October 24, 2012 |

The Case for Portion Control

By Pizza Today

Why bother with portion control? Well, do you like money? I do, and I like to keep as much of it as I can.

Implementing a simple and concise portion-control program can literally save you tens of thousands of dollars! Tens of thousands of dollars that you already have and are let slipping through your fingers and right out the door in front of you. Right at this very moment pizzas are walking out your door with too much on them. Pizzas loaded down with your cash!

Chances are that right now in your restaurant you have about four different types of offenders who are over-portioning your pizzas. Do you recognize any of these characters?

The Artist: This particular pizza maker is sure that each and every pizza he or she makes is a beautiful work of art. Even though you’ve personally shown this employee exactly how much cheese, sausage and pepperoni to put on every pizza, there are no written guidelines or charts to follow, so he follows his artistic inspiration. Every pizza is different than the last and none has the correct amount of toppings on it. You probably have at least one of these “artists” in your shop.

Mr. Clueless:
Food is cheap, right? Cheese is like, what 50 cents a pound or something, right? Or so thinks Mr. Clueless. This is one of your typical employees who thinks because you are a restaurant you get everything really cheap, everything is a “tax write off” and businesses make a ton of money anyway. This is the guy who scrapes all the cheese out of the catch pan and into the trash instead of back into the cheese bin. This is the guy who likes to “load up” the pizzas the way he would like to have them made. How many of these guys are working for you right now?

The Regular Joe: This is a normal guy, just like you and me—the high school kid starting his first job or the new hire who wants to really work hard and impress the boss. This is the guy who would love to make a pizza the right way, a perfect pizza made the way you want him to make it. But he can’t. The key employee that you had training him showed him one way; you showed him another; and then the manager showed him yet another way. His pizzas are not what you want going out your door either. The “Regular Joes” are the bulk of the portion offenders that you have working for you, and they’re trying hard to please.

You: Yes, the worst offender of them all. If you are free-throwing toppings on your pizzas, then I can guarantee that you are either over-portioning or under-portioning your pizzas 99 percent of the time. It’s impossible to free-throw toppings and get them 100 percent correct, 100 percent of the time. Worst of all you are setting a bad example for your staff. (I know you’re thinking, “I’ve been doing this for 149 years and I can put 10 ounces of cheese on a 16-inch pizza every … single … time.” Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you can’t.)

So, is your staff to blame for you losing money on over portioned pizzas as well as subs, salads, desserts, draft beers, wines, etc? Absolutely not. Most of the time your staff is not over-portioning or under-portioning on purpose or with malicious intentions in mind. It is just a simple systems failure.

Right now I’m paying almost $3 per pound for whole-milk mozzarella and I make about 4,000 pizzas per month at each of my pizzerias. If I were to put 1 ounce too much on every pizza, the cost to my bottom line would be $760 per month or $9,120 per year, per pizzeria! Just in cheese!

How can they be sure to get it right every single time and stop wasting money? It’s very simple really: a portion-control program. Putting together a portion-control program for your operation can be as simple or as complex as you want, but the basics are always the same. Here are the steps:

Information: You need to give employees the information they need. This can be done with portion charts on the make line or recipe books at prep stations. Just make sure the exact portion requirements are printed and in plain site. Staff members need to know, for example, that 8 ounces of cheese is what is expected on that 14-inch pizza, and they need to be able to look that number up immediately if necessary.

Tools: Once your pizza makers know the correct portions they need hit those numbers every time. This can only be done with tools such as digital scales and measuring cups. Their use must be mandatory.

Monitoring: Once you’ve trained your staff on how much of what goes on each item and given them to tools to get it done, you need to make sure they are actually implementing the portion-control system. A close eye on a busy night will tell you who is following the rules and who is not, but you can take it one step further and document ingredients usage with your POS. Taking advantage of the inventory module and portion-control features of your POS will allow you to keep an eye on your inventory and measure how close your staff is coming to hitting your portion goals.

Portion control is simple and easy. Believe it or not, your employees will grow to like it once it becomes routine. It takes the guessing out of their jobs; it makes training easier; and perhaps most importantly of all, they may get a boss who is in a good mood more often.

Michael Shepherd owns 600 Downtown in Bellafontaine, Ohio, and is a consultant to the pizzeria industry.