Until recently, I never thought about portion size in any other context than food cost controls, but a recent dinner at the home of friends changed that. Their family is a rarity in America. They dine out infrequently — about once or twice a month — and usually on special occasions, like a birthday or anniversary.
When my hosts brought the meal to the table, I looked at the small portions in front of me and thought they'd mistaken me for one of the kids. For a brief second, I actually feared that I wasn't going to get enough to eat. I imagined myself going through a drive-thru for a burger on my way home, or worse yet, asking their kids (like I do with my own) if they were going to eat all their chicken.
Of course, I enjoyed the meal immensely... a good old-fashioned family experience. (Another rarity, but that's another story.) And although I would have served and eaten a larger portion if left to my own devices, I wasn't at all hungry at the end of the meal. As a matter of fact, I was feeling very well satiated.
Recent talk of holding the restaurant industry accountable for the supersizing of America is absurd, but there's no denying that portions are large and in some cases downright ridiculous. Whether this is an over-reaction to the nouvelle cuisine of the '70s or something else, I don't know. What I do know is that slightly smaller portion sizes would mean more profit and less waste.
Examine your menu items' portion sizes and consider an incremental downsizing on selected items. If done thoughtfully, I predict that your customer's won't even notice. But if you're not sure, it never hurts to ask customers their opinions on your portion sizes with a simple comment card or manager table visits. The important thing is value perception... that your customers believe they got what they paid for.
Do your customers and yourself a favor. Read the related Trade Secrets listed below for details and then use your recipe explosion software or our Menu Costing Worksheet to determine how less can mean more for us all. And who knows... maybe we'll have room for dessert!