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The Food Error Eliminator

July 27, 2021

We’ve connected with dozens of multi-unit and enterprise food businesses in recent years, and they all lament the same operational burden: human error.

Small errors—when spread across hundreds of locations, chefs, and data sources—snowball into massive disruptions. Missing food data leaves line cooks wondering how to complete tasks. Outdated digital files create varying systems of record. Inventory miscounts generate margin-eating food waste. At scale, it’s a nightmare for the most experienced COOs.

That’s why we’ve created this simple guide: to identify the eight most common areas where human errors occur.

Then offer practical suggestions for creating smarter systems that eliminate errors, minimize frustration, and destroy barriers to growth.

Pen and Paper Recipes

Error Frequency: HIGH

The Errors

We’ve found that over 50% of enterprise food businesses still rely on pen and paper recipes in their commercial kitchens. These static recipe sheets are ripe for error.

  • Poor Handwriting — Is that “Tbps” or “tbs” or “tps”? It’s stunning how often poor handwriting is the cause of disruption for kitchen workers.
  • Lost Documents — Printed and handwritten recipe sheets attract spills, are easily misplaced, and tend to accidentally end up in the garbage.
  • Manual Updates Required — Pen and paper recipes must be updated manually for every production location by someone who has the time for the task.

Consequences

Of all the sources of human error in food operations, this may be the most consequential.

  • Kitchen Confusion — When a line cook is missing instructions or cannot read the handwriting, she’s likely to improvise on the spot. If she seeks out help from a supervisor, that’s a productivity loss.
  • Outdated Recipes — Updating recipes when you’re working with dozens of locations is a game of cat and mouse, often taking several days to get everyone to write down the updated information and distribute it to the team.

What To Do Instead

We’ve seen organizations exit the pen and paper hamster wheel and grow exponentially, thanks to their newfound data clarity, streamlined communication, and operational efficiency.

  • Use One System of Record — House all your recipes in a single hub that automatically updates relevant data for all your locations when you make changes.
  • Track Changes — With all your recipes in one place, you can easily track changes, improve recipes more efficiently, and better manage QA.

Old Digital Recipe Files

Error Frequency: HIGH

The Errors

Many food businesses rely on static digital files to manage recipes: Excel sheets, Word documents, and PDFs. These files work for a while, but as your operation changes, so should they—and that’s where many problems occur.

  • Duplicate Files — We’ve all looked for RecipeFilev2.doc, but accidentally downloaded RecipeFilev1_2.doc. It’s a simple, highly frequent mistake.

Consequences

Duplicate files with conflicting contents litter the computers of kitchen supervisors and chefs across the globe, and the consequences can be just as wide-reaching.

  • Outdated Recipes — Chances are some of your locations are using old recipe data. That produces messy data for your corporate team, confuses the inventory/purchasing system, and leads to inconsistent customer experiences. To find the problem recipes, you’d have to look through them all, one by one.
  • Clunky Digital Storage — Chefs need to access key recipes and procedures in seconds, and the more new files coming in via email, the longer they have to spend getting to Inbox Zero than actually producing food.

What To Do Instead

We’ve watched as organizations move from pen and paper to digital files, but experienced the same inevitable consequences down the road. The fix for both error sources is the same.

  • Use One System of Record — House all your recipes in a single hub that automatically updates relevant data for all your locations when you make changes—without requiring team members to download any files.

Broken Excel Sheets

Error Frequency: HIGH

The Errors

Excel is the most used software in the enterprise food space for recipes, food costing, menu scaling, and beyond. Unfortunately, spreadsheets are subject to many of the same challenges as pen and paper records.

  • Disjointed Spreadsheets — Using spreadsheets works in silos, but blending data from multiple sheets for greater accuracy or insight is prone to formula error.
  • Data Entry — Basic data entry errors are natural when you’re handling dozens of spreadsheets and having to enter hundreds of data points manually.
  • Breaking Change — Your business changes constantly, and so must your spreadsheets. We all know how frustrating it is to change a calculation on one spreadsheet, and have it break the calculation on another.

Consequences

The limitations of disjointed spreadsheets cause them to largely behave like static documents, each requiring manual changes to keep data up-to-date.

  • Messy Food Data — One wrong number on a single sheet will throw off calculations for four others. Fixing the error feels like looking for a needle in a haystack.
  • Slow Pivoting — Fast adjustments keep your business resilient to change, but aging spreadsheets are a challenge to upkeep, which leaves you vulnerable.

What To Do Instead

The key fault of spreadsheets is that the data isn’t dynamically linked between them, opening up room for error in dozens of ways, but removing that room altogether is possible.

  • Dedicated Food ERP — Enterprise Resource Planning software that’s purpose-built for the food industry intelligently connects all your data points, so you’re never finicking with Excel formulas or outdated spreadsheets again.

Poorly Built ERPs

Error Frequency: MEDIUM-HIGH

The Errors

Most ERP software is repurposed accounting software, which works for basic calculations, but is prone to error once you attempt to tailor it to the intricacies of the food industry.

  • Selecting a Low-Usability Error — Leadership teams that sign up for ERP systems without honest feedback from on-the-ground team members are at risk of implementing software that may look good at first, but will soon find itself in a messy data death spiral.

Consequences

It’s hard to quantify the negative impact of a poorly-built, poorly-designed ERP. But it’s not hard to see how poor software choices can set a business back 2+ years.

  • Low Adoption Rates — Software that feels terrible to use is terrible to use. The chefs and line cooks who use the software daily will inevitably stop using it faithfully like the leadership team needs to see a positive ROI.
  • Reversion to Old Systems — We’ve witnessed countless instances of employees in kitchens going back to the paper recipes and spreadsheet calculations they’re used to because a poorly-built ERP was so frustrating to use.
  • Messy Data — Low-usability tools, as employees disengage, lead you right back where you started: messy data and a lack of deeper insight.

What To Do Instead

The solution here is simple.

  • Food-Specific ERPs — Look for ERP software that’s built by food industry experts who understand what it’s like to work in the kitchen. You’ll also get access to cleaner data, thanks to greater focus on industry-specific metrics generalized software won’t account for, like food waste.

Inventory Miscounts

Error Frequency: MEDIUM

The Errors

Taking inventory is a regular, necessary task. Completing it manually, often via pen and paper, however, leaves you open to frequent and compounding errors.

  • Manual Miscounts — Counting by eye is rarely accurate. That’s why many enterprises use an Inventory Variance Percentage (IVP), often around 95% accuracy, to intentionally leave room for error in inventory calculations.
  • Not Counting Shelf-Life — Few inventory SOPs require employees to note shelf life.

Consequences

Because your business ops are built on the ingredients you create with, small counting errors in the backroom have compounding consequences by the time you are analyzing food costs at the end of the month.

  • High Inventory Variance Percentage — For growing enterprises, a +/- 5% IVP, when integrated into food costing and purchasing calculations, can mean the difference of tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary food costs per month.
  • In-optimized Purchasing — When you’re not sure what you have, you hit a wall of how optimized you can make your purchasing that often results in over-purchasing.
  • Selling Food You Don’t Have — When you’re low on ingredients, down to that 5% IVP, you might be selling food you don’t have. You might not. Who knows?

What To Do Instead

  • Calculate Inventory in Real-Time — Leverage a digital inventory system that understands exactly what you have in the storage room, what has already been produced, what you’ll need the following weeks, and how long till everything spoils.

Manual Food Costing

Error Frequency: HIGH

The Errors

Food costing is the bane of our industry. Vendors change. Ingredient prices change. Shipping prices change. It’s a constant battle, and one that we frequently lose.

  • Outdated Pricing Data — Vendor prices change daily, which means if you’re using data from last week to calculate food costs today, you’re not getting an accurate picture of your margins or profits.
  • Food Waste Calculations — You likely leverage a general food waste percentage in your food costing calculations, but unless you know the precise trim yield of each recipe, it’s only a rough estimate.
  • Pen and Paper, Yikes — We’re constantly shocked at how many businesses do their food costing by hand. This often leads to significant calculation errors.

Consequences

Inaccurate food costing creates a wide variety of burdens for businesses large and small, but they all boil down to two key consequences.

  • Unclear Margins/Profits — Like with inventory counts, even a modest 5% variance in food cost calculations can mean the difference in tens or hundreds of thousands of miscounted dollars per month. Is your true profit margin 5% or 8%? It’s hard to tell.
  • Stunted Flexibility — Without real-time food costs on a per-recipe and per-menu level, you’re left guessing which items are profitable on any given day. That leaves you vulnerable to shifts in vendor pricing and from pivoting quickly or confidently.

What To Do Instead

There’s no way around this one. Paper, excel, and non-food ERPs won’t work here.

  • Food Costing Software Food businesses of the future leverage real-time vendor data and detailed food waste calculations on a per-recipe and per-menu level to access a new level of data clarity.

Unit Conversions

Error Frequency: MEDIUM

The Errors

Convert a case of potatoes, to a cycle count, to cups of roasted potatoes or pans of au gratin. Converting units across various touchpoints is a point of frequent frustration.

  • Varying Units by Action — Procurement works in one unit of measurement. Receiving works in another. Inventory is counted in a third. And in recipes, ingredients may be counted in three or four different units. Try keeping that all straight.
  • Manual Calculations — Especially when you’re calculating across metrics (mass vs volume), manually calculating unit conversions is likely to generate errors.
  • Trim Yield — Converting a case of potatoes to a baked potato recipe yields virtually no trim. Converting to skinned and chopped potatoes, where this is greater trim, becomes more complicated.

Consequences

We’ve watched veteran chefs break down in frustration because of conversion errors, and the consequence that has on productivity can bring a whole kitchen to a halt.

  • Slow Substitutions — You’re out of white onion, but have extra yellow onion. The problem is, white onions are measured in diced cups, and yellow onions are measured in kilos. Getting the substitution right is going to slow down everything.
  • Unusable Food — One mistake can mean the difference between one pound and one kilogram of chopped onion. There goes another batch of tomato sauce in the garbage.

What To Do Instead

Conversions should be handled by computers, where calculations can happen without fail.

  • Convert Once, Then Automate — Measure a case of potatoes in diced ounces, mashed cups, or whatever units you work with once. Input the results into your Food ERP, and let the software automatically convert future units in seconds, across all your ingredients, to any unit of measure.

Menu Planning and Scaling

Error Frequency: MEDIUM

The Errors

Make any one of the previous mistakes, and your menu planning at scale will reveal errors at scale. But the process of planning and scaling menus is fraught with danger all on its own.

  • Double-Booking Ingredients — Scaling a menu at the enterprise level involves batching production with razor-sharp efficiency. We’ve witnessed large foodservice organizations misassign ingredients to multiple use cases when trying to scale menus by hand or with spreadsheets.
  • Over and Under-Purchasing — Remember that +/- 5% Inventory Variance Percentage? It’s not such a big deal when you only have five locations. But now that you’ve scaled tenfold, you’re likely to purchase way too much or way too little. Either way, it hurts the bottom line.

Consequences

Small errors when escalated in enterprise operations can cause major disruption, slowing productivity and harming business growth.

  • Last-Minute Frantic Pivots — One of your kitchen locations doesn’t have all the ingredients you planned for, because of the +/- 5% IVP? More fires to put out.
  • Increased Food Waste — Purchased extra food, just in case? You didn’t have to find a last-minute substitution, but you did decimate your profit margin (if you can even calculate it accurately).

What To Do Instead

Scaling menus, especially if you have a more complicated menu, works best in a dedicated Food ERP that interconnects unit conversions, vendor pricing, and other food data.

  • Plan Using Real-Time Data — Interconnect real-time vendor pricing and inventory, as well as instant conversions and trim yield calculations, to scale menus with laser precision down to the ingredient level.

Manual Food Costing

Error Frequency: HIGH

The Errors

Food costing is the bane of our industry. Vendors change. Ingredient prices change. Shipping prices change. It’s a constant battle, and one that we frequently lose.

  • Outdated Pricing Data — Vendor prices change daily, which means if you’re using data from last week to calculate food costs today, you’re not getting an accurate picture of your margins or profits.
  • Food Waste Calculations — You likely leverage a general food waste percentage in your food costing calculations, but unless you know the precise trim yield of each recipe, it’s only a rough estimate.
  • Pen and Paper, Yikes — We’re constantly shocked at how many businesses do their food costing by hand. This often leads to significant calculation errors.

Consequences

Inaccurate food costing creates a wide variety of burdens for businesses large and small, but they all boil down to two key consequences.

  • Unclear Margins/Profits — Like with inventory counts, even a modest 5% variance in food cost calculations can mean the difference in tens or hundreds of thousands of miscounted dollars per month. Is your true profit margin 5% or 8%? It’s hard to tell.
  • Stunted Flexibility — Without real-time food costs on a per-recipe and per-menu level, you’re left guessing which items are profitable on any given day. That leaves you vulnerable to shifts in vendor pricing and from pivoting quickly or confidently.

What To Do Instead

There’s no way around this one. Paper, excel, and non-food ERPs won’t work here.

  • Food Costing Software Food businesses of the future leverage real-time vendor data and detailed food waste calculations on a per-recipe and per-menu level to access a new level of data clarity.

Unit Conversions

Error Frequency: MEDIUM

The Errors

Convert a case of potatoes, to a cycle count, to cups of roasted potatoes or pans of au gratin. Converting units across various touchpoints is a point of frequent frustration.

  • Varying Units by Action — Procurement works in one unit of measurement. Receiving works in another. Inventory is counted in a third. And in recipes, ingredients may be counted in three or four different units. Try keeping that all straight.
  • Manual Calculations — Especially when you’re calculating across metrics (mass vs volume), manually calculating unit conversions is likely to generate errors.
  • Trim Yield — Converting a case of potatoes to a baked potato recipe yields virtually no trim. Converting to skinned and chopped potatoes, where this is greater trim, becomes more complicated.

Consequences

We’ve watched veteran chefs break down in frustration because of conversion errors, and the consequence that has on productivity can bring a whole kitchen to a halt.

  • Slow Substitutions — You’re out of white onion, but have extra yellow onion. The problem is, white onions are measured in diced cups, and yellow onions are measured in kilos. Getting the substitution right is going to slow down everything.
  • Unusable Food — One mistake can mean the difference between one pound and one kilogram of chopped onion. There goes another batch of tomato sauce in the garbage.

What To Do Instead

Conversions should be handled by computers, where calculations can happen without fail.

  • Convert Once, Then Automate — Measure a case of potatoes in diced ounces, mashed cups, or whatever units you work with once. Input the results into your Food ERP, and let the software automatically convert future units in seconds, across all your ingredients, to any unit of measure.

Menu Planning and Scaling

Error Frequency: MEDIUM

The Errors

Make any one of the previous mistakes, and your menu planning at scale will reveal errors at scale. But the process of planning and scaling menus is fraught with danger all on its own.

  • Double-Booking Ingredients — Scaling a menu at the enterprise level involves batching production with razor-sharp efficiency. We’ve witnessed large foodservice organizations misassign ingredients to multiple use cases when trying to scale menus by hand or with spreadsheets.
  • Over and Under-Purchasing — Remember that +/- 5% Inventory Variance Percentage? It’s not such a big deal when you only have five locations. But now that you’ve scaled tenfold, you’re likely to purchase way too much or way too little. Either way, it hurts the bottom line.

Consequences

Small errors when escalated in enterprise operations can cause major disruption, slowing productivity and harming business growth.

  • Last-Minute Frantic Pivots — One of your kitchen locations doesn’t have all the ingredients you planned for, because of the +/- 5% IVP? More fires to put out.
  • Increased Food Waste — Purchased extra food, just in case? You didn’t have to find a last-minute substitution, but you did decimate your profit margin (if you can even calculate it accurately).

What To Do Instead

Scaling menus, especially if you have a more complicated menu, works best in a dedicated Food ERP that interconnects unit conversions, vendor pricing, and other food data.

  • Plan Using Real-Time Data — Interconnect real-time vendor pricing and inventory, as well as instant conversions and trim yield calculations, to scale menus with laser precision down to the ingredient level.

Erase Human Error with Galley Solutions — The Only Food ERP System that Does it All

Check real-time costs. Skip the manual food cost and profit margin calculations. Go straight for the optimizations with accurate data.

  • Scale recipes on demand. Instantly see how costs and margins change when you scale recipes and batch production.
  • Create more profitable recipes. Make changes to your recipes and see exactly how it impacts the profit margin instantly. Optimize with confidence.
  • Leave no location behind. Maximize margins for all your locations in a single platform.

It is time to stop human error in its tracks.

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