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  • Jay Zweibaum

How did your weekend BBQ turn out? Five Fundamentals of food production

For those in the hospitality business, executing a function becomes second nature. If you were to ask anyone else to do the same, they would probably panic or run away to the bar. But in reality, the basics of food management are widely known. The need to follow a prescribed process is fundamental to delivering a great experience. Unfortunately, there are so many managers and chefs who “wing it” on a regular basis and then are surprised by the results.

Let’s plan a weekend BBQ at your home to demonstrate the food production process:

  • All great food production processes start with planning. If you are having a BBQ at your house, you are probably going to determine how many people are going to come and develop a menu. The menu has recipes and the recipes has ingredients. The first time you plan the BBQ, it might be a guess as to preference, but that is ok. All of these elements come together as your plan or guide for the meal.

  • Next, you’re going to figure out your shopping list. This is done by extending your recipes and ingredients for the projected number of people who will eat. Most cookbooks have quantities of 4-6 but you might need 20, for example. Has anyone asked you, how many burgers should I get? This is part of that process. You also may have a budget that you need to consider when going to the store.

  • Once you have your shopping done, you need to prepare the food. At home (and in commercial kitchens), you may start the day before doing prep of certain items, marinating the meat, chopping veggies, etc. Of course, you are using those recipes that you extended based on your forecast. If you don’t know how you made it, how will you repeat it next time? You are also starting with the items that take the longest amount of time, a soup for example or something that should sit for a while.

  • BBQ Day! Now it is time to serve the food. You may batch cook your burgers, chicken and hotdogs so you don’t waste them. You may put out the food buffet style or perhaps you hired someone to help serve, if you are fancy. Either way, you are delivering the great food you prepared with hospitality and a smile. You already thought through the accompaniments and condiments, like ketchup, mustard, relish, etc. and arranged those in advance. You have the cutlery, plates and napkins out and ready to go. You followed the recipes, you tasted the food and everyone is enjoying!

  • Once everyone goes home, you have to do the dreaded clean-up. But you are also assessing what you have left; this is called post-production. You may have run out of certain popular items or you may have a lot of that coleslaw left, for example. No one likes to waste food and you certainly don’t want to leave your guests disappointed. This process of assessment is important so that next time, you do it better. You may make a note in a recipe to add more or delete an ingredient, you may make a mental note to get more veggie burgers or that no one ate the fruit salad.

Although this is very simple and probably familiar to everyone, it is really the basics of food production. In a restaurant or commercial kitchen, this is formalized and certain things must be in place, including;

  • A detailed planning process that is driven by past results – how did this menu perform last time?

  • You have to order to your plan. I have seen so many chefs do the planning but then just order in a way unrelated to the plan. This wastes money, food and resources.

  • You need to produce to your plan. Using your production sheet, your extended recipes and the ingredients purchased will result in the most consistent and cost effective outcome. A plan also provides very clear direction to your team, which is fundamental to an engaged workforce.

  • Be sure to batch cook your recipes where possible and ensure you are serving the right portion size to all of your guests.

  • And, perhaps most importantly, check how you did at the end of the meal service. How many portions were leftover? Did you run out of anything? Anything else happen during service? Then, record that information so that you can use it for next time to be EVEN BETTER!

While these tips are very high level, I’m guessing that so many of you will say, “yes, of course” but that doesn’t mean it actually happens. Being relentless and consistent will drive the process for you and your teams. It will improve your results, consistency, reduce costs and workload and establish the foundation for growth. Happy cooking!

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