Top tips on driving efficiency in schools

12/10/2010 - 00:00
Sharon Glancy, managing director of Stonebow, People 1st's training company, provides top tips on how schools can drive efficiency in the kitchen and secure up to 20% in efficiency savings.

1. Correctly weigh the ingredients: It sounds simple and straightforward, but if you want to minimise wastage, your ingredients must be measured accurately. Check that your digital or analogue scales provide accurate readings. Make sure that the selection of appropriate kitchen tools such as spoons and spatulas are used for the right ingredient. Here are a few pointers worth bearing in mind: - Flour: When measuring flour, do not shake the measuring cup holding the flour and do not pack it. Using a flat blade spatula, evenly level the flour with the top edge of the measuring cup. Don't use the measuring cup to scoop the flour out of the container. As a guide, one cup of correctly measured flour should weigh approx 112 grams. - Sugar: This is best measured by scooping the cup or measuring spoon into the container or bag until it is overflowing. Then use a knife to level off. - Liquid ingredients in spoons: Make sure that you don't measure small amounts of liquid ingredients over the mixing bowl. It's just too easy to spill, and you certainly don't want two teaspoons of vanilla extract for example, when the recipe only calls for one. 2. Accurate stock-taking: In a commercial environment such as a restaurant, stock-taking is critical in meeting profitability levels and identifying losses, but it can also be advantageous to schools and local authorities that want to identify areas where efficiency levels can be improved. By carrying out scheduled stock-taking, a school can ensure that supplies are delivered on time, wastage is minimised and that only the right quantities of food are ordered to secure key cost savings. If you are not sure how to do a stock check, here's a quick breakdown: - Count all the stock at the beginning of the period and put a monetary value on it (opening stock). - At the end of the period add the cost of purchases from all invoices (purchases) and count all the stock on site putting a monetary value on it (closing stock). - Add opening stock and purchases together and subtract closing stock to get cost of food sold during period. In the pursuit of efficiency, bear in mind that money tied up in stock is not good practice - have minimum and maximum stock levels. 3. Cook to improve nutrition: Choosing the right equipment and cooking methods, such as using moist or dry heat, are key considerations when preparing healthy food. For example, dry heat which is food cooked without water will be appropriate for tender meats, whereas moist heating which uses low heat and is cooked for longer times, will be suitable for steaming and braising certain cuts of meat. 4. Specify what you need from suppliers: Some schools already have fixed suppliers so this may be challenging for some, but to get the best bang for your buck, negotiate the best deals and be very specific with your orders. When dealing with suppliers, be specific in: - The quality expected of the food - The amount of fat on meat - The shelf life of the food - How the food is packed e.g. Vacuum packaged Consider the size of fruit and vegetables you order, for example the amount of slices out of one tomato will depend ultimately on what size tomatoes you buy. Consider buying prepared food such as cooked cold meats, boned fish and peeled vegetables, as this will cut down on staff costs and wastage. They are also easy to store and manage. 5. Perfect your basic housekeeping: It goes without saying that you need to keep equipment clean and well maintained in order to consistently produce top quality food. Have a rigorous quality check regime and inspect equipment regularly. This will also help to keep equipment breakdowns to a minimum. And finally...: All waste can be limited through effective staff training. By knowing how to remove bones, peel, slice and dice, staff can significantly limit the amount of waste. Not only can this be done without cutting down on quality, it makes good commercial sense at a time when budgets are under close scrutiny

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