Count-n-Control was recently reviewed on the Back Burner Blog. Greg McGuire blogs about the foodservice industry at The Back Burner, which is written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant equipment and food service supplies. Here’s what they had to say:

“Count-n-Control is the brainchild of long-time industry pro Paul Clarke, and it’s a tool that is going to revolutionize how you track inventory in your restaurant. No, Count-n-Control doesn’t have some crazy new way to track your stock so that shrink is 100% eliminated, and no, it’s not going to help you find the cure for cancer.

But everything you need and expect from an inventory management system is here at your fingertips…”

Read the whole review here…

5 Stock Rotation Tips

September 6, 2009


Stock Rotation protects your investment. Food Poisoning incidents can ruin the reputation of your establishment. Here’s 5 ways to promote stock rotation:

  1. FIFO (First In, First Out). This is a foundation rule of stock rotation: Use oldest items first.
  2. Put newly received goods to the back of the store to promote FIFO.
  3. Record the receipt-date and use-by date on goods as they are received.
  4. Record use-by date on non-perishables when they are opened.
  5. Record production-date and use-by dates on food prepared, that will not be served immediately.

Count-n-Control Launches Today

September 1, 2009


For the past serveral months I have been working on an online food stock control system named Count-n-Control (CnC).  CnC is based on a simple client based system that I developed 10 years ago, and has been used in over 50 food operations.

It is only in recent times that web technology has progressed to a point where online apps are feasible for applications that require large amounts of data entry.  For example: it is now possible to enter the transactions from an invoice quickly and efficiently online.  Historically this type of data entry was slow and clumsy with web-based applications.

CnC also leverages a number of ideas from Web 2.0, including:

  • “cloud-based” service delivery model, accessible for any internet enabled device
  • the traditional audit log is replaced with an exposed twitter style activity log
  • the “Freemium” business model means anyone is free to use Count-n-Control at no cost

Many of you will have stock control systems in place.  However, for those who don’t the barrier to entry has just been lowered.  You can now access to a tool for monitoring and controlling the performance of your operation at no cost.

I will post further insights into CnC over the coming posts.  In the mean time I invite you to sign-up and let me know what you think.

Portion Size

Portion Control is an effective way to control food cost at the Production Phase of the Food Service Cycle. Here are a six simple Portion Control techniques:

Document Recipes
Providing documented recipes that clearly communicates the standard portion sizes provides the foundation for effective portion control.

Plate Presentation Photos
Photograph each menu item and display them in a prominent place in the kitchen. This provides a visual reminder of standard portions and is a guide for consistent plate presentation.

Mise en Place portioning
Portion ingredients before service. For dishes that are made to order, portion ingredients into small reusable plastic containers and stack them on trays ready for service.

Keep a Measure with Ingredients
Store a spoon, cup or container that holds the standard portion amount with each ingredient.

Keep a Scales in the Kitchen
Make it easy to check portions during service by making a set of scales readily available.

Monitor Meals being Served
Assign responsibility for visually checking dishes before they leave the kitchen to a member of the kitchen team.


If you buy the notion of working smarter vs. harder, the 80/20 principle is certainly a great starting point.  When a restaurateur searches for the 20% of his operation producing the 80% impact, I’d like to suggest a simple method.  The 4 V’s stand for volume, variance, volatility and value.

It is important to focus on high volume activities.  Ranking your menu items by the percentage of total sales is a popular weekly report.  Try the same analysis on your food purchases.  If you monitor production of batch recipes, you could rank these by the highest volume.  In every case, find the high volume items and activities.

Avoid spending lots of time on issues which do not produce a decent return for your efforts.  If there is a low variance in usage, price, or any other business metric, look elsewhere.  There are lots of high volume items with very little variance from your budgeted expectation.  Maybe you consume lots of rolls but the usage report indicates the rolls were used properly.  Find another item with a higher variance.

Price volatility is a major opportunity area.  Locate all of your raw ingredients with volatile market prices.  Any positive actions you take in purchasing these items will produce a benefit.

Most chefs have a handful of items stored in their offices.  You may find truffle oil, saffron, cognac and other high value items.  They recognize the relative value (in terms of cost per milliliter or gram) of these items.

If you focus on high volume items and activities with usage variances, price volatility or high relative value, the 80/20 principal will start improving your return on time invested.


All menus have some Plough Horses (also known as Cash Cows). The profitability/contribution metric used in the Menu Engineering Model is based on an average.   The nature of an average means there will always be some items below the average. Assuming all items meet the popularity benchmark, any items below the average are Plough Horses and all those items above the average are Stars.

The popularity benchmark is based on 70% of the average number of items sold.  Any items that don’t meet the popularity benchmark are Dogs or Puzzles.

As a result, we expect to have some Plough Horses on the menu. These are the menu items that our customers keep coming back for. They are perceived as good value for money and are often the backbone of the business.   They tend to sell themselves, leaving us to focus on our Stars.

Resource: Menu Engineering Model


Inventory management is time consuming and takes our focus away from building sales and providing a great customer experience.

The Pareto Principal states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In other words: 20% of your stock items make up %80 of your stock value. By focusing on the high value 20% we can minimize the time spent on stock control, but ensure this time is spent on the things that really matter.

To implement the Parento Principle go through a full stock take and select the high value stock items that you want to focus on. You can then summarize the remaining items into a nominal cost. Next time you do a stock take you only need to count the high value items and use the previously calculated nominal value to represent the other items. You can still calculate all the key metrics like Cost of Goods and Gross Profit, but minimize the time spent on stock control.