Food Cost Control Made Simple

There is a classic question that has been asked over the years by restaurant managers. “What should my food cost be?”

The standard answer is “Whatever you want it to be”.  For the novice restaurant manager this is a confusing answer, however, for the experienced restaurant manager, the answer makes sense.

To understand this, we need to create a foundation without going into a lot of detail. First of all, to get the food cost percent of a menu item you get the dollar cost and divide that by the menu item sale price and that equals your food cost percent.

Say, you have a classic American cheeseburger on your menu you need to know the cost of each item on the cheeseburger. If the menu price is $9.00 divided by the food cost of $3.00, it will give you a 33 percent food cost. Food cost, simply put, is cost of the food on the menu item plate.

This is step number one:

How to control food cost
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These are the items for a cheeseburger: bun, beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and dressing.

However, it does not stop there. You take it to another level.

You have to analyze the cost of each item. You ask yourself the following question: Am I getting the best price? Is it according to my standards (specifications)? Is the dressing recipe being followed? Are the line cooks following portion specifications?

Have I left anything out?  Yes, the final checklist.  Items that can affect your food cost like: ordering, receiving, storage, preparation, inventory, POS and menu items not being entered into it.

If you are not reaching your projected food cost percent, you go back to step number one. This can be a lot of work, however there is help in current technology. My clients have had amazing results with Cost Genie Menu Costing Software ( It can reduce your food costs between 5-8 percent if you follow our procedures.

What if we could reduce the time in getting your projected food cost number?

  • Our program will create an audit trail for you to recognize and solve the problems.
  • What we are looking at is menu costing software.
  • The objective of the software is to give you a sound projected menu item food cost.
  • As I stated above you need to find the cost of each food item.  Without software it is a long and tedious job.  With software the cost is a click away.

Cost Genie Menu Costing Software comes with many additional features: tools to take a physical inventory, ability to create orders, input invoices, food and liquor inventory, create recipes, nutrition facts and labels, cook’s recipes, recipe scaling and menu engineering.

Now back to the basic question, “What should my food cost be”?  It should be whatever number comes from the menu costing software. The advantage of this is if the menu cost percent you have cannot fit into your budget then with very little work you can move the numbers around to come up with your desired food cost percent.

So what is the best menu costings software out there? See for yourself with the Cost Genie Menu Costing Software ( Get a free working trial version and this will put you on the road to finding the best menu costing software out there.

Kenny Arone is a restaurant consultant and partner in Cost Genie Menu Costing Software.





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