Dietary Manager at Glen Ridge Hospital, Henry Carnish,

Dietary Manager at Glen Ridge Hospital, Henry Carnish, noticed that one tray-line worker cuts 1/2 a case of iceberg lettuce for the lunch tray line and a full case for the dinner tray line. At the same time kitchen staff for the cafeteria prepare 1 1/2 cases of iceberg lettuce for lunch and 1 case for dinner. Henry thought that it would be more efficient to have one person cut all the lettuce for the tray-line and cafeteria each day.

The process includes chopping with a cutting board and French knife (10 minutes per case), washing and draining the lettuce (6 minutes per case) and cleaning up after the job is completed (3 minutes).

Henry decided that while he was considering reassigning the responsibility, he might also consider if there are quicker ways to chop the lettuce. An underused piece of equipment, a Vertical Cutter/Mixer (VCM), was presently only being used to make breadcrumbs. Henry knew that the VCM could chop lettuce very quickly. He estimated that it was possible to chop a case of head after being cleaned and trimmed in about one minute. Cleaning up the VCM after use took about 5 minutes.

Over lunch with Joe Thomas, the purchasing manager, Henry mentioned his idea and asked for Joe’s advice. Joe thought it over. “Sounds like a good idea to reduce total labor time and labor expense. Have you thought about buying either cleaned and trimmed lettuce or chopped lettuce? Both of these are good products and would cut down on labor time. I could get prices for you so you can see which is the best alternative.” Henry considered Joe’s idea. “I wouldn’t like to sacrifice quality. Right now our chopped lettuce is really fresh and crisp. What do you know about the quality of the convenience items?”

“From what the vendors tell me it is good,” Joe replied. “Both products are washed in careful conditions, and packaged in a Modified Atmosphere packaging (MAP) system. They stay fresh until opened. Why don’t I get some in for taste testing? You run the numbers and I’ll set up a taste panel.”

Cost Information from Joe:


Pack Size

Case Weight


Lettuce, iceberg, heads

24 ct



Lettuce, iceberg, cleaned and trimmed

6 ct


$ 7.52

Lettuce, iceberg, cleaned and chopped

4/5 lb



Other information you need to know

  • The yield percentage for whole heads of iceberg lettuce is 76%
  • Pack size gives the amount of product that is packed into the container.
  • The list price for a VCM is $7997.00
  • The symbol # and lb both mean pound.
  • The symbol   is used when there are multiple containers in a case. For example, a pack size for granulated sugar is 2/25 lb.  This means that the package contains two 25-pound bags of sugar. The total weight of the case is 50 pounds.
  • ct means that the unit of measure is count. For example a case of iceberg head lettuce is packed 24 heads to a case.  
  • The quantity needed per day of a product is not the same as the quantity to order. Frequency of deliveries depends on the operations storage space, volume of production, and how perishable the food is. It is best if highly perishable foods like seafood and fish are delivered daily but most other products including produce are delivered less frequently, usually two to three times a week.

Food Cost



Cut by Hand


Ready to

Case lettuce

Cleaned & trimmed

Case lettuce

Cleaned & trimmed

Number of cases needed per day












Food Cost per Day






EP Weight required for the day (in pounds)






EP cost per #






Labor needed per day (in hours)

Chop time






Wash/drain time






Clean-up time






Total Labor time/day






Labor Cost for $8/hr

Labor Cost/day






Labor Cost per pound of EP lettuce






Total Cost with an $ 8/hr employee

Total Cost per EP #






Total Cost per day






Labor Cost for $11.50/hr Calculations

Labor Cost/day






Labor Cost per pound of EP lettuce






Total Cost with an $ 11.50/hr employee

Total Cost per EP #






Total Cost/day

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