portion control audit measurement
Restaurant Management

How to Perform a Portion Audit And Save Your Restaurant Money

If you’ve ever been out to eat at a restaurant where you and your dining companions ordered the same dishes, you know just how different the same entrees can look.

While this may be mildly amusing as a diner, it sheds light on a serious problem many restaurant owners face. The problem is portion control, and the consequence is decreased restaurant profitability.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to get the issue under control and ensure it doesn’t hurt the future of your restaurant.

Why Portion Control Matters

Think about the example above. You and your dining counterparts all went to the same restaurant, ordered the same thing and paid the same price. What you got, though, were very different plates.

This means that someone at the table likely paid too much for their dinner, while someone else likely underpaid. Although it might seem like this evens out for the restaurant owner, it doesn’t work like that.

If each plate that goes out of a kitchen is portioned differently, it becomes impossible to calculate profit margins and keep tabs on expenses.

Here are a few examples that might shock you:

  • Two extra shrimp on 20 plates per day adds up to $3,796 annually
  • One extra ounce of cucumbers 60 times daily costs you $1,574 annually
  • Two extra pieces of bacon 15 times a day wastes 36.5 cases of bacon annually

The only solution to this waste is portion control. When you control the portions you send out to your customers, you can cut costs and ensure your restaurant maintains a healthy profit margin.

Establishing a Portion Control Method

The best way to ensure consistent portion control is to create a predictable portion control method. This is especially critical when it comes to ingredients like proteins, soups, veggies, and starches.

For the proteins, a simple portion scale will help you keep an eye on some of your most expensive items. Before you serve a protein, weigh it on a portion scale to ensure it’s within range and make any needed adjustments before it leaves the kitchen.

When it comes to starches, veggies, and soups, measuring utensils can be helpful. Spoons and ladles for soups, for example, will help ensure consistent portions and prevent you from losing money on accidental, yet too-large, portion sizes. While it may seem like no big deal, a few extra veggies on the occasional plate could quickly add up to thousands in lost revenue within a year.

How to Conduct a Portion Control Audit

The first and most critical step to getting a handle on portion control is to run a portion control audit. Here’s how:

  • Create a portion audit form. If you don’t want to build one, you can also find a free version online. The form should include columns such as “edible portion”, “as purchased cost”, and “editable portion cost” for the most accurate costing.

Recipe-Costing-Template_example-1
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  • Fill out the form. This helps you get an idea of how much the selling price of an item is or should be, and if you need to adjust it accordingly.

By conducting a portion audit, you can get an idea of standard portions and set your selling prices accordingly. If you’re over-portioning an item (portions are larger than spec), you know you’re losing money. If you’re dishing out smaller-than-spec portions, you’re making customers pay more than their meals are worth.

Luckily, a portion audit can help you keep your portion sizes in line with your pricing strategy and ensure both your restaurant and your customers are faring well.

Considering Water Use

One place people typically forget to think about portion control is water use. Water is commonly overlooked as a resource, and most restaurants use much more than their fair share of water.

When you think about it, everything from washing dishes to preparing vegetables requires water, and that water influences your monthly and yearly expenses, whether you’re cognizant of it or not.

Luckily, realizing how much water impacts your budget is a great way to save money. Here are a few tips to cut back on your water use and increase your bottom line:

  • Fix Leaky Faucets. Leaky faucets can cost you hundreds in lost water each year. Fix anything that drips or doesn’t seal correctly.
  • Run Full Loads Only. Don’t waste water sending half racks through the washer. Instead, wait until the rack is full and go from there.
  • Equip Sinks With Foot Pedals. Foot pedals can cut down on water waste and make dishwashing more conservative.
  • Train Employees to Conserve Water. Get your employees in on the water-conservation effort by training them to use less.
  • Install Low-Water Landscaping. If you’re wasting water outside, it won’t matter if you’re conserving it inside. Install low-water landscaping to cut back on watering requirements and keep your restaurant looking beautiful.

The Case for Portion Control

If you want to run a profitable restaurant, portion control is an essential pursuit. By cutting down on waste, both in ingredients and water, your restaurant can increase its bottom line, stretch each product further and ensure consistency in every dish that leaves the kitchen.