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Friday, October 19, 2007

Chronic Waste

Do you feature lots of specials? If specials account for over one third of your volume, you probably experience a significant waste expense. Forecasting is much more complex with menus featuring market-based entree specials.

I find many menus focused on specials create chronic waste. The cost of each bad decision is not immediately recognized most of the time. These mistakes are frozen, rehashed, served on buffets and fed to employees. Some executives praise chefs and kitchen managers for their talent with using leftovers. There is nothing wrong with creatively using a modest amount of over-production. Chronic waste starts when the over-production becomes routine.

Once your operation starts producing too much product due to poor forecasts, you eventually begin to focus more on mistakes than successes. Wait staff are asked to recommend last night's poorly received 5th choice rehashed into tonight's number one choice. Freezer space is used to store items which will become an expense of some future period. At an extreme, I have witnessed companies spending capital resources on greater freezer capacity.

So how do you end this cycle of progressive and chronic waste? The simple way is to develop and feature a solid slate of popular entrees on your base menu. Use specials judiciously to highlight seasonal favorites (preferably using low cost seasonal ingredients).

It's OK to offer some variations on a theme but try to utilize fewer meat and seafood raw ingredients. Waste expands as the variety of protein ingredients increases in your walkin cooler. Operators with limited menus experience very little waste because they offer the same entrees and sandwiches day after day. Study this simplicity before revising your menu strategy.

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