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Monday, March 10, 2008

How important is menu standardization?

I have written briefly about Recipe standards in my immediate previous post.

Most restaurants that I work with have kitchen staff who were not really educated for their jobs. Most of them found cooking to be a career after they finished school. Some did not even get to college. They are talented people who really have the taste and the capability to cook delicious meals.

So one of my big problems would always be discovering that the kitchen does not have standard recipes for the items in the menu. Now, you would say, well then make one for them or tell them to make one.

Believe me, it's not as easy as you think it would be.

In my recent consultancy, the kitchen head told me he has taught it to all the kitchen staff and that they are all agreed on how to cook the dishes. That if they do resign, they will make sure that they have taught all they ought to teach to their staff. Heaven help me.

I will always insist on standard recipes, including instructions and standard garnish/presentation guide. One major reason is cost control. Another would be consistency of the food as they come out of the kitchen.

The argument would stop when waiters would say that the food does not come out the same way or when the accountant complains of high food costs.

Ideally, standard recipes are the basis for any move in food cost control. If at any rate, the cost of goods increase dramatically, everybody goes back to the standard recipes. Can they tweak the portion? Is there an ingredient that can be replaced? Or is there a need to recompute the prices altogether? Whichever way, the standard recipes will be the tool. If you don't have a standard recipe, you have to re-list all your ingredients and recompute all over again.

Standard recipes are make inventory monitoring easier. If your system is automated, you still need standard recipes. If the restaurant sold 10 orders of beef steak which uses up 300 grams of beef tenderloin, then your inventory release should say 3 kilos of beef tenderloin. If the release says 3 kilos, 9 orders were sold and there is no more beef tenderloin left, you have to start looking for those missing 300 grams. Either the beef steaks were over-portioned or went to some kitchen staff's tummy.

In summary, standard recipes should be a reference for cost control and consistency. Before a restaurant opens, the recipes should have been standardized. As operation goes, they should be constantly reviewed.

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