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10 Ways to Control Food Cost

Food cost remains one of the most costly components of restaurant management. Implement our list of the top ten basic tips on controlling food cost.

1) Price Menu Items Accordingly

It is essential to the success of your restaurant to have properly priced menu items. Prices that are too high dissuade customers, while prices that are too low cause you to lose out on precious profits. Pricing your menu reasonably makes your customers comfortable with paying and allows you to make a profit. MenuMax allows you to import your recipes, upload your order guide, and then links the ingredients in your recipes to the products you buy, and gives you plate costing down to the penny. This enables you to maximize your profits by analyzing your food costs and percentages with every menu change.

2) Portion Food Properly

Similarly to pricing appropriately, it is important to serve food in portions that will not over- or under-fill plates. Basic observance is key to analyzing whether you have properly portioned meals. When customers are finished eating, look at the plates as they come back to the kitchen. If there is a lot left on the plate, or you are consistently wrapping up take-home containers, you may be over-portioning your meals and thus increasing your food cost.

3) Keep Track of Your Inventory

Regular and thorough inventory counts will help you stay in control of your usage and the costs associated with it. This is especially important for high-cost items such as meat and liquor. MenuMax offers useful features that help you keep track of your inventory in a way that is unique, and customizable for your specific needs. You can modify locations to fit your specific business, organize products into categories/locations for easy inventory management and create detailed count sheets that let you count inventory the way you want to.

4) Handle Food Safely

In order to reduce potential waste, it is important to enforce first-in, first-out (FIFO) rotation for all perishable foods. Make sure you keep all foods at the recommended temperature and cook all foods correctly to avoid waste and prevent contamination.

5) Keep a Record of Food Waste

Sometimes, it is hard to keep track of your cost when waste has not been accurately recorded. Try using a waste chart to write down any food orders that are made incorrectly, thrown away or spilled. Failing to record this “usage” can skew inventory reports and throw off your food cost percentage.

6) Train Employees Right

When your employees care about food cost, they will be more apt to do everything they can to prevent waste, control portions and ensure food quality. Demonstrate how restaurant inventory represents potential profits, and how a reduction in food cost can provide an increase in profits (and essentially employee wages).

7) Rethink the Garnish

Think about all the dishes you serve with ‘garnish’. Now imagine the amount of those costly plate decorations that get thrown in the trash. Garnishes often consist of fancy fruits or layers of fresh lettuce that add visual appeal but are rarely eaten. Use less expensive food garnishes or remove them altogether to reduce food costs.

8 ) Build a Relationship with Your Suppliers

If you have been in the food service industry for a while, odds are you know the basic cost of your purchased food products. It is important to build a personal relationship with your suppliers in the event of any problems with food quality or any issues with food prices. Shopping around for the best price can also enable you to lower your food cost and can create competition among your suppliers for the best prices in exchange for your business.

9) Be Consistent

Consistency with food purchases comes with time but can help you anticipate expenses from week to week and keep your food costs steady and manageable.

10) Watch Profits and Losses

Lastly, it is important to keep a close watch on profits and losses. When you know what profits the restaurant is bringing in, in addition to the fixed expenses that affect the business, you are able to better evaluate your options and see where costs can be cut that are most beneficial to your individual situation.

For more information on the food cost and inventory management features of MenuMax visit or email for details.

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