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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Finding Your Ideal Food Cost Number

I find attempts to benchmark food cost overly simplistic.  My favorite factors in determining food cost benchmarks are annual sales, competition and monthly occupancy cost.  These factors vary widely by market segment and geographic zone.

There are times when a higher food cost percentage is desirable.  Operators suffering from minimum wage laws and mandatory employee health care costs may improve their operating profit by purchasing prepped food items.

A fresh vegetable prep team with three full time workers can cost well over $100,000 in cities and states with $15 minimum wage laws.  Qualified butchers are only justified in a small number of restaurants.  Multi-unit operators may create commissaries to butcher and prep items for their entire chain.

Commissary operators need delivery vehicles and personnel.  In addition, they need tight controls over commissary transfers.  Auto insurance rates are higher in urban and suburban areas.

A savvy operator will create a profit and loss statement designed to show a subtotal used to net sales, cost of sales, direct labor and occupancy costs.  This number should be at least 30% of sales.

There are plenty of ways to get the 30% net.  Restaurant managers in urban areas with high rents need to offset their high occupancy costs with higher sales and lower percentages for cost of sales and labor.

If you are in a city with high rents, $15 minimum wage laws, and have recently offered your entire staff health care insurance, you most likely need a low food cost %. Some of you may face a 15% occupancy cost.  If you can manage to hit a 25% cost of sales and a 30% labor cost, you can deliver a 30% profit before your other operating expenses.

You may operate over an hour from the nearest city in a mortgage free restaurant.  The local minimum wage laws may allow you to pay a premium wage in the $12/hour range.  A large kitchen with adequate storage capacity could allow you to purchase farm delivered produce and large cuts of meat and fish.

The best strategy for the operator with low occupancy expenses is to always price menu items below the competition.  You can make it impossible for competitors to attack using borrowed capital.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

WSJ Article on Chipotle Hiring Plans

Julie Jargon's article, Chipotle Makes a New Kind of Play for Labor, appears on the front page of section B - Business and Tech, August 24, 2015.

She reports on a planned mass hiring day - September 9th.  Chipotle plans to hire 4,000 people on the single day increasing their workforce by nearly 7%.

The article features a graph of wage growth for limited-service restaurants vs. the entire private sector.  The source is Bureau of Labor Statistics.

LSR workers have seen wage growth of 6.77% in the 2.5 year period ended this June vs. 5.37% for the entire private sector.
I checked on the Restaurant Investor Report for closing rates in the first half of 2015 for fast casual Mexican/Latin restaurants.  The closing rate was far below other sectors.
Chipotle's closings are a mere 1/8 of 1% (.00125).  Almost all Chipotle locations remained in business during the six month report period.

Independents and regional chains operating casual dining Mexican/Latin concept closed 4.83%.  The entire Mexican/Latin fast casual chains group saw a closing rate of 1.46%.  Mexican/Latin fast casual independents closed 4.36%.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Seattle Area Restaurants Face Higher Wages

Fox News ran an interesting article, written by Dan Springer, a month ago on their website in the Politics section:

Seattle sees fallout from $15 minimum wage, as other cities follow suit by Dan Springer

The article focused on the impact of a higher minimum wage - $15 per hour.

In his article, Mr. Springer delved into the actions taken by restaurants:

"Some restaurants have tacked on a 15 percent surcharge to cover the higher wages. And some managers are no longer encouraging customers to tip, leading to a redistribution of income. Workers in the back of the kitchen, such as dishwashers and cooks, are getting paid more, but servers who rely on tips are seeing a pay cut.

Some long-time Seattle restaurants have closed altogether, though none of the owners publicly blamed the minimum wage law."

With regard to the issue of long-time Seattle restaurants closing altogether, there is a tick upward in closings reported by in the new Restaurant Investor Report.

In general, Seattle has a vibrant restaurant industry.  The report is very interesting with regard to independently owned full service restaurants, including regional chain concepts.

As of June 30, 2015, the report showed the 6 month closing rate for long-time (over 3 years in business) full service restaurants increased by 46% from 2.7% in the second half of 2014 to a 3.9% rate in the first half of 2015.

A solid 93.4% of full service restaurants owned by sole proprietors and regional chains remained in business.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Waste Calculation in Food Cost

Dear Joe,

I hope my mail finds you well.

I would like to know how to take into consideration the waste calculation while determining the food cost %.

Our formula:

Food Cost% =(opening inventory+purchases-ending inventory-staff meals-entertainment)/sales

So where is the place where we can add the calculation of wastage in the above formula?

Thank you. 
Best regards,

Thanks for the question, Elie.  This is a popular issue with many food cost controllers. 

In your operation, the purchased food should be consumed by guests when they order a menu item.

If the actual ingredient used to create a menu item requires fabrication, it is possible to experience a much lower yield than you expect.  You may also purchase too much of a perishable item and suffer a loss due to spoilage.  Finally, you may produce too much of a batch recipe used in a menu item which is not part of the base menu.

All of the food purchased, whether consumed by guests, lost in fabrication and poor yields, or lost due to over production or spoilage, is included in the "purchases" component of the formula.

The goal of the food cost control team is to explain to management the causes of food cost success and failure in the period of the report (week, month, quarter or year).

If you use standard recipes and standard yields, your variance reports will highlight the difference between actual usage and ideal usage.  Focus on the high volume items when you analyze variances.

In order to have the right information available, you should keep records for the ways each key item is used.  Purchases, butcher yield sheets, portion control records, and spoilage sheets are the building blocks for your variance analysis report.

In 2015, the high cost per pound or kilo for protein and fresh fruits and vegetables is a main driver of high food costs.  Only menu price increases can help with the higher purchase costs.

By developing a solid usage analysis for all key items, you will gain an advantage.  Over time, you will see trends in waste and spoilage.  If the management team communicates effectively, waste and spoilage will decline over time.

Restaurant Data Pros

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