Jeremiah Higgins
Ask Jeremiah:

Q:My food cost has been very unstable, and seems to be trending upwards. Where do you suggest I start to determine the causes?

A:Start with your delivery area. Many problems with your food cost can be stopped right at your back door.

Begin by meeting with each of your vendors. Ask each vendor to build current order guides listing ONLY the product that you buy from them. Copy this spreadsheet to your office computer so that your ordering managers can print them out themselves. Include a par for each item, or an amount that should be on the shelf, in the kitchen, and in the front of the house. You can determine this “par” by looking at your menus sales trends, and come up with an average for the slower days of the week, and a par for the busier days of the week.

When your manager does his or her inventory this will give them the number of products that need to be ordered, and preventing over ordering.

Keep your inventory tight. These sheets should hang on a clipboard in a specified area near your back door. When the delivery person brings in their product, your manager can take this clipboard and check the inventory order sheet against the invoice, insuring all correct product has been delivered, prices are accurate, and that you are getting ounce for ounce, product for product what you are paying for.

Next, purchase an industrial food service floor scale that can be kept in your kitchen prep area to weigh in any product that you buy by the pound. I like the OHAUS Champ Floor Scale. 99.9% of delivery people are honest, but I have caught some dropping light product more times than I care to recall, wether on purpose or by mistake, and as a result I saved thousands on lost product by weighing my deliveries. You should too. I would recommend that meats, seafood, and all of your most expensive products be delivered as early as possible (to prevent a manager from the excuse that they are too busy to check in the product.) The items should only be checked in by your General Manager or Kitchen Manager.

Finally, you will discuss with your salesperson a standard delivery time for their product. I suggest that all deliveries arrive between 7 AM and 10 AM. Make sure to stress to your salesperson that failure to drop within your specified delivery times will result in loss of business for them. You must be very strict with your drop times, and here’s why: Setting specified delivery times stresses the importance of receiving product to both your delivery person and to your management staff. You are paying good money for their product, and therefore you want to insure that you are only accepting the very best quality and only the amount that you ordered. Drivers who show up at their convenience may find your manager involved in setting up their kitchen, preparing the dining room for business, or on the floor with guests. If they are pulled into checking in a delivery at an odd time, the manager will understandably be rushed and may miss important products. You are charged for the missing product anyway. A time-stressed manager may skip weighing in the product, or fail to consult the purveyor product order sheets.

Start with these control procedures and see savings in your food cost immediately.

- Jeremiah Higgins


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