How to Control Portion Sizes in a Restaurant

Here’s a familiar scenario: the restaurant you go to piles 14 ounces of fries on your plate giving the impression of a huge meal and better value for your dollar. But in reality, most customers cannot eat this much, and some or most of the fries end up in the garbage. For the restaurant, this is the equivalent of throwing money away.

The solution is portion control: a restaurant can simply reduce the amount of fries on the plate which will in turn reduce food cost. To keep customers happy, that same restaurant can offer free refills knowing that only a low percentage of customers will ever request them.

Like food costing and good inventory practices, portion control is an essential part of running a successful restaurant. Finding the sweet spot between cost and portion for each dish means your customers will always be happy, and you’ll be protecting your bottom line.

What is Restaurant Portion Control?

Restaurant portion control is all about keeping your serving sizes consistently accurate to save both time and money. In a nutshell, portion control is your established guidelines for how much of what ingredients go into each dish and onto each plate. With good portion control, your customers get the perceived value they want and you reduce your food and labour costs.

So how do you know if you need better portion control? If your customers are continually unable to finish eating a particular dish on your menu, that’s your first sign that you should consider reducing the portion sizes.

But you also need to pay attention to any variances in your ingredient usage. Waste during kitchen prep is a common and costly oversight. By using portion control tools, and training all employees to prepare recipes to a consistent desired portion, you can save on both waste generated and money coming out of your pocket every time unused food goes in the garbage.

Consistency is Key to Portion Control

To be effective, your portion control efforts must be consistent – for all staff, on every shift, and every time each dish is made. Being consistent about your serving sizes and prep instructions is the only way to really ensure you are eliminating waste and controlling your costs.

In your kitchen, this means that each time a particular dish is prepared and plated, it should use the exact same amount and kind of ingredients and look the same, no matter who is on shift doing the cooking. Investing the time into proper training and management will avoid over- or under-portioning, which also helps ensure accuracy in your inventory control processing.

Employees you hire will have different levels of experience. If your staff are untrained and you don’t have detailed policies in place for prep and portion control, you could be losing thousands of dollars a month in wasted goods. Training and close oversight ensures your staff understand the importance of the portion control process, and the value it brings to the business as a whole.

To support your portion control training efforts, make sure to have well-laid-out instructions for the preparation of food and beverages in your restaurant – and make sure everyone on your team is trained to follow these instructions.

The good news is your customers will like this approach too. People appreciate consistency between visits, whether you are running a franchise operation, a hotel or a small, independent restaurant. If your customer receives a heaping bowl of pasta one day, and a small, dainty portion the next week for the same price, you can bet they will be complaining and unhappy – and for good reason! Make sure your whole team knows the importance of following the recipe instructions and remaining consistent.

Restaurant Portion Control Equipment

Anything you use for measuring in your kitchen can be considered part of your portion control equipment and tools: scales, measuring cups, portion cups, scoops and spoons — even recipes with exact measurements and expected yields. You can go one step further and include pictures of finished dishes to help guide your staff in plating each order perfectly.

The idea is moving away from going by sight to prepare your dishes, and making exact measurement and optimized yields a regular part of your operations.

Your portion control tools don’t have to be fancy to be effective: you just want to ensure they are the right size to hold the exact weight or amount of ingredient you need for portion and cost control, and that your staff are using them every time.

Again, consistency is key. You should always be giving your ingredients the same units of measurement. For instance, if you start classifying your produce by pounds instead of bags, you should keep this consistent from ordering to inventory to stocking to prep. This will help make it easy for everyone, including your cooks and servers.

Portion Control with Restaurant Inventory Management Software

One of the best tools for establishing ideal serving sizes – and ensuring they are working — is restaurant inventory management software.

Modern digital hospitality products combine the simplicity of managing restaurant operations in a spreadsheet with the genius of fully-integrated and mobile solutions. With the right software, you’ll get a complete and accurate view of your overall menu costs and a breakdown into all components of each dish, empowering you to determine your ideal portions with ease.

For example, restaurant inventory management software lets you link your recipes to your POS system to identify your theoretical usages, and update your recipe costs as the costs of your ingredients change. When the price of vegetables and other ingredients go up, you will be notified. This will allow you to get a better idea of any consistent growth in cost pattern developments which will help you make decisions based on your menu items, serving sizes, suppliers or seasonal costs of certain dishes.

And with advanced reporting features, you can easily and automatically keep track of the actual vs. theoretical usage of every inventory item – another fundamental way to make sure that your operations are controlling for portions and eliminating costly errors.

Optimum Control for Effective Portion Control

With products to fit every type of business, Optimum Control software is designed with all the features and benefits to help you work smarter and simplify your workflow. Let Optimum Control do the heavy lifting in your restaurant operations, lowering costs and maximizing profits.

Use our leading inventory management software and apps for your stand-alone restaurant or bar, in your hotel or casino or across your entire enterprise of multiple units to gain maximum operational visibility.

Optimum Control gives you full control over your storage, food costing, portion control, inventory management, purchasing, scheduling — and more — to ensure your business is always generating profits at the end of each day.

Connect with us today and book a free demo of our restaurant inventory management software. Try Optimum Control today!