The importance of detailed recipe costing and storage

Kitchen CUT Co-founder John Wood takes a clear look at why it is important for your business to have detailed and well-written recipes that are accurately costed and are easy to access.

Why should I create recipes?

Many chefs think that they are above creating recipes as they feel that this stops their creativity in service and does not give them the freedom to be creative with their dishes. A Chef said to me the other day, “If I want to be a top chef I don’t need recipes as it is all in my head and my heart.” My response to that would be:

Creativity (on its own) = Hobby

Creativity first with structure, precision and consistency = Business

Many of the most successful chefs in the World have structure and clear recipes in place for the single most important thing in ANY service business is… consistency. When a guest enjoys one of your creations they will tell their friends about it and they will most likely come back and order it again. If the second time is also good BUT is different – they will be disappointed. Without consistency your business cannot rely on return footfall and will potentially suffer as a result. The ONLY way to get consistency 365 days a year is through structured, accurate recipes with detailed methods and good photographic presentations.
 Give a well-written and detailed recipe with a clear photograph to any decent chef and they will be able to deliver that dish accurately every time (at the worst-case scenario, maybe 95% accurate). This way it does not matter if the chef is off, sick, on holiday – the dishes should be pretty accurate and consistent with previous service and represent your business.

It’s all in my head

Many chefs say that all of their recipes are in their head and they teach their staff how to make everything they way they want it. This approach is fine if the chef works every service and never takes days off or goes on holiday. It is also fine if the chef will never get sick or not turn up for work, or if he should ever leave! As a chef it is irresponsible to run a kitchen like this and as an owner you are extremely vulnerable in case something happens to your chef.
 Inconsistency is the biggest challenge in any kitchen, to ensure that every dish not only looks the same, is served on the same plate, made to an exact recipe and always tastes the same.

Why should I write recipes?

There are six main reasons for writing and using recipes in your business. By ignoring these reasons, you leave yourself extremely vulnerable.
  1. Consistency: With detailed recipes and clear photographs the kitchen team has a far better chance of delivering a consistent food offering every day of the week, irrespective of who is working in the kitchen. All successful restaurants deliver a consistent product so that they meet their customers’ expectations every time. I have watched many restaurant services with no recipes or standards in place and the dish can vary 3-4 times during service, which is totally unacceptable.
  2. Costings: With accurate recipe costing for all of your dishes you can ensure that you are selling each dish not only to the right food cost, but most importantly to a decent profit. It is extremely useful for all the team both in the kitchen and Front of House to know which dishes make the best margin and/or the most profit, so they can recommend these to customers (this does not always mean the most expensive dish, which many restaurants try to do). Think about bottom line profit!
  3. PhotographsWe talk about good photographs of your dishes at KC on many occasions. We believe if you can give a chef a clear, well-taken photograph of the dish you want to serve, you have a far better chance of getting it served the same every time.
  4. MethodsMany restaurants develop a recipe costing with a list of ingredients and quantities, but no clear method and this means you can end up with a variable dish. I have tested this on a number of occasions and given exactly the same ingredients to five different chefs and got five different results! Methods are part of a proper recipe.
  5. Reference: We all know it is difficult to write a new menu every time you wish to make some changes. By having all of your previous recipes stored and easily accessible at anytime, it is a great way of reviving customer favorites when they are back in season again. Even by taking an existing recipe and just tweaking it slightly you can make a new dish. Why re-invent the wheel every time you write a new menu?
  6. Allergens: It’s actually now a requirement to be able to give consumers a transparent and accurate account of the ingredients in each dish on your menu, in accordance with the Food Information for consumers Regulations 1169/2011. To be able to make the same recipe to the same method with the same ingredients is vital for complying with these regulations and having a robust process in place for documenting this information is very important.

Why do I need good photographs?

Very simply – to deliver a dish that looks the same – consistently. You may have the correct recipe with accurate methods, but you also need to present it the same way every time. Below are 2 pictures, which I have seen in kitchens recently. Which one do you think will have a more accurate presentation time and time again?

 Dish image 1        Dish Image 2

Tip: Buy a good camera and invest £30 in a mini portable photo lab from ebay – read our article HERE on food photography.

Why do I need to think about recipe costing?

Costing your recipes accurately is very important and with Kitchen CUT you can easily import, edit and update your prices in the system in seconds. These adjustments will affect any sub recipe, recipe or menu and make the adjustments. Remember, most recipe costings will be out of date after a couple of months. With fluctuating market prices it is challenging to ensure that you are achieving your margins.
  • Struggling with your food costs % or Gross profit %, this is one way that you can instantly get better control.
  • Show your service staff your recipes – by showing your service staff your Kitchen CUT recipes they will know not only more about the dishes on your menu, but also which dishes make the most money – so they can sell them more.

Clear lines of communication

Remember also, dish specs are an important part of communication with the Front of House teams. It can help them understand the detail of the dishes to allow them to talk confidently about the menu, but more importantly, it can also give them a clear and exact detail of which allergens are contained in that dish, without having to rush in and bother the chef during busy service. TOP TIP: Kitchen CUT allows you to print service specs of all dishes, meaning that you can print out the details of the dish including ingredients and allergens without any visible costings.

Recipe storage

Having a good recipe storage system will make finding your recipes much easier. When you want to use one of your old dishes again you need to be able to find it quickly. Kitchen CUT has a very easy to use recipe storage and search system so you can find all of your old recipes within 2 clicks. With our easy to use system, pricing updates (and therefore recipe costing updates) can be done in seconds. The real benefit is that your recipes will always have the most up-to-date prices and costings on them.

Use your recipes?

More often than not, chefs tend to write recipes and either store them on their computer or print them off and put them in a file in the office. We suggest that you do both. Leave the recipes stored securely in the cloud with Kitchen CUT to ensure prices and allergen information are kept up to date and then print all of the recipes and sub-recipes off and put them in plastic sleeves in folders for the chefs to use around the kitchen. If they get dirty then just print a new one off. The key thing is to display and use them every day. We know of many kitchens now using ipads to readily access their information, striving for a paperless working environment!

Start writing and storing your recipes today and start operating a more consistent and less vulnerable business now.

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