How to Better Manage Your Recipe Knowledge with a Recipe Database?

Find out how to manage your recipe knowledge with recipe database.

Published on 06/30/2021Sébastien Vassaux

In the restaurant business, the recipe database is a must. This document allows the chef to structure their knowledge and to calculate the profitability of their recipes. It also allows the chef to organize their production efficiently while enriching the information.

As you can see, the database is a management tool that will help you lead your restaurant to success. When well written, you will save precious time and will be better able to organize yourself efficiently. As a restaurant owner, you know better than anyone, organization is one of the main keys to success.

1. Structuring knowledge

In the restaurant business, it's essential to structure your knowledge in order to build a solid and durable foundation. Thanks to this, you will be able to standardize information to avoid errors, to train your colleagues more easily and to prevent turnover.

Standardize information to avoid errors.

In the kitchen, as in life, not all mistakes can be avoided. However, you can try to reduce them to a minimum. With your recipe database, you will be able to standardize the information at your disposal and start structuring your knowledge. By doing this work, you will minimize the mistakes that might occur later. If you look in detail, restaurant chains are primarily structured independents who have standardized their processes and knowledge.

Train your colleagues

In order to work efficiently in the kitchen, all employees must have access to the same level of information and knowledge. In order to save as much time as possible in training your colleagues, it's important to structure the information beforehand. The time spent on structuring knowledge will be quickly made up for later on. In school, you learn with a recipe book. Unfortunately, when you start in the kitchen with a professional, it's often on the job, due to the lack of ergonomic tools.

The database is the perfect tool to do this job thoroughly. Thanks to it, your colleagues will have a document they can refer to when they need to know more about a recipe, or even if they have doubts. You can print out an up-to-date, laminated recipe booklet and make it available to the kitchen staff. The clearer and more detailed your database is, the easier it will be to train.

Prevent turnover

The growth rate in the hotel and restaurant industry is the highest of all sectors. That said, turnover is still very high, sometimes reaching over 70%. This is almost 2 or 3 times higher than the average for other sectors. This can be explained by the age of the employees, who are often young and are students, but also by the hectic and sometimes stressful work pace.

One thing is certain, turnover must be considered as mandatory and must be anticipated in order to be better protected against it. You certainly don't want to wait until your chef has left to realize that all the knowledge of your restaurant was only in their head. You also have to take into account that a more structured, modern company is more likely to retain its employees.

In the professional world, each employee is careful to make their work clear and available, in order to share information. In the restaurant industry, the same logic must be applied and this is where the recipe database comes into play. Composition of the recipe, production steps, selling price and so on. Record your knowledge to make sure you never forget anything.

2. Calculate the profitability and optimize your ratios

To optimize the profitability of your kitchen, it's essential to look at different components: the analysis of the performance of your dishes, the reduction of your costs, the pricing but also the improvement of your marketing mix. Nothing should be left to chance.

Calculate the profitability of your menu items

A recipe database is a crucial tool for any restaurant owner. It will allow you to calculate the cost price simply and quickly, so that you will always be able to follow your profitability.

When you know how much it costs to make your dish, you can better control your expenses. With the exact price and quantities you need for your recipe, it's easy!

This will make it easier for you to set your selling price and know your margin.

For your calculation to be reliable, you must be careful to consider the entire manufacturing process. In your cooking database, make sure you take into account the variations in weight of your food. For example, a cooked tomato does not weigh the same as before processing. If you sell take-out or deliver, also include the cost of your packaging in your recipe database. Remember to calculate the margin on labor costs as well.

Get into the details of your revenues

Once you've calculated the profitability of your recipes, it's time to identify the ones that make you lose money and the ones that make you gain money.

To do this, you need to optimize the profitability of your menu items by looking at:

Prices that are too low: if different sales units of a product have disparate profitability (= one is profitable, the other is not), we have a price positioning problem. For example, we sell a portion of a dessert at a lower price than the complete dish, or we sell the glass of wine at a lower margin than the bottle. In any case, we discount with volume.

Bad proportion: we can identify that the main cost of a recipe comes from a particular ingredient, possibly noble. Can we reduce its quantity and substitute it another ingredient? For example, in a bolognese, use more tomatoes and less meat.

Costs too high: if all the recipes that use a particular ingredient are not very profitable, it's perhaps because the cost of the ingredient is too high. This must be negotiated with the supplier. You can also refer to the volume of orders from suppliers to analyze your bargaining power and to better negotiate.

Quantities too large: the recipe database is designed for a fixed number of portions or a fixed weight per portion. You can quickly simulate better profitability by reducing the size of the portions served. That is, more portions are served for the same recipe. It's necessary to determine what is acceptable for the customer, knowing that there are often leftovers. This is an opportunity to differentiate the price according to the size of the portion, which is for example well done on burgers with the double steak option.

Then sort your recipes by increasing margin. It's worth optimizing your improvement efforts on the lowest margin because the potential for improvement is greater. It's easier to go from 40% to 60% margin than to go from 90% to 95%.

Finally, refine your marketing mix. Products that are not very profitable can be beneficial if they participate in cross-selling, i.e. if they allow you to sell others that are profitable.

3. Organize the production

The recipe database is the best way to keep control of the production of your recipes. It allows you to guarantee a constant level of quality and service to your customers. At all stages of your production, the recipe database guarantees a better organization of your production process, your purchases and your prices.

Using recipe databases to ensure consistency

As soon as we talk about well-organized structures, the importance of the proportions and quantities of the recipe databases is mentioned.

It's impossible to achieve this without standardized shared information.

Put a file with the FT in the kitchen and ask the operators to respect the quantities.

Compare your incoming and outgoing flows to determine if there were any differences: inventory N+1 = inventory N + purchases - sales + diff

Avoid calculation errors by factoring recipes and sub-recipes into the correct quantities

In the kitchen, calculation errors happen faster than you think. When you have to make a recipe for 30 people, trying to round up the quantities isn't always easy for the kitchen staff. Using a database management solution that allows you to round up the quantities of your recipes and sub-recipes will not only save you precious time, but will also reduce production errors to a minimum.

4. Enriching the information

Calculating nutritional and allergenic information: an INCO obligation

Now that you have efficiently structured your recipe knowledge, it's time to enrich the information.

Food composition and nutritional information

Food composition and nutritional values are increasingly important to your customers. Displaying this information allows you to be transparent to them. Thanks to the preliminary structuring work done on your recipe database, you are normally able to report the nutritional information of your recipes more easily.

Presence of allergens

All restaurants are obliged to communicate the allergens present in the dishes they offer.

This obligation also applies to caterers, canteens, collective catering establishments and all professionals in the food industry. Enhance your recipe database to include allergens.

Connect your recipe database to third-party systems

To take your recipe knowledge management even further, why not connect your database management software to third-party systems? With this adjustment, you will be able to:

Synchronize your database with your various tools

Once your data is structured and centralized, you can connect it to different tools to get maximum value from it. By synchronizing this data with different sources, you will then be able to build a consistent analytics, which will allow you to optimize your business efficiently.

Build additional features

Take the opportunity to build additional features. For example, your website is a key point of contact in your customers' purchasing journey. The information displayed must be exhaustive and meet your customers' expectations. By connecting your database management software to your website, you can, for example, display recipes in a mosaic format, with the added bonus of details on nutritional information and any presence of allergens.

To go further: use a recipe database software

To help you in the conception of your techniques, there are several pieces of software at your disposal. Much more complete than a simple technical recipe sheet on Excel, these softwares allow you to easily calculate your margins, your ratios, your costs, and so on. For the restaurant business, these softwares will be able to offer many options according to your needs.

The kitchen management solutions for the catering industry are designed to help you manage your kitchen in a more structured and efficient way. These softwares also allows you to control the essential indicators for the good management of your business.

Not all restaurant management softwares offers the same features. Management of stocks, inventories, supplier orders, etc. Find out all the details, but above all, try a software before you start with it.