In my work as a hospitality trouble-shooter – think Gordon Ramsay without all the screaming – I get called in to venues of all sizes, menus and locations to help guide the business back to the black and beyond, as well as grow the hospitality business knowledge of my clients.
Recently, I was working in a well-respected venue in Prahran – great venue, great people – but the owners just couldn’t resolve one of their biggest issues: the venue’s out-of-control food cost. If the costs continued the way they were going, they’d be in some serious financial trouble, they just couldn’t pinpoint the reason behind its sudden and significant jump.
I sat with the owner and asked him, point blank, if he knew why the food cost had reached this point.
He scratched his head and said, “I really don’t understand why it’s so high!”
“We are always so busy and I never see food coming back on customers’ plates, so I know the quality and the portion sizes are fine”.
I start my process of elimination to figure out where the money drain is.
First things first, go to where the food is. So I walk into the cool room surveying the scene. What I found was simply horrifying – and I have seen many a horror movie in my time!
Sitting in two plastic takeaway containers was over a thousand dollars worth of mouldy black truffles. At eight to ten grams per person per serving, we’re talking at least 50 plates of food at a total lost cost of over $2500!
It didn’t end with the truffles; behind those containers sat two lobes of foie gras, both well past their used by date. I don’t even need to talk numbers for you to realise what a blunder this was.
In many cases the cause of high food costs is an over-excited head chef who has, generously but misguidedly, been given too much freedom. A great chef is a professional who can provide quality, crowd-pleasing menu items within almost any budget bracket. If this is the case in your establishment, empower your chef to dig a little deeper and work a bit harder to stretch your menu budget.