Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Welcome to the tenth installment of The Requirements to be a Chef; where every Wednesday I explain everything that it takes to be a Chef in my eyes. This series will by no means be exhaustive, but I will certainly do my best. If you're a Chef and want to share your opinion I'd love to hear what you have to say. Aspiring Chefs: if you have questions feel free to reach out. I'm always looking for an excuse to talk about Chef Life.
Ok, so far in this series we have covered the importance of Passion as well as a commitment to quality in regards to your effort, a commitment to food quality, Menu planning, Temperature control, The Ability to Pass on Knowledge, Building a Recipe, Leadership & High-Level Communication. Today we will be talking about Cost Control.
Cost control is one of the most important factors that Chefs tend to overlook. It's widely understood that a Chef is required to know their costs. Cost control covers food costs, labor cost and general overhead which applies primarily to Chef/owners. Cost control is what keeps the restaurant open without it everything else falls around it.
Cost control is a major factor in restaurants as to whether they fail or succeed. It should never change your menus or recipes, but you should definitely have it in mind when pricing additions. Every restaurant I've worked at some point I had to ask how much of something I should add to something when a guest asked for extra of something and it's always alarmed me when the Chef didn't automatically know their food cost of any particular item. If you have it on the menu you should know its costs inside and outside; if there are too many items on your menu to do so then you need a smaller menu (which often increases your quality by the way.). To not know your food cost is to show a dire lack of professionalism, period.
Labor cost is another important aspect of cost control. This doesn't just affect the Chef, but it is still certainly important and is an aspect that has to be addressed constantly. Labor cost is first addressed when deciding what your next hire will be whether you're looking for an anchor for your kitchen, you're seeking a young up & comer to be able to groom into the kind of staff that you're looking for. Next it should be a deciding factor in ever schedule you write. This should often change how many people you have on the line vs how much business you're expecting on any given night. Your labor should be anywhere from 10-15% of your sales though having 20% isn't unheard of. Finally you need to keep it in mind around half way through any of your shifts if your labor costs are too high with no real anticipation of having the business come to alleviate the stress against your labor cost you need to know who to cut in order to get your labor down and still be able to handle the business flow and any potential rush that may come your way.
Finally there's your basic overhead or things that are constant. These include rent, utilities, linens, insurance. There's not much that you can do about this once the lease is signed; its really just a matter of keeping those things in mind when you get to the point that you're about to choose a space. I will cover this topic more thoroughly when I write the post on how to choose a location to open and the menu that should accompany it when you can find in the Menu planning post.
So in summation, when you want to call yourself a Chef you better know your costs. If I want extra shrimp on my carbonara you need to know how much it will cost the store, how much it should cost me and how many that means I get at that price. Until then, you're just a talented line cook.
Before you go I'm going to ask a favor; I want to hear what you think. If you think I don't know what I'm talking about say so, heck share it with your friends and say "look at this guy calling himself a Chef, he has no idea what he's talking about." If you agree let me know, share it with your friends, you know how we like to see that other Chefs see the world similar to ourselves, get a good laugh out of it.
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