Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Finance
Pizza on fire: December 2012

Controlling food costs


November 22, 2012
By Tom Stankiewicz

Topics

Controlling food costs is a top priority for every pizza business. The cost of food increases year after year, and nobody expects it to decrease. It becomes difficult to provide a consistently high-quality product to your clients while keeping your prices the same. Your customers want the same high-quality pizza every time they place their order. As a business owner, you must find ways to provide it at the lowest price possible. Switching food producers is not the answer. Rather, you must employ strategies that will help you control how fast your food costs rise. Over the years, many business owners have come up with different ways to control food costs. These basic strategies can benefit everyone, and keep rising costs to a minimum.

Controlling food costs is a top priority for every pizza business. The
cost of food increases year after year, and nobody expects it to
decrease. It becomes difficult to provide a consistently high-quality
product to your clients while keeping your prices the same. Your
customers want the same high-quality pizza every time they place their
order. As a business owner, you must find ways to provide it at the
lowest price possible. Switching food producers is not the answer.
Rather, you must employ strategies that will help you control how fast
your food costs rise. Over the years, many business owners have come up
with different ways to control food costs.

These basic strategies can
benefit everyone, and keep rising costs to a minimum.

The first
strategy is to train all your pizza-making employees properly on keeping
portion sizes consistent. You need to ensure that everyone uses the
same amount of toppings on a large pizza. A scale is the most accurate
way to do this. Telling your employees to use two scoops of cheese on
all large pizzas is a guaranteed way to lose money. When you have five
pizza makers, it can be safely assumed that each of them has a different
idea of what two scoops of cheese means.

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A very simple and
cost-effective solution is to outline specific, measured amounts of
cheese for all pizza sizes. The same idea would apply to various pizza
toppings. Instead of telling employees to use a handful of pepperoni,
give them a specific number: for example, every medium pizza needs 25
pieces of pepperoni. In my experience, when employees have clear and
specific guidelines to follow, they become more efficient. They don’t
have to stop and wonder if they have put enough cheese on a pizza – it’s
easier to look at the training chart and follow the measurements listed
on it.

Another simple way to control food cost is to pay attention
to your everyday prep routine. It should take you no more than a few
weeks to have a pretty good idea of which days are your busiest, and
which are your slowest. For most of us, weekends are considered prime
time, and it makes sense that most of your raw produce would be used up
on those days. If, for example, Tuesdays are the slowest day of the week
for your business, then you need to have just enough toppings ready to
last that day. In this scenario, you are directly controlling food costs
by knowing how much produce needs to be prepared for each specific day.
This can help you prevent situations where food is wasted and needs to
be thrown out, which will hurt your bottom line.

How often and from
whom you order produce also makes a difference. From my own experience, I
know that it’s more cost effective to deal directly with one or two
suppliers. You are the customer of the produce suppliers. Just as you
would show consideration for a loyal and frequent client of yours, your
suppliers will often make it worth your while to place large orders with
them. They may offer you preferred pricing and let you know about
various promotions. When you spread your orders across several
companies, your bargaining power decreases. Simply put, you’re not as
valuable to them because your orders are of minimal value. If you are
dealing with many suppliers, take the time to review what each of them
offers you, and consider eliminating some. Creating a good rapport with
your suppliers may lead to special prices or promotions, which will
contribute positively to your control of food cost.

Finally, keep
your inventory up to date. When you’re ready to place an order, do not
use the same standard list without determining what is really needed. By
doing so you run the risk of wasting product. Even if it seems that you
always end up ordering three boxes of green peppers, you must
double-check every time to avoid unnecessary waste of food. The rule of
thumb for controlling food cost is to minimize the amount of food
leftovers you have at the end of each night. This is especially true for
raw produce, as it tends to spoil rather quickly. Well-maintained
storage definitely helps when you have leftovers, but tomatoes can only
last so long.

As the owner of your operation, you need to be aware of
the business’s needs and train employees accordingly. The business will
never run itself. Firm guidelines need to be implemented to ensure the
cost of food is kept in line while your customers are kept satisfied
with high-quality pizzas.


Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000, and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.


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