Restaurant Portion Control

How to Reduce Portion Sizes and Still Keep Customers Happy

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One of the reasons franchise chain restaurants are so successful is because they have menu portions under control. You’ll be served the same food in the same portion sizes whether you go into an Applebee’s in New York or in Montana, 

Customers like that predictability and chain restaurants can ensure healthy profit margins by streamlining their portion sizes. Portion control is still an important factor in keeping your business profitable even if you own a small, independent restaurant.

What Is Restaurant Portion Control?

Restaurant owners need to watch the portion sizes coming out of their kitchens just as many diners want to watch the portion sizes of the foods they eat. Every item on your menu should have a controlled portion size to keep food cost in check.

Restaurant portion control is also important for keeping menu items consistent for every shift. Maybe your restaurant offers an entrée of cranberry chicken with mashed potatoes and a side vegetable. The entrée is broken down to streamline your portion sizes: a 6-ounce boneless chicken breast, a cup of mashed potatoes, a half cup of cooked vegetables and two tablespoons of cranberry sauce on top of the chicken.

Every time this entrée leaves the kitchen, the serving sizes shouldn’t waver no matter who's cooking. 

Why Is Portion Control Important? 

Imagine a customer’s reaction if he ordered the meal described above and he instead got a 4-ounce chicken breast, half cup of potato and a quarter cup of vegetable. People rarely complain about getting too much food but they'll certainly notice if you give them less, especially if the menu prices remain the same.

It’s also important to keep portion sizes in check so you can maintain correct food cost and your overall restaurant profits.

You might offer a bowl of clam chowder for $4 and you based the price on 10 ounces of chowder per bowl — that works out to 40 cents an ounce. Now let's say that your kitchen staff uses the wrong ladle and overfills a bowl by one ounce five times each day during the lunch and dinner rush. That equals $2 a day in uncharged chowder. It's not a huge loss but it adds up to $730 a year if it happens every day.

Now imagine that happening consistently with all your menu items. One ounce of chicken here, one ounce of cheese there… If you don’t keep your restaurant portions in line with your food costs, you'll lose money.

So How Do You Control Restaurant Portions?

Start by training your staff to always use the correct serving utensils and dishes. A chart breaking down every menu item is also helpful for new staff. You can list exactly how much food goes with each item: five mozzarella sticks for an appetizer, one slice of cheese for a burger, three cherry tomatoes for side salads, and so on. Photographs also help staff correctly portion food as it leaves the restaurant kitchen.

Along with consistently using the same sized ladles and serving spoons, a commercial kitchen scale is good for weighing deli meats and cheeses into correct portion sizes. PC cups can hold set amounts of sauces like guacamole or salsa.

You'll not only keep your food cost in line when you control restaurant portions but you'll also ensure that your customers will receive consistency when they order their favorite meals.