Bottom Line Blog

A healthy dish with meat and vegetables uses portion control guidelines to ensure a healthy serving size.

How Portion Control Affects Restaurant Owners

October 3, 2018 11:00 am Published by

Portion control is a hot restaurant topic these days, in more ways than one. People have long discussed portion control as an essential component of maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding the tendency to overeat. However, there’s a good deal more discussion about portion control in restaurants all across the country, in the context of how much it is costing restaurant owners, and how that is impacting profitability.

For instance, you probably won’t have to look far in your own area to find a restaurant which serves huge portions of pizza, blue plate specials, and other plate-filling menu items. There are probably also some restaurants in your area which offer all-you-can-eat specials at various times to entice crowds to drop in. Everyone is familiar with how serving huge portions can impact diners, but have you ever stopped to think about how it impacts the restaurant offering such generous portions?

The Economics of Portion Control

Portion control should be one of the fundamental areas for restaurants to have tight control over, because of the bottom line impact it can have. In order for a restaurant to be truly cost-effective in its food preparation, costs should be determined based on the dollars it takes to prepare a specific portion and serve it to a customer.

When this guideline is implemented, and the menu item is priced at a figure which allows the restaurant to make a reasonable margin over its preparation cost, then profitability becomes possible. The same principle needs to be extended into the beverage aspect of the industry. For instance, when cocktails are made, they should be served with the standard one-ounce jigger of alcohol which is called for in mixology, and anything above that is probably contributing to a loss of profitability.

In fact, this principle is so important that it’s one of the key reasons why some of the larger chain restaurants throughout the country have managed to sustain their success over a long period of time. They have a tool for every task, a system for every process, and a measurement of everything being served.

While it may get to be tedious to measure out cheese by the gram, or scooping out guacamole with a dedicated spoon size, the details don’t lie. By being careful with measurements and portion control, these large chain restaurants in America have found at least one of the keys to profitability, and they go to great pains to make sure employees are trained in this doctrine. It might be a little inconvenient, and in some cases maybe even a little comical, but restaurant experts all agree that a portioning system is one of the most essential standards to be adopted in order to assure success.

A heaping serving of enchiladas represents a possible misstep in restaurant portion control.

While many larger chains consistently offer huge amounts of food in a single serving, it is relevant to consider the economics of portion control and how they affect your bottom line, and the health of your customers.

Portion Control and Consistency

Another aspect of portion control in restaurants that should be considered is the consistency issue. Apart from the food cost issue which impacts the bottom line, portion control should be exercised from the standpoint of having the ability to serve the same menu items consistently from one shift to another, and from one day to the next.

For instance, if you have a menu entrée of cranberry chicken with broccoli and mashed potatoes, it should be served in the same portion to every customer who orders it, so there’s never any discrepancy on portion sizes. To accomplish this, preparation personnel should be indoctrinated with the understanding that to make this particular entrée, it’s necessary to use a 6-ounce boneless chicken breast, one full cup of mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli, and an ounce of cranberry sauce, which is to be drizzled over the top of the chicken.

When the entrée is prepared exactly this way, every single time that it is served to a customer, portion sizes are exactly the same, and the customer can count on receiving the same entrée no matter when it is ordered. Imagine if a customer made this their favorite entrée at a particular restaurant, and came in to order it one day, only to find that the chicken breast was much smaller than usual, perhaps three or four ounces.

While customers don’t usually complain about receiving too much food, they will almost always be well aware of it when they receive too little. They rightfully expect to receive the exact same portion for the same price every single time an entrée is ordered, and in order to avoid displeasing your customers, you have to deliver on this unstated promise.

Implementing Portion Control in Your Restaurant

When you’re implementing a program of portion control at a restaurant, the first thing to do is to make sure your staff is always using the same dishes, the same utensils, and the same serving bowls. In the initial phases of such a program, it’s best to have a formal chart identifying the precise ingredients which make up any given entrée, and how it is to be prepared.

For instance, an appetizer of mozzarella sticks should always include five deep-fried mozzarella sticks with 3 ounces of sauce for dipping. Ideally, photographs should be included in this chart to help with understanding and to clarify anything might be ambiguous about the text. It’s also good to have a kitchen scale on hand when ingredients need to be measured by weight. With this set of steps in place, it will be easier for your staff to abide by the portion control guidelines.

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