Do you know what it really costs you to produce the food and beverages on your menu? Many operators fall short on recipe and cost documentation and that affects profits. Mark Kelnhofer, president/CEO of restaurant management firm Return on Ingredients offered up several tips during a March 8 session at the annual Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas.
The first step to engineering your menu for profit is to make sure you’re accurately documenting recipes. This sets the expectation for the cost, Kelnhofer said. “If you don’t have recipes, you don’t know your costs,” plus the product quality and consistency can suffer, he added.
And without accurate recipes, you won’t know what to charge for your food and drinks to ensure steady sales and profitability, Kelnhofer said. “Menu pricing in some cases is not based on proper analysis and data.”
Recipes require detail, Kelnhofer noted. For example, it’s not enough to say “pizza dough flour” in a recipe if your inventory order list shows three different pizza dough flours—which one are you using in this recipe? That’s a factor in the cost and profitability.
In addition to recipe ingredients, you should include the tools and equipment needed to make it, the prep/mix/cook time, methods, glass standards and so on. The more complete the recipe is, the more accurate the costing is, not to mention the quality of the outcome, Kelnhofer said.
The accuracy of weights and measures is paramount to the process. And don’t forget to include the yield or end result of the recipe—that’s a requirement in costing. “When chefs document the recipes, they often forget to add the yield,” he said.
For cocktail recipes, costing gets tricky when you have call brands. You have to be careful about how to structure recipes with calls, such as a Black Russian with a choice of vodka, Kelnhofer said.
Operators should also keep an eye on commodity prices and market changes for predictive costing—for instance, a looming bourbon shortage, or a disease that’s killing the orange crops in California, Kelnhofer noted. “You should have an idea of where costs are going to go.”