As food prices continue to climb, and restaurant franchises have to contend with high food prices, controlling portion size is critical to meeting targeted food cost. For many restaurant franchisees portion control is a big area of concern. They have to be very diligent with their staff to make sure that they are portioning food servings properly while also satisfying customers.
How does Anat Apter, founder and owner of Anat – one of South Africa’s leading fast food franchises – manage food portions across more than 20 franchised stores?
“What I care about is generosity and giving,” she says. “I’m very influenced by the Mediterranean way of thinking about food. It’s all about largesse and hospitality for people like the Italians, Greeks and Israelis. The dinner table is the centre of the home. I cannot work with people who worry about portion sizes. Fill the pita, I tell them. Be generous. A little extra filling is nothing compared to the loyalty you get from customers in return.”
Anat specialises in Middle Eastern cuisine such as shwarma, falafel and laffa. When Apter talks about filling the pitas, she’s careful to note that protein size must be controlled. “The size of a serving of beef or chicken can make all the difference when it comes to meeting a food cost target, ordering the right quantities, not raising menu prices, and potentially having a profitable restaurant – not to mention a consistent dish for your customers.”
Careful control of the amount of food served to every customer is essential to running a business efficiently and achieving a comfortable profit margin. Through portion control, food franchise kitchens can save thousands of rand every year.
Quality vs cost
One of the factors to consider when deciding on the amount of food per portion in a restaurant is the buying price. Portion control is closely linked with food costs: Better quality meat, for example, usually yields a greater number of portions than poorer quality cuts, but will cost more up-front, notes Apter.
The trick is to know where the savings actually kick in when going for higher quality. A good example is lower quality stewing beef, which is likely to require a large amount of trimming that will yield maybe four to five portions per half kilo, whereas higher quality stewing beef would require less trimming and might yield as much as six to seven portions per half kilo.
“Not only does this increase revenue by portions sold, but also saves time and labour involved in preparation,” she says.
Apter stresses that in the fast food industry, you must have procedures for controlling inventory and costs. Some of these include:
- Purchasing. Buying is normally done by telephone, fax or online. Often no contract is signed between the purchaser and the supplier, which makes it essential to choose your supplier carefully. Specify food brand names, size, quantity, grade/weight, delivery, emergency deliveries, availability and policies for substitutes or damaged goods. Invite bids from multiple sources and get the best product for the lowest price. Use a Purchasing and Receiving Form.
- Receiving. Check all deliveries against the Purchasing and Receiving Form, focusing on three things: Quantity, price and quality. Make sure specifications are met. Recording these facts will reveal any short shipments, price variations and weight differences.
- Budgeting and projecting. Establish a cash budget and continuously maintain cash flow projections.
- Calculating monthly food costs. Determine the real cost of food consumed and the real cost of food sold. This is a combination of opening inventories, purchases, adjustments and closing inventories. This ratio should remain fairly constant.
- Preparing food. Make sure staff understand portion sizes (photograph entrées or give written instructions) and set up a recipe reference file to list dishes, portions and supplies needed.
- Storing. Ensure refrigerated and frozen products are quickly placed in cold storage. Rotate your stock to ensure that oldest items are used before the new stock.