Food Cost/Toon Photomontage

Food — By Crust on January 3, 2011

Shit I just realized that I don’t know the best way to do a food cost. Most of the chefs I’ve worked for either didn’t have a food cost or had a really wishywashy estimating system. Come to think of it they may have had food cost systems but they never educated me on it. Now that we’re on the subject I never really fully understood any of the inventory systems that I’ve worked with either. Inventory to me was always just a bunch of young cooks carelessly weighing things and entering the numbers on a messy chart. I can understand it’s good to know what you have in your restaurant. Like if you find a bag of lentils in dry storage that have been there for a year, make a special and make some money off it. I don’t understand it much past that.

Also who pays for toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizer and all that stuff, does that get calculated into food cost? What about labour, and utilities?

Is there a universal system that many chefs use? I feel that alot of great chefs don’t worry about food cost because at Coi and Noma they charge $500 for a meal of foraged berries and grasses found out back.

On the other side of the spectrum I’ve seen (but never worked for) chefs with crazy detailed food cost spread sheets. The spread sheets seem like they take hours to enter in data and seem extremely daunting. I have also seen a chef who would challenge his cooks to yell out to him, on the spot, the food cost breakdown of the special they just created.

I’m looking for something in between, something user friendly, not to time consuming, something all encompassing. Is there such a thing?

Here in Toon even though it’s cold we’ve been cross country skiing, and skating at the outdoor rink by the river, when it’s really cold we stay in and drink cocktails and watch youtube videos. Brunches are back and we’ve been visiting cook friends in small towns. If you have a hang over you go to the sun room at the art gallery and breath in the air of a million plants.


  1. The Other Mom says:

    If you google food cost systems, there are some free spreadsehet templates that you can customize. BTW, MORE BLOGGING!!!! Grrr. I miss you guys so much!!!

    As a matter of fact, I miss you so much I almost booked a flight to come for Kyle’s birthday and then realized that I forgot that I will be in Mexico City then. It would sure be great if you two were there : )

  2. Jon says:

    go to school, read books, look it up online…ain’t no shortcuts

  3. Colleen says:

    The problem with food cost is that (as you alluded to) everyone does it differently. Some calculate it based on total sales. Some calculate it based on food sales only. Some include things like chemicals and bar materials in the food cost. Others count that as drinks cost and peripherals.

    Chemicals, toilet paper, etc., are a cost of doing business as far as I am concerned, so they shouldn’t be counted in food cost. They should be budgeted for in the monthly dispensations. Like rent. Or utilities.

    Calculating food cost is easy, it is just time consuming more than anything. And you have to decide how you want yours done. The thing is, the better you budget your business so that you make a profit, the less problem the food cost will be.

    Although you can do basic calculations on different dishes, you need to decide what percentage of food cost you want to maintain so that your business is viable. Most places try to do 30% or less. Then you have to calculate what each menu item costs you before you set a price for it. Once the cost is actually established (keeping in mind that prices on things fluctuate)you aim for a price that will enable a cost that is slightly lower than your intended percentage in order to account for waste.

    The lowest food cost that I have ever run is about 25%. Based on food sales only. You have to be pretty efficient and thrifty to get there.

    If you have any more questions, feel free to PM me.

  4. The Other Mom says:

    Is there an app for that? LOL

  5. Nigel Lucas says:

    The best thing to do, would be to get a hold of a copy of The Uniform Systems of Accounts for the Lodging Industry. It’s tailored to hotels but have an infinite amount of accounting information as it pertains to the food & beverage industry. This will tell you how to classify what, where. It’s what I use as a hospitality valuation consultant when trying to understand some companies messy financial statements.


  6. Colleen says:

    Or something like this may help?,,0131191128-IS,00%2ben-USS_01DBC.html

  7. Colleen says:

    Here is a link that breaks it down to its basics.

  8. Crust says:

    This is great. Thank you chef!

  9. Joanne says:

    Sweet skate bag. Just spent a week in southern SK. Didn’t make it to Toon due to weather. Would have loved to pop in for brunch. Next time…

  10. Crust says:

    Oh man! Miss you babe I hope we see each other again soon.

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