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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Explosive Recipe Models

Once you have decided on a menu theme, suppliers, a production team and specific menu items, it's time to develop standard recipes. Your recipes should be clear and well illustrated. It helps to take the view of a line cook when crafting plate recipes. Batch recipes are a different breed. If you want to completely understand your operation, I recommend you spend most of your time on batch production recipes.

Basic prep activities should be carefully observed. Actual yields need to be compared to industry standards. Stocks are great for using the trim from your prep items. It's OK to assign the stock a zero cost for the usable trim. Some chefs like to give a credit for trim used in stocks when calculating the prep yields for the primary purpose. If you use this approach, you'll need to monitor the cost of the stock.

Secondary production activities include setups, mixes, sauces, stews, soups, portion cuts and other line items. If you build an explosive recipe model, you can save lots of time later if you need to make changes to your menu.

For example, a pizzeria could have a pizza sauce recipe, a pizza dough recipe, a standard weight for the shredded cheese and olive oil. A pizza setup would include 1 dough ball, 1 standard ladle of sauce, a standard portion of shredded cheese and the standard amount of oil. For a simple cheese pizza, the plate recipe could simply include 1 pizza setup. Pizzas with toppings could use 1 pizza setup and one or more topping portions.

Let's say you decide to change the shredded cheese mix and portion size. Instead of rebuilding every finished pizza recipe, you could simply change the one recipe for the shredded cheese portion. This change then explodes through the entire list of pizza recipes. Since the pizza setup is tied to each pizza and the setup includes the shredded cheese portion, you have updated the entire model with one change.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Recipes And Cost Accounting

Variance reports help cost accountants identify unprofitable production and service activities. If your dinner house served a 1 pound steak for $30 and the meat costs $6 and sides run another $1.50, your margin is $22.50. That's a profit margin of 75%.

Meat prices vary over time and the 1 pound steak can go as low as $4.50 and as high as $7.50. This rate variance has a huge impact on your profits. At $4.50 per pound, marginal profit soars to $24 or 80%. It gets tough to pay the rent for your high profile location when higher priced meat hits the loading dock. Your margin drops to $21 or 70% at the $7.50 per pound level.

In this example, our standard price per pound is $6. If our example steak accounted for 40% of dinner business, how do we measure the impact of a price increase? Using this standard rate, we will run a cost of sales of 25% on this menu item. A $1.50 rise in the cost per pound will run the cost of sales up to 30%. Since this 5% increase has a 40% impact value, this one ingredient - a 1 pound steak - is responsible for a 2% increase in the overall food cost.

Rate variances on key items have a major impact on your results. These variances may be difficult to control. Major steak chains use futures and options to reduce the risk. Minimum future requirements eliminate this option for most operators.

The industry has become focused on the usage variance since the degree of control is higher. If you sell 1,000 of these steaks a week and you closely track usage, you may experience a usage variance of 10%. Instead of using 1,000 pounds of steak, you needed 1,100 pounds. At the $6 standard cost per pound, the usage variance costs $600. Repeat this performance for 50 straight weeks and you'll be missing $30,000 of profit. Your food cost percentage for the steak will soar by 2%. Looking at the entire food cost percentage, this unfavorable variance has a 0.8% impact.

Imagine a week with the same usage variance combined with the big rate variance. The impact of serving the $7.50 per pound meat and an extra 100 steaks is $2,250. The extra steaks cost $750 and the extra $1.50 per pound on the 1,000 standard is $1,500.

Companies using variance reports wisely tend to eliminate usage problems faster. These same companies isolate key items and develop an effective purchasing strategy. Their competitors tend to run rambling meetings when food cost numbers are high. Inventory counts and extensions become their focus. In the long run, you won't solve a usage variance or a price variance through inventory value manipulation.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Basic Recipe Costing

The majority of operations I start work with do not have an operations manual. These same operators have no formal training for new hires. If you start as a line cook, you take verbal orders for most activities. The restaurant will not provide you with standard recipes. There are no photos of the production action and no information regarding weights and sizes.

When we try to develop recipe standards, I ask the manager to treat me as a newly hired line cook. I want these clients to explain in straight language exactly what they expect me to do when I cook. Do I measure? Are all the necessary sauces and prepped items available on the line? Which ladle do I use for each sauce? Most of my questions involve measurement and prepped items.

Over time, I have learned how to take almost any menu and determine what needs to be prepped ahead of time. Feed me some POS product mix data and I can start to prioritize my work. If you take the time to go through your own menu and ask simple questions, you'll come up with a comprehensive list of batch recipes which need to be created first. This task takes some time to get comfortable with but it is critical to success.

A bad place to start is often the most commonly selected menu item for recipe costing - soup of the day. Soups are often on top of most menus. This soup du jour recipe could easily take days of work to complete. There are many choices and it's unlikely the POS system archives the specific soup du jour details. It is literally many soups with complex recipes involving stocks, mise en place, etc. Then you need to weight each recipe by sales data to properly estimate the recipe cost.

Start with your entrees. Be very specific about how the center of the plate choices go from cases of raw ingredients onto the plate going out to your dining room. Do you portion by cooked weight, pre-cooked weight, portion control item, ladle or piece (rack, steak, thigh, breast, etc.)? Is there a portion control system in place to ensure consistency for both the guest and the accounting staff? You can't spend enough time in this area. This is where the major decisions are made in any recipe costing exercise.

Be prepared for the entrees to run a cost of goods sold higher than your actual food cost %. If you have a 35% food cost percentage, you may see the entrees coming in at 40%. The reason the entrees run higher than the food cost percentage is the beverages typically have portion costs far below the overall percentage. Sales of beverages are made in higher volumes than the sale of entrees. These profitable items will help to lower the overall percentage.

Chefs will get involved once they see you are factoring sides, bread and butter, garnishes, etc. into the total cost of these entrees. They have been correctly trained to price entrees to cover all these costs. In addition, they may correctly point out entrees with a high food cost percentage can produce superior gross margins (in terms of dollars). As you gain the support of the kitchen staff in your exercise, please have them proceed to cost any side, starch, bread, roll, garnish and condiment needed to serve each entree. This is the second area of focus.

Maintain a tight focus on the production and service of center of the plate items. You will find a high percentage of purchase volume is devoted to the raw ingredients needed to produce these entree items.

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