Originally posted by bassrocker4u2
plate counting has good uses. but first, other practices must be in place. for instance, if you are checking up on a suspected server(shrewd stealer), you must first have a properly trained host(ess). in this case you are comparing plates(paid for) to heads(in the door), and even specifically to sections of dining room, and servers.
in some formulas(pnl,daily,monthly,weekly reports), the average customer expenditure is consistant, thereby allowing the manager/owner to use plate counting as a quick and quite accurate method of calculating present status of sales and labor cost. the formula may determine that 5 plates will cover one man hour of labor(also using formulated average). by a quick plate count, and simple math, one can determine if labor is running too high, or to low. tons of other things can be determined quickly by a simple plate count.
i have used plate counting for years, and its very efficient and fast.
i will respectfully defer to da rocker, as i've never done it this way. only time i ever count plates is in catering work, where i do it before service so that i can see how my food supply is looking, in real time, against the remaining number of guests.
as far as checking on the shrewd server (mostly, in my experience, an oxymoron, but that's just an old chef snarling), i've posted before that the critical point is that nothing comes off the line into a server's hands without a dupe, regardless of whatever system you use.
it's hard for the floor to steal, at least in this area, if you run a tight kitchen. unless, of course, there's some collusion between a cook and a server, but then you don't have a tight kitchen.
i guess that your friend the plate counter must run an operation with a limited number of tabletop variables. most of my experience has been in restaurants where there were a number of different size and style plates, on the one hand, and where a rack of lamb could be served on the same plate as a chicken breast.
if you're running a small, hands-on operation, you can watch this stuff hour by hour. the bigger the place, and the further you, the owner, are from the actual firing line, the more rigorous a system you need.
one last note: when i was a restaurant chef, and i've run some fairly large places, i usually could guess pretty accurately how many covers we'd done in a service. after a while, if i was in my office, out of sight but not earshot of the kitchen, i could come close just by listening to the sound of the kitchen. but there's absolutely nothing to take the place of reviewing the dupes after each shift, and doing a quick inventory of the walkin box. the more you do this stuff the less time it takes, and the better you'll get at it. you *must* catch funny business asap. finding out a month later that your food cost is out of line is an expensive way to keep an eye on your money.