As executive chefs, one of our most important responsibilities is to account for every cent when it comes to the cost of goods (COG), payroll, operational expenses, etc. Our mantra here at Hammock Dunes Club—one that our Chief Financial Officer and I both share—is: “Protect the Food Cost.” These are words I live by and words I teach my staff to also live by.
Tracking information is imperative to controlling costs. It doesn’t matter if it’s an “on the house” Board Dinner, a weekly meeting for a club group that includes “free” food and/or beverage, the sampling of plated features for front of house staff during lineups, or the transfer cost of products between different outlets due to where the revenue is centered. (We do this because we have multiple clubhouses here at HDC. Check out the feature C&RB’s Chef to Chef ran on us a few months ago here.).
No matter the revenue size of the operation, $600k or $20M+, it takes organization and success is dependent on a team effort from both the front and back of house. It’s critical that practices and procedures are in place even before the product enters the door to achieve accuracy in the food cost percentage without “complimentary” items affecting it.
Over the course of my career, I have found that most clubs do not track this as closely as I do. At HDC, we account for every complimentary pot of coffee brewed, every portion of creamer, every sugar packet, and every gratis cookie. The service staff does this by utilizing a daily tracking spreadsheet that has a running tally on it. (Check out our Free Beverage Consumption form here, which is then calculated into a larger spreadsheet like this one here.)
At the end of the month, this sheet gets turned into the kitchen and a cost analysis is performed on the tracked amounts. It is then submitted to accounting in the end of month (EOM) transfer sheet. The expense is then allocated to a pre-determined account within the operation (i.e. member supplies, entertainment, etc.).
This process results in an accurate food cost without complimentary items that are skewing it higher than what it really is.
One of the clipboards that I mention in the article “Best Practices for Controlling Food Cost” is a tracking clipboard of the aforementioned items. As the event/items occur, it’s tracked immediately so the quantities and details are not forgotten. It is then analyzed at EOM to be submitted to the accounting department.
The desire of any chef is to have the most accurate food cost possible, so we know what steps we need to take if costs are too high, too low or on budget. Depending on revenue amounts, these particular “complimentary” EOM transfers can affect food cost by 2% to 4%, so keep your eye on the pennies.