What Should Food Cost Be in a Restaurant?

Nick Garnder

In the dynamic world of restaurant management, striking the right balance between quality, pricing, and profitability is paramount. One critical aspect of this equilibrium is understanding and managing your food cost. Here is some key information about the intricacies of food cost in the restaurant industry, its significance, and strategies to optimize it for enhanced profitability.

What Is Restaurant Food Cost?

Food cost refers to the money spent on ingredients compared to the revenue generated by food sales. This includes all expenses associated with procuring and preparing your food, as well as considering loss and yield adjustments and cross utilization of product.  Your food cost will be represented by a percentage figure and you should maintain a target percentage at all times.

Why Is Your Food Cost Percentage Important?

Food cost is a powerful indicator of your restaurant’s financial health. It directly impacts your profit margins and provides insights into the efficiency of your operations. By monitoring your food cost, you can identify areas where costs are escalating and take proactive measures This may include new sourcing practices, increased scrutiny of portion controls, or maybe even full menu changes of items whose ingredient costs have increased.

What Should Food Cost Be in a Restaurant?

All businesses are unique, and there isn’t a single target that is appropriate for every operator. There are many variables from restaurant to restaurant that will dictate what the right target food cost should be. The number of factors to consider can be overwhelming at times, but there are some basic guidelines to remember when calculating your individual targets.

Typically, successful restaurants will have a food cost target somewhere between 25-35 percent. While the formula for calculating your food cost is simple, deciding on an acceptable target is a bit more nuanced. The quality of product, caliber of execution, level of service, and even pricing strategies like “loss leaders” and promotions should all be examined as well. Using informed strategies like “menu engineering” can have a huge impact on your food cost.

The standard formula for calculating food cost:


   $7,649.17       –  Beginning of Month Inventory (always previous month closing inventory)

+ $12,019.41     –  Total Food Purchases for Month

= $19,668.58    

–  $8,401.22       –  End of Month Inventory

= $11,267.36     –  Total Food Expenses for Month

   11,267.36       –  Total Food Expense for Month

÷ 40,240.57       –  Total Food Sales for Month (retrieved from POS figures)

= 0.28                –  Food Cost (alway convert to a percentage)


Time spent with restaurant accounting experts can help you to identify your cost as well as figure out if that cost is appropriate, or if there are steps needed to improve it. There are many ways you can improve your food cost.

How to Reduce Food Costs

To improve your food costs, consider implementing these strategies:

Switch Vendors: Prices can fluctuate wildly and frequently. Exploring different suppliers to find the best deals can help you negotiate better prices and terms.

Partner With Other Restaurants: Purchasing coops can be powerful resources for independent operators to leverage better prices from purveyors. operators of larger groups with multiple units can also negotiate company wide discounting from vendors.

Reduce Portion Sizes: Evaluate portion sizes to ensure they align with customer preferences while minimizing food waste.

Reduce Commission Fees: If you’re involved in third-party food delivery services, negotiate lower commission rates to decrease the impact on your bottom line.

Increase Revenue: Implement innovative marketing strategies, upselling techniques, or special promotions to increase customer spending and overall revenue.

Boost Your Profits With Weekly Insights

Unlock the full potential of your restaurant’s profitability with Hone’s advanced insights and analytics. Our cutting-edge platform provides valuable weekly data so you can make informed decisions and optimize your operations. Ready to take your restaurant’s financial management to the next level? Request a demo of our services today and embark on a journey towards sustained success.

Remember, managing food costs is an ongoing process that requires vigilance, adaptation, and strategic planning. With the right tools and team at your disposal, you can navigate the intricate landscape of restaurant finance and achieve lasting prosperity.

Nick Garnder
Nick Gardner kickstarted his culinary journey in Upstate NY’s VOTECH program, later graduating from the prestigious Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI. His talents led him to work at multiple James Beard-nominated establishments in Providence and the lively kitchens of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Transitioning to esteemed venues, Nick made a mark at “The Country Club” in Brookline, MA and later at Lord Hobo in Cambridge as Chef and General Manager. When the pandemic redefined the culinary landscape, Nick pivoted to chef consulting, ultimately finding his niche at Hone, where culinary prowess meets restaurant accounting.

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