Why Forecast Menu Items?
Perhaps, one of the biggest things we all struggle with in foodservice is how many people we will feed and what will they select from our menus. There is no magic eight ball, no palm reader, no psychic that can help – the best thing we can do is look to the past. What is that saying we are familiar with, “history tends to repeat itself?” Though we never want to “live” in the past, we certainly want to “learn” from it.
The first thing you want to look at when you are forecasting is obviously what are you serving on the menu you want to forecast for. In more technical terms, what is the menu mix you will be offering? Certainly offering Meatloaf against Chicken Parmesan will give you different results than if you were offering Meatloaf against Baked Tilapia. Now that you know what you are serving in the future, you can then look back in the past to see how those combinations did against one another. The key is looking at those things that you prepare. It doesn’t have to be everything, though that is certainly fine as well, just more work. I would focus on the food my staff produces, since making too much product creates a potential for waste and preparing too little runs the risk of running out and potentially losing sales. If you ask me, running out is just slightly better than having too much leftover, as leftover costs money for sure. The nice part about us humans is that we tend to be creatures of habit. Most times, we choose the same thing over and over when offered, so forecasting works well. Can you predict the day when everyone selects the Baked Tilapia? Of course not, no one can. But you can predict for the typical scenario and that is what forecasting is all about. Look to see in the past how the menu mix went and then average it out and make that your new menu mix for the future menus. What you will see is that the menu mixes in the past are pretty common.
So where can you gather this data on past menu mixes? Certainly if you have a point-of-sale system, you can get the information from it. If you are using production worksheets, you can tally the information from them as well. This information is so valuable, because it helps you to reduce the amount of leftovers you put back into your retail operations. Oh sure, you are using them up, but remember the important part of forecasting is that menu mix. Putting extra things out into the mix can dramatically affect your standard menu mix results. This causes more leftovers and then you are in a vicious cycle.
Forecasting can have a major impact on your operation. It can help reduce waste and ultimately lower your food costs? Forecasting is not difficult and should be a procedure that every operation should do or start doing if they have not already.
Article by: Michael Andersen, Account Relationship Management Specialist; Fusion, 3rd Quarter, 2015