Are you controlling your kitchn cost

Are you controlling your kitchen cost?

Are you controlling your kitchen cost? Well, you may think so. But you need to relook. Food and beverage (F&B) Controls is my bread and butter, both literally and figuratively. F&B operations which broadly includes food and beverage production and service, is a significant contributor towards revenue generation and commerce in the hospitality business, be it through the mainstream hotels or through restaurants or other allied points of sale such as airports, train terminals, etc.

However, I am not here to wear you out with the technicalities of F&B Controls. I am going to suggest how you can apply some of these principles in your home or kitchen to spend wisely on food and reduce wastage without compromising on the end result of your mouthwatering recipes.

Before I discuss the controls procedures that you should follow to make use of your hard-earned money optimally, it would be a good idea to provide you with some basic fundamentals of F&B Controls. No business can last long without making a profit. Therefore, when we talk about sales and profit, there must be some costs involved. Unlike engineering goods, food materials are highly perishable and once they cross their shelf lives, any possible revenue from them is lost forever. During our Catering College days, we were taught that “room” is the most perishable product since revenue lost from an unsold room any day can never be recovered. True- by logic. But my sympathies are always with the F&B department. So, it pains me when I notice that a preventable loss is not prevented for whatever reasons.

Here comes F&B Controls. F&B Controls is an indispensable process that monitors the movement of food and beverages from the time they are purchased to the time they are consumed by the guests. This section is also the “anti-corruption wing” of any F&B outlet. A well-developed controls mechanism ensures a healthy bottom-line for an organisation without compromising on guest satisfaction. Whereas, with a “chalta hai” system, it’s digging one’s own grave.

A definite performance indicator of an F&B outlet is the F&B cost percentage. The formula is very simple: – Cost of the product / Sale of the product x 100 = F&B Cost %. Although the formula is simple, the process is much more complex in the industry and no job for a fresher.

Nonetheless, if you follow some simple steps and apply logic in your day-to-day kitchen affairs, you will ensure a saving of 25-30% which astonishingly most of us do not care to give a thought.

How to purchase

Are you controlling your kitchen cost while purchasing? Purchasing is the first step towards initiating the controls process whether it is in the restaurant business or on the domestic front. What to purchase? When to purchase? How to purchase? Now, here I am not talking about bargaining with your grocer or the fishmonger. What all must you keep in mind while purchasing? In addition to checking the shelf life of a product, the following points you must consider:

  • Always use seasonal ingredients– Vegetables and fruits which are in season are not only of superior quality, but also cheap. So, it’s common sense that we use seasonal varieties and select our menu and recipes accordingly. They also have greater health benefits.
  • Choose specifications according to your purpose– Even in season, you will find different specifications of the same product. For instance, you will find various kinds of tomatoes in the market- red, ripe and soft, semi-firm, sweet and soft, sour and firm, large or small. Decide as required for your end product? If you want to make a sauce like Marinara, you would need red and ripe sweet tomatoes like San Marzano which are high in umami. But, if you want to assemble a burger, a better option will be Beef Tomatoes. Therefore, your purpose must define your purchase or selection.
  • Understand “Yield”– One of the most critical parameters for effecting efficient controls is understanding yield and wastage. The more the wastage, the less the yield. For almost all kinds of food materials there are two types of processing losses; one during the pre-cooking stage, that is thawing, cutting, trimming, etc. and the other during cooking. There is hardly any scope for reducing cooking loss, but reducing wastage during pre-cooking processing is entirely possible. You can check here to understand how yield test is done in F&B outlets. So, what can you do to get maximum return?
    1. While purchasing your vegetables or fruits, select those of larger size, unless you require smaller ones for specific purposes. It reduces trimming loss. A simple way to test is to weigh out 200g each of large and small onions. Slice them to equal thickness and weigh the sliced onions separately. You will find the yield higher for the large onions. Can you guess how much you can save in a month if you choose the size correctly?
    2. Choose your kitchen equipment wisely and maintain properly. Faulty equipment can increase wastage drastically. Are you using the correct knife? Is your knife sharp enough? Is your peeler scraping off the pulp along with the skin? Do you have the skill to fillet the fish? Are you maintaining your food processor well?
    3. Be careful while purchasing frozen food, especially meat. When you defrost frozen food, you will always encounter thawing loss. On an average 20% thawing loss can be attributed to frozen meat. The manufacturers of frozen food induce moisture during packing to help prevent it from drying up during freezing. The gross weight mentioned on the packet is the weight including the moisture. When you thaw the product this moisture which was interspersed as ice melts away, giving you less usable quantity. Unscrupulous manufacturers often induce too much moisture to make larger profits. Most renowned manufacturers mention the thawing loss in the forms of gross weight and net weight. Avoid using frozen products if the fresh version is available.
  • Use all your five senses while buying, processing and cooking.

Manage your food waste

Food waste management is very important when it comes to keeping food costs under control. Do not discard all your trimmings and wastes into the bin; use them wherever possible. You can make stocks from bones and meat trimmings and even vegetable trimmings. Cool the stock and freeze in ice-cube trays which you can take out later, melt it and use to make soups, sauces and gravies. You may also make vegetable purees from the trimmings and add in soups or gravies. Stocks and purees enhance the flavour of a dish manifold. Use trimmings and scraps to make pickles, sausages, burger patties, pies, croquettes.

How to store

Foodservice operations are extremely fussy about storage and rightly so. They invest a huge share of their capital to build storage facilities as per their requirement. Unfortunately, we, in our homes and kitchens do not pay much heed to the same. A little bit of knowledge, care and respect for our food and drinks can go a long way towards reducing wastage significantly. Are you controlling your kitchen cost while storing? Although we may not be able to achieve the exacting standards of the industry, we may still save a lot if we are more careful with the way we store:

  • Store your dry foods in a clean and cool place away from the heat and dampness of the kitchen. Always store and rotate stock using FIFO, that is, using the items in the ascending order of their expiry/best before dates. The lowermost rack of the shelves must be at least 6-inches above the floor.
  • For refrigerated storage, 4⁰C is considered the safe temperature, known as “critical control point”. However, refrigerators for home-use have different temperature zones for storing different food items. Follow the recommendations of the manufacturer.
  • Store raw products below, never above, your cooked or ready-to-eat products.
  • Never put hot foods in the refrigerator; always allow them to attain room temperature before putting inside the refrigerator.
  • The fat in dairy products has a tendency to absorb strong odours from the storage surroundings. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, store dairy products in their own demarcated area in protective coverings.
  • Some food items like potato, onion, banana, etc. do not require refrigeration and should be stored at higher temperatures.
  • Meat, poultry and seafood are the most expensive food items. Naturally, therefore, they require special care while storing. All these products must be properly wrapped and stored at -18⁰C or lower. Most modern refrigerators are equipped to maintain such low temperatures. Wrapping is necessary to prevent freezer burn. Freezer burn spoils the texture and flavour of the food. Again, you must follow FIFO for stock rotation.
  • It is never advisable to refreeze a food item after thawing. Not only does the process leach out moisture, it also promotes bacterial growth as thawed food develops harmful bacteria faster than fresh food. Hence, a better way to freeze products is to divide them into smaller batches and then freeze.

How to plan a zero-wastage party

You must have wondered, why more often than not you are left with so many leftovers after you had hosted a party at your place. The answer is a no-brainer. Nothing can be more embarrassing than finding ourselves in a situation where we fall short of food before the party is over. As a result, we indulge in overpreparing ourselves for the occasion, spend foolishly and often end up throwing away food that cannot be reused. Are you controlling your kitchen cost while cooking for a party? With a little bit of planning, you can achieve wonderful results. Consider these factors while organizing:

  • An average adult in a mix of approximately equal numbers of male and female guests consumes a mean of 800 grams of cooked food and drinks in one sitting of a major meal. Assuming an average yield (processed + cooked) of 60% of raw ingredients, that will be 1.3kg per person of raw items. Without alcohol, the break-up of the consumption of different courses can be like this: Starters- 100-150g, Starch- 80-100g, Veggies- 100-120g, Meat/Poultry/Seafood- 150-200g, Dessert- 100-120g, Beverages- 200ml. Now you can make you own calculations to determine the quantity of raw ingredients you would require for the party. It is safe to add 10% extra as buffer stock.
  • Before standardizing the above, you need to consider the type of menu, whether you would serve alcohol, the gender mix of your guests and their intrinsic preferences of taste and flavours. If you wish to serve alcoholic beverages, you will need to increase the quantity of starters and reduce that of the main course. But the total quantity should by and large remain the same.
  • Design your menu in such a way that most of your ingredients can be sourced from your neighbouring supermarket. Use exotic items only when they are irreplaceable. For instance, if you are making Crème Caramel for your dessert, you can very well use vanilla essence instead of vanilla beans and pods which are very costly. Whereas, for a pasta in Marinara Sauce, San Marzano or Roma tomatoes are virtually indispensable.
  • Designing the menu should always be the most critical aspect of your planning. The menu should be well-balanced in terms of texture, flavour, colour, consistency and presentation. Avoid repetition of main ingredients in the different dishes of the menu. Improper menu planning leads to boredom, unsatisfied guests and in the end a lot of wastage.

Total food waste around the world in 2019 was a whopping 931 million tonnes of which 61% was the contribution from households. Foodservice contributed 26% and 13% was from retail. So, which among these is the evilest villain? Not only it is an unforgivable waste of resources and capital, but food waste is also a major contributor to the three planetary crises of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. According to UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021, “If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Let us value and care a little bit more about the gifts nature has provided us. Let us save for ourselves and for the world.

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