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Watching Your Potato "Waste" Line

Q:

I have done all kinds of trimming back to save on food costs at my restaurant, what can I make sure I am doing with potatoes?

A:

Good question, it involves some walking around the kitchen and dining room to observe what is happening. Many of my foodservice peers started out in the dish room, and gradually got promoted into management jobs. This back of the house exposure to what comes back from a customer’s plate or what isn’t completely eaten is always a good lesson. 

Over salting foods to please the chef’s palate, or the person manning the French fryer as the fries come out of the oil can be something quick to check on and adjust. I just read a wonderful article about Chef Donald Link of New Orleans, and as the writer observed him move thru multiple restaurants Donald constantly tasted items like the pulled pork, and side dishes. Over salting is not necessarily evident, but looking at when or how many times a dish gets salted (from adding in brine based olives, or a seasoning mix that already contains salt or salting fries and then adding spices that up the amount of saltiness on the palate is something to check. Customers have different levels of tolerance to salt; let them add more if needed, rather than lose a portion of scalloped potatoes with cheese that also got salted.

The portion size… bottomless fries just encourages waste. I have a friend who knows of this policy at a chain restaurant and takes advantage of it anytime his fries are not piping hot, he just orders more. Think about containers and bowls to help control the portion. Weigh the portions being dished up. A scoop of potatoes is a better portion control method than a spoon. Remember the quote, often used in foodservice: “I want my customers to finish their plate but still crave just one more taste” as this gives them a reason to come back again. Serving small containers of dipping sauces (a salsa, fry sauce, sour cream and blue cheese, etc.) can encourage a guest to slow down and enjoy the fries… thus allowing you to cut the portion slightly.

Create the container… use mashed potatoes or hash browns to make a potato pancake or croquette, thus also controlling the portion size. 

Use all the potato… Take the freshly peeled skins and fry them off to use as a tasty garnish on top of the mashed potatoes, a steak or sliced pork loin.

Have a plan for what doesn’t sell the first time. Save leftover mashed in a plastic storage bag once cooled. Refrigerate and then make into gnocchi the next day. Make loaded potato skins, JoJo potato wedges or twice stuffed potatoes for a second use of baked potatoes that didn’t sell. Just be sure to cool and not leave out at room temps (food safety). Serve breakfast 24/7 and add potatoes to breakfast burritos, frittatas, etc. to make a farm-style omelet.

Having any potato savings tips to share with our readers? Pass them along to Dr. Potato.