Seven Steps to Food Cost Control


by Kirby D. Payne, CHA , October, 1998

Kirby  D.  Payne,  CHA  is  President of Minneapolis based  American  Hospitality  Management Company,  a growing hotel investment, management and consulting firm.   Payne is also Secretary Elect of the American Hotel & Motel Association, and Chair of the  AH&MA's  International Council of Hotel-Hotel Management Companies.  Additional  articles can be found on the internet at www.American-Hospitality.com.


After I returned from Viet Nam in 1971 I completed my senior year of college at the hotel school  of  Florida State University.   The Chair of the department was Peter Dukas who taught  a class  on food & beverage management which used a text book he had authored called,  "How To Operate A Restaurant".   Long ago,  I loaned the book out and never got it back so don't quote me as saying this is his list when I refer to it. 

Professor  Dukas  used to love to make us memorize lists.   Through the prism of over  26 years  I still think I remember his favorite list,  seven steps to food cost control.   Over the years I have  referred back to that mental checklist and adapted from it.   It has been useful to me and I'll list it here as I remember it, right or wrong. 

1.  ORDERING  -  The  first  step  is to  order  right.  Having detailed  recipes,  designing purchasing   specifications,   doing  comparative  shopping  based  on those  specifications,   and comparing  quality,  price  and  service,  etc.   Oh  yes,  don't  order too  early  in  order  to  avoid spoilage, wasted storage space and lost interest on your money.  Don't order too late, so premium costs and delivery charges accrue.  I remember being told standing orders were a bad habit. 

2.  RECEIVING - The fundamentals are obvious: count; weigh;  inspect for condition and quality;  verify  against  the purchase order;  keep the receiving area clean and  uncluttered;  limit access  to  the  receiving area;  train the person receiving and make him or  her responsible.   Get credit memos from the delivery driver. 

3. STORING - Is the method and place of storage for the various items appropriate for the item?  Is  it  secure  from  pilferage?   Are  the shelves strong enough for  the  product,  allow  air circulation and easy to clean?   Are all items stored at a temperature appropriate for that product? Are  items  dated  (with year,  in some cases) and priced?   Is the storage area orderly  and  clean? Should shelves be labeled and maybe even stocking quantities noted? 

4. ISSUING - What is issuing based on?  Who has access and or authority to issue or take things  from  the  secured  store  rooms  and  walk-ins?    Are  issues being  made  in  appropriate quantities   and at appropriate times?   Is there a relationship to volume or reasonable par  stocks?  Are  issues being accounted for?   Is a perpetual inventory or sign out sheet designed  specifically for your operation or a particular store room in use? 

5.  PREPARATION  - I'm not so clear about the details here any more because it has been a  long  time  since  I  worked in a kitchen regularly.   Phrases that come  to  mind  include:  trim properly;  use  trimmings for stock pots and other recipes.  Proper tools, sharp knives,  clean and neat  working area,  enforcing a policy of following recipes,  and having photos of finished  products  available and used regularly are also critical.   Enough said,  as I suspect my readers know a lot more than I do about this! 

6.  COOKING - Various considerations here, again my readers know more than I.  Proper temperatures,  proper  cooking times,  following recipes carefully,  using photographs of finished products, correct size, material, and type of utensils and cookware, clean work area. 

7.  SERVING  - Serving is not only about portion control,  it is also about decisions made regarding  portion  size and presentation.   With a buffet,  it is obvious. Proper  serving  utensils, proper holding/serving equipment, right presentation order, plate sizes, etc.  In a bar its easy, too.  Jiggers  or  other  measuring  and control devices and very strict discipline.   I  take  it  back,  the discipline  isn't  easy  especially  in tight labor markets.   Dining room service should  be  easy  to control  using good kitchen supervisors,  trained cooks,  photographs for both cooks and  servers, etc.    Watch  what  comes  back  from  bused  tables  to  see  if portions  are  proper.   Marketing decisions  may  drive  large  portions  but if the patrons are not eating it  or  taking  it  home,  the portion size or the recipe should be reconsidered.   Proper china for each item served is important for both presentation and portion control. 

Work   hard   on  your  cost  controls  and  be  consistent  about them.   One   element   of controlling  food  cost covers all seven categories:  thorough training. Give your staff the  ability and knowledge and confidence to do their jobs properly and to your specifications. Inconsistency and  failure  to enforce procedures will drive costs skyward.  Failure here is like throwing  money away. 
 

Also See: Room Service or is it Food Delivery? / Kirby D. Payne, CHA
Lets Talk About Cost Controls / Kirby D. Payne 
Increasing Food and Beverage Revenues in Hotels / Kirby D. Payne, CHA
Branding and Repositioning Food & Beverage - the case for outsourcing partnerships / Arthur Andersen / Summer 1998 
For additional information, contact: 
Kirby D. Payne at the firm 
American Hospitality Management Company
1500 South Highway 100, #375
Minneapolis, MN 55416 
Phone: 763-591-7640 Fax: 763-591-1593 
email: kpayne@american-hospitality.com

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