MARCH: What’s in your refrigerator?

If I were to ask you right now, “what is in your refrigerator that needs to be used or it will need to be thrown away?”, would you have a fast and accurate answer? As a manager or owner operator you ought to be able to answer that question accurately and quickly. A daily audit of all refrigerated boxes and walk-ins is as essential part of operating a successful and profitable restaurant just as ordering accuracy and scheduling of employees. Utilization of all perishable foods is essential in maintaining a strong bottom line and a low food cost percentage.

It can be a painful and difficult job the first time you go through a neglected cooler. Many items may need to find their way to the trash if this has not been done regularly.  This can be a chore no manager wants to do. On the other hand, it may seem that it’s not too bad. You may only find a few half used cans of items that have found their way to the rear of the box, a couple of pieces of leftover chicken from a couple of nights earlier, etc. But if you annualize the cost associated with just those items it can become a larger number rather quickly. Once you have completed the initial audit, it will become easier to maintain an orderly cooler on an ongoing basis if you complete this process daily.

So now the big question, I’ve completed this task and identified items that need to be used.  Now what can I do? I have found that typically you will find the same items as the main culprits on a regular basis…partially used open cans and leftover prepared foods from the night before.  First of all, nothing should ever remain in an open can. The metal can cause a reaction and cause the product to spoil at a faster rate than if it was stored in a plastic or Lexan container such as a Camsquare container (available at Merchants). Make a recipe file dedicated to the leftover items you are finding. If your line pulled too many hamburger patties and they sat overnight and lost moisture, have a plan for them. They won’t be good for burgers any longer but they could be utilized in a special such as meatloaf, meat sauce for pasta, tacos, etc. Left over roast beef or prime rib can be used in many ways as well. Leftover cooked chicken should be pulled from the bone daily and used as soon as possible as chicken salad, chicken & dumplings.…the list goes on.

Keep a very close eye on your produce, if you have leaf vegetables that are on the verge, make note of it and come up with a creative way to incorporate them into a special.  Most leaf vegetables will lend themselves to an array of uses other than just salads or garnish.   Cabbage, leaf lettuce, romaine, bibb etc. can be used for wraps with a seasoned protein such as ground beef, turkey, shredded chicken, or grilled fish and served with a sauce to accompany them.  Our goal is to minimize the amount of food in your trash. Get creative… know your stock…know what has a limited shelf life and most of all, watch as your waste diminishes and your profits increase. Sure, Merchants will sell you fresh items if you just throw out the items you don’t use, but we would rather be selling you those items 10 years from now as you reap all of the profits you can from your business! Until next month…Cheers and I hope to see you on an upcoming visit to your island!

credit: Chip Welfeld

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