New restaurant owners or managers are usually looking for a percentage to take off their food cost. The first place they look is food waste. It makes sense since according to LeanPath, 4-10% of food purchased by a restaurant or foodservice operation is discarded before ever reaching a guest.
However, what I tell my customers is that food waste is a management problem and must be treated that way.
Food waste can be a number of things, including over production in kitchen prep, which leads to throwing food away after the expiration date. It can be many returned plates from the dining room, poor portion control on the serving line, or over purchasing of produce and other perishable items, just to name a few.
As I stated, it is a management problem.
The answer to the question, “How do I calculate food waste into my food cost?” is you don’t. The first thing you do is take food waste out of the equation. How do you do that? Go back and use and verify all of your kitchen production tools:
- Yield Sheets
- Production Sheets
- Order Sheets
Your next step is to verify food specifications on key ingredients, verify yields on recipes and verify portions on menus items.
With proper management in the kitchen, you can reduce food costs and factor in waste when developing your menu items.
Now we come to the infamous “Waste Sheet,” which, in my opinion, is a license to steal or hide poor performance. Yes, there are items overcooked, wrong orders, and over production, resulting in throwing food out.
Again, these are management issues. You have to ask yourself why would you want to deduct from your food cost for poor management.