Is Standardization, the Missing Ingredient in Restaurants?
Is Standardization, the Missing Ingredient in Restaurants?

By Invite: DK Soni, Co Founder, Foodport

A question that all of us in the restaurant business often ask ourselves is – what’s the recipe of success?

Many obvious answers come to mind – good food, fast service, pleasant ambience, cordial staff, and variety. But are these enough to achieve and maintain success? No, there’s something else, which is more critical than all of these aspects and is essential to the success of a restaurant.

That’s consistency. Consistency in all aspects of the business – especially in taste and in quality– leads to success. This consistency can only be achieved through ‘standardization’. It helps deliver on customer expectations– if the first impression was good, and if not, then correct the shortcoming. Standardization helps build a loyal customer base.

It becomes even more critical when the restaurant has many branches spread across cities or countries. If not for standardization, the ‘goodwill’ or ‘brand equity’ earned at one branch can be easily lost at another.

Although, the benefits of standardization are many, these are critical reasons that I’ve shared with our young team at Foodport to encourage them to set a clear procedure – a standard for each and every activity that they do. And, since defining standards seems to have become a standard at Foodport, I am sure it will encourage you too. 

Brand image – It takes years to build a good brand image, which can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. A good brand image requires consistent quality output. This can only be achieved through a tried and tested standard procedure.

Consistency of product–This is the backbone of ‘brand image’ and includes all aspects of the restaurant business – taste, quality, presentation, ambiance, and service. If one fails to deliver even on one of the aspects, the brand image is damaged. To create a positive brand image one needs to deliver a quality product consistently and at all times and at all places.

A case in point is McDonald’s – a great mix of standardization and local adaption. The procedures and practices are global standards. The food is adapted to suit local tastes and then standardized. E.g. A McAlooTikki Burger will taste the same whether you order it in Delhi or in Mumbai.

Cost effective – Standardization helps pre-plan and forecast requirements. When we know beforehand what we will require and its quantity, we can benefit from economies of scale, esp. for non-perishables. On the other hand, a set standard procedure can help restaurant owners experiment with the concept of ‘Just in Time’ delivery for the supplies of perishable goods. A successful ‘Just in Time’ supply chain can help save on costs incurred on storage and preservation of raw material – esp. for perishables.

Saves time – A standard process helps complete regular tasks with ease, leaving no room for ambiguity and errors. The time saved can be utilized to try out new things and innovate. A set and written standard procedure helps cut down on the time put in to preparation for a dish as the "mise-en-place" is set and everyone is aware of it. It also helps avoid chaos, which is a recipe for disaster for any restaurant kitchen.

Makes training new staff easy – Standard procedures make it easy to train new staff and delegate tasks to junior staff without the need of constant supervision. Although standards or set procedures are needed in all departments of a restaurant, it is of special importance in the kitchen. One cannot afford to experiment with signature dishes that the restaurant is known for. Neither can one expect a newly appointed chef to prepare the dish the way the senior chefs do it. But, if there are written instructions then both delegation and training become easier. It also helps in keeping the ‘show running’ in case of huge staff turnover or absenteeism.

Uniform pricing – Again, when there are set standards for everything – where to source, how to make and how much to make, it becomes easier to manage costs and pricing of products across locations. If any, the difference will only arise due to a tax structure. A uniform price across different outlets of the same restaurant chain is also a part of a positive brand image.

Given the creative nature of the industry, standardization at an industry level for certain things may be difficult to achieve, as- recipe, cooking styles, serving practices, etc., all vary from restaurant to restaurant.  But, this should not deter you from setting one for your own restaurant – experiment – find out what works, create a procedure for it and follow it to. Remember, Food when prepared and served in the right way is not only nourishment for the body, but also for the soul.

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