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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Exposing Hidden Food Waste

There are plenty of issues in every operation which could be corrected if only management was aware of their existence. Many operators avoid the effort required to create a detailed operations manual. Given the turnover level in our industry, this document should be mandatory. Imagine working as a line cook or expediter without any point of reference. You are hired and receive very little direction.

Immediately, you start work using your prior experience to guide you in your new position. Maybe you never cut steaks at your previous jobs since portion control cuts were used. Orders come in for strip steaks and you are told the meat is in a walkin cooler and the policy is to cut steaks from the boneless strip loin. Properly cutting steaks is not your forte. Instead of 11 steaks per strip, your efforts yield only 10 steaks. In a steak house this would be unlikely but possible. In a casual dining operation with a large menu, this is common.

Lack of training and standard portion control costs this operation 10% extra on each steak served.

Produce preparation is subject to tremendous yield swings. Even the industry sources disagree on produce yields. Whenever you prepare anything other than the entire piece of fruit or vegetable (e.g. head of lettuce or an apple), you have an impact on yield. On slow nights and in many low volume operations, produce prep takes place on an inpromptu basis. With no specific person or team tasked with produce prep, the exercise produces wide swings in yield.

French fries seem like a straight forward item to properly portion. One of my clients called me excited one day to retell a success story with our recently built usage variance model. The system uncovered a 30% overuse of fries. The issue involved poor training of a new hire. This cook would fry an entire bag of fries. He portioned the fries perfectly on each plate after the expediter showed him how the fries should look on the plate.

Early and late in the meal periods, his cooked fries would be routinely swept into the nearby garbage pail once they were cold. A quick training session fixed the issue. He was taught how to portion the fries before cooking during slower times.

[An anonymous reader left a comment on the Food Cost Basics post which pertains to waste.]

After 20 years of running Full Service Restaurants. Food cost can be attacked by two basic angles. 60% of all food cost is in the garbage can (waste). The rest is over portioned. Focusing your coaching and training on these two key areas will typically keep your food cost in check. However, in some types of restaurants, such as Steak houses, you have to focus on your budgeted number and it will be much higher, but keep in mind RTN or return to net. If you sell a 24 oz cowboy Ribeye for $20.00 and it cost you $10. You have a 50% food cost, but your making $10 on each one sold. For a comparison, take chicken wings, you might sell them for $10 and have a cost of $3. You have a 30% cost, but your making $3 less than the 50% cost, Ribeye. Food for thought.

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