Waste Not, Profit More
by James J. Hodl
Waste Not, Profit More
Spoilage, over-serving and theft can eat into casino restaurant and bar profits unless preventative steps are taken
Restaurants and bars, especially in casinos, can be a hectic environment where various individual tasks transpire simultaneously. Dishes and liquor bottles are flying to fulfill orders for hungry and thirsty customers, while employees are in constant motion.
Mistakes, and sometimes worse activities, can occur amid the hustle and bustle. And in the process, food and liquor can be wasted or just plain disappear.
“Any food not wasted goes directly into the profit column of the foodservice operation. So, it is a top priority for food and beverage managers to prevent such occurrences,” said Damien J. Mogavero, founder and CEO of New York-based Avero LLC and a former officer of a New York restaurant.
One way to prevent food waste is to establish a food rotation system which assures that the first items put into inventory are also the first used. This prevents throwing out foods unnecessarily—especially meats—due to kitchen staffers grabbing the most-recently purchased items for preparation, thus allowing older items to remain in storage past their freshness date.
The amount of time foods can be kept in refrigerators or freezers is limited but variable. While some foods can be kept a week at 41 degrees Fahrenheit, items like calamari can be retained only a day.
The simplest system for assuring on-time food usage involves adding tags or labels to foods as they are received from suppliers and put into storage. Daydots of Fort Worth, Texas, offers day-of-the-week stickers that indicate the day it was entered into inventory and the day by which it must be used. Other labels allow restaurants to include detailed information (including the “use-by” date) on the food for longer freezer storage.
A more extensive line of food rotation labels is offered by DayMark Safety Systems out of Bowling Green, Ohio. Aside from day-of-the-week labels, DayMark also offers ReMark reusable labels for food pans (for menu items cooked ahead of time and stored in refrigerators until reheated when a customer orders it). It also offers CoolMark labels which withstand temperatures in a range of plus 160 degrees Fahrenheit to negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
FreshMarx Inc. of Miamisburg, Ohio, markets a line of hand-held devices that enable kitchen staffers to customize their own food rotation labels. Data on these adhesive labels include the use-by date, along with instructions, including “Keep Frozen,” “Heat and Eat” and “Use First.”
Another way to control food waste is to better match food purchases with customer orders.
A program within the Avero Slingshot restaurant management software package from Avero LLC maintains and analyzes sales down to individual menu items.
“When the executive chef or restaurant manager wants to place a meat order for a typically busy weekend, Slingshot can quickly call up statistics of sales for the previous seven weekends,” Mogavero said. “Such data includes an average number of sirloin steaks ordered per week, as well as how other factors affected sales, like the weather or whether the casino had a special event that weekend. Using these factors, managers can ably plan ahead and order the steaks in a quantity close to actual sales, so there are fewer—if any—unsold steaks that might go to waste.”
The MMS Menu & Recipe Analysis module from Agilysys manages food and beverage costs by allowing for the most appropriate and economical types and quantities of food to build recipes that maximize profitability. The system cross-references recipe items and ingredients, flags recipes for excessive costs, generates detailed shopping or procurement lists and provides nutritional value. The module also enables food and beverage buyers to perform both actual and theoretical revenue and sales calculations.
Restaurant and bar profits can be hurt when employees are too generous with liquor or other beverages. The solution is portioning systems that dispense preset amounts in the glass at the press of a button.
The Laser Remote liquor control system from Berg Company of Madison, Wis., dispenses liquor from up to 32 different bottles stored in a remote room. A patented magnetic ring placed on top of each bottle (up to 1.75 liters in size) connects them with a soda fountain-style gun dispenser. By pressing the right buttons, bartenders can send quantities from specific bottles in amounts as little as 0.25 ounces into a glass, thus speeding the assembly of mixed drinks, and serving thirsty customers faster. And the system records all drinks poured while keeping track of the cost of each quantity of liquor used.
The Berg Tap 1 draft beer dispenser employs flow meters to direct exact preset quantities of beer into glasses or pitchers from an under-the-counter keg, noted Berg president Curt Dollar. The system also maximizes the bartender’s time, as he need only push a button and can do other tasks while the glass or pitcher is being filled.
Easybar® Beverage Management Systems of Tualatin, Ore., also offers a selection of portion-controlling beverage dispensers. The CLCS II (Computerized Liquor Control System) comes in models that can handle up to 128 different bottles of liquor, which bartenders can dispense in precise preset amounts at the touch of a button on a dispenser gun. The Easybar® Beer Dispenser can be programmed to dole out 12, 16 or 20 ounces of beer per serving. And the Easybar® Wine Dispenser can be set to direct wine in several quantities, up to 10 ounces each. Easybar also offers a soda dispenser (mixing syrup and carbonated water) and a juice dispenser.
The Wunder-Bar Reserve Bottle dispensing system from Automatic Bar Controls Co. of Vacaville, Calif., offers portioning of liquors and wines through dispenser guns attached to upside down stored bottles through flexible hose. The system separates popular liquor brands from those less ordered, which are stored on a separate reserve rack. The system can be preprogrammed to automatically create multiple ingredient cocktails from up to six liquor flavors simultaneously. The system can also be programmed to automatically go into and out of happy hour special modes with different dispensing programs.
Precise dispensing of wine that maximizes servings, reduces waste and helps market the wine by putting the bottles on display for customer selection is provided by OZ Winebars from OZem Corp. of Holland, Mich. These glass-fronted wine refrigerators hold up to 28 bottles of wine, with dispensing facilitated by a cap-and-tube system connecting the bottle with front-mounted spigots, said Geoff Daly, OZem president.
The system can be programmed to deliver exact 8, 6 or 5.5-ounce servings of wine into a glass, thus assuring that all wine in the bottle is served without a partial serving remaining in a bottle that would either go to waste or be spliced with another wine. The Mark II Winebar also has a 1-ounce setting for wine-tasting events, or for topping off glasses with a little extra.
Of special interest to casinos is the new Mark III Winebar, a self-service model that, when activated by insertion of a player card or casino-issued debit card, will dispense the same preprogrammed quantities of wine into customers’ glasses.
The WineStation® portioning refrigerated wine dispenser from Napa Technology of Santa Clara, Calif., has a few added features. LCD screens not only indicate the brand and type of wine being served, but also the price for a taste (1/2 ounce), a half glass (4 ounce) and full glass (8 ounce), each of which can be selected by pressing the appropriate button. The Clear-Pour dispensing head and system also seals the bottle so that wines retain flavor for 45 days after being placed in the WineStation®. According to Napa president Morris Taradalsky, this makes the system “perfect for upscale restaurants to offer $300 and $400 wines for by-the-glass servings.”
A version of the WineStation® operated by an AccuServe SmartCard is available for in-room and hospitality suite use.
Portioning of bar snacks also is a way for casino lounges to boost profitability.
“Bar patrons like to snack as they drink, but providing peanuts, pretzels, goldfish crackers and trail mix in bowls on the bar or at tables is not the best way,” said Chelsea Stuck, sales manager Rosseto Inc. of Skokie, Ill. “Having assorted patrons grabbing snacks from a common bowl in not very hygienic and often results in spillage of snacks that go uneaten.”
Rosseto’s EZ-Serv dispenser is offered in models with up to four-gallon clear-sided hoppers that put individual snacks on display, Stuck noted. These sealed hoppers keep snacks fresh longer, so bars can save money by buying them in bulk. When a patron wants a snack, he puts his hand (or a bowl) underneath the dispenser to get a 1 ounce serving. The dispensers also can be situated behind the bar and operated on request by the bartender. A byproduct of using the dispenser is decreasing the danger of triggering a food allergy in a sensitive patron, she added.
EZ-Serv dispensers also are offered in models for dispensing soup and salad toppings, candies and dried fruit. For breakfast stations, the dispensers provide one-ounce-per-serving for breakfast cereal. This enables customers to mix and match.
Portioning of sauce onto pizza dough to provide even coverage is performed by the Wunder-Bar Pizza Sauce Dispenser.
Resembling an old-time record player, the product’s top gun squirts sauce onto the dough in a center-to-outer-edge motion. The result is an even layer of sauce that covers the entire dough without over-saucing part of it, which results in part of the crust remaining unappetizingly soggy. The result, said Wunder-Bar president Brett Baker, is a better pizza for customers while making optimum use of sauce for better per-item profitability.
But after securing optimum benefit from inventories of food and beverage, one threat to profit remains: employee theft. A 2003 survey by the National Restaurant Association found that on average, employee theft equals 4 percent of total sales.
To stem the temptation for employees to carry stuff off, Las Vegas-based SmartConnect offers Restaurant Vision®, a computer-controlled system that interfaces surveillance cameras with point-of-sale systems so managers can check all transactions for possible fraud. While the camera might show an employee ringing up a more expensive item than a customer is buying and pocketing the difference, it will also catch employees making common job-related mistakes that cost the restaurant money. In these latter situations, the manager can have the employee trained to avoid such errors.
No constant surveillance of Restaurant Vision® video feeds is necessary, as the manager can fast-forward and slow down the recorded video to locate inappropriate behavior, pinpointing reports of suspicious activities ranging from repetitive sales of expensive items to “no sale” cash drawer openings. And the system can be a customer saver, as the video also helps to verify that the customer received the correct change.