I’m travelling between Columbus Ohio and San Antonio Texas today on my way to my quarterly mastermind meeting (more about that later). Walking through the maze of gates and terminals in Chicago airport, I was reminded how the larger chain restaurants and cafes can teach smaller owner run establishments a lot about portion control and cost control.
As a restaurant chain grows and more outlets are added, the risk of group failure is multiplied by every additional outlet that opens. Restaurant chains therefore have to have a solid system of cost and portion control in place before they scale up so that they don’t take their weaknesses with them to each additional opening.
As I was walking past Auntie Annes, a bagel chain, I noticed that one of the workers behind the counter was busy rolling the dough for the bagels. Once she had the dough rolled, she laid the length of roll on the counter over a pre-printed image of a pretzel, allowing her to make sure the size of her dough matched the size painted on the preparation area. This way, every bagel prepared by every worker remains the same size and head office is able to calculate their costs for this item very accurately. If every worker had his own ideas for the size of a bagel, cost control would go out the window and consistency would be eliminated.
If you’re not applying the same mentality to your serving sizes and portions, then now would be a good time to do so. Here some simple ways to start controlling your portion sizes today:
1. When serving soup, instead of filling the bowl to the top every time, use a serving ladle that holds exactly one portion of soup that you have already worked out the cost on, ensuring consistency each time.
2. When serving mashed potatoes or vegetable with lunch or dinner, set a standard number of scoops to be used. For example, two scoops of mashed potato leveled off and using the same size scoop every time.
3. When serving cocktails, check to make sure that your customers are actually finishing their drinks. Maybe your glassware is too big and too generous. Maybe your glasses are larger than your competitors and don’t need to be. Being generous is great, as long as it doesn’t cost you more to be generous every time.
4. Check the garbage! While you might not have to go through the garbage by hand every night, you do need to pay attention to what is coming back on the plates from your customers. Look for trends where certain dishes are never finished. Are you giving out too many boxes for your meals for your customers to take home when you could just be reducing the size of the portions?