10 ways to increase kitchen cost control

10 Ways to Increase Kitchen Cost Control

You may not be a chef (or even know how to cook), but if you work with the kitchen team and apply your organisational skills, you can make a big difference to efficiency and profits. Here Ken Burgin from SilverChef gives you a quick checklist to get you started:

1. Start with the ordering systems

Make sure ordering is done from standard printed lists (no scraps of paper) or cloud-based systems and apps. Set re-order levels to ensure enough is on hand for 3-4  day's supply – that's usually plenty unless deliveries are a problem. Compare orders with invoices and let your staff know  you're aware of stock levels.

2. Check deliveries and storage

Treat food supplies with the same care you do alcohol – food also has a habit of disappearing! Have good heavy-duty scales available for checking weights. Instal locks on storerooms and label shelves. Delivery people are always in a hurry, so have rules about signatures and delivery times on the wall and on the invoice.

3. Insist that recipes are written and costed. 

This is a good project for a junior member of staff who has more time (and enthusiasm). Electronic pricing scales for the kitchen (like the ones in a deli) are an essential tool for this, and they only cost a few hundred dollars.

4. Get the work-flow organised. 

Observation will tell you whether staff are working efficiently - watch when it's busy. Just because people have worked there for a long time doesn't mean they take the shortest route between A and B.

5. Provide equipment that can do the job – and keep it in good repair.

Commercial strength stove, fryers and microwaves are needed to get food out quickly, and nothing frustrates staff more than poorly maintained equipment. Don't give them an excuse for 'dragging the chain'.

6. Use technology

Modern Point-of-Sale systems with kitchen printers are standard kit for most venues. The next step for efficiency is to use a kitchen order screen, eliminating paper. This helps you track what's selling and when there are bottlenecks in production. Online supply ordering is now quite common and allows you to track orders and current prices. iPads are the new tool of choice for recipes, ordering and checklists.

7. Check figures every week. 

The quickest way to find out food costs is to compare purchases (from invoices) against sales. This gives you a 'close enough' figure and identifies problems quickly. It is also valuable to know per-head sales.

8. Work on the menu's 'profit strength'. 

A successful menu has a variety of items that are both profitable and popular. Check the dollar-profit margin on each dish rather than just working on percentages. Watch the big (and slow) sellers. Make sure you have a good range of desserts and grazing items. A modern menu should aim for overall food-costs of 25% or less.

9. Employ truly competent kitchen leaders. 

Staff who are good at getting the best from a team, knowledgeable about food issues, strong, fast, able to train people quickly, reliable with numbers and happy to report to you regularly.

10. Play dumb (to be smart). 

Cooking is just another manufacturing trade – ask lots of questions and watch how the process works. It's time for managers and owners to lose their fear and understand 'secret kitchen business' – it's easier than you think!

Ken Burgin - SilverChef