As you begin reading this article, your current recipe development may be in one of the following 4 stages. 

What stage are you in?  

    1. Recipes are in place and being used. You are curious to see if there is something new to learn. If that is the case and you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments. We never stop learning.
    2. You have some recipes, but you are looking for a bit of information because you think something is missing.
    3. You are ready to build recipes and want to learn the ins and outs beforehand.
    4. You are not sure if it is worth investing the time. You or your team are coming up with reasons why recipes are not important. Do any of the following sound familiar?
      • They take too long to write
      • Recipes slow down the process
      • Employees know how to make everything and what the standards are
      • “You know chefs, they don’t share their recipes with everyone”

    No matter what stage you’re at I encourage you to read on. There is always something new to learn. Even if you are on the fence, you will see that despite it being a big undertaking, with the right approach, it is not as bad as you think. It will be worth the effort.

    Recipes do not slow down the process; they save training time and ensure everyone prepares food the same way, which is essentially the most efficient way.

    Your employees may be good, but do they make everything the exact same way? I’ll guess that if you were to ask them, they would all have their own variation of doing everything.

    Lastly, the menu and the recipes used to create the food are now the property of the restaurant. If your Chef does not want to share them, even if it is just for cost and the financials, you should be concerned.

    Maybe you are still unsure and worried about how your team will react. Don’t lose sight of the benefits – your future and profits depend on it. Let’s review the benefits for you and your team.

    The Operation

      • Improved cost control through portion control and analysis
      • Consistency for the customers
      • Nutritional content, if required
      • Better food ordering
      • Increased profit
      • Sustainable business and growth

    The Employees

      • Job security
      • Potential to increase wages instead of wasting money
      • Improved training for new and existing employees
      • Fewer arguments about who is right

    Building the Database

    No matter if you are using a recipe system or if you are doing the recipes manually, here are 6 key elements of a recipe and some that are optional.

    1) Recipe Name 

    Before you do anything, write down your naming convention. This is how you will name each recipe for consistency and sorting and to avoid duplication. 

    Trust me, in both large and small properties, you can quickly have 6 tomato soup recipes. This creates challenges when it comes to adding sub-recipes, costing, and transfers (in larger properties).

    Why all the soups?

    The problems with naming (true story):

      • Cream of Tomato Soup
      • Tomato Gin Soup
      • Roasted Tomato soup (tomatoes were never roasted)
      • XYZ Café Cream of Tomato Soup
      • Cream of Tomato, Basil Soup (All of them had basil)
      • XYZ Café Cream of Tomato, Basil Soup
    Types of Recipes

    There are generally two types of recipes: Sub-Recipes and Menu Name (Finished) Recipes.

    Sub-Recipes: A sub-recipe could be referred to as a base recipe, like mother sauce, base dressings, etc. They are usually not sold in this form and likely have more ingredients added to finish them or are sold in multiple portion sizes.  

    Menu Name (Finished) Recipes: These are recipes that are in a sold form and served at the outlet level. For the most part, I build these recipes for 10 portions and then scale them back as it is easier to work with larger amounts of ingredients.

    The recipe may be made from start to finish or include some sub-recipes.

    Let’s look at a few examples of how the different recipes can be named:

    Tomato Soup (listed above)

      • Sub-Recipe Soup Cream Tomato (That’s it)
      • Menu Name (Finished) Recipe XYZ Café Cream of Tomato Soup, Thai Basil Croutons

    Greek Salad

      • Sub-Recipe – Salad Greek
      • Menu Name (Finished) Recipe 
        • Banquet Buffet Menu – Greek Salad, Kalamata Olive Tapenade (portion 2 L bowl) 
        • Grab & Go – Greek Salad with Sheep’s Milk Feta (portion 285 g / 10 oz)

      All the same salad, but outlets commonly name similar items differently or may have slight variations to finish the item.

      2) Recipe Yield

      Recipe yield is the amount that the recipe produces in the form of portions, weight, or volume. It depends on what type of recipe it is. Sub-recipes are based on the typical batch size that is made and Menu Name (Finished) are based on 10 portions.

      3) Ingredients

      Depending on how your ingredient database is set up you may need to use vendor descriptions. 

      If you can have an additional description, even better. You can improve the naming for better sorting. Like the recipe name, determine your naming convention.

        • Roma Tomato – Tomato Roma
        • Grape Tomato – Tomato Grape

      4) Quantities

      This includes the total quantity used and the UOM. Most recipe programs give you a few options for units of measure. In some cases, you will need 500 ml (16 oz) and in other cases, you will need 21 L (4.65 gallon) instead of 21,000 ml (741 oz).

      The tricky part is some amounts will be too small to measure. In this case, make a larger recipe and then scale it back. This will help you get the best possible measurement or you may have to use “to taste, to pinch, etc.”. It’s not ideal, but the amount is small and will not have a big impact on the cost or flavour.

      Be consistent in your use of UOM and determine that from the start.

      5) Procedures 

      The instructions for preparing the recipe should be short and to the point. Don’t worry, you won’t be graded on grammar

        • Heat a 10” saucepan, medium heat, Add XYZ, ABC, and DEF.
        • ‘Melt butter and stir in flour’ becomes ‘make a roux’. If butter or flour are used twice in a recipe show them twice and group the butter and flour together for the roux at the start of the recipe.

      6) Food Safety

      Some operations use HACCP and if so, follow that structure for creating your recipes. No matter what there needs to be a food safety element. 

        • Internal cooking temperature of XYZ for X amount of time
        • Cooling procedures and acceptable times
        • Reheating time and temperatures

      7) Optional

      Equipment list

      This is helpful when working with people new to the industry.


      There needs to be a picture of most, if not all, items. But if time is an issue, put the pictures for plated meals on the line. You will not have full recipes and pictures there, so instead speed sheets could be used. They are like recipes, but more compact and have multiple items on one sheet for specific stations.


      Again, this is mostly used for the line and the procedures become the plating instructions.

      There you have it. The key elements of creating a recipe. It may still seem like a lot of work, but let’s press on.

      So, what’s next?

      In the next edition of CORE Profit Strategies, we will put it all together and discuss a process that I have found to be the most effective and least tedious.

      Need help developing your recipe database for success? Schedule a free 30-minute consultation for an expert opinion.

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