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How to combat rising food costs

According to the National Restaurant Association, food costs are one of the most important line items for a restaurateur. Research shows that food and beverage costs represent approximately 33 cents of every dollar in restaurant sales. The Association projects restaurateurs and other foodservice operators will buy $202.5 billion in food and drink from industry suppliers in 2008. It also predicts wholesale food costs and menu prices will continue to rise, in part as a result of rising energy costs.

How to save

Star Chefs is a website for culinary professionals, and lists several tools for keeping food costs manageable.

First, costing out the menu is crucial to controlling food cost. The easiest place to begin is at the bar due to price control. From there, move on to the food. Each category should be broken down into more useful ratios. Have the chef or sous chef cost out the menu since they deal the most with the product.

Foodservice professionals advise simply managing your waste responsibly. Train your staff to prepare only as much food as needed, and not to over-portion. Saving on food is as simple as accurately weighing and measuring each portion.

Products that help control portions

Many steamtable pans have portion control capacities stamped on the side. Likewise, condiment dispensers and pumps also are often designed to allow for accurate portioning. Portion control scales are specifically designed with cost-savings in mind. And don't forget the oldest trick in the book for measuring every portion: the spoodle.

If food cost is a consistent problem, an operator should start taking inventory weekly, checking with the supplier to make sure they are not overcharging, or sending produce that isn’t fresh.

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