Good restaurants provide a consistent dining experience. The quality, quantity and presentation of food plays a major role in a customer’s experience. Too often guests are disappointed by a meal they have tried previous that does not meet their expectations.

Here’s 10 ways you can control the consistency of the food you produce:

Ingredients – Select ingredients that can be reliably sourced. It’s fine to have specials featuring seasonal or rare ingredients, however if you want consistency in the food you plate, it’s not a good idea to include them in your regular recipes.

Purchasing – Find a suppler that is willing to provide ingredients that meet your requirements. Clearly define what you want. Be prepared to pay a bit more to a supplier that can take responsibility for providing the right ingredients.

Buy Right – Consider purchasing pre-portioned ingredients. They often cost a bit more, but once you factor trimming and labour, it can be relatively cost effective.

Receiving – Monitor incoming goods to ensure they meet your standards.

Preparation – Where possible portion your ingredients before service. There is pressure to cut corners in the middle of a busy meal period. Portion ingredients as part of you preparation process.

Use Scales and Measures – measure the amount of ingredients you use and the amount of food you plate. Simple right?

Plating to Capacity – present your food in crockery that governs the amount of food it can hold. McDonalds control the quantity of chips served with each meal by putting them in a bag or box with a limited capacity. Use crockery such as ramekins to do the same.

Communication – ensure your team understand what your standards are. Provide them with recipes and photographs that clearly show how each menu item should look.  Tools such as Write-a-Recipe can be used to document recipes, including preparation instructions and plating photographs.

Training – teach your crew to ensure they have the skills required to prepare and plate food in a consistent manner.

Monitor – keep a close eye on the food that leaves your kitchen to ensure it meets you standards.

How many food operations don’t know their recipes cost?  I have heard estimates of 80%-90% of food service operations don’t.  In an industry with a high failure rate, this seems incomprehensible.

Food cost is one of our biggest controllable costs and understanding the expected cost of recipes is fundamental to managing and planning in a food business.  Costing recipes is made easier with software solutions such as Write-a-Recipe (

A good recipe costing software solution will allow you create sub/batch recipes that can be used as an ingredient in other recipes, reducing duplication and allowing costs to flow through to the primary recipe.

It is also important you are able to factor yields into your recipe costs.  Many ingredients used in recipes “yield”/output a lesser usable amount after the production process.  Meat is a classic example, where butchering, trimming and the cooking process make a material impact on the amount which is plated.  Some software solutions allow you to factor the yield on each ingredient, others factor yield on the total output of the recipe/sub-recipe.

Ingredients are often measured in different ways.  For example, you may purchase flour by the kilogram, but use it by the gram.  Your recipe costing solution should allow you to specify the unit of measure (UoM) for the different ways in which ingredients are used.  It is also important that the system allow you to control the conversion between the different UoMs.

Your solution should also enable you to analyse the performance of your recipe in the context of the menu as a whole.  A balanced menu has a mixture of high margin and lesser margin items that provide a balance between customer value and profitability.  Techniques such as “Menu Engineering” enable operators to monitor this balance and identify menu items that require attention, or just aren’t working.

The food service industry engenders a lot of passion from dedicated operators.  However we all need to keep sight of the fact that we are in a tough business and passion needs to be balanced with adequate management.

Count-n-Control New Release

September 10, 2011

Today Count-n-Control announced the release of version 0.2 of the Count-n-Control online food inventory management solution.

This release included the following enhancements:

  • Usability improvements, making the site faster and easier to use.
  • New “Process Transaction” component, for faster invoice entry.
  • Performance optimization, to speed up the user experience.
  • Minor bug fixes and enhancements.

Count-n-Control has seen substantial growth since the launch of Count-n-Control, over three years ago. There have been two major hardware upgrades to cater for the increasing website traffic, with many users accessing the site multiple times per week.

Count-n-Control thanked everyone who has participated in the beta testing program, saying “Their support has helped to make Count-n-Control the best food stock control system online”.

Work Less, Manage More

December 22, 2009

Most managers in the food service industry work their way up from hands-on operational roles.  In the progression from operational to managerial roles a manager must learn to let-go of day-to-day operations in order to be more effective. This is often a painful transition.

A friend recently started a new role as manager of a multi-outlet operation. When he first started he was spreading himself thin, trying to manage the business while pulling duty manager shifts at night and on weekends.

It wasn’t long before he started to struggle with his administrative duties and the business began to suffer. His first instinct was to do more shifts to reduce cost. This is the downward spiral that many operators fall into.

There is an opportunity cost of covering shifts that could be filled by a $15/hr employee. There are many things that a manager can do that are worth more than $15/hr, including:

  • Recruiting – spend time recruiting the right people
  • Marketing – grow the business by spreading the word
  • Process re-engineering – tune processes to be more efficient
  • Financial Planning – Manage Creditors and Debtors to your advantage
  • Purchasing – Shop around for better deals

My friend made the right choice by stepping back from operational duties and focusing on management. The turnaround was almost immediate, as he capitalised on opportunities that were previously missed. He secured some major conferences, leveraged his suppliers to sponsor promotions and worked with a local traders association to coordinate promotional events.

Stepping-back to spend more time on management is difficult for many operators.  However, not doing so is limiting for both operator and business.

Catering for Kids

November 7, 2009


If you are in the family restaurant segment your children’s offering can make a difference. Here are 10 ways to position your business to better cater for children:

1. Serve everything with a side of Tomato Ketchup.  This will save you many trips back to the kitchen.

2. Arm your front of house team.  Teach your service staff techniques for engaging with children. Have a toolkit of ways to handle inevitable situations such as unruly monsters unsupervised by exhausted parents.

3. Always have a mop ready.  Children are still learning to drive their bodies and will spill, break and drop anything that isn’t fixed to the floor.

4. Provide child friendly activities.  Offer a play area, table activities or both. Keeping a child’s mind active will increase sales, encourage repeat business and decrease your rate of slide into insanity.

7. Get something edible on the table pronto.  This helps settle the children and keep them focused.

8. Offer a range of children’s dishes.;  Target your items at kids, but also include a couple of items that parents would prefer the kids to eat.

9. Offer children sized drinks.  Kids often struggle to get through a full sized soda.

10. Streamline your check-out process.;  Parents have a keen sense of when a child has has enough of any given environment/situation. It is often only a mater of minutes before a child changes from Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ, into Regan from The Exorcist.


This Food Cost Control Blog post has an interesting perspective on using a nominal cost in recipes to account for Complimentary Items (e.g. bread rolls etc…)

I like to create a setup recipe which may be used over and over in every entree selection. My Q factor includes all complimentary items (rolls, butter, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, salt & pepper, Tabasco sauce, etc.), salad portion, most popular dressing choice, most popular starch choice and the most popular side choice.

The POS system will keep track of the guest selections. If the most popular salad dressing is Blue Cheese and the POS modifier is Ranch, I like to make the recipe for the Ranch modifier equal to 1 portion of Ranch minus 1 portion of Blue Cheese. Since the Q factor already accounted for the Blue Cheese, the reduction of 1 Blue Cheese portion brings the count in line.

What’s a typical Q factor in a high end dining room offering rolls, butter, salad, baked potato, more butter, and sour cream? About $3 if you use fresh baked rolls.

Click here to read the full post…

Living The Backup Plan

Many kitchens rely heavily on one or two individuals to keep the wheels turning.  If one of these individuals get hit by the proverbial bus, your business could be in real trouble.

Here are some ways to reduce your Key Person Dependency:

  • Plan B, Be aware of your reliance on Key Persons and have a backup plan.
  • Documentation, Procedure manuals are overkill for most kitchens, however some basic documentation can save your bacon (excuse the pun).  Consider:
    • Recipes, including photographs to show presentation standards
    • Opening and closing checklists
    • Mis en place par levels
  • Training, share knowledge so that your team are interchangeable.

Very few of us live without some sort of insurance. Why should your business be any different?