How to Control Cost, Food & Labor in a Restaurant Service

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Slow periods throughout the day require fewer employees.
Slow periods throughout the day require fewer employees. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Many restaurants fail within their first few years due to lack of revenue. Give your restaurant its best chance for success with the money you have on hand by controlling labor and food costs. Overstaffing and food waste will eat up your funding; accordingly, learning to staff your restaurant properly and teaching your staff how to minimize food costs will help take your establishment from startup to smashing success.

Food Cost

Train your cooks to use written recipes. Instruct them to serve foods in exact portions as set forth in your menu guidelines.

Teach your expediter to inspect the food coming from the kitchen. Focus his attention on portion control so that he can catch and stop excess food sent out on each plate.

Start and maintain a training program in your restaurant. Knowledgeable employees are effective employees. A detailed training plan ensures consistency in quality and quantity as well as waste reduction.

Institute an open-door policy with all of your employees. Take suggestions and talk with all members of your staff on a regular basis. Implement employee-suggested changes that follow your business plan.

Remain vigilant and active in your kitchen. Maintain control of food cost by carefully tracking all products and taking a hands-on approach to kitchen management.

Labor Cost

Control the hours your employees work each week. Monitor individual work hours to ensure the schedule is balanced.

Review your sales receipts. Observe patterns of heavy sales periods throughout the week.

Adjust your schedule to match these sales patterns. Spread the available hours evenly between your employees.

Watch your employees to ensure they are productive during every shift. Keep each employee busy as long as she is on the clock.

Send home any employees who are not busy during slow times. Keep a minimum number of people on staff when there are no sales made for long periods during the day.

Tips & Warnings

  • A few well-trained people on staff who get plenty of hours will be happier, feel more appreciated and be more effective than many people working few hours. Maintaining this balance can mean the difference between the life and death of your restaurant.

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