Are we in control of our ingredients?

News & blog » Control your ingredients

May 24, 2016

Mike Foster

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This week we have seen a landmark trial, where a restaurant owner was jailed for manslaughter in relation to the death of a customer with a severe peanut allergy.

Without looking at the specifics of this case, it has perhaps posed a few questions. Most critically, whether as the owner of a hospitality business we are in control of our ingredients?

The first thought for this blog is whether we are always targeting the performance of our team with the right measures. For example, if we target or reward our team on cost savings or margins, then is there a risk that such a substitution of ingredients could take place? In such circumstances, are the team then more driven on the cost of an ingredient rather than the content or quality?

With so many other factors in the business to manage, there are many business owners that delegate the ordering of supplies. However, if this is a potential risk in your business, are you really close enough to monitor any impact? Perhaps more to the point, should you consider where do you need to be so involved in the detail, because remember you can’t always delegate full accountability.

This then leads into the systemised processes in your business that ensure that the consistency, quality and margins are delivered. For example, does your team strictly follow a recipe for each dish?

Firstly, this can make a huge difference on your financial performance, by simply managing portion sizes. I recall an example where a customer was using more potatoes than they were appearing to sell. On exploration, there was no guidance on portion size, so a larger portion of mashed potato or more new potatoes were being served than planned in the pricing of such dishes.

As the owners we have ultimate responsibility for the business, but of course cannot be involved in every micro step or process. So systemised processes can also help you manage the people in your business, by measuring how effectively they can follow a system that works. It would also ensure you have some control over your ingredients per dish, as it is then clear what should, or more importantly should not, be included when prepared.

From an allergy control perspective does your systemised process include the detail of the exact ingredients to use, how ingredients are labelled and stored, the equipment to use, the instruction to not cross contaminate knifes or boards and how the order is communicated to the chef for preparation.

One last thought is around training and leadership. What training do you provide as part of the induction process or as part of any ongoing ‘on the job’ training? Are your values, standards and expectations also clearly communicated as part of this training? Do you include the ‘why we do it’ as much as the ‘how we do it’?

In terms of leadership, does the owner of the business or senior management lead by example in such circumstances? If the owner or seniors do not demonstrate such attention to detail, then the rest of the team are likely to follow and not apply such attention to detail that is obviously required.

Contact details

  1. E: info@arrochar-associates.co.uk
  2. Tel: 07968 534034