Canadian Pizza Magazine

Measuring for Profit

Laura Aiken   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Tip the scales in your favour

If your projected food costs have been way off base, it’s time to tip
the scales in your favour. From weighing cheese to counting pepperoni,
the methods for controlling portions on a pizza vary from operator to
operator, as do the tricks for training employees how to be your ally
in the food cost business.

If your projected food costs have been way off base, it’s time to tip the scales in your favour. From weighing cheese to counting pepperoni, the methods for controlling portions on a pizza vary from operator to operator, as do the tricks for training employees how to be your ally in the food cost business. It’s important for profits and key to making a great tasting pizza. We’ve rounded up some top industry tips to help you better manage your portions.


Diana Coutu
Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man.
Award-winning international judge and competitor

“We have a scale on the make line to weigh base cheese on every pizza – each weight amount for each size (plus extra cheese amounts) is listed by the cheese bin. We have a ‘picture rolodex’ in a binder mounted to a wall. Each topping has a laminated page with three pictures on it showing the appropriate portion for one to three toppings, four to six toppings, and more than six of that topping. On the back of each page there’s a matrix with the appropriate weight amounts. We have another picture rolodex in a binder mounted to a wall by the make line with laminated pictures of each combination/specialty pizza at each stage of topping showing appropriate portioning.

“We have these picture rolodexes because it’s important that toppings are nicely spread out on the pizza We tell/train staff that EVERYONE eats with their eyes first, then their other senses –smell, taste – kick in. Also, you can have three ounces of pepperoni on a pizza, but if it’s all in the middle (and none by the edge of the crust) then it looks like there aren’t any toppings on the pizza (even if there are plenty) and the last couple of bites are what the customer remembers most.


“We also have training videos: we have dozens covering many areas of operations/training, but there are two specific to portioning. 

“We do a manual inventory count every week to calculate actual food cost versus ideal food cost. If anything is out of whack we either check surveillance footage (to make sure a brick of cheese or case of wings isn’t walking out the back door) and we also send a message via POS to staff to watch portioning of said item. Waste is tracked
as well.

“All these tools help us maintain our costs and keep numbers in line.

It’s constant vigilance. At any given time we have $5,000 to $9,000 worth of food in our walk-in cooler and freezers. If you don’t have controls and training and if no one thinks you’re checking, then it’s a free for all. Restaurants and pizzerias can have an insatiable appetite for cash, and this is the biggest financial area that most operators ignore.” 

Joe Leroux
Amadio’s Pizza in Port Credit, Ont.
Been in the pizza business full-time for 19 years

“I’ve been weighing the cheese for 16 to 17 years. I started on a postal scale with 20 identical stainless steel bowls.” On spices: “A pinch of this and a pinch of that just doesn’t work anymore.” Leroux pre-portions them. He also notes it’s important to use the same ladle all the time to portion the sauce and know the mark to fill it for small, medium, large pizzas, etc. Weigh the expensive ingredients, not just for cost control, but for flavour. Too much feta or too many green olives will take over the taste of the pizza. “The goal is absolute consistency. The people that order a pizza today want the same pizza they had last week. It’s the McDonald’s principle.”

Richard Ames
Daddio’s Pizzeria in Grande Prairie, Alta. 
21 years in the pizza industry

“With cheese costing over $10 a kilogram, in my kitchen it is a condition of employment to weigh the cheese for every application whether it is for pizza or pasta. I am using a fairly inexpensive scale ($80) that paid for itself in the first week used. With the sliced meats there are counts for every meat for each size of pizza.  Right now I do not use strict controls on the vegetables but I do keep a close eye on what the staff are habitually putting on and make corrections as necessary.”

Ames has a good tip for how to teach staff good food cost skills. He determines in the initial employment interview if they are a left-brain or right-brain learner  by asking what his or her favourite core subjects were in school. If they favour maths and sciences, he knows to teach to count the pepperoni. If they are English or social studies, he explains how to arrange the pepperoni so the meat just touches the edge of the crust, doesn’t overlap, and so forth. He also keeps a camera on his line, which helps make employees aware that there is management watching. “My actual food costs run within a half per cent of my actual (as projected by his POS system).” 

Cory Medd
Two Guys And A Pizza Place in Lethbridge, Alta.
2008 Canadian Pizza magazine Chef of the Year

“One thing I will let you in on is our mozzarella. Since this is the most expensive and most used topping, it is important for us to be consistent. We use a very high-quality cubed cheese. It melts fantastic! It tastes fantastic! Most importantly, cubed cheese is easier to be consistent with a cup system. Unlike shredded mozzarella, the amount of cubed cheese in our cups will be very close every time for every pizza. But I will say that we are very generous with all of our toppings, including cheese, as our top priority is quality. You just have to price your pizzas accordingly.”

Sue Loveless
franchisee of Domino’s Pizza in Brantford, Ont. 
21 years in the business with 20 of them as a franchisee

“When it’s really busy, it’s visual,” says Loveless, so it’s key to train staff with measurements in the beginning and when it’s slow so they can do it properly by eye in a rush. She keeps pictures above the make line as visual aids, and the person at the end of the assembly is usually a supervisor. Equally key is to keep a manager on the ovens. “I do notice food costs go up when new people start.”

Loveless has an automatic cheeser that dispenses pre-set amounts.

The automatic cheeser is used for the primary cheese, and a measuring scoop is used for all other cheeses. “We know our ideals so we know when things get out of whack. It’s not an exact science unfortunately.”

The ability to accurately forecast sales, order the correct amounts of food, keep mistakes down and be an owner who’s around will all contribute to better control in food costs. “I’d rather over-portion than under-portion. If it doesn’t look right it doesn’t go out.”

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