The One Thing That Runs The Food World (And Why Galley is a Recipe-First System)
March 25, 2022
A chef’s repertoire begins and ends with this treasured inheritance of countless cooks from generation to generation. Ever evolving, transforming and changing. These fundamental building blocks for how food brands plan, operate, and serve their customers, can control their destiny.
Recipes are what one can serve a guest, and prepare in advance. They help determine what ingredients you must store, what vendor items you must buy. Recipes determine a menu, it’s profitability, margins, and what your guests can enjoy. They are powerful too. Recipes can bring people from far away, or keep people returning. They can bring back memories, or create new ones.
Yet, it’s tempting for operators and leadership to forget this. The important role that recipes play in the food industry is more important than ever. Yes, digital ordering and slick packaging can win, yet it’s the recipe, however, that determines the health and direction of every culinary operation.
A recipe is an instructional manual but it doesn’t just tell you how to prepare a dish. When used in a smart way, recipes can dictate everything from the ingredients you need to purchase and when, to what needs to be prepped, and when that kitchen work needs to be completed
A recipe tells you how you build purchase orders. It’s how you maintain consistency across time, locations, and team members. It’s what your customers keep coming back for.
In this article, we’ll explore why the recipe ought to be the foundation for how virtually all culinary and business decisions are made in food businesses, including:
How to create recipes as building blocks, not static sets of instructions
The hidden cost of working with outdated recipe models and conventions
Why the profitability discussion in the food industry is circling back to recipes
It’s the latest innovation in growth and optimization–that’s always been the next big thing.
The History of The Recipe
The word recipe is derived from the Latin verb recipe, meaning “to receive or take”. Recipes developed as a way to pass on the knowledge of how to prepare food that is safe and delicious to the next generation. The new generation received the knowledge, refined it, and passed it on once more.
Eventually, these recipes became staple dishes in different cultures, preserved first in the minds of generations of families, then passed on via scribbles on scraps of paper, and later formalized in recipe books.
Just as a recipe is a structured way to plan out the preparation of a meal, the brigade system was codified by Auguste Escoffier to organize the kitchen with military precision. Each section of the kitchen is responsible for a part of the recipe, and each chef has their role, with the sous and head chef bringing the whole symphony together at the pass.
But is this centuries-old approach still relevant in today’s multi-outlet restaurant world?
The Modern Approach: The Recipe as Modular Building Block in ERP Software
The idea of the recipe as the center point of a kitchen’s organization and execution of a dish has stood the test of time for a reason.
A recipe tells whoever is tasked with cooking it—whether that’s one chef or a whole brigade – the exact ingredients, quantities, techniques, and equipment they need to make it. Plus any other information they need to know like the allergens or substitute ingredients.
In fact, it’s very much like a Bill of Materials in manufacturing—the source of all the information needed to create a product. A list of materials, tools, processes, and any supporting documentation, a Bill of Materials is essential to efficiently produce the products we use every day.
Both a recipe and a Bill of Materials provide clear inputs, outputs, and metadata. In the case of recipes, that means:
Inputs and outputs
Inputs: ingredients, units of measure, and food costs
Outputs: a portion of food and its retail price
Number of portions
Cost per portion
As is the case in manufacturing, if you are not precise when you are working at scale, things can go very wrong, very quickly.
The bottom line is at risk because accuracy in fulfilling ambitious goals is based on your aim. If you shoot for the moon and your aim is a few millimeters off, that error multiplies over distance.
If you’re planning food for 100 or 1000 kitchens, and you’re slightly off in your planning, the consequences could be catastrophic—and financially ruinous. So it’s vital that your recipes are accurate and complete to begin with.
Nail The Basics in Your Recipes Any Level of Scale
Working at the enterprise level, recipes become incredibly complex to manage. Ingredients arrive in all kinds of boxes, containers, sacks, bottles, and jars in different weights, volumes, or by unit, while recipes use multiple units of measurement too.
All of these variables must be reconciled in your recipes in order for you to have accurate measurements to work with. Especially when you are scaling recipes, where one or two ounces in error can quickly become an entire box of an expensive ingredient wasted.
Ideally, every bit of food data should be instantly convertible for any purpose. But this gets incredibly complicated and time-consuming if you try to do it manually.
For example, to account for a portion of mashed potatoes in a recipe, you would have to:
Count the ounces of potatoes in a sack
Convert ounces to liters of cooked mashed potato, taking into account wastage and trim
Calculate the exact cost of a portion based on the cost per sack of potatoes
Trying to figure out these equations manually, or even inputting numbers into a spreadsheet, is ripe for human error. And what happens when the price of a sack of spuds suddenly changes?
What you need is your recipe data stored in a central recipe hub that can perform these impossible calculations for you in real-time as you edit the quantities.
Recipes aren’t totally isolated entities. Many use the same ingredients and techniques. Just as Escoffier categorized the fundamental French sauces into groups, recipes can be stacked for huge efficiency gains.
Base recipes become the building blocks for other recipes—and should be organized as such in ERP tools (a feature many re-purposed accounting tools fail to understand). That way you can batch process certain elements of a dish so you don’t have two cooks making the same thing in different areas of the kitchen.
A recipe for marinara sauce, for example, can be inserted or ‘nested’ as part of a recipe for both chicken parmesan and lasagna meat sauce. The recipe tells you exactly how much marinara sauce is needed overall based on expected demand for each recipe for smarter batching and purchasing.
Having recipes properly organized and stacked saves time, reduces waste, improves purchasing efficiency, and ensures quality and consistency are maintained. Incredible results for such a simple change.
Recipe-based ERP software stores all this data in a structured way, and makes all the calculations you need to ensure your recipes are accurate.
Build Your Recipe Data Foundation for Future Success
With the recipe back at the heart of the kitchen and the food business, the opportunities are near limitless.
As the future of food production moves towards batching, commissary kitchens, centralized production with satellite stores, and ghost kitchens with scalable virtual brands, your manufacturing approach needs to match up to the new reality.
To take advantage of the growth opportunities, you need a system that is precise and accurate, with the recipe as the basic building block.
An organized, smart recipe hub at the heart of operations will help your business achieve hyper-efficiency in production, more precise planning, and a happier team on the front lines.
To stay in control and know where every ounce, gram, crate, pallet, sack, bottle, and case of ingredient ends up, you need software built for this specific purpose.
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