What is Restaurant Prime Cost

Restaurant prime cost directly influences your bottom line. So discover effective strategies to calculate and manage your prime cost and elevate profitability.

Revenue Optimization
Restaurant prime cost directly influences your bottom line. So discover effective strategies to calculate and manage your prime cost and elevate profitability.
Erin Watkins

Today, we're venturing into a pivotal aspect of the full-service restaurant business often overshadowed – the Restaurant Prime Cost.

At its core, what does the term 'restaurant prime cost' signify? Essentially, it's the sum of the two most vital expense categories in any dining establishment: the cost of goods sold (COGS) and labor costs. Importantly, the impact of the prime cost can vary significantly from fine dining to fast casual restaurants, reflecting the diverse operational demands and customer expectations in these settings. It's this percentage of sales, derived from your menu prices, that forms the backbone of your financial operations. Recognizing and harnessing its importance is akin to mastering the intricate dance of dollars that's quintessential for every restaurant proprietor.

Why such emphasis on it? The rationale is straightforward: it's the driving force behind your profit margins. Regardless of whether you're a newcomer to the culinary scene or a seasoned industry expert, optimizing your prime cost is the bridge between a restaurant merely keeping its head above water and one that truly excels.

What is restaurant prime cost?

Restaurant Prime Cost Components

Before we can dive into the methods of managing restaurant prime costs, it's essential to have a solid understanding of its components. In the most straightforward terms, your restaurant's prime cost includes the cost of goods sold (COGS) and your total labor costs.

1. Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

Cost of goods sold covers every expense related to producing the items on your menu, which means all the food and beverage ingredients. From the premium steak that's the star of your signature dish to the garnishing herbs, everything that goes on the plate or in the glass is part of your COGS. It's important to note that this doesn't only include ingredients that are consumed but also the ones that are wasted or spoiled.

  • Food Cost: As the name implies, food cost is the total amount spent on procuring the ingredients needed for your menu items. From the grain of rice in a side dish to the main meat in your special entrée, every consumable product that goes into your food preparation process is considered in your food cost.
  • Beverage Cost: Similar to food cost, beverage cost is the total cost of all drinkable items that your restaurant offers. It includes everything from the coffee beans for your espresso to the hops for your craft beer, as well as any mixers, garnishes, or other elements used in your beverage preparation.

COGS = Beginning Inventory + Purchases during the period - Closing Inventory

2. Labor Costs

Your restaurant's labor cost encompasses more than just the hourly wages or salaries you pay to your staff. It also includes payroll taxes, health insurance, paid leave, overtime pay, and any other employee benefits you offer. In other words, every penny that goes towards your employees' welfare and payment falls under labor costs.

  • Hourly Wages: This is the most obvious labor cost. It includes the hourly rate you pay to all your non-salaried employees, including part-time and seasonal staff.
  • Salaries: This refers to the fixed amount you pay your full-time, salaried employees, including management staff and chefs.
  • Payroll Taxes: As an employer, you're required to pay certain taxes on behalf of your employees, such as Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Benefits and Insurance: Any benefits you provide to your employees, like health insurance, retirement contributions, paid vacation, or meals, also factor into your labor costs.

Why Prime Cost Matters?

Now, why should restaurant owners pay attention to the prime cost? Well, the prime cost directly impacts your restaurant's profitability. It's one of your most significant controllable expenses, making up about 60-65% of your total food and beverage sales in a typical restaurant. High prime cost percentages mean lower profit margins, while lower prime cost percentages give you higher profit margins.

However, while it's crucial to keep the prime cost low, it's also important to remember that food quality should not be compromised in the process. Balancing cost-saving with maintaining quality and service is the key to a successful and profitable restaurant.

How to calculate prime cost and prime cost percentage?

How to Calculate Prime Cost and Prime Cost Percentage

Now that we have a clear understanding of the two core components of the prime cost, it's time to learn how to calculate it. Here's a step-by-step guide:

Calculating Prime Cost

  1. Determine your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for a specific period, say a week or a month. Use the formula: COGS = Opening Inventory + Purchases - Closing Inventory.
  2. Calculate your total labor cost for the same period. This should include all wages, salaries, payroll taxes, and benefits.
  3. Add your COGS and total labor cost to get your restaurant's prime cost.
Prime Cost = COGS + Total Labor Cost

Let's take an example. Suppose in one week, your restaurant's COGS is $7,000, and your total labor cost is $5,000. Your prime cost for that week would be $7,000 (COGS) + $5,000 (Labor) = $12,000.

Calculating Prime Cost Percentage

  1. Determine your prime cost.
  2. Divide your prime cost by the total sales and multiply by 100 to get the prime cost percentage.
Prime Cost Percentage = (Prime Cost / Total Sales) * 100

Why is Regular Calculation Necessary?

Calculating prime cost regularly, ideally weekly, is crucial to your restaurant's financial health. Regular prime cost calculation provides you with real-time data about your restaurant's profitability, which can guide decision-making.

For instance, if you notice that your prime cost is consistently higher than the industry standard percentage (60-65% of total sales), it indicates that you need to find ways to reduce your COGS, labor costs, or both. It could also flag potential issues like food waste, theft, or scheduling inefficiencies.

Understanding and monitoring your restaurant's prime cost can provide valuable insights into your business operations and profitability. It empowers you to make informed decisions, spot issues early, and ultimately run a more successful and profitable restaurant.

The ideal prime cost percentage is around 60-65% of total sales.

The Ideal Prime Cost Percentage

You've learned how to calculate your restaurant's prime cost, but how do you know if it's too high or too low? That's where prime cost ratio comes into play. This number is the ratio of your prime cost to your total sales, and it's an essential indicator of your restaurant's financial health.

In an ideally functioning restaurant, the prime cost percentage should be around 60-65% of total sales. For example, if your total sales for a week were $20,000, a healthy prime cost would be between $12,000 to $13,000. If the prime cost exceeds this range, it could indicate issues that need immediate attention, such as high food costs, excessive labor costs, or inefficiencies in your operations.

Impact on Business Performance

The prime cost percentage directly impacts your restaurant's bottom line. A high prime cost percentage can erode your profits, leaving less money for reinvestment, growth, and overcoming unforeseen challenges.

Conversely, a lower prime cost percentage means more profit and increased operational efficiency. This not only provides a stronger financial cushion for your restaurant but also opens up opportunities for growth and expansion. It can make your restaurant more attractive to investors, boost staff morale, and improve the overall longevity and success of your business.

Remember, your prime cost percentage is a dynamic number that can and will change due to various factors, including seasonal variations, market conditions, and changes in your business operations. Keeping a close eye on it will help you react quickly and make necessary adjustments, ensuring your restaurant remains profitable and sustainable in the long run.

Ways to reduce restaurant prime cost.

4 Smart Ways to Reduce Your Restaurant’s Prime Cost

Reducing your restaurant's prime cost doesn't necessarily mean compromising the quality of your food or service. Here are some smart strategies that can help you lower your prime cost without sacrificing the quality of your customer experience:

1. Inventory Management

Effective inventory management can significantly reduce your COGS. By implementing a First-In-First-Out (FIFO) system, regularly monitoring inventory levels, and reducing waste, you can lower food costs and minimize losses due to spoilage or theft.

2. Vendor Negotiation

Don't hesitate to negotiate with your suppliers for better prices, especially if you have a long-term relationship with them. Buying in bulk, or joining a buying group can also help you secure discounts.

3. Staff Training and Retention Strategies

Investing in staff training can improve service efficiency and reduce costly mistakes. Additionally, implementing strategies to retain your staff can save costs associated with hiring and training new employees. Consider measures such as competitive pay, providing opportunities for growth, and creating a positive work environment.

4. Technology and Automation

Utilizing technology can streamline operations, improve efficiency, and reduce labor costs. For example, a point-of-sale (POS) system can speed up order processing and reduce errors, while an automated inventory management system can save hours of manual work and provide real-time data to prevent overstocking or understocking.

5-Out sales forecasting helps to reduce restaurant prime cost.

Embracing Advanced Technology: 5-Out Sales Forecasting Software

In an increasingly digitized world, leveraging technology has become pivotal for restaurant owners. One tool that stands out for its ability to significantly reduce your restaurant's prime cost is the 5-Out sales forecasting software for restaurant owners. Let's delve deeper into its features:

  • Advanced Forecasting: Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), 5-Out forecasts future demand with an astonishing accuracy of up to 98%. It employs both internal data (like past sales and customer behavior) and external data (like seasonal trends and local events) to generate these forecasts.
  • Labor Scheduling Suggestions: 5-Out not only forecasts demand but also provides recommendations on labor scheduling. It helps ensure optimal staffing levels, reducing labor costs during slow periods, and preventing understaffing during peak times, thereby enhancing the customer experience and keeping labor costs in check.
  • Inventory Management: The software offers insights for efficient inventory purchasing based on anticipated demand. By optimizing purchasing decisions, 5-Out helps prevent overstocking or understocking scenarios, minimizing food waste and spoilage, and thus reducing overall costs.
  • Profit Maximization: By providing actionable, data-driven suggestions, 5-Out allows restaurant owners to make informed decisions that reduce prime costs, minimize waste, and maximize profitability. It's a tool that can help turn slim profit margins into a financially thriving business.

Incorporating technology like the 5-Out sales forecasting software into your business operations is more than just a choice in today's competitive restaurant industry - it's a necessity. The ability to effectively manage your prime costs by harnessing the power of AI and ML puts you ahead in the game, setting your restaurant on the path to success and profitability.

Book a demo for sales forecasting to further reduce prime costs!

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5-Out is on a mission to maximize the profitability of every restaurant, using machine learning, artificial intelligence and predictive analysis to automate smarter, better decisions.