The ability to make a buffet profitable is rare, and it requires skill and cunning.
The following points outline the key strategies and techniques for creating your profitable buffet, these points are equally valid for bain marie style service.
No matter whether you’re running an a la carte or buffet catering operation you have to be smart about purchasing ingredients. Not only so you receive fresher food that tastes better, but also to ensure the seasonality and therefore the price, is right.
Having a balance between inexpensive ingredients and highly priced ingredients is always a challenge. There is no doubt that dishes using expensive ingredients will help in promotion of the buffet, but care needs to be taken on the delivery.It is important to record wastage of buffet items in order to recalibrate how much stock is used per person in future.
One way to reduce costs and increase profit margins is to buy in bulk. This is ideal for ingredients which can be frozen or are non-perishable. Negotiating with suppliers to and buying in bulk can substantially reduce costs.
The buffet menu should not be changed too regularly. The costs and logistics of ordering different ingredients, let alone costing each dish can waste a head chefs time and add to this the training costs and time required to educate junior staff. Developing a new menu every three to four months ensures the buffet is adjusting to any changes in seasonal foods and there is not an over investment in time for creating and pricing new menus.
A subtle food-cost control measure is to pre-plate more expensive items. Not only does it help to reduce waste and over production, it also provides a touch of elegance. Care should be taken as pre-plating can drastically increase buffet labor costs.
Portion control is an essential element in not only providing enough portions for the seating, but the ability to food costs. It is important that more expensive items on the buffet menu are reduced in portion size. The portion sizes on buffets should be less than half the size of a la carte portions. Large portions increase waste, and high-cost entrées are consumed in greater amounts.
Have you ever given thought to the size of the utensils guests use? If spoons and slices are too big, guests will take much more than they need/should, subsequently increasing the portion size per person, wastage and the overall costs of the buffet. In addition, food served on smaller trays and platters may have to be replaced more frequently, but it does convey the message that there is not an endless supply and will guide the guest to take only one or two selections rather than over-fill their plates.
Sizzler restaurant serve everyone at the table a complimentary slice of their signature cheese toast? This cheese bread is designed to fill you up before you head to the buffet. Other restaurants use extra large glasses of chilled water or post mix to increase your intake of liquids throughout the meal resulting in you eating less. Strategies like this need to be considered.
Be aware that it requires an increased number of staff to prepare for a buffet prior to service.
After closeing, chefs should identify what can be kept and used for the next day. If food can't be used again, then chefs will need to weigh and record the wastage. By effectively utilising the wastage report, management will gain a more complete understanding of food costs and stock control measures.