Ken Burgin

The 7 Day Food Cost Diet – help your cafe or restaurant to lose the fat!

Feeling heavy, slow and financially unfit? Time for some urgent action – cut, reduce and tighten. Staff might complain and want to quit – lazy is always more comfortable. But the business will be slimmer, healthier and much more sexy after you’ve pushed through the pain barrier!

Day 1 – Lighten up the Fridge and Freezer. That’s where up to 80% of product value is stored. Do you really need to hold enough for a week or a fortnight? If you don’t stocktake regularly, a one-off, totally honest counting session will reveal some surprises. Organise the lists, the scales and an early start.

Day 2 – Stop the Snacking! It’s easy for bad ordering to be covered up with a quick trip to the supermarket or 7-Eleven… at twice the price. A ban on emergency shopping will have a little short-term pain and force an improvement in ordering.

Day 3 – Blitz the Rich Foods. We’re talking the expensive protein items, like meat, seafood and dairy. List them on a spreadsheet, then sort purchases from biggest spend to least and see where most of your money goes. You will soon see the items (fish, steak, nuts etc) that need close attention – not just in ordering and storage, but also their cost in recipes – a recipe costing system will help tell the truth!

Day 4 – Track your Daily Intake. We’re talking about the numbers on your POS, and detailed cost of items being delivered. Most of this POS information is never checked – what items can be cut off the menu completely? What are your least profitable items (in dollars, not percentages) and the profit heroes that need more promotion? How do this week’s meat costs compare to last week?

Day 5 – Start Weighing Your Food. Good pricing scales are cheaper than ever – like the ones in the deli where they put in the price per lb. and tell you exactly how much those 4 slices of meat cost. Your kitchen needs these too, so the chef and the boss can do an instant check.

Day 6 – Call in the Support Team. That’s your suppliers and key staff – how long since you’ve had a good honest chat? Tell them you’re on a diet and determined to lose at least 3% off your costs – how can they help? What have they done before that worked?

Day 7 – Sweat the Small Details. Weigh and cost all sauces, garnishes and side vegetables. How much is a slice of tomato, a scoop of fries or a single olive? Work out the real yield cost i.e. cost that pot of sauce and divide by how many portions sold. This is not a theoretical cost based on grams and ounces, but the real cost to serve it. There are lots more examples like this you can find.

Play it Up! – use this ‘Food Cost Diet’ as a motivating example to get staff taking cost control seriously in all areas. Have fun with the comparisons – ‘Biggest Loser’, ‘Weekly Weigh-in’, ‘Losing the Big T-Shirt’, ‘Looking Great in Lycra’, ‘Locking the Fridge’ etc.