure I use the right ladle based on the recipe. For example a one-ounce or two-ounce ladle and so on. Why is that important?

Take demi glaze for example. To my chefs who are watching this, I understand demi glaze takes a lot of time to make and is critical to the dish. It is salty. It is expensive. So, if your recipe calls for a one-ounce ladle, and your kitchen puts a two-ounce ladle in, there are a couple consequences. Number one, you lose money. Number two, you kill the dish. So, you have to make sure you have the right ladles. 

Measuring containers are another key instrument in restaurant portion controls. A good example is a chain restaurant, especially a fast casual where you go down a line, and you're getting a salad, and they have something the size of a small coffee cup and a larger coffee cup size. These are the only options for filling up the salad, and serve as the small and the large. You can use anything as long as you use something that is standard and the same every time. 

I had a good friend who used a Taco Bell to-go cup on his line. It doesn't matter what it is as long as you have a consistent size and can replicate it.

Standard vessels are another must in restaurant portion controls. This is for serving you dish. You want to make sure that you have consistency in what you’re using. Why? Because you’re giving your guests the best experience possible and making sure the portions are right. This impacts consistency and customer satisfaction, but it all affects menu mix.

If you want to know what your ideal food cost is, you must have up-to-date recipe costs cards and a point of sale (POS) system. Get the menu mix from POS system and your recipe costing cards, you know how many you sold of each item. With this you know how much product the staff should have used and how much money you should have brought in. That’s use divided by sale and that’s your ideal food cost.

Well, here's the crazy part. Without portion controls, you’re likely over portioning your plates by 10 percent. Your naked eye can’t see 10 percent more shredded cheese on a pizza, or 10 percent more French fries on a plate. You can’t see 10 percent more rice or beans. When you see it on the line, and you actually notice when it comes out the window that it’s too big, that’s more like 25 to 30 percent over portioning. So, if we can agree that the naked eye can't see 10 percent over portioning, then you’re not sending back every dish that is over portioned back to be redone. You’re sending a lot of food out of the kitchen unaccounted for. 

Even if you’re only doing this by 10 percent every time, you’re going to increase your food cost by three points. For a million-dollar-a-year business with a 30 percent food cost, that crushes your profitability. This shows you how important proper portions are for profitability and consistency so the guest gets the same experience every single time. 

If you want to start to control your food cost, it starts with portion controls in your restaurant.

I cover systems like this and more in my book? Order your copy of  Restaurant Prosperity Formula: What Successful Restaurateurs Do here

If you would like to learn more about the importance of systems and how to run a restaurant, read our free special report, Is Your Food Distributor Screwing You? 5 Things You Can Do Now to Lower Food Cost. Download it here. Be sure to visit my YouTube channel for more helpful restaurant management video tips.

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