Surviving a Difficult Economy for Foodservice

Surviving a Difficult Economy for Foodservice


Food-service profit margins are thin, placing every food service operator under constant pressure to control costs and eliminate waste. In an ongoing balancing act, he or she must watch everything from food costs, waste, spoilage and over-use of expensive ingredients to outright theft. Effective managers follow best practices in all areas, starting with correct inventory and order practices to avoid ordering too much -- yet not running out of key products components. Once received, perishable products must be stored correctly to ensure that food remains usable. When it comes to serving meals or snacks, efficient operators avoid giving away profits in the form of free food or incorrect portions.


Some of the best practices followed by successful managers include:

  • Using par levels and good inventory practices to avoid over- or under- ordering.

  • Reducing spoilage by properly rotating stock in coolers and freezers so that first- in is first-out.

  • Using clear trash bags to spot areas of waste and theft.

  • Matching production records to inventory records to help identify theft problems.

  • Using the correct ladles, spoons and other serving utensils consistently to avoid giving away “free food.”



Because theft is rampant in the industry, operators must remain alert to signs of pilfering. Proper inventory methods can point out problems before they grow. Staff involvement and training is also very important because a manager cannot be everywhere or see everything at once. Profit can rise by creating a culture where everyone is working together to spot and eliminate loss.


In a recent conversation with a Chef, he voiced frustration that he could not get a handle on costs. Turns out he was spending so much time finding the lowest price for EVERY item that he was not paying enough attention to waste, spoilage and theft. He was saving pennies while losing dollars. If you are like him, establishing a solid pricing structure with all suppliers can free up time to focus on other areas that are critical to your success: marketing to build the top-line; managing, training and developing staff; and developing best practices for customer satisfaction.

Expert Author

Scott Noar
Scott Noar brings 23 years experience of multi-departmental project management and problem solving skills. With a hands-on management style, he was most recently Director of R&D at J&J Snack...

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