20 Food Cost Tips

 Over the last 31 years in the restaurant business, I have acquired and shared many tips and strategies that are vital to controlling food cost. Some are easier to implement and monitor than others, but each one, when used properly will have a positive impact on your food costs.

 Your own success depends primarily on your ability to motivate, empower, challenge, and encourage your employees to take the lead when it comes to food costs. This is the underlying secret to success.

 If you (the owner/operator) were the only one handling the food from start to finish, then it would be a different story. However, that is not the case (at least I hope not).

 So here is a partial list of tips that can assist you in increasing your Profit Line.

 1.   Make sure all employees are properly trained. A lot of you out there are saying of course, but I am amazed at the amount of employees I run into that donít even know what food cost is and how they affect it.

 2.   Implement an incentive program that rewards decreasing food waste. Nothing works better as a motivator than an incentive program. Yes it takes effort and follow through to monitor the results. However, incentive contests have a two-fold effect. First it makes a task more fun because people like to be challenged. And second it makes all of your employees aware of food costs.

 3. Control your inventory. Nothing will drive up food costs faster than having too much inventory on hand. First of all a large inventory leads to food spoilage. And second it is harder to detect when food is missing.

 4. Emphasize proper portioning. Communicate to your employees that proper portioning also leads to customer satisfaction. As an owner/operator you have spent a great deal of time perfecting your menu. You have priced your menu accordingly to insure your guests are satisfied and that you can make a decent profit. Some employees feel they are doing the customer a favor by piling on the ingredients. (If one is good, three is better). Educate them to the concept of consistency.

 5. Close supervision (lead by example). I have seen many operations where the management staff is very lax in the way in which they monitor food portioning and waste. Sometimes itís an issue with them and sometimes it is not. Proper supervision includes consistency of standards.

 6. Train your cooks to get it right the first time. Recooks are devastating to food costs. In most cases this is just a matter of insisting that everyone from the waitstaff to the cooks are well trained in the area of entering orders properly (computers) to reading and preparing the orders properly. Once again, training is the key.

 7. Theft. Employee pilferage is a wide spread problem. Donít kid yourself; everyone has or is experiencing employee theft. I have written several articles on how to prevent employee theft. One suggestion goes back to inventory control. Keep your stock levels low! If your employees feel you are going to run out of a product, they are less inclined to take it.

 8. Explain to your employees theoretical vs. actual food cost. Show them the numbers and what it all means. I have always used the example of how this relates to their personal grocery bill. For example: If you purchased a loaf of bread you might expect to make 12 sandwiches. However, that loaf only yielded 9 sandwiches. You would want to know what happened to the other slices, wouldnít you? It could have been dropped on the floor, torn, or someone may have walked into your home and stole it. Whatever the reason, if this were to continue time and time again, it would put a dent in your grocery bill.

 9. Waste! Waste! Waste! Simply put, waste is like dumping food in the trash and writing a check for it.

 10. Have a food cost goal (and let your employees know what it is). You canít improve cost controls without a goal. And you canít expect your employees to contribute to the goal if they have no idea what it is.

 11. Accurate food inventories. Have you ever taken an inventory that didnít come out all right and you though, ďoh well, it will wash next week." But next week comes along and it didnít? Inventories play a major part in controlling food costs, but only if they are accurate.

 12. Make sure you get what you paid for. Check all deliveries! Make sure you not only get the right amount of product you ordered, but also make sure you get the right quality.

 13. Use proper food rotation. Use day dots or any other means to insure proper rotation of all food items.

 14. Monitor your employee meals. Institute an employee meal policy and stick to it. I have always recommended an employee meal policy that is fair but also lets the employees know the value of the food they are consuming. Donít let your employees gobble up your profits

15. .Keep Walk-Ins and Freezers locked. This does help in keeping food pilferage to a minimum. Also, make sure you keep the keys in a secure place.

 16. Also, make available only enough products that will be used. This includes prepping (monitor your usage so you know the correct amount to prep each day). Have you ever noticed how the end of the tube of toothpaste seems to last almost as long as the rest of the tube?

 17. Make sure the person doing the food ordering is properly trained.

 18. Train your waitstaff to identify inconsistencies in portions. A well trained waitstaff can identify and bring to your attention inconsistencies in portions and quality that can hurt your restaurants reputation.

 19. Use spatulas to scrape out all containers.

 20. Strict adherence to all recipe standards is a must. Make sure scales and other measuring tolls are being used at all times.

 Implementing these tips will have a profound affect on your operation. It takes persistence and energy to be successful in this business.

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