Improper Standards During Service can Impact Food Cost

Part 5 in the series on Food Cost Control following the guidelines set forth in the New Forty Thieves of Food Cost article. This section deals with managing Service, meaning the time-frame that the restaurant is open and serving food. Here is the summary of what the Forty Thieves guidelines say:


  • No standard portion size
  • No standard size utensils for serving
  • No records of food production
  • Carelessness (spillage, waste, cold food, re-fires)
  • Poor production planning during the transition from busy to slow periods
  • Inadequate or poorly trained “wheelman” to control the ticket flow and give “all-days”

No Standard Portion Size

This is pretty straight forward. If you don’t have a standardized recipe and portion spec then you do not have control over how much is being served and your food cost will certainly fluctuate unless you are the only one serving the food. Different cooks will serve different amounts unless you set a specific measurable standard (“one handful” is not a specific measurable standard!)

No Standard Size Utensils for Serving

Similar to not having a standard portion size, not having standard serving and/or portioning utensils can also hurt your food cost. Standard serving utensils may include specific sizes of disher scoops, ladles, serving spoons, portion cups, soufflé cups and so on. Standardized serving utensils also helps to ensure a consistent product to the guest (resulting in fewer guest complaints about varying portion sizes on their plate) and they can help increase speed of service.

No Records of Food Production

There are several food production sheets which can help improve communication and give you more control over both production and its impact upon food cost. They include the following forms:

  • Standardized Prep Sheets for each station as well as bulk/batch prepped items
  • Cooling Logs – used to track bulk prepped items from hot to cold as they go through the danger zone. These forms monitor the safe handling of your foods and result in less product being thrown out because it is bad, not to mention the more important priority of serving safe food and not losing business due to a foodborne illness outbreak.
  • Cooler Temperature Logs – a simple form to be used twice during each shift to check the temperature of your coolers. If the cooler goes down and no one notices it the result is a LOT of wasted food.
  • Shift Notes – daily shift notes via email or a Shift Log Book should provide pertinent info about the shift. Day and date, number of covers, is it a holiday, easy or rough shift, was there an event which impacted your covers, and so on. Shift Notes are extremely helpful for looking back to solve problems, and to be able to see how many covers you did last year on any given holiday which will then help you forecast how much food to prepare this year.


Carelessness (spillage, waste, cold food, re-fires)

Mistakes happen and everyone gets the occasional free pass. Carelessness on the other hand is just poor discipline. If one person on your crew has more “mistakes” than everyone one else on a regular basis then their performance needs to be evaluated and improvement is necessary.

Here are some of the culprits which provide the environment for “mistakes” to happen; things which increase the possibility for mistakes:

  • A cluttered work space
    • Clutter distracts the mind, but a clean work area focuses the mind
  • Disorganized station
    • Can lead to miss-fires or wrong product going into a dish during the rush
    • Slows the Line down, backing things up which may result in re-fires
  • Horsing around
  • Not giving call-backs to the wheelman or expeditor when tickets are called
  • Not taking the time to plan for the forecasted covers
    • Results in being either under-prepped or over-prepped…both can hurt your bottom line
  • Not taking regular temps of the hot and cold holding areas

Poor Production Planning During Transition from Busy to Slow Periods

“We’re getting slammed! Fire everything!” An experience cook and Chef will know to watch the floor and the flow in the restaurant and try to gauge production based upon the next 15-30 minutes of forecasted service. Don’t fall into the trap of just firing product based upon how busy it feels right this moment. You must be looking at least 20 minutes out, especially during that time of the shift when you know things tend to slow down. Fire product based upon knowledge, not based upon feeling.

Inadequate or Poorly Trained “Wheelman”

The wheelman or expeditor calls out orders as they come into the kitchen and controls the flow of tickets until the food is plated and served. They set the pace, keep the ship moving and act as the gatekeeper to ensure that all food which leaves the kitchen meets the required standard. Calling the wheel is the hardest job in the kitchen, the most stressful job in the kitchen. It requires an intelligent mind, a strong ability to focus on multiple things, and a steel hand at managing one’s own frustration and anger.

A poor wheelman will become overwhelmed or lose focus during the rush. And if the wheelman goes down then the entire Line sinks with them.

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