Cost Containment & Innovation in Hotel Kitchens
Rajneesh Kumar, Food & Beverage Manager, Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon

With the current rate of inflation exceeding 10%, the hospitality industry too has to develop several innovative ideas and schemes for cost containment, while still maintaining market standards and delivering a quality product.

For instance, our yield management system in the kitchens helps us in maximizing the utility of our ingredients. For instance, even the simple task of peeling potatoes using this practice ensures that only the peel is removed and not the actual potato. This then becomes a very basic way of reducing waste.

Moving on to the finished product, the buffets at our all day dining restaurant MoMo Café are mise-en-place and wisely compiled. It may not be the most elaborate menu but we do ensure minimum wastage. In fact, we maintain a wastage sheet which records the exact amounts of food which have been consumed or wasted. Since once cooked, a dish cannot be re-used, we also do not place more than ten portions of a dish at a time. Naturally the portions are replenished as and when required.

Live counters and live kitchens are not just a trendy thing to have in your restaurants; they play an important role in cost containment apart from visual appeal. The food is cooked upon guest request, exactly according to their preference. For example, our Sushi Counter during the Sunday Brunch where the preferred choice of Sushi is prepared on the spot. Since Japanese cuisine is a matter of taste and also comprises of expensive ingredients, it would not be practical to place it on display and waste a certain portion each Sunday.

But most importantly, live counters are mostly comprised of raw, uncooked products which can be reused conveniently. For instance, the unused olives for our freshly baked pizzas or the extra parmesan for our pasta can easily be re used for another time.

Our chefs and associates make careful note of the guest preferences while recommending a menu, which is not overly elaborate. Through guest feedback and the wastage sheet, it becomes easily apparent what goes off the menu when its time for a revision. For example, a certain type of dessert may not have been very popular and was barely consumed during the time it was part of the buffet. We then replace it with something we know will go better with our guests’ palate.

Behind the scenes in the kitchens, we switched to PNG from LPG, thus reducing our costs by a whooping 45%! The pipeline also makes food production hassle free since we no longer have to run around for cylinders ever so often.

Even though Marriott has Pan India preferred vendors, we do have local agreements with suppliers for convenience and efficiency and more importantly immediate assistance. We negotiate with them for longer shelf life of our stock of non perishables. So if a stock of soft beverage is nearing expiry in a month’s time, we have agreements with our vendors to replace them with the same beverages with a longer shelf life, say six months.

A productivity tool we use is menu engineering to mark and understand our guest preference and stock up upon those products which give us maximum margin and reduction of cost. The mini bar is one such product which comes under scrutiny. Perhaps one brand of chocolates is doing better than another. Then we replace the ones doing not-so-well and consequently reduce inventory cost.

To further analyze consumer choice, we use the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Matrix and highlight our “stars”, “dogs”, “plough horses” and “puzzles”.  The “dogs” especially are crosschecked and replaced if necessary and our “stars” are improved upon. We review this on a quarterly basis and renegotiate with our vendors accordingly when the contract is renewed.

We also work upon labor costs and ensure maximum efficiency of our behind the scenes personnel like kitchen stewarding. The work load is divided in such a way to ensure a perfect blend of man and machine. We use technology to reduce human effort, thereby increasing productivity of our associates.
Despite the cost reduction measures we take, under no circumstances do we go against the brand standard prescribed by Marriott. The product we deliver to our guests still has to be of the highest industry standards and we do not compromise on service “the Marriott way”!

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