Why You Should Take Portion Control Seriously

Effective portioning reduces labor, over-use, and food waste.
Effective portioning reduces labor, over-use, and food waste. Thinkstock

Implementing portion control procedures can save your restaurant time and money

Implementing portion control procedures can save your restaurant time and money

Quality control is critical to any restaurant operation, but proper quality control requires a lot of thought as to how it is accomplished. You must factor in labor cost, skill of the person doing the portioning, the equipment being used, and so much more.

Portion control, in theory, provides the operator with consistency, and consistency would seem to result in standards that your customers would appreciate, as well as food costs that always meet your budget.

However, portion control may not be that simple. Portion control as we know it means we put everything into a portion bag and believe it will be consistent all the time. But, here are a few questions to consider:

  • How much labor goes into the portioning of all these products?
  • Is your executive chef doing the portioning? If not, how consistent are the weights of the portions? Is the scale accurate?
  • Are the dates on the portion bags accurate and what is the shelf life?
  • Are you rotating your portions?

Do the products going into portion bags deteriorate because they should not be in plastic?

The answers to these questions could help you determine whether you need to review your methods of portion control. The key is to evaluate your menu and all the products that go into it.

To do this properly, you need an analysis of each item. For example, is it worth buying a 40-pound block of cheddar, shredding it, portioning it, cleaning the equipment, and paying for the labor associated with it? Or, should you be buying shredded cheddar and using a utensil like a spoodle to give you a consistent portioned weight every time? The answer depends on how you are using shredded cheddar and whether it can be distributed in a more profitable manner.

Portion cups and portion spoons have been in kitchens for many years. They are a critical element of portion control and are still used in every kitchen for recipes. Essentially, anything can be used as a portion device. You simply have to find the right vessel and make sure when filled to the top, it weighs what you have allocated in your recipe. By doing the work up front and training your staff accordingly, you will save money.

Another great portion control utensil is a scoop. Using the right sized scoop that is color-coded will provide great portion control, as well as speed of service. Surely, you can portion your tuna salad and other similar items into plastic soufflés to ensure portion control. But, you need to consider how much is left in the soufflé? How much labor was used? What was the cost of the soufflé?

You also need to be sure that the utensils that your staff members are using are working well and that you have back-ups. Your staff can’t follow the guidelines if they do not have the proper tools.

Deli meats and cheeses are items that in many cases should be sliced and portioned in your kitchen. You must have a quality slicer with a sharp blade. The trained employee must understand what the weight per slice is and what the overall portion is. Yes, pre-sliced product can and should be used where consistent portions are needed, and you do not have the skilled labor or equipment to slice in your kitchen.

One other key focus to be consistent and mindful of is to have multiple uses for as many of your products as possible. For instance, if you are cutting 8-ounce fish portions or 6-ounce chicken portions and there is leftover trim, you need another use for these products. It could be in kabobs, stir fry, soups and so much more. If there is not another use, it is likely going to result in over portioning or waste.  If you are not going to use some of these products for a secondary use, it is best to purchase the product “clean.” Yes, you will pay more per pound for the “clean” 6-ounce breast, but you will eliminate the waste and other components of cost.

Without question, portion control is not just for condiments, but it also requires some serious forward thinking to make sure you are buying the right products based upon the labor you have, the size of your kitchen and storage space, as well as the applications of the products. Spend time evaluating your products beyond just creating a menu and set your staff up for success with the right equipment and portioning tools, and you will have greater consistency on your products and your food cost.

Bruce Reinstein

Bruce Reinstein is president of Consolidated Concepts Inc., the leading purchasing partner in the United States for restaurants. Consolidated Concepts is focused on supporting multi-unit restaurants with leveraged buying and consulting in order to reduce spend, source products, and position themselves to grow without taking on additional labor. He can be reached at bruce.reinstein@consolidatedconcepts.net.

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