Tip of the Day

Post Cost Your Buffets

Every professional food and beverage manager knows and understands the importance of pre-costing each menu item to ensure that pricing covers all ingredient costs and an appropriate markup to achieve the desired food cost percentage. This coupled with portion control are the two bedrock principles of food and beverage profitability.

But how does one ensure that buffets are appropriately priced? Buffets, as everyone knows, are self-serve and different diners serve themselves a different mix of items and portion sizes – and usually make multiple trips through the line.

The solution is to post-cost buffets. This is done by tracking the ingredient cost of all offerings prepared and put out on the buffet line and subtracting the value of any items that are prepared but not used, any items that come back at the end of the buffet that may be used or sold in other venues, or items used for employee meals. By then dividing the total ingredient cost of food consumed by the buffet revenue, you can determine your actual cost of food for the buffet.

I don’t recommend doing this for every buffet – only special events like Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving, and periodically for ongoing buffets like Sunday Brunch and specialty buffet nights. Such periodic post-costing will ensure that you are pricing properly to maintain margins. An added advantage is a clear indication which buffet items were popular and which should be replaced on the menu as unpopular.