Here’s Why Every Restaurant Should Use Recipe Cards

No matter what your restaurant serves or how experienced a kitchen staff you’ve got, every one of them will benefit from recipe cards. They’re an especially helpful tool when training new back-of-house staff because recipe cards are an easy reference for them to use, which improves overall food quality and consistency, reduces food waste, stabilizes your profits and leads to happier customers.

Even the best chef can forget a step in the process every now and then. With recipe cards, silly mistakes will never happen again and every dish comes out perfect, every single time.

What is a recipe card?

It’s exactly what it sounds like: A note card or page where you write down everything about each dish that your restaurant serves. From the recipe to the ingredients to cooking procedures to plating, this is the go-to cheat-sheet for everything on the menu.

Since they’re meant to be referenced, recipe cards work best when they’re easily available. Print them out and give them to every staff member, put them online for cooks to check from their phones, compile them in a binder or post them on the wall so anyone can go back to them whenever they need. Spills, burns and sloppy hands are bound to happen in a kitchen, so take care to keep the cards neat and protected with lamination or similar protection.

Template

To make sure that all the cards are comprehensive and every dish gets the same amount of time and attention, you should use the same basic template for every recipe card. You can save pre-made templates to reuse again and again. Here’s what you need:

  • Name of the recipe.
  • The chef who created it. Workers will know exactly who to ask if they have any questions.
  • Prep time.
  • Menu information. Include the description of the item, what meal it’s for (breakfast, lunch or dinner), what category it falls under (soups, sandwiches, etc.), and anything else that’s listed on the menu so cooks understand the customer’s expectations about the food they’re making.
  • Serving size. The recipe yield and serving size on the card helps standardize each portion and reduces food waste.
  • Ingredients. This is straightforward for recipes: Include the quantity and measurement of each ingredient so that cooks can replicate it perfectly every time.
  • Directions. Also pretty standard, each card should tell cooks exactly how to make the dish.
  • Allergy information.
  • Storage notes and shelf life. Get better quality meals and reduce food waste when you eliminate storage mistakes.
  • Last revised date. Cooks will know that they’re following the latest instructions.
  • Plating notes. This standardizes the end presentation so every customer receives the same, aesthetically-pleasing meal when they order that particular dish. It’s a small but extremely important aspect of production that shouldn’t get overlooked.
  • Photo. Including a picture of what the finished product should look like makes following all these instructions even easier.

Depending on the knowledge and expertise of your kitchen staff, you can use “chef speak” on your recipe cards, using effective shorthand without sacrificing clarity. If you hire greener cooks, new to the industry, you should be more detailed on the cards. However, consider using a mix of industry lingo and detailed language to train your new cooks on in-the-know shorthand, which will make them more efficient and better prepare them for their careers.

Once you’ve finished writing out each one, test the cards! Good assessments work best when tried by an employee that doesn’t know the recipe very well, because you can see if the cards are clear or whether they need adjustments somewhere along the line.

When a recipe card is certifiably useful, you can begin using them during training sessions so that they’re an integrated part of the kitchen from the jump. Train new chefs on each dish, first by shadowing an experienced cook and then again with only the card for direction; that way, you’ll know when newbies are ready to handle making dishes on their own.

Creating the Card

You know everything that needs to go on the recipe cards, and now you need to actually create them. Websites like Canva have some free, pre-made templates that you can fill in, but you could also create them from scratch with Microsoft Office programs if you prefer a lot of customization. Whatever you choose, make sure to save the template so that you can go back and update or edit the recipe, and easily add new ones in the same style and level of detail as the rest.

Recipe cards make back-of-house training simple and help you provide high-quality meals for every guest. Take the time to make some effective cards and upgrade all your dishes so they come out perfect, every single time.

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