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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Food Cost Control Tips

If you own or manage a restaurant, you know controlling your food, beverage and labor costs are critical to success.  Labor costs have been inching up during the recovery and this has put increased pressure to lower food cost.  Many operators specialize in one or more techniques to lower their cost of goods sold.

Some companies focus on purchasing and employ competitive bids and tight par level trigger points to help buy high quality food as cheaply as possible.  The excellent POS systems make perpetual inventory and theoretical cost calculations possible.  Many companies now link their POS system to their purchasing and inventory systems.  Monitoring batch recipe production is the specialty of many regional chains and they save money by producing in bulk at a commissary.

It is important to understand the true goal.  You want to lower your food cost by spending less for food for a given sales volume.  You can spend less by finding a lower price and by consuming the proper amount of food with minimal waste.

It helps to analyze your menu item counts monthly.  This is a standard report in most POS systems.  There are two scans you should do to get the most from this report.  Look for high dollar volume items which will generally include your most popular entrees and sandwiches.  Also, look for items with the highest counts regardless of sales volume.  These items will include complimentary bread, salads, coffee, starches and modifiers.  Identify all these high volume items.

Focus your cost control activities on these items.

If you are spending tremendous time bidding on food items and placing orders based on par stocks, save some effort and increase your efficiency.  You can buy better by analyzing fewer items.  I have seen companies utilizing sophisticated software and frequent inventory counts on items which have a very low impact.  Find a reliable grocery supplier who can meet your needs for all your staples and give them your business.  It makes very little sense to get 3 bids for a spice or condiment used sparingly in your operation.

On the other hand, you need to aggressively bid for all high volume protein items.  Par stocks on these items should vary with day of the week and season of the year.  This is the best place to spend time and effort controlling waste and getting the absolute lowest prices.

Commissaries should never become warehouses for all items consumed in your operation.  The major suppliers have superior inventory control and you can save on power, shipping costs, delivery personnel and warehouse theft.  Use your commissary to strip out labor cost from major prep items.  You should strive for the best consistency and lowest cost on these high volume batches.

Make sure your store level staff execute all high volume activities well.  Coffee should be produced so your guests enjoy a freshly brewed cup with a minimum level of waste.  Salad mixes should be ordered frequently to minimize spoilage.  Portion control on all complimentary items is a great way to improve your food cost results.  You should vary the bread basket by the number of guests at a table.  Ask guests ordering a sandwich if they want complimentary bread.  Many will say no.

High volume meal periods are the key to success.  You need the proper staff level, a well stocked line, easy to use portion control devices and a well trained expediter.  Executing orders in an efficient manner during your peak meal periods will have the greatest impact on your food cost results.

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