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This topic is always fresh, always necessary.  If you want better profits, focus on food costs.Double checking your food costs never goes out to style.  It’s the most direct way to profitability.  Any good independent or chain is forever working on improving food costs. 

Receiving your food deliveries can minimize waste. 

Receiving your food deliveries can minimize waste. 

1.  RECEIVING PROCEDURE—do you know that your staff is checking in items, checking dates, rotating products whether it is for dry storage or in the walkin. START NOW:  stand with your staff member in charge of orders. Observe and check how they take in the order. Correct anything that is not done correctly.  This techniques reminds the driver that you do check the orders.  Nothing can be missing or too close to “out-of-date”. 


2. RECIPE COSTING—do you know the cost of your best seller and your worst seller. Can you recite that food cost now? Don’t make this a daunting project for your chef of your staff, until you’ve done some good analysis yourself.  START NOW: look up your best and worst sellers.  How is you food cost? 25%? Congrats, and begin to market and sell more!  40%? Well, now you need to start deciding—raise the price or determine how you can make your food cost work… maybe “add a drink for $1” will make the combination price work. Make sure you have a Recipe Costing Card in a kitchen prep book so staff can review and check for accuracy. Double check on how a recipe is being made, just so you know new staff are being trained, and long-term staff are not shortcutting. 

3. YIELD—do you really know what your yield is on a batch of cookies/soup/mac-n-cheese? You need to follow a recipe all the way from prep to completion.  You may learn that there is waste happening along the way, that you never knew was happening.  START NOW: Let’s say you have a chili recipe.  Weigh and check ingredients at the beginning.  Observe how the prep people are preparing it, and measure out the yield.  That chili may yield 3 or 4 more portions with the appropriate prep. 

portion control: make sure it matches with the food costs you originally set up in the recipe card. 

portion control: make sure it matches with the food costs you originally set up in the recipe card. 

4. PORTION CONTROL—do you spot check portions? Your staff should want portion control so that food is served consistently no matter who is on staff, and no matter which customer is being served. START NOW: Order an item from the kitchen.  Check that the portion is correct.  Compliment the prep staff and chef, when it's correct.  Set a time to correct it, if the portion is wrong, because correcting in the moment will not change the kitchen habits. 


5.  WASTE SHEET—do you have a waste sheet?  If so, is it in use? Do staff reach for that clipboard daily?  Does staff report to you/supervisor to discuss waste on a daily basis? You change your buying habits based on the waste. START NOW:  Here is an example of a waste sheet.  Put it onto a clipboard, hang it in the kitchen, assign a manager to filling it in, and check your results daily, with the manager.


6.  INVENTORY—do you have regularly scheduled inventory? It’s necessary. It’s the best way to check that food is moving through your establishment.  START NOW:  use your order sheets as inventory sheets, marking it "INVENTORY date/year" so everyone understands what is being done.  Make sure you do a monthly check of every item in the house.  Some odd items on the shelf?  Talk with your chef to decide how best to use that item—on a lunch or dinner special. Don’t throw items away, if you can possibly avoid it. 


Your staff, once again, is your biggest ally in putting these food cost checks in place.  You lead your staff by showing them how to complete these six ways to improve your food costs.  Staff should be encouraged to talk about each of the new methods, allow them to digest the material. Always help your staff by guiding them to the best practices. You’ll need to share “why” they should follow the six ways to control food cost.  It they understand the "why" of good  food costs they will ensure that food costs stay under control, and will alert you when food costs derail.  Put these into action over a month. Slow and steady..