Q: In visiting with my guests I receive information that sometimes drives me crazy. I hear our food can be inconsistent coming you too the kitchen. once day an item is terrific and the next it’s just so-so. What can be done to improve our consistency?

One of the common techniques used by some of the best companies is to routinely test the kitchen staff on the quality of the food coming out of the kitchen. You should test your food every day and have your staff give input. Different cooks cook differently. That’s not a good thing for consistency. The critical execution factor is to prepare the menu item exactly how you want it to go to the guest and then train the kitchen to produce it perfectly and the service staff to serve it promptly. What good is a great plate of food if it can’t come out of the kitchen perfectly or make it to the guest quickly? Set the expectation that anything less than perfect cannot be served to a guest. Don’t let consistency slide or you will be granting silent approval and letting the staff know consistency is not all that important. Schedule formal reviews of menu items following a format called FATT. Every recipe should be written and available for training and have the FATT criteria listed of Flavor, Appearance, Temperature, and Texture. Call your staff together daily to review at least one menu item for:

Flavor – ensure it matches the recipe as it was intended at its best. If the flavors are off, fix it or get it off the menu. Consumers are engaged when the taste of food is fantastic. The goal of the flavor is to create a memory and crave factor.

Appearance – ensure that it matches a magazine ready appearance. You’ll never get every pine nut in the right position but the food should show well. For example, if a salad is to be well dressed, list it as ” fresh romaine, well dressed, more white than green” and make sure the staff can repeat how the item should look while it is being reviewed.

Temperature – hot food hot, cold food cold. It’s amazing how simple this concept is. Too often one can look in the kitchen window and see one item sitting for several minutes waiting for another to be finished. I can’t find a single recipe the call for, “put the item in the window for a few minutes while the other items finish up.” Flawless execution is hitting the window at the same time with the items. Take the time to show your staff the difference between a fresh, hot french fry right out of the fryer and one that sits for a minute or two under a heat lamp. An executive at one of the top fast food chains went through this exact exercise and measured a fry at 200 degrees and one at 160 degrees. The staff agreed that the fry at 160 degrees tasted cold even though it was a mere minute out of the fryer under the heat lamps!

Texture – this is where poetic license can be taken. Use your imagination to list the texture of the food. Crisp, crunchy, crusty, frosty, steaming hot, delicate, wilted, etc. Review what memory you want each bite to create. Consumers want to share stories of what they have eaten and those stories can create crave by making sure the texture is correct. A guest will remember a soft, warm bun, crispy lettuce, hot melting cheese, chewy bacon, and a fresh juicy burger if every one of the textures is correct. They’ll crave it more often than if the burger was dry and the lettuce was wilted even though the rest of he items were right.

Restaurants that execute items perfectly out of the kitchen and get the items to the table quickly enjoy more frequent guest visits and higher sales. Their secret is flawless execution of the FATT criteria.

For more information on improving profitability and driving sales, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.