• Dissecting the science of portion control

The science of portion control is really pretty simple. You build a pizza, weigh everything you put on it and standardize it, right?

Well, maybe in a shop that only sells one-topping pizzas. But since multiple toppings are common, amounts of each have to be reduced in proportion to the number requested by the customer, and that can monkey with otherwise precise portion controls.

Long before he depended heavily on his POS system to track his food cost, Matt Tuck, regional director for a 40-unit Hungry Howie's Pizza franchisee, manually calculated toppings portions — even percentage variances for multiple toppings. He posted standards and variances on the makeline wall and found the practice worked pretty well. But when his company began using an Intura Vision POS system to check actual usage, he found some flaws in his manual measurements.

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"The way we were doing it before was masking some of the waste, and we couldn't really tell where the problem was," said Tuck, whose company is in Madison Heights, Mich. "Now there's no more guesswork because the numbers are true."

How's he so sure?

The system's ideal food cost tool compares three sets of numbers: actual sales, inventory and detailed recipes for every item on the menu. If 100 sausage and pepperoni pizzas are sold during the day, the system calculates the scripted usage of every ingredient in those items and deducts it from inventory. When Tuck does a complete end-of-week inventory, variances are plugged into the system, and then actual food cost is calculated and compared to his ideal target.

"We're extremely tight on our ideal food cost and inventory management because we structure our managers' bonus program according to ideal food cost," he said.

Reap the rewards

When operators eschew the nitty-gritty data-entry effort required to maximize the inventory and food cost management tools provided, their POS systems aren't used as the profit generators they're designed to be. On the other hand, those like Tuck, who do the detail work, reap bottom-line profits in the form of cost savings.

"Even if you're doing $10,000 a week in a store, saving 1 to 2 percent on waste and over-usage adds up, and it doesn't take long to pay for a system like this then," said Gary Peek, president of Intura (formerly Breakaway International). "There is a detailed level of set-up involved and being able to specify recipe amounts at a very granular level takes some work. But it gives you the best numbers."

That same data-entry effort helps with ordering, as the Intura system can be programmed to track minimum and maximum stocking levels. If supply levels are too far out of line, the operator is prompted to assess the situation.

"When placing food orders and working with projected sales, it will tell you what you currently have on hand, what you need and what you should have when the next vendor arrives," Peek said. "These tools can help anybody improve their business."

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