October 6, 2023
Devn Ratz

Food Portion Guide: 4 Modern Methods for Portion Control in Food Service

This food portion guide offers practical ways to improve food costing, fulfill customer expectations, and reduce food waste. Traditional methods of portion control used standard recipes, yields, and costs to maintain control. Today, specifically designed portion control plates help add to these standards. 

More exciting is the development of portion control aids. AI-assisted restaurants and handheld scanners that add prediction for inventory control. These portion control tools help managers decide how and when to design menu recipes whether on-site or off-premise through online ordering platforms.

The future of food portion control guides will also include more advanced food technologies determined through the latest food science trends. Still, to help service, management, and oversight, this food portion guide discusses five methods achievable today. 

See below how plating, visual aids, calorie counts, and tech-based controls can serve customers a more cost-effective and health-aware recipe every time. 

Key Takeaway: Food portion controls reduce costs, cut food waste, and encourage healthy eating for customers and restaurants increasingly interested in sustainable restaurants, diets, and business.  
Book a custom demo with Revolution Ordering to see our tools that assist portion controls by predicting margins.

1. Plating as Portion Control Guide

Plating methods of portion control are fast, simple, and effective. To control portions and ensure balance in dishes, some restaurants use the traditional 9-inch plate to begin. 

Divide the plate while serving to offer healthy ratios of food which also match up with their relative restaurant cost. As such, half the plate might be reserved for low-cost vegetable services. Another quarter could be assigned to the meal’s main protein, alongside another quarter for starchy carbohydrates like potatoes. 

On one side, this method reduces calorie counts, which we’ll discuss as an added method. This means the appearance of a healthier, more attractive option for modern customers. On another, it benefits restaurants to visually decide rations in such a simple and effective way. 

Similar approaches take a more directive means through plate design. You have probably seen restaurants that develop custom plates and dishes for specific meals or as fixed guides for ingredient offering. These enhance control while giving a visual appeal, such as with bento-style boxes.

2. Visual Aids for Portion Control

Across food service, the visual aid remains indispensable for controlling portions in food service. These cues to restaurant labor help them estimate and serve appropriate sizes. 

For instance, staff training can advise visualizing a tennis ball when serving fruit, or a ping-pong ball for serving butter. Restaurants may also advise staff to use the size of DVD disc to estimate a bread serving or a salad offer.

Even more advanced, ServAR offers augmented reality environments for aiding service and controlling food portions. These even more visible guides contribute to more appropriate serving from a cost-conscious and health-forward perspective. 

Consumers have been shown to eat and drink more when offered more, so these controls serve the interests of health trends as well as business practice.

3. Calorie Counts to Guide Portion Control

Careful food labeling can itself be an effective means of food portion control. More often than ever, customers attend to their health by seeking the truth about the food served. Helped by advancing FDA standards for food labels, they navigate your menu, on one level, according to the caloric intake of each offer. 

Lower calories often belong to cheaper ingredients for restaurants as well. It may not be incidental that the healthier choice for customers is also the more cost-effective way for business to advance. 

In this way, it’s smart for restaurants to offer all the relevant information they can not only to sell their menu items, but to direct health-aware customers to the best choice for everyone. 

4. Tech for Portion Control in Service

Increasingly, the enterprise restaurant turns toward technology solutions to advance the mission of exactness in food cost and portion control. 

Many of these “technologies” are familiar to the ordinary kitchen equipment list, such as scales, food dishing spoons, menu item-specific plates, and measuring cups. “Spoodles” also make for a concrete and specific way for chefs and staff to breeze through recipe preparation while following standards for portion control. 

When beverages and alcohol are concerned, “pourers” can assist the proper and speedy measuring of drink ingredients as bartenders attend to many different requests and recipe formulas. 

Although, new advancements are come through cloud solutions. For instance, portion control software can speed the process of managing recipes, making custom menus, monitoring inventory, and getting insight into service. 

When these tools are integrated into the greater restaurant software environment, they can offer even more refined business intelligence for restaurants to spot and correct margins. 

Get a free restaurant intelligence playbook to advance revenue beyond plain portion controls in food service.

Frequently Asked Questions on Portion Control in Food Service

Discover how food portion control guides restaurants to consistency across costs, waste, and customer satisfaction. Get simple answers to the most common questions about portion control in food service here. 

How do restaurants control portions and food costs?

Many restaurants use scales, cups, recipes, and training to inform their approach to portion controls and protect food costs. These scales and standards help simplify the process of measuring food—like toppings, batter, and other soft ingredients. 

At the same time, standardized recipes and training advances correctness in recipe-making during more free-form cooking. In this way, almost every process that involves using ingredients has its own “control” to ensure cost-effectiveness while producing the right ratio of ingredients within recipes.

What is portion control, and why does it matter?

Portion control essentially ensures the most consistent, accurate serving of food to customers. By standardizing portions across items and menus, restaurants can maintain and predict costs and wastage. This makes it much easier to manage immense food inventories and track or enhance profit margins. 

Portion control can refer to the amount of food on the plate, but it also means the ratio of ingredients from dish to dish. These standards ensure customers experience satisfaction at an equivalent level from order to order as well. As a result, portion control techniques achieve many desired outcomes for restaurants. 

Which are the best examples of restaurant portion control?

Developed early in fast-food service, some of the best examples of restaurant portion controls remain single-serving packets—such as ketchup, mustard, and soy sauce. 

While these may not meet the modern customer’s sustainable standard or taste, the single-serve packet helps many restaurants achieve portioning. They nearly always reduce costs and lower food waste. Other classically effective examples are standardized recipes, food control scoops in quick service, and bento boxes (and other fixed-design plating). 

How should restaurants calculate portion sizes for cost?

In almost every instance, restaurants need to know their ingredient costs and, by extension, total recipe cost before they can optimize the appropriate and satisfying ratio for each offer. 

Through food costing software or manual effort, each ingredient will need to be weighed and costs calculated,

Afterward, based on a margin calculation by compared to the item’s list price, optimization of portion sizes can begin. Of course, these changes may be iterative as restaurants receive internal and external feedback on the taste and satisfaction of new portion controls.

Find more resources for portion control in food service through menu design, management, and more topics.