When it comes to maintaining a profitable restaurant, few things are more important than recipe management. Your recipe management system allows you to control food and beverage costs, while also enabling you to maintain adequate inventory levels.
Recipe management also helps your staff provide consistent dining experiences for your customers by ensuring that portion sizes and ingredient use is consistent with each helping.
With a consistent and effective recipe management process in place, you can improve profitability and deliver the quality experience that diners are looking for with each visit.
Of course, successfully implementing a recipe management process is sometimes easier said than done. By focusing on key best practices, you can streamline operations, even when you manage multiple restaurant locations.
1. Use Recipe Management Software
One of the biggest drawbacks of implementing a recipe management system comes when trying to do it manually. A manual approach to recipe management can be quite time-consuming. It requires listing all ingredients used for a recipe, calculating the quantity and prices, and factoring in other costs, such as labor and waste.
To accomplish this, you must manually enter data from paper invoices, which can easily get lost or destroyed. In times of inflation, prices associated with specific ingredients can change rapidly — even from day to day.
Needless to say, calculating recipe costs can be a tricky (and error-prone) process. Fortunately, this is easily solved by using recipe management software. With tools that facilitate receiving and processing invoices from suppliers, the calculation of ingredient costs can be automated. You can quickly evaluate ingredient costs and even compare suppliers to make more cost-effective purchasing decisions.
With accurate data, you can have confidence when choosing suppliers or adjusting recipes as needed to improve the bottom line. The ability to make these changes quickly will help you adapt to a constantly-shifting marketplace.
2. Distribute Recipes Digitally
Another key issue that comes up in recipe management is ensuring that all employees have easy access to your standardized recipes. Once again, this is an area where relying on manual distribution can lead to inconsistencies and errors. It’s all too easy to lose a handwritten recipe card.
With digital distribution, on the other hand, you can create consistency across multiple locations by ensuring that all recipes are readily available with a single tap or click. A central dashboard makes it easy for cooks to look up the recipe they need.
Another valuable aspect of digital distribution is that it is much easier to implement recipe alterations as needed. Whether the result of customer feedback, changing suppliers or seasonal supply chain concerns, updating recipes in a central dashboard will ensure that the change is immediately made available to each facility.
This ensures that each location implements necessary updates immediately, helping you maintain a consistent customer experience. Recipe consistency will also reduce waste and lower your operating costs. Even something as simple as ensuring that each plate has an equal portion size can help reduce inventory expenses and improve operating margins.
3. Plan for Exceptions
Roughly 30 percent of Americans avoid gluten in their diet. Ten percent of American adults are vegan or vegetarian. And of course, millions experience food allergies. Needless to say, there is a good chance that your restaurant will periodically get requests to use substitute ingredients in a recipe.
To better accommodate their customers, an increasing number of restaurants have found that accepting these requests is a necessity — but if you’re not careful, it can disrupt your recipe management practices.
This isn’t the only way that replacement ingredients could become a concern. Supply chain disruptions may sometimes require that you use replacement ingredients for a recipe, or that you place a special order with a different supplier than those you usually use.
Sound recipe management processes must account for handling these exceptions. This could include adding specific instructions for how to accommodate a dietary request (such as gluten-free), as well as ensuring that each facility has an appropriate inventory of non-standard ingredients as needed.
In all situations, replacement ingredients must be handled with care, particularly in regards to allergens and other safety standards. Alternate suppliers should be vetted to ensure they meet the level of quality that your customers expect.
4. Train Personnel On Recipe Management Standards
As basic as it may sound, comprehensive training for your staff is a must if you want to successfully implement a recipe management system. This training should always be given to new hires, but even staff members who have been with your organization for a long time can benefit from periodic reviews of your standards. Needless to say, when introducing a new recipe management system, comprehensive training should be provided to the entire staff.
Training should focus on both the “what” and the “why”. The “what” could include the basic steps that will be needed to follow the recipe management process, such as knowing where to access your standardized recipes or how to process exceptions.
The “why” helps them understand the reasoning behind the solutions you use. Help them understand that these systems are in place to help them perform their best.
Such training will likely be needed more often than you would expect. Restaurant quit rates hit 6.9 percent at the start of 2022 — meaning that for every 100 employees a restaurant has, seven would quit in a given month. Over the course of a single year, this means that a restaurant may experience turnover rates above 70 percent.
Many of these employees transition from one restaurant to another, meaning they may be used to another facility’s way of doing things. Consistent training keeps everyone compliant with your organization’s standardized practices.
5. Standardize Cooking Utensils
Another recipe management tip that is deceptively simple, but could go a long way in ensuring its effectiveness: standardize the utensils that are used for each recipe.
For example, let’s say your restaurant serves soup as an appetizer. The recipe may dictate that bowls should be filled with a single scoop from the ladle, but what if a chef grabs the wrong sized ladle?
They could end up serving too much soup to your customers — in which case, your restaurant would suffer loss by going through ingredients faster. Or, if they get too small of a ladle, your customers could be dissatisfied when they recognize that they aren’t getting as much soup as they should.
Because of this, your recipe management process must also account for the cooking utensils that are used for each recipe. Even something as simple as numbering different-sized ladles can help ensure that proper portions are served to each customer.
A recipe could be prepared with exactness, but if the portion sizes are off, the benefits of a recipe management process are completely undermined. You don’t want customers to get upset because their portion sizes changed from one week to the next.
6. Routinely Double-Check Recipes
A recipe management system that streamlines invoice processing and recipe creation is invaluable — but only if you use it to regularly evaluate recipes and suppliers.
First, it’s wise to double-check all the information in your recipe management system to ensure its accuracy. Make sure that ingredient quantities and recipe instructions are accurate, as even a misspelling could contribute to waste or a less-than-desirable dish. It’s all too easy to accidentally put a capital “T” for tablespoon when you mean to type a lower-case “t” for teaspoon.
In addition to double-checking the accuracy of the recipes themselves, you should use your electronic recipe management system to double-check supplier prices and shipments. A supplier that has implemented a significant price increase can quickly cut into your operating margins, particularly if you use them for a high-volume ingredient.
Regularly evaluating the cost per plate can help you identify dishes that no longer produce a profit. In such circumstances, you may need to increase the price of the dish, or switch to a different supplier that offers lower prices. However, you won’t gain these crucial insights if you don’t routinely check the data that is being made available to you through your electronic tracking system.
Use BirchStreet Systems for Better Recipe Management
Effective recipe management depends on several factors, particularly ensuring that your staff understands the what and why of your recipe standards, and that they have the tools they need to follow them.
With BirchStreet Systems’ Recipe Management Solution, you give your team a major step up by helping create consistency in every kitchen your organization is responsible for. With features such as receiving invoices from suppliers, systematic processes for quality checks, exception handling and more, you have everything you need to control recipe components and costs.
Our accurate food cost visibility system helps organizations achieve up to five percent savings in food costs, while obtaining complete visibility over the entire recipe process. You can source ingredients by suppliers, build menus by recipe and even create recipes by ingredient to develop cost-effective (and enjoyable) menus that will appeal to customers and reduce operating costs.
With strong recipe management, your organization will be well-positioned for long-term success.