4 types of donuts, Bavarian, maple bacon long John, chocolate cake, pumpkin cake

Streamline Your Food Production with Recipe Harmonization

When Charlotte needed to hire more bakers for her growing bakery, she ran into a problem.

All those recipes scribbled on yellow Post-It notes were undecipherable by someone else than herself. And, only she knew exactly how she folded her signature croissants, or which oven setting she used when baking her shortbread cookies. It was all in her head.

She didn’t need the instructions herself. But now, her new employees had no clue what to do. They had to ask her for help all through the day.

Charlotte had to be on-site every single day and couldn’t get the work done she truly needed, like working with vendors, or further improving her products. She started to feel burnt out and never had enough time in a day.

Not having recipes and processes written down is a common problem for small businesses, starting to scale up. But, even bigger businesses struggle with this, for instance when building a new line, or completely new factory.

To grow efficiently and without losing quality, proper recipe management and clear harmonized instructions are key. Follow these 3 key steps to drastically improve efficiency in your business.

Step 1 – Get the recipe & process crystal clear

Start by getting the recipe & processes crystal clear. This may sound obvious, but, ask several people how they make your products. Chances are, the answers are all just a little different.

If the differences are minor or non-existent, this step will be relatively fast. Just write them down. If you don’t already have it, make a template for the recipe and instructions that you can use for every product you make. This way, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time.

If you get widely varying answers (and be aware, this is not uncommon) this step will take more time. You will have to determine which way is the ‘best’ way. What’s the best temperature? Or the ideal line speed? Or the best way to fold the product? You might need to organize some simple tests to compare different settings or processes.

Take the time to figure this out. This is the most crucial step of the whole process. If you get this right, the next few steps will be easier. Also, you might find out about unexpected opportunities for saving costs, or improving your products and process!

Use spreadsheets & simple math

Smaller businesses especially often struggle with writing down their recipes in a way that makes them scaleable. You can’t easily dose 25 tsp of extract. And it shouldn’t take you 30 minutes to calculate how to make 450 instead of 375 muffins. Spreadsheets and some simple math can make your life a lot easier. We’ve written a separate guide on how to set this up for the future here.

grated striped beetroot
Which exact setting do you use to grate your beetroots? One may use ‘fine’, the other ‘extra fine’, both resulting in a very different beetroot falafel.

Charlotte’s recipe & processes

In Charlotte’s case, it was clear that her way was the way to make her products. So, the majority of the work focused on getting the knowledge out of her head and Post-It notes. She sent me pictures of all her Post-It notes and scribbled down recipes. We spent a lot of time on the phone to discuss all the steps she took to make a product. By the end, we got it all written down.

Step 2 – Communication & training are key

Just writing something down on a piece of paper doesn’t mean it’s done that way from now on. On the contrary. If people don’t know how to do it, they still won’t. It is why the next crucial step is to properly communicate these recipes and processes.

There are various ways to do this. In some cases, simply handing out the recipe, whether it’s digital or on a piece of paper to your employees might be enough. In others, you might need to organize trainings for all the involved employees on the new way to run the process. A training doesn’t need to be a traditional classroom training. On the contrary, you could also do it on the production line itself. Or, you could use regular team meetings to update and inform team members.

The best strategy is different for every business. If you had a lot of discussions in step 1 on the ‘ideal process’, you might need to take more time to explain why this is the ‘best’ way to make your product. Make sure you listen to complaints or pushback. You might have overlooked something, and it’s best to understand where people come from.

Have just 1 true version

You will need to share the recipe and process with your employees. You might have one central handbook with paper copies of all instructions. Or, you could use a digital system. Whichever system you use, make sure that you can’t have several versions of the same recipe floating around. And, make sure people can easily access them, or they simply won’t look at them when they’re unsure what to do next.

Charlotte’s communication solution

Once we had all Charlotte’s recipes written down. We made sure everyone on Charlotte’s team had access to the read-only files of her recipes & instructions. They were stored in a central shared online folder. In the bakery, they had one folder with all the printed versions. Every new employee would use that folder to get up to speed in the bakery.

Step 3 – Use it to continuously improve

Having well-written recipes and instructions doesn’t just save time and money in the short term. It’s a huge opportunity for long-term continuous improvements. Once you have a way to do things, you can start improving.

Once you have an aligned, agreed-upon process, people can start suggesting ways to do things better. Whereas before, everyone might have just tried their own things, without discussing them all together. New cheaper ingredients, a better way to store semi-finished products, a way to save water use, let the ideas come in!

So don’t stop once you’ve captured everything. Instead, see this as a starting point to save even more time and money and make even better products. Set up a simple way to collect new and improved suggestions and find ways to test them.

Charlotte’s innovation solution

Charlotte’s bakers would often come up with ideas to improve a recipe and process. Whether it’s to adjust a recipe for a different season, a new supplier, or just an easier way to do things. Previously, these ideas got lost. But now, they use their central paper folder with all the recipes to collect notes. During their monthly get-togethers, they discuss the new ideas. If they agree it’s a better way to do things, they’ll update the documents.

The Power of Organized Recipes

Everyone in production must have access to the right recipes and instructions to make high-quality food. But if you don’t have a proper way to manage these, employees don’t know what to do. As a result, quality might go down, production may not operate at full speed or you might simply be burnt out.

Once we had implemented a simple recipe & instruction system for Charlotte, she finally didn’t have to be in the bakery every single day anymore. She could work on other aspects of her business, and you know, maybe take a day off once in a while!

Do you miss out on efficiency and lose time by not having your recipes and processes under control? Reach out and schedule a discovery call to get clear on your next steps.

Note, Charlotte wasn’t actually called Charlotte, but I did work with a ‘Charlotte” back in late 2021.

What's your challenge?

Struggling with your food product or production process? Not sure where to start and what to do? Or are you struggling to find and maintain the right expertise and knowledge in your food business?

That's where I might be able to help. Fill out a quick form to request a 30 minute discovery call so we can discuss your challenges. By the end, you'll know if, and how I might be able to help.

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