Food Costs: Actual vs. Ideal

One of the factors that play a substantial role in the success of a foodservice operation is food costs. Food cost is what a menu item costs to prepare. The cost of a chicken entrée with meat, sauce, vegetables and starch is your food cost. Most restaurants run between a 30-40% food cost, this does not include the cost of overhead that needs to get added in before you start making a profit. A major influence on a restaurant’s food costs are the portions that the kitchen staff are creating each recipe and dish with.

One of reasons that franchise chain restaurants are so successful is because they have menu portions under control and regulated. It doesn’t matter if you go to Applebee’s in West Virginia or California, you will probably be served the same food in the same portion sizes. Customers like this consistency. By having a restaurant maintaining predictability, regardless of the location, chain restaurants guarantee strong profit margins.

Poor portion control is one of the leading causes of food cost variances. Consider that your ideal food cost is based on the premise of exact portioning for each menu item, including the portioning of each ingredient within a menu item. If your prep and line cooks have gotten in the habit of “eyeballing” measurements rather than sticking to the exact recipes, chances are your food cost variance could be as much as 5% or more. Proven portion control strategies include the use of portioning scoops, scales and measuring spoons and cups. Pre-portioning can be effective in controlling costs by using portion baggies and a scale to pre-weigh product before stocking the cook line.

Ideal food cost is the standard by which you can compare your actual food cost. If your actual food cost varies to your ideal food cost, then you set about to determine why and where the problem(s) lie. After completing your inventory, you should do a food cost analysis. You should do this at least once a week. The actual food cost is the cost of the food consumed by your customers.  When your actual food cost is higher than your ideal food cost, then you have not optimized your bottom-line profits. You have thrown money out with the window- I guess you could say. However, you won’t know this unless you know what your ideal food cost is.

So, a few things that a restaurant can do to maintain this consistency and reliability, in regards to portion control and essentially saving in food costs are:

          Providing pictures of each plated item. This illustrates the correct portion sizes and proper plating.

          Provide pictures of what each raw material/ingredient should look like after they are prepped. So for example, have pictures of actual sizes of what diced chicken looks like compared to the restaurant’s sliced chicken. This will give employees a visual of how to prep and what to look out for when assembling menu items.

          Pre-portion condiments, sides, and sauces. Every restaurant that I have ever worked in has done this. This is why when you go out to eat a restaurant and you order a salad, the dressing usually comes in small ramekins that have plastic lids. This way you can serve the dressing in-house or for to-go.

          Always have an adequate amount of correct sized storage containers, ladles, and scoops for each menu item as well as a variety of measuring cups, spoons, and scales.

These four prevention measures not only assist in less waste, but they also speed up food preparation and service time – especially at peak times like the lunch-rush or dinner-rush. It also makes certain that your customer gets exactly what they order and what they want, every single time they come to dine at your foodservice establishment.

So, with all of this information being said… How does this apply to my ISPP rotations right now?  Well, at my Institutional Food Service, Production and Management rotation, the entire class was assigned a task. This was to choose a raw material (ingredient) and analyze the actual vs. ideal food costs of that item. And by doing this, see what the restaurant needs to do to improve the usage of this product- whether or not if it was being overused or underused. So, the raw material I chose was chicken breast. This is the most profitable, and popular, raw material that this particular restaurant location utilizes throughout the summer. So, by going through the company’s database with the assistance from management, each student/dietetic intern were able to see what problems existed. And by doing this, new techniques or methods can be adopted to improve the use of these raw materials within the foodservice operation. Fundamentally- creating an even happier customer base.

Manage My Restaurant

What is Ideal Food Cost?

ideal

Teamwork

Since my summer in the WVU Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) dietetic internship is primarily focusing on the Institutional Food Service, Production, and Management rotation, I thought it would be fitting that I talk about the importance of teamwork. The importance of teamwork has been proven to be effective in today’s fast-pace foodservice organizations. The use of teams has become an unavoidable solution at tackling some of the pressing challenges that managers face in the food industry. Whether it be from finding ways to reduce costs or to increasing overall sales, all of these issues usually impact more than one department and can benefit from a multi-perspective approach.

The companies or organizations that use teamwork and team-based activities will be better prepared to make necessary decisions to adjust to supply and to meet customer’s demands. Yes, individual employees can make a difference to an organization, but no single person has enough knowledge, creativity, or experience to tackle some of today’s complex problems. Remember, two heads are always greater than one.

Several foodservice systems look to managers to influence teams whenever and wherever possible. Essentially, a team is a group of individuals who operate as a unit for an assigned goal. Teams differ from other work groups because they typically have performance goals to achieve. Team members usually feel some type of accountability for working together to achieve these goals. So, teamwork is the actual state of acting in a collaborative and cooperative effort to create positive results for the achievement of one common goal. For example, my group at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café had one of our group members drop the Business class. So, instead of panicking or blaming each other for common mistakes that we might have made that next day, we worked as a group and everyone helped each other at their designated stations. And it even brought us closer together as a team because we know that all 3 of us rely on each other, as well as the management of course too. And to be honest, I think that we’re performing even better as a team now because we were somewhat forced with a fight or flight situation.

Part of a manager’s responsibilities is selecting team members who skills complement each other. Now, this particular situation the management did not have the choice to choose their teams. But the College of Business and Economics did have the choice to choose the students taking this class. Here is a list of complementary skills needed for teams:

          Technical expertise

          Problem-solving skills

          Interpersonal skills

Technical expertise is a core competency that every team needs. The type of problem that will be assigned to a team dictates to a certain extent what expertise you will need to bring together. Skill in several areas may be needed, depending on the problem at-hand. For example, if Taziki’s Mediterranean Café was researching a new menu item to offer to customers, a team of dietitians, food prep specialists, servers, operations personnel, and marketing specialists would supply the necessary blend of experience to ensure a thorough analysis of what customers want, rather than just a team made of one of these groups listed. Using the knowledge and skills of a cross section of an organization will strengthen the likelihood of a team reaching its goal.

Problem-solving skills are needed by teams to identify the root or underlying cause of a situation or challenge. These skills are also needed to identify potential solutions and trade-offs. Initially, a team needs to have at least one member with this capability. As the team progresses, more team members should develop these important skills.

Interpersonal skills is the third and final category of team skills. Members who communicate effectively and facilitate a group process are critical to the success of a team. Team members who possess these skills help produce an environment of directness and confidence that allows the team to flourish and make progress towards their goal.

Balancing all 3 of these skills is essential f or a manager to consider when working with a team.

Teamwork

TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork