chef holding fruits in storage. Concept: food cost formula
By: rkapur
Read in 8 minutes

How Do You Calculate Food Cost in Your Restaurant? Food Cost Formula Explained

16 0

The best way to control what you spend on food is the so-called food cost formula.

As a restaurant owner, you know that hat product stocking is the highest cost. Monitoring and controlling your food cost is key to running a successful restaurant. If you buy expensive high-quality ingredients, you will have to raise the prices of the dishes on your menu. Consequently, you may price yourself out of the market and your sales may drop. If you do the opposite and you keep prices unchanged, your profits will fall. But, how do you calculate food cost? How can you manage your food costs and ensure that they remain within reasonable limits?  With the food cost formula. In this article, we’ll explain to you in detail what exactly the food cost formula is and how it can help your business.

How to Calculate Food Cost in a Restaurant – Food Cost Formula

What is the Food Cost Formula?

The food cost formula is a simple and efficient way to calculate food costs in a restaurant, keep an eye on your food expenses and prevent them from escalating. Think of it as a food cost calculator. The result of applying the formula is a percentage, meaning that a certain percentage of your total restaurant expenses will go towards food purchases.

What is a good food cost percentage?

While this could differ for every restaurant, it would usually be in the region of 28% to 32% of your total food sales. The percentage could be even lower for certain types of restaurants.

How do you calculate food percentage in your restaurant?

The food cost calculator to calculate the food cost percentage goes like this:

FOOD COST PERCENTAGE =  beginning inventory 
+ food purchases
– ending inventory
÷ by food sales

This example would clarify the calculation. Imagine your restaurant reflects the following data:

  • Value of inventory at the beginning of the week: $7,000
  • Purchases during the week: $3,000
  • Inventory exactly seven days later: $6,000
  • Food sales in the week: $16,000

Food cost: $7,000 + $3,000 – $6,000 = $4,000
Food cost percentage:  Now divide $4,000 by $16,000 to get 0.25, or 25%. 

Your food cost percentage is 25%.

Of course, when you are using the food cost formula, it is important to ensure that you value your opening stock, closing stock, and purchases, as accurately as possible.

Additionally, carry out the exercise of valuing your opening and closing stock at exactly the same time every week, so that your results are consistent.

READ: 10 Ways to Grow Your Restaurant Business

How to Use the Food Cost Formula

Food cost

Now that you have your food cost percentage, how can you use it to track costs? In other words, how can you put the food cost formula into practice, so you see a real decrease in your costs?

Monitoring the results of your weekly exercise will help you to see if costs are rising or falling. You will know when it is time to pay closer attention to your purchase practices and the prices that you are paying. This said the first thing you should do is managing your food inventory.

Here are some specific steps that you can take:

  • Use at least two suppliers for each item that you buy. This will allow you to keep track of market prices. You can also reduce costs by buying more from the lower-cost supplier.
  • Ensure that your receiving controls are in place. When stocks are delivered, they should be checked for quantity. It is also important to see if they are of the grade that you have ordered. Devise a checklist that the person receiving the delivery can use.
  • Negotiate with your suppliers. You can sign long-term contracts for a reduction in the prices, or you can team up with another restaurant in your area to buy ingredients in bulk and then divide them. Learn here some useful techniques to negotiate with your suppliers.
  • Produce part of your ingredients yourself. If you have enough space in your restaurant to have a small orchard or winter house, consider growing some of your products to save some of the money you allocate to buy fresh produce. Some vegetables, and especially herbs, don’t require a lot of care or a green thumb. Also, this is an excellent marketing technique: customers enjoy the fact that the cilantro in the dishes grows in the house, or that the tortillas are fresh and home-made.
  • Wastage and theft could be an issue. It is advisable to develop standard systems and procedures to monitor this (for example, you can install security cameras in your storage area).
  • Reduce your menu. It’s a fact: customers prefer a reduced but well-organized and balance menu rather than an overwhelming amount of choices. By reducing the number of dishes in your menu you can make better use of your ingredients and reduce the waste of those ingredients you never use. You can learn here how to reduce or improve your menu, or in other words, how to do a menu audit.
  • Price accordingly your restaurant menu. If you have a very popular dish, consider increasing the price, and if one of your dishes is not selling, reduce the price. Keeping a close eye on which dishes are selling or not selling can help you eliminate some ingredients from your shopping list, reducing your food cost. This takes us to the following point:
  • Buy the same ingredient in larger quantities. In your menu, you can offer the same ingredient with different elaborations. That will allow you to buy that ingredient in larger quantities for a reduced price and eliminate other ingredients from your shopping list.

These practices, along with the food cost formula, work best when they are used on a regular basis. Remember that you should not just calculate the food cost percentage and leave it at that.

Use the information to identify the items that are leading to an increase in costs. You can then try and locate other lower-cost suppliers for these purchases. Every amount that you save will go towards increasing your profits and thus help your business grow.

It’s always inspiring to listen to other restaurant owners sharing their own experiences. In this video, chef James Clary explains how you should properly calculate your food costs in 5 steps.

We hope this article helps you have a better grip on your food costs. To receive more useful tips to better manage your restaurant, simply subscribe to our Newsletter. It’s completely free and every week you’ll receive in your mailbox the latest trends in small business, and tools and resources to grow your restaurant.


Check if you
qualify for a loan