Pitchrate | 8 Steps to Saving Thousands on Food Costs Each Year

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Becky Dorner

Widely-known as one of the nation's leading experts on nutrition and long-term care issues, Becky Dorner is an enthusiastic, dynamic, innovative leader who motivates and inspires people into action. She is President of Becky Dorner & Associates, Inc., which publishes and presents CEU programs and in...

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Health & Fitness


Becky Dorner & Associates, Inc.

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02/23/2012 01:15am
8 Steps to Saving Thousands on Food Costs Each Year

Rising food costs, budget cuts, and Medicare/Medicaid cuts make it essential to control food service costs. In 30 years of working with health care facilities, I've learned that controlling food service costs is about being smart with your budget and operations so you can control costs without cutting quality. Here are some steps you can take to control food service costs:

1. Track Market Trends. Track price increases so you can make changes as needed. Cost of living increases, increased competition for workers, and union increases will affect labor costs. Adjust food purchases and alter menus as needed based on price changes. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) forecast for 2012 predicts that food prices will be slightly above historical averages for the past two decades. Predictions include: All Food Index up 2.5 - 3.5%, Food Away from Home up 2 - 3%, and Food At Home up 3 - 4%. Predicted price increases in various food categories include: • Meats, poultry, seafood prices up 3.5% overall, with beef/veal up 4.5%, pork and poultry up 3-4%, and fish/seafood up 4-5%. • Egg prices up 2.5 - 3.5%. • Cereal and bakery prices up 4.5 - 5.5%. • Sugar and sweets prices up 2 - 3%. • Dairy prices (milk, cheese, ice cream, butter) up 3.5 - 4.5%. • Fresh produce up 3 - 4% overall, with fresh fruit and processed produce up 3 - 4%, and fresh vegetables up 3.5 - 4.5%.

2. Know Your Numbers. Understand your operation's budget and profit/loss statements. Analyze statements weekly, monthly and quarterly. Your menu drives decisions related to food purchases, labor/skill level needs, food cost, production schedule, equipment needs, customer satisfaction, nutritional value, service needs, and most importantly, your bottom line. Check prices on all menu items to assure costs are within the desired range, and use software systems to take immediate steps to control costs.

3. Control Labor Costs. Track your meals/labor hour: Total Meals Served/Day ÷ Labor Hours/Day. The average meals/labor hour for hospitals and long term care facilities is 6-12. Track productivity and implement systems to assure efficiencies. Reduce absenteeism, and hold staff turnover to a minimum. For a $20,000/year worker, turnover may cost as much as $10,000 for a turnover rate of 25% (the national average).

4. Avoid Overproduction. The number one cost leak in foodservice operations is over-production! Eliminate as much waste as possible. Ten extra meals a day adds up fast: $3.75 (food/labor/supplies) X 10 = $37.50/day x 365 days/year = $13,687.50/year. Implement controls for preparation, service, and handling leftovers. Adjust recipes for the number of servings actually needed. Use production records to document what and how much food is left, and the plan for use of leftovers. Control portion sizes and use standardized recipes. Train employees on proper portioning and provide the correct measuring utensils and equipment. Conduct a plate waste study to determine which menu items need to be changed, and which portions can be reduced while maintaining customer satisfaction.

5. Reduce The Price You Pay for Food. First, join a group purchasing organization (GPO) to save 5 - 10% or more on your food cost. If you are spending $200,000 per year on food, a 5% savings equals $10,000 annually! Next, take these steps: a. Assure bills are paid on time. It's like taking out a loan: the longer it takes to pay the bill, the higher the rates will be. b. Avoid poor purchasing habits that cause frequent trips to the local store. The average "store run" costs labor time to go to the store, plus the cost of paying someone to do that person's normal work, and the higher cost of retail goods. c. Reduce the number of vendors and deliveries so the vendor can pass cost savings to you. Reducing orders also saves money by saving time to place orders, check in deliveries, put stock away, and process paperwork. d. Check in all incoming orders to assure you receive all items on the invoice, and all are in acceptable condition. e. Use suitable quality products for each menu/recipe it


becky dorner, food costs, controlling food service costs
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