Most large chains and franchise restaurants have detailed programs in place to control food costs. Such convenience and business support is one of the draws of owning or managing a franchised store. But even franchisees may benefit from some of these cost-saving suggestions that independent operators can work into their daily food management practices.
1. Managing food costs doesn’t have to be an accounting nightmare, but it does require knowing what you are spending.
SmallBusinessChron.com offers helpful guidance on controlling food expenditures, but they first suggest breaking your costs down per diner – divide your monthly food spend by your total number of diners in that month for a quick estimate. Your food expense will include the cost of food as well as any delivery charges or other fees; be sure to take into account loss from spoilage or over-buying, theft, and meal re-dos from returned food. This can give you a benchmark for future comparisons.
2. Trimming food waste is another key item to controlling costs.
Green Restaurant Association reported that in one year’s time, a single restaurant can produce approximately 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food waste. What's the easiest way to eliminate food waste?
- Use the oldest foods first before they hit expiration dates.
- Only prep the amount of food you need for that day’s expected traffic (lists help keep the kitchen crew from over-slicing and dicing).
- Where possible, consider re-using the leftovers – no, not the plate waste (are you composting the fruits and veggies?). But the extra vegetables prepped on Tuesday can go into a soup on Wednesday; day-old bread can be toasted for salad croutons; not-so-pretty berries can be used for a sorbet or dessert sauce.
3. Trim portion size.
Diners in the U.S. have become accustomed to large portions piled high on their plate. The U.S. population ranks as the sixteenth most obese nation in the world, out-ranking other nations of similar size or economic development. Trimming the size of food servings will not only save you money, but will be appreciated by a growing, health-conscious population.
4. Set a food budget, and make sure your menu price is covering the cost of your food and overhead.
Divide the total cost of the ingredients in a single serving by the cost of that menu item. If the percentage is higher than 30%, you need to raise the price of the item, search out less costly ingredients, or get if off your menu.
5. Look closely at how you are currently buying.
Are there opportunties for saving money, either by changing distributors or joining food coops? Is bulk buying truly giving you the savings you need? Expired product from over-buying is one of the leading causes of food waste. Steve Stratton, an owner for six McDonald’s stores, has discovered bulk buying isn’t always the least expensive answer. Stratton has noticed the best food costs in his stores that allow him to purchase his own fresh cooking oil as he needs it, versus contracting with a combined fresh oil+used oil equipment supplier. Combined systems are convenient, but the supplier controls the delivery of fresh oil, topping off the tank at regular intervals whether needed or not, with delivery costs and service fees added into a monthly service contract. Stratton calculates he spends $1000/month in stores where the fresh oil supply is built into the used oil tank, compared to $800/month for systems that use jibs, or individual containers, to fill fryers with fresh oil.
By calculating your current food costs, paying attention to where food waste is a continual problem, and making good purchasing decisions, restaurants can trim their food costs and operate more sustainably.
DAR PRO Solutions, and parent company Darling Ingredients, promote sustainable practices in their operations. For used cooking oil collection systems that let you control the cost and frequency of your fresh oil use, give DAR PRO a call today.