In food service operations, accurate and reliable forecasts of food production demands can help control food and labor costs. A lower incidence of overproduction or underproduction of menu dishes should reduce scheduled labor and production time and optimize the use of equipment. The better the forecast, the more efficient and effective the food service operation will be. Whether it's to predict income, expenses, the amount of food and beverages that will be needed, or the scheduled working hours.
Accurate forecasting also means more efficient production schedules, better purchases, maintaining adequate inventory levels, and inventory rotation. Budgets are more accurate if long-term forecasts fit the objectives, which can result in more dollars available for projects such as facility maintenance and operation growth. If a restaurant company is effective at forecasting, profits can increase and the customer is also likely to benefit from reducing menu prices and offering better service. This chapter is just a brief introduction to the importance of forecasting and some of the factors that need to be considered.
Food service management students will undoubtedly benefit from further study of forecasting methods, models, and strategies. Forecasting is not only a function of production, but it is also necessary for acquisitions. Food products must be available to produce customers' menu items. The main outcome of the forecast should be customer satisfaction; customers expect to receive what they ordered.
In addition, the food service manager is concerned about the cost of food; both overproduction and underproduction affect the final results. While some leftover foods can be recovered by refrigeration, certain foods can decay and lose quality. Overproduction, the production of more food than is needed for service, generates additional costs because it is not always feasible to save excess food. Many operations use a concept called the “popularity index” to help predict the quantity of each menu item that will be produced, taking into account a general forecast of the number of customers.
Introduction to Food Production and Service by Beth Egan is licensed under an international Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, except where otherwise noted. Forecasting based on historical data can provide information about your two most important costs, food and labor, and help you make essential decisions about where and when to allocate your resources. First of all, because if it's not on your shelf, you can't waste it, forecasting sales can help limit food waste. Segments of education, such as elementary and secondary schools and the food service operations of colleges and universities, must analyze school enrollment, the academic calendar, current participation rates, and even the exact menu offering of the day could change the food forecast.
Forecasting won't generate perfectly accurate results every day, but forecasting for restaurants is vital to recognizing trends and responding proactively. If the forecast of the total number of customers for a given day is set to 1200, the percentage of each main course applies to this total forecast (see the column on the right of the graph above). Other initiatives that may affect forecasts include improving the quality of service, renovating facilities or “green” initiatives, such as a more sustainable supply, the use of compostable supplies, etc. CulinaryNXT is a food service consulting company that draws on Ron DeSantis' 30 years of experience in all aspects of the food industry.