Recipe cards are an essential asset for the back of house for a few reasons:
They provide instruction for new cooks.
They lower the risk of food waste and incorrect orders.
They enforce the guidelines you set for your kitchen.
When up to 10% of restaurant food is wasted before even reaching a customer, restaurants can't be too careful when it comes to controlling portions and putting best practices into place to secure the bottom line.
Included in this article are the key elements of restaurant recipe cards. Read on for more information, or download the Restaurant Back of House Guide for free recipe card templates now.
The top of the recipe card should be the name of the dish (typed or printed clearly so it’s not mistaken for a similar item). Here is where you can also attach your restaurant name and the chef who created the recipe.
2. Total Prep Time
Food should always come out at its freshest for guests, so noting prep time right on the recipe card is a huge help for cooks.
If they know the pizza takes ten minutes to prep and cook, the steak takes 12, and the salad takes four, that cook will know to start the steak, then make the pizza, and finally make the salad while both of those are cooking. That way the salad doesn’t warm up too much and the steak doesn’t lose its heat.
3. Description & Qualifiers
Reserve space for how many servings come from one batch, what part of the menu this would be found on (appetizers, pizzas, desserts, etc.), and a quick description of the item.
The crux of a recipe card is the list of ingredients (for order accuracy) and their respective portion size (for consistency and limiting food waste).
With these cards, assume it’s the cook’s first time making the dish and make the list as detailed as possible. The pinch of salt and pepper or the spritz of lime may seem like second nature, but listing it can prevent a conversation with your staff that could come across as condescending.
When it comes to portion size, enforce these rules as closely as possible. Every time a cook feels like adding “a little extra,” it increases your food cost variance and negatively impacts your bottom line. If a different cook thinks two tablespoons of teriyaki sauce is too much and decides to cut back, guests may feel cheated with a lesser-quality meal.
What temperature should the oven be set? Should you defrost before cooking? When do you add the peas?
All of these steps that may seem intuitive to you should be spelled out on your recipe cards to keep quality and consistency. These procedures should also have a corresponding time; “steam the vegetables” is not as specific as “steam the vegetables: 3 minutes,” and these two minor different instructions could see majorly different results on the plate.
This is where the presentation and packaging best practices are explained. Note the caramel drizzle for the cheesecake or a reminder to wrap the to-go chicken parm sub in tin foil.
People see their food before they taste it. If it looks drastically different than what expected, people won’t be satisfied. See what happened with Applebee’s when one of their guests got a salad that did not match the expectations the restaurant had set.
So I ordered the Southwestern Steak Salad at @Applebees tonight and this was the outcome. I understand that food isn't always going to look like the pictures but... pic.twitter.com/XwZHE1fRGU
This one benefits the front of house and can serve as a quick reference point for allergen questions.
Make a quick note if the dish contains gluten, has nuts, or is vegan. That way, if a server asks on behalf of a guest, no one will have to call the GM or head chef while he or she is at home to double check.
If one of your meals is made in bulk (i.e. pizza at a deli), record the steps for storing the food and facts on how long it lasts.
Maybe the pepperoni sheet pizza can only last one hour unheated, but cheese square pizza can last up to four. And once its initial shelf life expires, where can the food be stored, and how long does it last in storage?
Accuracy on this front means your restaurant wastes less food and see less product spoiled.
Things change in restaurants all the time. Maybe after getting some guest feedback, you decide to change the recipe for your chicken marsala. If that’s the case, remake the recipe card and revise the date.
Afterwards, communicate this change to your staff. Otherwise, the change may go unnoticed.
Making the Most of Your Restaurant Recipe Cards
Restaurant recipe cards – when written and utilized correctly – can be an enormously helpful tool for keeping consistency, reducing food waste, and raising the bottom line at your restaurant.
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