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How to Cut Your Food Cost and Improve Consistency in Your Kitchen

When it comes to the health of your profit-and-loss statement, no number is as important as food cost. Chefs and kitchen managers know that it doesn’t take much for food costs to slide a point up or down. With so many responsibilities required to run a kitchen, these tips will help to reduce food waste, improve quality, and elevate productivity.

  • Sliced tomatoes should always be stored in slotted pans for service and storage, allowing the water to separate from the fruit, extending the shelf life, and keeping sandwiches from getting soggy.
  • Keep sandwich spreads in large squeeze bottles for neatness and speed and keep ready at hand-filled backups for service. Buying prewashed mixed greens keeps pantry cooks with salad-ready greens at hand, but you should consider mixing in chopped romaine to extend the mix with crunchy green lettuce.
  • Mix creative ingredients into mayonnaise or mustards to add zip to sandwich spreads. Fresh chopped herbs like tarragon and avocado and roast tomato into homemade or quality store-bought mayonnaise for a tasty touch on good bread.
  • Chile-ginger pickles add punch to a sandwich of hoisin-soy roasted chicken. New garlic dills add freshness and zing to the classic Reuben plate. Customers notice the limp pickle that graces most lunch sandwiches, and those little things can cost you repeat visits.
  • Don’t let dinner become a big waste. Dinner is the bread and butter of most upscale operations. It’s also the service with the biggest room for waste. Controlling costs is most important with the evening meal because the raw food cost is highest. Primal meat cuts, fresh fish, shrimp, and scallops are all big-ticket items before they even reach the guest.
  • Watch your menu mix carefully every night. Items that your guests aren’t ordering may need to be reworked or removed. This information should help dictate the amount of product ordered and prepped. This is especially important during menu changes when new items are first introduced to your customers. Careful tracking of items sold gives you the information to make quick decisions before an item or items take a bite out of your food cost.
  • If you run a kitchen that makes its own veal stock for sauces, consider cutting the bone mix with beef neck bones. At half the cost, they offer plenty of rich flavors. The only setback is that they do not have much gelatin. Add a couple of split pig trotters to the stock to make up for the loss. After the primary stock is made, save the bones, add fresh mirepoix and make a secondary stock. This stock doesn’t have the weight for sauces, but it is perfect for soups and broths.
  • Dinner bread is one of the kitchen’s biggest challenges. If you work with a bakery and receive daily deliveries, create a moving par. Set your daily bread pars, and work closely with your bakery so you are allowed to slide your next-day order up or down the night before. Even making small changes on a nightly basis will add up to real savings and keeps unwanted bread out of the freezer or trash can.
  • Taking the time to rewrap and ice fish at the end of the day is a pain, to be sure. But proper storage can add days to the shelf life of fish. Make the investment in the correct storage pans allowing for drainage of melting ice and a suitable amount of ice to last until the next shift begins.
  • In large and small operations, restaurants are increasing their reliance on their fishmonger to pre-portion fish. If an operation does not have a proper cutting area or the skilled hands to butcher fish, portion-ready fish is easy to cost and is without waste. Popular cuts like salmon and halibut are ordered to specification just like beef tenderloins filets.
  • When building your menu, avoid out-of-season items that are expensive, such as asparagus, strawberries, and citrus. Try to be as seasonal as your concept allows. When building your menu, avoid items that are expensive and/or lacking quality when out of season. Use items such as asparagus, strawberries, and citrus at the peak of their flavor and when their cost is lowest.