Why Your Restaurant Needs a Portion Control Plan

Most restaurant customers have experienced the extremes of meal portioning. You either feel like you’ve overpaid for a tiny dish, or you get way more food than you could possibly eat in one sitting. Both of these scenarios are not only frustrating for the customer, but bad for the restaurant.

One of the reasons chain restaurants are so popular is the consistency in portion size. Customers know exactly what to expect for their money when they order a small fries or cheeseburger at McDonalds – no matter which McDonalds they may travel to worldwide. Diners appreciate proper, consistent portions; in fact, portion control has been shown to increase customer loyalty and drive return traffic.

Even small, independent restaurants need a portion control plan. Imagine how a customer will feel if the first time they order the steak it’s 2-inches thick and the next time it looks like it is half the size for the same price. It’s important to maintain consistency to meet customer expectations, leaving them full and satisfied.

Portion Control Can Increase Profits – A portion control plan can make your customers happier. It can also make your restaurant more profitable. Oversized portions don’t add up to more value for your visitors or your restaurant. Huge plates of food can be overwhelming. And if you’re counting on them appreciating the leftovers, think again. You don’t know how long that box of food will need to survive in the car before your customers get home, and how it will really hold up the next day. If your average customer is leaving a lot left on the plate, it’s time to reassess your portion size. In our recent post on 7 Steps to Price Your Menu for Profit, we talked about how to break down every dish by ingredient and portion size to determine your cost for each dish, which can then help you determine the menu price.

If you are accidentally serving even a little bit more than your set portion size, over time, that can add up to a significant loss. And serving less than your set portion size, as we mentioned earlier, can result in unhappy customers who don’t come back.

Make a Plan and Stick with It – Everyone in your restaurant needs to be on the same page when it comes to portion control, which means you have to specify exact amounts for every item on the plate, for every dish on the menu. Making that information readily available to everyone via food management software can help ensure that everyone knows the plan.

Consider also creating a chart that breaks down portion size for each dish – preferably with photographs of what the finished dish should look like. Be very specific, like 5 mozzarella sticks for an app, or 1 lettuce leaf per sandwich. Also, using the same plates, serving spoons and ladles, etc. for each dish can help keep you on track. You can utilize a kitchen scale to divvy up portions to the ounce and use portion control cups for sauces or dips.

Also, be sure that your portion control plan takes substitutions or additions into account. Determine what can and cannot be substituted based on cost, if (and how much) you are going to charge for a substitution or an extra side, and create clear rules that your servers and customers can understand.

Proper portion control can keep customers happy and loyal, increase profits, and help your restaurant to run more smoothly and consistently. Create a plan from the start, and monitor and manage portions on a daily basis to ensure success.


Restaurant Magic has been providing advanced software solutions to the restaurant and hospitality industry for over 25 years. The robust Data Central Management Suite, the flagship product, is a powerful and flexible application that takes advantage of the latest technology trends to offer premier processing and analytics. With advanced forecasting, predictive scheduling and mobile technologies, Restaurant Magic has something for every problem. To learn more about Restaurant Magic and its products, call us at 1(800) 933-4711 or visit the website at RestaurantMagic.com.