Theoretical vs. Actual COGS

Has anyone performed a full theoretical food cost assesment, and compared to your actual food cost results? I am trying to find out how much “unavoidable” waste other restaurants encounter. (Prep, yield loss, employee error, etc…)

I operate a full service restaurant with major focus on high quality pizza, but we do offer a wide variety of salads, sandwiches, appetizers… (All made from scratch). The only reason I bring that up, is to let you know that it’s not an “open and pour” prep style, and making everything in house can sometimes lead to higher prep waste.

Any experience that you guys have in “closing the gap” on the variance between theoretical and actual COGS would be greatly appreciated! :stuck_out_tongue:

I havent gone through and done the weights of everything before and after prepping, however, i do occasionally update our ideal cost in our point of success and compare it to what our actual was. The thing i do the most is figure my product yields throughout the week to see how things are going. For instance, a 45lb case of cheese normally lasts through about 800 to 900 in sales for us. Our last week averaged about 500 in sales per case due to employees over-cheesing pizzas.

Thanks for your input, Stebby1. That’s a pretty hefty amount of overtopping! What steps will you take (or have you already taken) to correct it? I am starting to look into cheese cupping (using a dice, and measuring on the fly), but we have been free throwing with shredded mozz since the opening of this restaurant. I imagine that I will get some resistance, but I am ready to tackle it.

I have gone through my menu (in a very painstaking fashion!), and believe that I have come up with my ideal “target” food cost (prep yields accounted for…). Based on my most recent inventory / food cost count, I am about 2.8% above my “target” COG. I am wondering if anyone has any idea of a “reasonably acceptable” overage, based on human error, waste, etc…

Thanks again, everyone!

Mr Kona how much of your overage is cheese alone?..

Scoops are better than “free throwing”, however, there is some inconsistency due to cheese being more or less packed down…Scales are a far better solution…But just like anything there will be those that agree and those that disagree…

As far as being 2.8% over…That is not too bad in my mind but take the 2.8% over your lifetime in business and it might be a scary number…And it can be improved on…

Good luck…

Royster, I think that my mozz overage is floating around 1% of the overage. I have worked with scales in the past, and due to the “unique” design of my kitchen, I don’t know if it would be the most ideal solution right now. I have been reading the posts here, and from what I have gathered, at least switching to a diced (rather than shredded) mozzarella would help with consistency in on the fly portioning…

Yeah, 2.8% can DEFINITELY be improved on, and I’m quite confident that the cheese portioning will help… I know that it is virtually impossible to actually hit the “ideal target” food cost (as that would mean absolutely NO product ends up on the floor while topping, NO pies get burned, ALL product is prepped perfectly with no waste), but what do you feel is really an OK level of variance between target and actual? I am focusing pretty heavily on this project right now, and am looking at some level to gauge the success of my efforts! :slight_smile:

i put a cheap 5lb scale on our makeline with a container and put portion charts up on the makeline lids. It sank into the employees heads why they need use it when i put a dollar amount with how much we were over-cheesing. We dont use it everytime yet, but it has been good so far at getting people back in line with how much should be on a pizza.

Getting people to use it is the hard part, but for us it became a ‘do it or lose it’ kind of shop.

We portion all of our ingredients, and after I thought that I had fought them on it and they were using the portion cups, I began realizing they weren’t using them when I wasn’t around.

I started demoting people a.ka. pay cuts and firing people when I caught them not using them.

It took about a week to correct and we havne’t had a problem since. Now it is understood when an employee hires in and trains that this is expected of them.

Food cost is a big factor in wanting to portion items on your pizza, but also think about the inconsistency for the customer when they order sausage, they want the same amount of sausage on every pie.

Hi mrkona -

We interviewed a VP at a Pizza Hut franchise company for this Inventory Tips article:

Their target (0.5% variance from ideal) is probably tighter than most, but I think you’ll find the article helpful.


That is a great article, Jennifer! We have implemented some of these ideas, and are working toward more consistent make line portion control, so I am very optimistic about closing the gap!

Thanks for the input. :slight_smile:

0.5% !!! When I was a GM for PH from '90-'94 the target was 0.2% and their labor goals were even tighter.

Unless you cost out your menu and recipes completely and consistently, you will never know what your ideal is. Unless you know what your ideal is, you will never know your variance. Unless you segment your inventory and analyze it in terms of ingredient segments you will never know where it lies. In this competitive climate do you really want to rely on guesses?