Food Cost: How our food truck prices dishes and controls costs

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a Japanese full-blood wagyu A5 $2000 (raw cost) brisket

In our latest Patreon video I take subscribers through how we figure out how much to charge for our dishes as well as how we manage how much we spend on food as a percentage of our sales.

In our previous Yield Test post I describe how we use all of the pieces we trim off of our briskets and how that increases our yield percentage by almost 40%! Now we’ll actually put dollar amounts to those yields and see how brisket and barbecue can end up costing so much.

We source our briskets from Heartbrand Beef, a Flatonia, TX based Akaushi cattle operation that is producing some of the best and most honestly raised beef in the nation. We pay $6.49/lb right now for our briskets, which was up almost $1.50/lb since the COVID-19 temporarily crippled the meat supply chain back in the spring. If we were to simply throw out all of our meat scraps, our *true price* (the price we pay for a finished brisket after it’s been trimmed and cooked) would be over $10/lb. Since we do put to use all of the scraps and we get a higher yield, our true price comes down to a little over $8/lb.

We figure out the true price by multiplying the difference of our yield times our original price.

$6.49 (original price) X 1.64 (36% yield, throwing out scraps) = $10.64/lb

$6.49 (o.p.) X 1.26 (74% yield, using all scraps) = $8.17/lb

To get what we should be charging per pound for our brisket, we simply multiply our true cost by what we want our cost to be. For a 25% food cost (what we aim for), we’ll multiply by 4. For a 33% we’ll multiply by 3. For 20%, multiply by 5 and on down the line. Of course, not every dish works out to be the exact food cost we want because more than math or anything else, consumer demand is what drives prices.

$8.17 X 4 (25% food cost) = $32.68/lb

In the age of barbecue popularity and coronavirus, these high brisket prices are not uncommon. Even small town joints are breaking the $20/lb barrier, previously unheard of. But barbecue is a business and if the percentage you spend of your highest selling item is increasing, its price must increase.

To calculate the TOTAL food cost of a business (% of total spending on food) we take our inventory at the beginning of the week plus our weekly spending, minus the inventory at the end of the week, and divide by our weekly sales. That will give us a percentage of what we spend weekly on food.

If we take the average food cost of all our menu items and compare them against our total food cost, they should work out to be similar numbers. If they are not close in range, something somewhere is off. It’s all too easy to over cut on poundage on the carving block, or to give too much food away to friends and family, or to think something is not up to service standard and just throw it away. All those small decisions will add up to a big jump in food cost.

Keeping close track of food cost is crucial for businesses during any time, but especially during this stressful time for restaurants.

Chef/Pitmaster from Austin, Texas

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