Food specifications supporting food procurement


Author: Dr Karen Abbey, Church Resources Foodservice Ambassador

A food specification is description of food items which is going to be purchased. While food items are not often thought as a specification in our minds we do think about the types of products which are needed and this is usually driven by the recipes that are used in menu planning. In order to obtain food at its highest standards, products have to go through as process where by samples are tested against the specifications, known as quality control.

Using food specification serves a number of reasons in food service:

  1. They help determine the types of food items which need to be purchased
  2. They determine the scope or range of food items under a category which will be purchased
  3. They set up the purchasing parameters which are needed
  4. They can also help to eliminate tricky menu planning situation when a consumer wants additional products which are out of the scope of purchasing. We see this in aged care where a resident wants a specific type of product.

Food specifications requires the catering department to think about what each food ingredient will look like. For example the type of meat cuts, types of breads, milk, yogurt and cereals which could be purchased for the menu. Food specifications can also be determine by their popularity on the menu by clients and consumers.

Food specification is especially valuable for high end menu items such as meats. Meat should be of good quality, of the required quantity, and portion is essential to ensure that there is enough being purchased to meet the meal requirements.

Specifications for food have the following components:FoodProcure_Banner_300x250 (Copy)

  • Item name – in full to describe the product for example full cream milk
  • Description – of the item is the weight, portion size whether the items is fresh, frozen, canned and how it is packed
  • Quantity – the amount that is required to be ordered being singular or as cartons
  • Quality – description of the minimal acceptable characteristic for the product that will be used to make meals
  • Price – per unit and total costs
  • Other items may include how it is packaged, delivery instruction for food safety, storage and heating instructions.

By understanding food specifications this establishes more efficient procurement and allows for benchmarking of food costs. Benchmarking food through a procurement process ensures that food costs are always the best they can be and provides stability to menu budgets. For additional help allocating budget you can use services such as this to calculate cost of food.

Whether you formally undertake food specification as part of your menu planning process or not the fact is that Food specifications help reduce costs, keep your menu planning and meal delivery standards high, and determine the quality of your food service operations.

* Dr Karen Abbey, Church Resources Foodservice Ambassador, Foodservice Specialist Dietitian PhD. To subscribe to CR foodservices click here:

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