An investment of time and money in any recipe costing model has a payoff in food cost analysis. Most operators lack sufficient information to conduct a meaningful food cost analysis. Many operators receive a simple percentage which they are told is either too high or too low(occasionally, just right).
If the company's accounts payable system charges all cost of goods sold to the same account, there is no additional information available. So what do these companies focus on when trying to explain their food cost results? Their food cost analysis typically consists of a review of the ending inventory.
This food cost analysis works like this in most cases: 1. Scan the Excel file looking for large inventory totals. 2. Check these high impact numbers for unit cost information. 3. Once a major item is found with some price volatility, the entire analysis ends and management works on "solving the problem". Occasionally, this team may get around to using a top 10 analysis. This is a small step in the right direction.
Often, the food cost analysis completely ignores the true issue. Many food cost "problems" stem from an incorrect inventory value the previous period. No one remembers the over valuation from the previous period. The simple reason this is ignored is the euphoria caused by a great food cost percentage eliminated the need for any proper food cost analysis. This incorrect valuation went completely unnoticed until now.
When I'm called in to help with inconsistent food cost percentages, I find the top 10 items in terms of purchase volume. My work includes tests of everything involving these items. A thorough analysis of the top 10 items is the best place to start any meaningful food cost analysis. Eventually, you will want to increase the list to the Top 25.
Advanced recipe models automatically focus on 10 to 25 items (depending on the menu scope). Knowing the eventual solution will be found in these high impact items can be useful to the operator with limited information.
Treat each item like a stock in a portfolio. Each food cost component has an impact relative to the unit volume, price volatility and risk of spoilage. Focus on perishable, high volume items with volatile market prices. You'll find many solutions in this key item food cost analysis.