5 Ways to Reduce Food Costs in Your Restaurant


Operating a restaurant successfully demands managing food costs tightly. In 2019, U.S. consumers spent about $1.1 trillion on food. This included the costs of producing, processing, selling, and wholesale. When societal impacts like healthcare and climate change are considered, the actual price ballooned to over $3.2 trillion yearly.

Food work employs 10% of the American workforce. They engage in generating, moving, and sharing food. Bad diets mark the primary health risk in the U.S. This is reflected in many hospital admissions linked to issues like obesity and heart disease. Effectively planning to reduce food costs and waste is pivotal for enhancing a restaurant’s financial health and the food system’s well-being.

Strategies to Reduce Food Costs

Keeping food costs in check is vital for a thriving restaurant. Let’s delve into key tactics:

  • Consistent inventory tracking to minimize food waste and spoilage
  • Utilizing creative food usage techniques to reduce waste
  • Providing staff training to streamline processes and cut waste
  • Implementing profitable menu engineering to maximize returns

By deploying these methods, restaurant proprietors can better control their food expenses. This, in turn, boosts their profits and helps build a more resilient food system. The control of food costs is a critical measure for any restaurant’s sustained success and profitability.

Calculate Your Food Costs

Figuring out your restaurant’s food costs takes time. Yet, keeping a sharp eye on your finances can save you a lot. It also spares you from wasting both money and food. Knowing your food cost percentage is key to ensuring your restaurant thrives.

You need to use a straightforward formula to calculate your food cost percentage. First, figure out your cost of goods sold (COGS) and divide it by your food sales. Then, multiply the outcome by 100. This number tells you the percentage of your sales that covered the ingredients’ costs.

  1. Determine your COGS by adding your beginning inventory, and your purchases, and subtracting your ending inventory.
  2. Divide your COGS by your total food sales.
  3. Multiply the result by 100 to get your food cost percentage.

Experts say your food cost should be between 28% and 35% of what you make. But, this target can change based on your restaurant’s style and costs. For instance, a steakhouse could run closer to 35%, whereas a pasta place might target 28%.

Watching your food cost percentage is critical. It guides you in setting the right prices on your menu, which boosts your restaurant’s profit. By mastering how to calculate restaurant food costs and keeping a good food cost percentage, you finely manage your money. This reduces waste and keeps your business on track.

Always aim for a healthy food cost percentage range of 25% to 35%. If yours is above 35%, it’s not the end of the world. You can lower it by managing costs better. Doing so, you’ll see your profits grow.

Manage Your Inventory

Consistent Inventory Tracking

For restaurants, managing inventory well is vital in keeping food costs under control. It’s fundamental to track your inventory at regular intervals. Setting a specific time, like the start or close of business, is wise. Doing this ensures your data is accurate, aiding in the management of your food cost percentage.

A great way to handle this is through an inventory management app. Such a tool allows you to track invoices, monitor food costs, and adjust menu prices right from your mobile device. This kind of technology offers a real-time view of your inventory, supporting smart decisions that cut costs.

Upon receiving a food shipment, conducting a thorough check is non-negotiable. It’s critical to verify that what you receive is fresh and undamaged. This prevents paying for unusable items, which not only increases expenses but also contributes to unnecessary waste. Hence, a strong emphasis on quality control is a must.

Key Inventory Management Practices Benefits
Consistent inventory tracking at the same time each day Maintains accurate and reliable data for cost calculations
Use of inventory tracking software or platforms Provides real-time visibility and streamlines management
Thorough inspection of incoming deliveries Ensures only high-quality, usable ingredients are accepted

Adopting these strategies for consistent inventory management greatly assists restaurants. It helps them keep a closer eye on expenses, ensures effective inventory control, and, in the end, trims down their food costs substantially.

Reduce Food Costs

Implementing strategies to reduce costs is key for restaurants to stay profitable and ahead in the market. Owners need to find ways to save, which in turn, improves their business’s performance and financial health.

Working closely with suppliers to cut better deals is essential. This involves comparing prices and leveraging competition to secure better terms. Getting current suppliers to match lower prices is a major win. Also, opting for smaller, more frequent deliveries reduces food spoilage from bulk orders.

Carefully monitoring inventory helps keep costs down. A focus on just-in-time inventory means having what you need when you need it, without the extra cost of overstock. This requires precise tracking, smart forecasting, and the use of advanced inventory tools.

  • Negotiate better prices and discounts with suppliers by shopping around and leveraging competitive offers.
  • Explore bulk purchasing options while ensuring shipments are smaller and more frequent to minimize food waste.
  • Implement robust inventory management systems to maintain just-in-time stock levels and reduce over-ordering.
  • Analyze menu items and identify high-cost or low-profit dishes, making necessary adjustments to optimize profitability.
  • Implement portion control measures and training to minimize food waste in the kitchen.
  • Forge strong relationships with local suppliers and farmers to take advantage of lower ingredient costs.

When these strategies are combined, restaurants can significantly lower their food costs. This can boost their profit margins and help them keep up in the ever-changing restaurant scene.

Utilize Creative Food Usage

Reduce Food Waste with Creativity

In the culinary field, managing food waste is tantamount for both economic viability and environmental stewardship. Even though a certain level of waste is inescapable, forward-thinking chefs have started to innovate. They aim to integrate food discards into their menus. This shift allows eateries to cut down on their ecological footprint. It also diminishes expenses while introducing novel gastronomic experiences to patrons.

One straightforward method involves utilizing remnants of vegetables, for example, onion skins and mushroom stalks, in the production of homemade broth. This practice not only diminishes trash but enriches the flavors of various liquid dishes. Moreover, leftovers like stale bread don’t need to be discarded. In skilled hands, they serve as the base for creations, such as breadcrumbs and croutons, or as the star of bread pudding.

Another actionable technique is the reimagining of surplus animal proteins. Take, for instance, the shredding of yesterday’s roast to bolster a soup’s heartiness. Furthermore, entities in the beer industry can filter spent grains from their brewing operations. They can then utilize these byproducts in the creation of nourishing cereal mixes or contribute them to animal welfare through local farm donations.

  • Utilize vegetable scraps to make homemade stocks and broths
  • Turn stale bread into breadcrumbs, croutons, and bread pudding
  • Repurpose leftover proteins in soups, stews, and other dishes
  • Explore ways to use spent grains from the brewing process

By adopting these progressive culinary practices, food establishments stand to decrease their waste and economic outlays. Simultaneously, they enhance their appeal to consumers through culinary creativity. Ultimately, these efforts bear fruit not just in terms of finance, but in the demonstration of a strong, sustainable ethos.

Train and Inform Your Staff

To cut restaurant food costs, start by inspiring your staff. It’s key for them to grasp the link between food waste and business finances. Teaching them how to limit waste through training and knowledge is crucial.

Conduct regular sessions to highlight the most important aspects:

  • Food Cost Awareness: Expose staff to exact ingredient costs and the influence of prep methods. They need to understand the costly impact of waste and oversized portions.
  • Inventory Management: Educate your team on the finest ways to track inventory. This includes methods like FIFO, efficient ordering, and using perishables wisely.
  • Waste Reduction Techniques: Showing them how to cut waste using innovative methods like whole-ingredient use, repurposing, and portion control is invaluable.

By arming them with this expertise, you’ll instill a sense of fiscal responsibility. This encourages them to safeguard your restaurant’s financial health. The outcome? Smaller food waste and a stronger bottom line.

Don’t forget, your team members are the face of your eatery. Investing in their training regarding food cost-saving and waste management is critical. It ensures your financial success and keeps you ahead in the industry.

Profitable Menu Engineering

Restaurant Food Costs and Menu Engineering

Your menu serves as a potent marketing instrument. Through efficient menu engineering, you not only entice your customers to buy more but also cut down on food wastage. Crafting your menu strategically, with insights from psychological tactics, can significantly amplify its impact. A well-thought-out redesign might push your clients to explore and select dishes from every facet of your offerings.

Calculating the exact cost of each menu item’s recipe is crucial. It empowers you to optimize food usage and curtail wastage. This in-depth analysis, whether item-specific or across different locations, allows for adjustments that eliminate unnecessary expenses. Such precision can address errors in portion sizes, inadequacies in staff training, and instances of theft within the workforce.

Create a Profitable Menu

The goal of menu engineering is twofold: bolster sales and refine the dining journey. It entails grouping menu items according to their sales and profit margins. Through this, eateries can drive profitability by highlighting dishes that are not only popular but also yield the highest returns.

This method also serves as a tool for financial management. Scrutinizing the cost of ingredients and the labor involved, ensures precise planning, which reduces food waste. Moreover, it fosters a culture of innovation and timely menu adjustments that align with evolving consumer tastes.

Success in menu engineering hinges on judiciously balancing profit goals with customer contentment. Though boosting the sales of high-margin items is advantageous, it must complement a positive dining experience. Sacrificing quality and preference for profit could lead to longer-term setbacks.

Menu Engineering Strategies Benefits
Categorizing menu items into Cash Cows, Stars, Duds, or Puzzles Assess each item’s role in profitability and popularity
Calculating food cost percentage and contribution margin Analyze menu item profitability
Optimizing menu item placement, description, and pricing Increase sales by up to 25%
Creating separate menus and pricing strategies for online orders Maximize profitability for off-premise dining

By applying advanced menu engineering techniques, food establishments can efficiently manage expenses, refine their profitability, and craft menus that deeply resonate with their clientele.

Reduce Food Costs

It’s key to track the gap between what your food costs should be and what they are. This comparison helps implement detailed food cost controls. The theoretical cost shows the expected costs of making meals. This is based on current ingredient prices over a period. The actual cost is what your restaurant truly paid for these ingredients within the same timeframe.

Spotting the difference can reveal various problems. These include wrong portion sizes, billing mistakes, kitchen waste, or theft by staff. Monitoring this difference daily helps catch issues early. It also allows for quick fixes to avoid profit loss.

Other ways to cut food expenses involve:

  • Planning meals and managing ingredients better, reduces waste
  • Seizing sales and buying more when prices are low, which trims costs
  • Making menu items from basic ingredients to save money
  • Controlling how much is served and calculating recipe costs for better profit margins
  • Using all edible parts creatively to minimize waste
  • Using software to track costs and inventory automatically, saving time
  • Developing good relationships with suppliers to secure better deals

By using these methods, you can dig deep into the reasons for cost differences. This leads to a stronger bottom line and a more sustainable restaurant.


Controlling food costs is essential for a restaurant’s success. This article explained how to calculate costs, manage inventory, and reduce waste. It also covered staff training and creating a profitable menu. These steps offer a full strategy for lowering costs and increasing profits.

Tracking food expenses closely can reveal where the business is wasting money. It allows for efficient, data-driven improvements. Using inventory software and comparing real costs to expected ones can show where to make changes. This approach helps in saving money strategically.

Restaurants need to take a comprehensive view of managing food expenses. By adopting these strategies, owners can lower costs. They can also make their business more sustainable and competitive in the food industry. These proven methods lead to long-term success and profit.


What is the impact of food waste on restaurant profits?

According to the USDA, 30 to 40% of U.S. food goes to waste. This waste costs about $161 billion yearly. The restaurant sector is a major contributor to this issue.

All this food waste can severely damage a restaurant’s profits.

How can restaurants track and monitor their food inventory?

To keep your restaurant profitable, managing food costs is crucial. It’s vital to track your inventory at set times, like daily start or end. This ensures stable figures for food cost calculations.

Using an inventory management platform is beneficial. It lets you handle invoices, assess food costs, and adjust menu prices easily from any device.

What is the ideal food cost percentage for a restaurant?

An ideal food cost percentage falls between 25 and 35. Yet, exceeding this range is not uncommon. To calculate your exact food cost, divide COGS by food sales. Then, multiply by 100 for a percentage.

How can restaurants reduce food waste and costs?

Reducing food waste and costs in restaurants is achievable through smart inventory management. This includes altering food orders and innovative food usage. For instance, reusing vegetable scraps and stale bread is effective.

Training your team on reducing waste and correct food portioning is also key. It can lead to significant waste reduction.

How can menu engineering help control food costs?

Menu engineering involves design strategies and psychological effects to make menus more influential. By tracking each dish’s recipe cost, you can better manage food use and waste.

It helps identify trends in sales, location, or food, allowing savings through better portion control and preventing theft.

Why is tracking the difference between theoretical and actual food costs important?

Monitoring the gap between theoretical and actual food costs is crucial. It highlights potential profit margin losses. Theoretical food cost represents expected costs based on ingredient prices.

Actual food costs are the real outlays over the same period. Daily tracking helps detect and rectify problems early, safeguarding your restaurant’s financial health.