We are constantly bombarded by headlines in the hospitality sector linked to food wastage, overspending and lost revenue yet a simple thing like understanding the true cost of a plate of food could make a big difference to all of those issues. When we say the ‘true cost’ we mean everything down to the very last ingredient from a sprinkle of parsley to a squeeze of lemon. Everything has a cost and if you don’t account for it accurately, costs can spiral.
Skills not costs
Unsurprisingly most training for chefs in this country is geared more towards technique and skills, which although important means that many chefs are simply not educated to understand aspects of their role that link to business finance and profit – they usually find this out later down the line in their training after costly mistakes have been made.
Of course, the primary focus for any chef should be to learn to cook and develop a dish professionally but as an industry, we should be providing greater support and training for chefs around financial aspects such as recognising the value of a plate of food from a monetary perspective.
Most chefs will be able to guess the approximate cost of a plate of food but it won’t be accurate. It is too hit and miss to work on estimation as opposed to reality. For example, you could make assumptions about the price of a piece of cod and some potatoes but what about the garnish? Whether it is a dusting of paprika, a drizzle of oil or a snipping of fresh chives, it all needs to be accounted for because oversights like these can add up over a period of time and if you haven’t included those costs in the overall price of the dish, you are effectively throwing money down the drain.
Something that will help is to improve the level of communication between the chef and the finance manager. Keeping on top of finances involves straightforward calculations, but these are only as good as the numbers given.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook the obvious – that food is money.
There are ways to stay ahead of food costing and to ensure that you are accurate with your prices but first, you should identify if there is an issue (if you are estimating what a dish costs rather than working on what is fact, that is an indication that your prices could be wrong). Work together closely with your chef and get them involved in the process as it is more likely to end in a positive outcome if the whole team are on board.
Catering Management Software
Embrace new automated technology, such as catering management software, where possible too, as these kinds of industry systems will help you to cost dishes accurately as well as ensuring good stock rotation and inventory management.