How Portion Control Affects your Restaurant Food Cost


One of the reasons franchised fast food outlets are profitable is because they have a handle on their input costs, especially their food cost. The reason is simple, they exercise good portion control.

In conventional restaurants, portion control is equally important. Not only does this help control food cost, but it also creates predictability for the clientele who always receive the same size portions.

Benefits include reduced food wastage and fewer complaints about undersize portions. Here’s how portion control affects your food cost.

Related: 10 Ways to Improve Your Restaurant Food Cost

Predictable Input Costs and Improved Margins

In a restaurant that is not controlling portion sizes, it is likely the portion sizes will be larger than intended. This means food costs are higher than anticipated and have a significant impact on the financial margins of the restaurant. For example, if you assume that the portions are 15 percent larger than they should be and if food cost represents 35 percent of the selling price, your operating margin will be reduced by more than 5 percent. Restaurants often operate on tight margins, and this additional cost may represent the difference between survival and profitability.

Less Wastage and Loss

Food that is served and not eaten is wasted. This usually happens when portions are too big. The cost of the wasted food represents an unnecessary loss, and getting rid of that excess food increases cleaning and waste disposal costs. It’s also discouraging to the staff to see uneaten food being returned to the kitchen.

Strict control of the portion size will avoid this wastage and reduce input costs.

Each Plate Costs the Same

Portion control means that each plate of food costs the same every time apart from variation in food prices. This consistency means managers can accurately calculate their input costs and monitor profitability of the restaurant on a day-to-day basis rather than waiting for month end results.

Related: 13 Food Cost Tips

Visual Aids Help Portion Control

It helps to bring the kitchen staff fully onboard. Firstly, they need to understand the financial implications of poor portion control. If portions are too large, food costs and waste increases. Conversely, if portions are too small, customers may be dissatisfied and not return.

Secondly, they need training and guidance on how to plate the correct amount of each item. This isn’t that simple: most restaurants serve a variety of dishes, and each has different foods and portion sizes.

One way to assist staff is to prepare visual aids that show the exact portions for each dish. These could include a picture of each dish with annotations showing the quantities. Alternatively, the chef could display a chart that shows the required quantities for each item.

Another way to promote consistency is to use simple and effective methods for dispensing the correct sized portions. For example, different sized scoops and ladles may be used to plate the right amount of soft or semi-liquid foods such as ice cream or soups. If it’s practical, separate the food into the correct portions and store it in small labeled containers.

These ideas will improve portion control and reduce restaurant food costs. What other methods does your restaurant employ? Leave a comment below.

For more info on Ideal Software’s Inventory Management system for controlling inventory and food cost IdealStockControl

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