Idea in a Nutshell

Ideal food cost is an essential percentage to know. This figure is the cornerstone of professional restaurant management.

As a rule of thumb, you want your ideal food cost percentage to be as low as possible — this means that your restaurant is being financially efficient.

Use your ideal food cost percentage to cut waste, track your performance versus the competition, and pinpoint which dishes on your menu are losing money.

What You will Need to Follow this Tutorial

The good news is that calculating your ideal food cost is easy.

Below, we will take you through some simple calculations which you can do using a basic calculator or spreadsheet app.

You will need to calculate your total food cost first. Then you can calculate your ideal food cost percentage and instantly bag new insights into your business.

Compare your ideal food cost percentage to your actual food cost percentage to see how efficient your restaurant is.

Compare your ideal food cost percentage with your food cost percentage by dish to see which items on your menu are most profitable. Some might be losing money.

We will show you how to boost your business with practical tips to optimise your food cost percentages. Right away too you can change your menu pricing based on your new data. Don’t worry about making mistakes. We will show you the pitfalls.

Step By Step Instruction

Follow these steps to calculate the ideal food cost of your restaurant 

Step 1: Bust the Jargon

To calculate your ideal food cost percentage, the first pitfall to avoid is the jargon. You will need to be clear about other definitions which sound very similar!

Step 2: Collect Some Key Data

You will first need to check your inventory system and collect some key data:

Step 3: Do the Calculation for your Ideal Food Cost Percentage

To arrive at your ideal food cost percentage, divide your total food cost by total food sales.

For example, your total food cost might be SAR 16,000. Your total food sales might be  SAR 80,000. Your ideal food cost percentage is SAR 16,000 divided by SAR 80,000 = 25%.

Your ideal food cost percentage shows you much your business is spending on food as a percentage of sales — in an ideal world.

Now you’ve got this key figure in the bag, go on to calculate your actual food cost percentage, which shows you how much your business is actually spending on food as a percentage of sales.

How to Calculate your Actual Food Cost Percentage

The calculation for actual food cost percentage is the same as for ideal food cost percentage with one key addition. It takes into account your inventory status at the beginning and end of the week:

Actual food cost percentage = (beginning inventory + total food cost) – ending inventory, divided by total food sales

For example, your beginning inventory might be SAR 40,000. Your total food cost over the week might be SAR 20,000. Your ending inventory might be SAR 36,000. Your total food sales might be SAR 80,000. Actual food cost percentage of 30% = (beginning inventory of SAR 40,000 + total food cost of SAR 20,000 = SAR 60,000) – ending inventory (SAR 36,000) = SAR 24,000, divided by total food sales of SAR 80,000.

Compare your Ideal and Actual Food Cost Percentage

If you compare your ideal and actual food cost percentage, you can see how much food is getting wasted in your restaurant.

For example, your ideal food cost percentage might be 25%. Your actual food cost percentage might be 30%. That’s a difference of 5% which is down to theft, waste or over-purchasing.

How to Calculate your Food Cost Percentage per Dish

Now you have got an overview of your food costs, you can get down to specifics. With your food cost percentage per dish, you can pinpoint which menu dishes are saving or losing you money. To do this, you calculate your food cost percentages per dish, rather than by total cost.

You will need two key figures: your total food cost per dish, and your sale price per dish.

A top tip here is let your computerised inventory systems do as much of the work as possible, as the initial phase is labour-intensive.

First, calculate your total food cost per dish:

Secondly, use your POS analytics to establish total sales by dish.

Divide your total food cost for a particular dish by its sale price to arrive at your food cost percentage per dish.

For example, you may be looking at a particular dish that is a main course of steak and chips. You may decide that, on average per dish, the steak costs SAR 18, the chips cost SAR 3.60, the oil costs SAR 0.24 and the seasoning costs SAR 0.40.

This gives a total food cost for this dish of SAR 18 + SAR 3.60 + SAR 0.24 + SAR 0.40 = SAR 22.24

From your menu, you can see that you charge SAR 80.00 for steak and chips.

So your food cost percentage for this dish is SAR 22.24 divided by SAR 80.00 = 27.8%

One way of seeing how well your steak and chips dish is doing is to compare its food cost percentage with your ideal food cost percentage for the whole restaurant.

For example, the food cost percentage for your steak and chips is 27.8%. Your ideal food cost percentage is 23%. Your average actual food percentage is 25%. So your steak and chips is on the expensive side of things. You will need to compare its food cost percentage with other dishes to see how expensive. 

Now you’ve secured some key metrics about your restaurant, what actions can you take on the basis of your new information?

How to Optimise your Food Cost Percentage

How to Price your Menu?

How to Avoid Common Mistakes

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Calculating the ideal food cost percentage for your restaurant is absolutely key to managing your margins. So it is important to be clear about how it works, as well as understanding the other metrics involved.

Congratulations — by taking this step you have got a firmer grip on the future of your restaurant.

Please comment below if you would like to give feedback. We will be happy to explain what we can. And do share this post on social media so we know you found it useful!

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