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Ten Essential Food Cost Controls and Practices

It’s become increasingly difficult to take control of restaurant costs without the proper strategies and systems in place.

1. Don’t let just anyone close to the back door check in deliveries. Only personnel who are trusted, trained, and thorough should approve deliveries.

2. Treat your inventory on your shelves like cash. Keep your storage rooms locked when not receiving or issuing product and don’t let anyone into your storage rooms who don’t have an operational reason to be there.

3. Never allow delivery drivers, bussers, or dishwashers into any storage room. Drivers can leave with pockets or boxes containing your products. Bussers and dishwashers often take out the trash, one of the most popular vehicles for sneaking food products out the back door.

4. Be a fanatic about rotating food products. Use labels that clearly show when products were received and the use-by date (time). This is a major cost, quality, and safety issue.

5. Use spatulas to get every drop out of bowls, mixers, jars, and containers. This business is about saving pennies, nickels, dimes, etc. hundreds, even thousands of times. It all adds up to big dollars that are either deposited into your bank account or lost forever.

6. Don’t keep excess food on hand. While you may be tempted to order more due to supply issues, know that the more food product you keep on hand, the more waste, spoilage, theft, and over-portioning you’ll have. When there is excess food on hand, staff becomes careless or too generous, and the risk of employee theft increases.

7. Habitually observe and give feedback on your team’s portioning practices. Heap praise on folks for following proper practices and provide instantaneous, in-the-moment reminders to anyone not using the right portioning tools or not getting it right. This lets them know how important it is and that you are watching.

8. Everyone must follow the standard recipe guides every time. Provide easy access to your batch recipes and menu guides. Require their use by everyone, regardless of tenure or position. This will help to ensure consistency regardless of who is in the kitchen.

9. Have a gift policy. If someone other than the owner does purchasing, decide on what is acceptable for the meat vendor, for example, to give as a spiff to the kitchen manager for your business. Tickets to sporting events, flat-screen TVs, exotic vacations? Just know that the cost of those perks is reflected in the prices you’re paying.

10. Calculate your food cost every week. It will create more awareness and accountability and will change the culture in your kitchen. Make sure it’s accurate by conducting a weekly physical inventory to calculate the value of your food on hand at the beginning and end of each period.