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Pennies from heaven

Little savings can add up.  So can little ideas about how to save. Here are a couple of ideas about how to save some change here and there.  Now watch that change add up. 

Many times I've glanced down at a penny on the sidewalk and kept walking. A penny doesn't go very far these days, and spare change tends to wear holes in my pockets.

When my son Stephen was young, on the other hand, he stopped and picked up those pennies. To him, they were just as good as the nickels, dimes and even the dollars he saves. It's all money to him.

Back in the days when we were looking for every penny we could squeeze out our restaurant, we were good at turning pennies into dollars. A nickel here, and few cents there amounted to real savings (cash) over time. Even when times got easier, the habits we had developed stuck. And no one complained about the extra money in the bank, by the way. Here are a few of the ways we pinched pennies and turned them into significant profit:

Portion control

When our restaurant was busy, the kitchen was sloppy about portioning our high cost menu items, such as shrimp and crab, according to the recipe. Sure, the customers loved the super-sized pile of crab, but it wreaked havoc on our food cost. We started pre-portioning these items into plastic or paper ramekins and stored them on sheet pans covered with plastic wrap. When it came time to prepare an order, there was no weighing or guesswork necessary, portions were right on the money. This practice improved ticket turn time too.

Waste not, want not

We discovered that about 1% - 2% of the sauces, dressings, soups, and batters we prepared were wasted simply because the mixing bowls or containers weren't scraped before being sent to the dishwasher. Big, rubber scrapers solved this problem in a heartbeat, and our waste dropped. Also, take a look inside your kitchen garbage cans to see what else is being needlessly thrown away.

Go go gadget!

We served a lot of prawns. Therefore we cleaned a lot of prawns. A purist might clean them by hand, but I found a little plastic gadget that peeled and deveined prawns in one quick move. The result? About a 80% reduction in the time to prep prawns, which meant a one-hour labor savings each day, times 300 days a year... you get the picture. There are all kinds of specialty tools out there to make prepping procedures more efficient.

So you see, nothing fancy here. Just some attention to detail, and an awareness of the value of a penny or two. Over time, it added up, and created an awareness of waste and food cost on the part of our staff. I'm sure that your own team has some ideas about ways to reduce costs and save money. Ask them. If it's a really great idea, reward them. After all, little ideas turn into big dollars.

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