Chef the movie and food costing. NOT

Really enjoyed the movie and I felt right at home in Chef Carl’s kitchen. Felt like I knew those guys, and missed working with them!! All that wild energy and drive. Way cool. But hello, did he even bother to cost out his food? OK, actually, I’m sorry, let me take a step back. Did his sous really walk away from a job with health insurance? Maybe that’s just me…

Anyway, I did not see one ounce of food costing on that truck. Oh right, it would have made for a boring movie. Well, maybe not. How about if they were down to the wire and realized that they needed to price their sandwiches differently based on how much gas they were using to drive from South Beach, through New Orleans and Austin to California. That’s 2,753 miles. With gas at about $4.04 a gallon.

Hello!!!!!! I know, it’s just a movie. But still.

I just read a post by someone on another food blog who never realized she had to calculate the cost of her condiments. Well, it’s never too late. And she realized that. So Chef Carl – don’t forget to add the cost of gas to your food costs.

Use CostGuard to do your food costing and you won’t get caught short!!!!!!!!

I’m in awe of people who write well. I have a heavy hand, and so I appreciate lyrical writing, especially when it’s interlaced with wisdom and thoughtful advice.

I was just introduced to Shuna Fish Lydon’s blog EggBeaters

If you are new to Chef’s world and looking for great mentoring advice I highly recommend you read her blog. She’s level headed, has integrity and offers up advice that works, across any type of job.

OK, you read EggBeaters, but now you need to hear it from a less nuanced, more straightforward group of voices (you’ll feel like you’re already in the kitchen). Read Line Cook.

The problem with Excel for running a business

When you start with a basic spreadsheet the expectation is that you know how to create business rules and can successfully “program” the correct rules into Excel.

Perhaps you’ll purchase spreadsheets with rules already constructed.

What happens when someone mistakenly changes those rules and the mistake ripples through every calculation. But no one realizes that the rule was changed?

What happens when you bring on a new employee and they add to the rules? And the rules collide? After all, everyone thinks they know how to “code” in Excel.

Spreadsheets can be built once and then used for years without anybody really understanding how or why it works. Since building a new report from scratch is an overwhelming process, addition after addition can be made to the original spreadsheet over the years without anyone really understanding the effect on the data outcome.

How about an audit trail? Can an employee manipulate your counts or receipts after the data is entered?

Do you have multiple cost centers? Do you need a spreadsheet for each cost center? Do you keep separate sheets for your food and another for your liquor? How do you insure that the rules and coding for each spreadsheet are consistent?

Spreadsheets are hard to code and harder to debug. They are soooo 20th century.

Database software, like CostGuard is standardized across coding. It’s a 3 dimensional database so it looks at the data in multiple ways. It has built in business rules, such as the ability to calculate shrinkage for an item multiple ways and then ripple that shrinkage through every recipe that uses the item.

Adjustments? Transfers between units? Requisitions? Bid pricing by vendor? Par and reorder units?

Your employees who want to “do good” and change the rules can’t!

And you can set Rights, so only certain, trusted employees, have access to or the ability to change data.

Take a look at our webpage


The Edible Portion of What You Purchase is More Important Than You Think!

From our article in

How easy life in the kitchen would be if all ingredients came ready to use with no trimming, waste, shrinkage or expansion to worry about.

AP (As Purchased) is how most items are bought. This is what you pay your vendors, and you need to price your menu to reflect these costs.

EP (Edible Portion) is what you have left after you prep the item. Some examples of AP/EP conversions include:

Your case of lettuce weighed 50 pounds when it arrived, after you cut off the outer leaves and core, you have 35 pounds left.

Your beef ribeye roast was 22 pounds when delivered, but after you cut off the extra fat, you had 19 pounds left.

Your raw turkey breast weighed 8 pounds before it went into the oven, now after it came out, it weighs 6 ½ pounds.

From your cooked turkey breast, you sliced 100 1-oz portions. Somehow, you “lost” 4 oz in the slicing.

What you’ve “lost” is your shrinkage.

With the correct shrinkage percentages you can easily calculate how much to buy for a certain number of customers. You can also use this information to cost out your recipes and menus accurately.

Calculating shrinkage for each recipe unit, you can manipulate your usage. For example, dicing fresh tomatoes means little waste, while slicing the same tomato would yield 60% usable product. 

Accurate shrinkage can make or break your bottom line!

CostGuard can specifically calculate this shrinkage and the price change incurred by it:



and after taking 5% for shrinkage


9 cents may not seem like a lot. But over the course of a year it adds up.

CostGuard Inventory Counts vs. Excel

I recently read an interesting post by a well known Excel spreadsheet proponent wherein he suggests you ” segment your inventory by food type, you eliminate all the extra instances of the same inventory item appearing on your count sheet” multiple times. And ” organize your shelves to match your sheet instead of making the classic mistake of organizing your sheet to match your shelves”

Without meaning to, he’s making the perfect point about why database software is superior to spreadsheets. With CostGuard you can maintain your inventory in multiple locations, keeping each item by its sub location within the primary location. For instance tonic water can reside on the top shelf first position (T1) in the walk in, as well as the bottom shelf of the fridge behind the bar.

When you take your counts by location in CostGuard the database combines all counts from all the locations into one central count.

This means you can store your items anywhere you want and CostGuard acts as the funnel to channel that information to one place. Way easier, and more efficient than a spreadsheet!

Restaurant Failure!

An excellent and in depth article that explains why “the average life of a restaurant is only 8 to 10 years” and how a restaurant owner can “contemplate postponing the inevitable and at the same time anticipate its eventual demise. Whether we call the ending a failure or not is a matter of semantics. What matters is whether the closing of the operation is a decision that the owner/investors make on their own terms.”

Expertly written by Chris Letchinger
Associate Professor, School of Hospitality Management, Kendall College

Garnishes. Yes, they cost you money!

“Tiny, they are so tiny. How do they really even count as food cost”

I can’t tell you how many times I get asked this question, “Do I really need to add the cost of my garnish into my food cost? It’s such a small amount”. Or “Do I need to add the cost of the bread and oil I put on the table into my food cost?”

Tiny adds up! Over the course of a year all that garnish, bread, oil, butter, adds up. And it adds up to a lot.

Every little garnish you use on a plate or on a tray adds to your expense. At the moment it looks like a small amount, say 2 strawberries and 6 blueberries on the corner of a plate, or a few leaves of parsley. But add up each iteration of that and you are wasting money big time.

An excellent example of costing garnishes using parsley leaves is in The Book of Yields: Accuracy in Food Costing and Purchasing by Francis T. Lynch.

Using food costing software will allow you to add the cost of the garnish every time it is used, thereby allowing you truly accurate costing.

The same goes for the bread you put on the table and the olive oil in a little bowl. Add it up for just one night of service, you’ll be amazed (and possibly horrified).

Which is why we may be noticing less and less free bread. What I now see is specialized bread served with say, “cultured” butter listed as an appetizer.

If you’d like to offer bread one way to finesse this is to do what they do at a local Italian restaurant, which is to serve the ends of focaccia and any errant pieces of dough (sometimes dressed as garlic knots). Rather than throw ends in the garbage it becomes part of the meal.

Condiments and pickles are another addition to menus.

I remember that bowl of pickles they used to put on the table at delis. That’s not happening so often any more.

We ate at a wonderful new hip joint in NYC the other day. The wall was lined with large jars of pickled everything. No free pickles here! At this restaurant a plate of pickles cost $7. And I noticed that most tables had ordered some and they were beautifully presented. The house was full, and there was no expectation on the part of the patrons that pickles would be free.

If you are running a restaurant and using software (and we do hope you are using CostGuard Food Costing Restaurant Software) make sure you enter EVERY ingredient item you are using as part of your meal to track your real costs.