Tag Archives: food cost control

Are your profits going down the drain?

Every day of our cruise I was horrified at just how much food and drink, and therefore profit, was literally being poured the drain.

The main culprit was a drink all you like coffee deal. At the start of the cruise you could purchase your own ‘souvenir’ mug, and refill it as often as you liked. At 250 NOK (approximately £27) this at first glance seemed a lot of money, but when you saw that it was 20 NOK for a single cup, 6 days at a probably 4 – 5 cups of team of coffee per day this didn’t seem such a bad deal.  Presumably some people would drink less and therefore this deal was a potential win-win.

However, here’s the rub: the mug provided were approximately 40% bigger than the standard cups, and the coffee machines were set to fill a standard cup. This meant that each time you went to fill your mug with coffee, instead of pressing for one measure, you pressed again for a second measure to fill the mug. Of course you don’t need to be a mathematician to realise that as the mugs were only 40% bigger 2 measures would be too much. What happens to the excess coffee? You guessed it, it goes down the drain.

So what on the surface seemed like a good deal for both parties, must have meant in reality that almost 1/3 of the coffee dispensed was ending up down the drain.

And this wasn’t the only area of waste. Where ever passengers helped themselves you saw waste that was avoidable:

Lack of labels or descriptions: On the buffets at breakfast and some evening meals there were several items not labelled. This meant that people would help themselves, then when they realised it was not what they thought it was, inevitably it got left on the plate. This included everyday items that I’m sure you may serve such as fruit juices – is it pineapple or it is grapefruit? They both look the same, but if you were expecting grapefruit you’re unlikely to be happy when you taste pineapple. Indistinguishable sandwich fillings, speciality breads and sauces, all can confuse our guests when they are not labelled.

Poor portion control: Little pots were provided for your jam, but the size of the pot encouraged you to take twice as much as needed, and most was wasted. And over-sized serving utensils meant that people took too much of meat dishes.

Lack of batch cooking meant that dishes got dried up and unappetizing towards the end of service, so people avoided them until they got replenished.

So if you have any self-service items such as at breakfast or drinks, take a look at what is being wasted and where you can make savings. Not only can this save money, but it’s better for the guest too. A win-win for both of you.


Start planning next Christmas now

Your restaurant or hotel marketing for next Christmas is probably the last thing on your mind. But now is a great time to be building up material to use for next year.  What better way to promote your Christmas parties than to show people having fun, and your hotel or restaurant in all its Christmas splendour?

Take photos of the bar, restaurant and reception while the decorations and Christmas tree are looking their best – don’t leave it until half the needles have dropped off, or the light bulbs have gone out! Take shots from different angles of the restaurant laid up for dinner. ‘Snap shots’ may be OK as small images for your website, but if want to use these as bigger images, or for printed material, use a professional photographer to take some quality pictures. And include some pictures of the food. Although this is easier to ‘stage’ at a later date, if you can get some shots now, so much the better.

Get some video footage of parties – best when guests have just arrived, and had time to relax with their first drink, but don’t leave it until the tables are strewn with empty glasses. Always check with guests that they are happy for you to record, and secondly for the footage to appear on your site. Ask people for testimonials that they would be happy for you to use in next year’s marketing.

Keep an eye out for a clear, frosty morning and get outside with your camera to take some shots of a wintery scene.

Keep tabs on your costs throughout to ensure you have an accurate picture of your profit margins.  This includes post costing for each event, to take account of wastage.

Take stock at the end of the season, and learn from your successes and failures to build on this for next year. Get feedback from your team, and involve them in the review process by asking for their ideas. Then make sure you record all this where you can find it easily when it comes to planning next year!

Here’s to a very successful and profitable Christmas season.


Are your breakfast profits going in the bin?

10 tips to cut down on waste at breakfast service

  1. For self service dishes use appropriate sized serving utensils – the bigger the spoon, the bigger the portion your guest will take
  2. If serving fresh fruit have this sliced or portioned in some way – grapes are a classic example – unless you cut the bunches into portion sized ‘mini bunches’ your guest will waste half by trying to break off a portion, or even take the whole bunch
  3. Label your fruit juices clearly – how many times have you seen a juice left barely touched because the guest thought it was grapefruit and it turned out to be something different such as pineapple?
  4. Avoid over filling teapots (especially those with poor fitting lids that have a tendency to dribble).  This avoids guests wasting napkins and table linen in mopping up avoidable spillages
  5. If you use table clothes, reduce your laundry costs by seating people on an appropriate sized table.  If most of your guests will be breakfasting alone or in twos and your most popular tables are those by the window – position your smaller tables here and place large tables for bigger parties where they are less likely to be requested by solo guests
  6. Ask before automatically serving toast – you’ll be shocked to see how much of it ends up in the bin (often because it is served cold and rubbery!)
  7. Listen to the guest’s order, and only cook and serve what is asked for – if they ask for one egg, only serve one egg, not two
  8. Cook to order when you can, to reduce wastage. This might not be possible for ingredients such as sausages, but there should be no excuse not to cook eggs to order, or at least batch cook for busier hotels
  9. Ask for feedback, so you can learn what your guest like and don’t like.  Watch and monitor what comes back on guests’ plates – and follow this up to check the cause of this – are your portions too big, was it not cooked enough, was there a problem with the ingredients or flavour?
  10. Monitor wastage and costs in the exactly the same way as you would for any other meal service.  Do you know your exact cost per item and average cost per head for a full English breakfast including cereal, fruit, toast, juice, condiments, and table linen?