10 Ways to Trim Food Costs
Keeping food costs under control is essential to your success. Here are 10 easy steps you can take today to lower spending.
Vigilance around food costs is always good business and never more so than now. Here are tactics to ease the pinch and keep profits on the plus side.
- Portion Control: Consider a 5-ounce burger, with 200 sold daily. When over-portioned by 1/2 ounce, overage calculates to more than six pounds daily of unaccounted-for cost. An essential defense in both kitchen and bar, weights and measures are easy to control through prep-kitchen and bar training and discipline. Careful specs and purchasing pre-portioned servings help, too.
- Cost Analysis: Controlling costs is impossible without knowing what they are. The simple math—portion cost divided by menu price. Price fluctuation makes it essential to keep current with the percentages, recalculating often.
- Waste Management: Whether it comes from seafood trims, wilted produce, or over-production, tossing food isn’t much different from putting dollar bills directly in the dumpster. Tighter management of purchasing and first-in, first-out usage minimizes losses. Ditto building flexible menus so kitchens can use food as supply dictates; vegetable tart with seasonal greens, cheese, and herbs offers leeway that red pepper and zucchini tart with brie, spinach, and basil doesn’t.
- Inventory-Management Software: In a nutshell, these programs are akin to tech-assisted eagle eyes, providing tracking at the ingredient level. They then connect data to recipe creation, portioning, food cost, and purchasing tasks.
- Security Checkpoints: Odds are that at least one employee steals, with food being particularly vulnerable. Possible channels: Taking off delivery trucks, nabbing inventory, voiding meals, or claiming they were returned for re-dos then eating them, and voiding checks for friends. To preempt losses, cultivate a positive culture and back it up with tight security measures. Cameras may seem harsh, but they keep food secure and premises safe. Make sure everyone knows that inventory is done regularly, reports reconciled with staffing. Make it clear what can be eaten during shifts and have lock-and-key safeguards in place for costly items.
- Balancing Acts: Plate compositions and serving sizes are variable. A protein trim here and a grain or produce added there can make food cost more favorable and even enhance value in customers’ eyes. Three meatballs instead of four looks pretty enticing with chickpea salad and grilled garlic bread.
- Menu Price vs Food Cost: Put simply, are you charging enough? If the operation aims for 27% food cost, adjust pricing, portions, or plating to hit that goal.
- Handouts: For items such as portion-control condiments, sugar packets, and coffee whiteners, there’s convenience in self-serve, but losses from pocketed items add up. It might be cost-smart to provide as requested rather than help yourself.
- Alt-Protein Cuts and Preparations: Prime strip steaks, filet mignon, Dover sole, and heritage pork can put a chokehold on costs. Even short ribs and chicken wings, which used to be favorable on the food-cost side, have soared. Soften sticker shock with less expensive cuts, say hanger steak vs rib eye. Also, presentations can highlight luxe ingredients in unexpected ways, beef brisket shredded with potato gnocchi and glossed with brisket jus or blue cheese risotto topped with glazed sliced filet.
- Supply and Demand: Stay tight and work with suppliers on pricing and specs. They’re invested in the success of customers and can offer workable solutions. Shop around, too, to make sure the price is right.
Perhaps above all, the importance of a positive workplace culture can’t be overstated. Get this part right and the rest gets immeasurably easier.
The information provided is based on a general industry overview and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique, and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.