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Portion Control: Are You Losing Money To Food Waste?

Restaurant Portion Control Like Coca-ColaImagine for a second that you run Coca-Cola instead of your restaurant.  You sell millions of cans of soda every day, and you’re making a decent profit.  Now imagine that as the founder and owner of Coke, you never bothered to standardize the size of each can, so some cans are 12 ounces, others are 13, and some are even as large as 16 ounces, but you charge the same price for all of them.

Think you’d be losing a little money every time you sold a 16 ounce can of Coke?

There are more similarities between your restaurant and Coca-Cola than you might think.  You both serve a consumable product.  You both charge a flat rate for a portion of that product although you make a lot more of that product than you serve each customer.

But unlike a lot of restaurants, I guarantee you Coca-Cola pours the same exact amount of Coke product into every single can.  Their price is then figured based upon making a certain amount of profit margin assuming that exact amount is in every single can.  As you can imagine, if their machines were off by a fraction of an ounce, they could lose millions of dollars.

Controlling the portion sizes you serve your customers is an easily overlooked but extremely important way to cut costs and preserve your restaurant’s margin.  In the high-pressure atmosphere of a commercial kitchen during the dinner rush, you need simple but highly effective methods for keeping portions exactly the same.Portion Scales

The first place to address portions is with proteins. A good portion scale can weigh out protein portions quickly and simply, giving you an extra measure of control over what is probably the most expensive item on any entrée plate.  Check out this blog post for more info on scales.

Secondly, your starches, veggies, soups, etc. need to be portioned out as exactly as possible.  Even a half ounce over the serving size called for in each entrée can translate into thousands of dollars in lost revenue over the course of year.  The easiest way to control these portion sizes is with kitchen utensils that measure portions accurately.  Vollrath’s line of ladles, dishers, and Spoodles are all designed to allow the quick and effective measurement of portion sizes.Portion Control

Portion control is important because it is the basis for calculating your restaurant’s profitability.  Especially in an era of deep discounting and razor thin margins, being able to control portions is an incredibly important element when you decide how to price your menu.  That’s because you’re making assumptions about how much each entrée served will cost you.  Those assumptions go out the window if the actual quantity served is incorrect.

Effective portion control allows you to dial up an aggressive price at a decent margin that beats the competition but keeps you profitable.  Any restaurant manager knows what a tightrope those margins can be.  Without portion controls, you’re far more likely to fall off than to make it to the other side.

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3 Responses to Portion Control: Are You Losing Money To Food Waste?

  1. Ryan August 24, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Real good point about the soda! What I would always catch is the staff filling up the glass of soda and letting the soda over flow the glass. I would ask the person, if at home would they keep on filling the glass till it spilled on the counter? The answer would always be NO, so why do it here! The same goes for over pouring on draft beer.

    • Greg McGuire August 25, 2011 at 3:45 am #

      It’s amazing how wasteful people get when they don’t have ownership… Getting employees to think like you, the owner, is one of the toughest battles to wage in the food waste war. Succeeding brings many rewards however.


  1. Simple Steps for Green Efficiency in the Restaurant Industry « Green Home Blog - March 20, 2012

    […] tracking your food waste can help you understand which areas you need to improve. Simple steps like portion control can greatly reduce food waste, but you won’t know how much you’re wasting food until you start […]

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