Food Cost Formula: How to Calculate Your Food Cost Percentage

Food cost percentage is an essential restaurant metric to monitor continuously. With the right formulas and resources, you can easily calculate your food cost percentage — and lay the groundwork to optimizing your restaurant finances.

As a restaurant owner, your priority is delighting customers. But your top financial priority is maximizing revenue while minimizing costs. 

Food costs comprise a big part of your restaurant spend. And your food cost percentage is an essential restaurant metric to monitor continuously. With the right formulas and resources, you can easily calculate your food cost percentage — and lay the groundwork to optimizing your restaurant finances. 

In this post, we’ll share our food cost percentage formula and show you how to calculate food cost percentage. 

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How to calculate food cost percentage

Food cost percentage is calculated by taking the cost of goods sold and dividing that by the revenue or sales generated from that finished dish. The cost of goods sold is the amount of money you’ve spent on ingredients and inventory in a given period – we’ll show you how to calculate that, too.

It’s nice to know if individual items are profitable or not, as we’ll explain below. But it’s critical to know if your entire business is on track for success.

To start, look at your weekly inventory. 

  1. List all the food supplies you received at the start of the week. Many inventory management systems work on tablets or handheld devices, so you can walk around the back of house checking off items like you would on a clipboard.

  2. Add together the dollar value of each item. How much did you pay for each box of chicken in your back of house?

  3. Track your purchases. Were there any other purchases that you made within the week, after beginning inventory?

  4. Take inventory again at the beginning of next week. Follow the same process. Recommended is a shelf-to-sheet system, where your inventory tracking system is set up to mirror your back-of-house.

  1. Add together total food sales per shift. Many POS systems with restaurant analytics can provide you with this information automatically.

  2. Calculate actual food cost for the week using the following food cost formula: Food Cost Percentage = (Beginning Inventory + Purchases – Ending Inventory) ÷ Food Sales

Check out the example below to see this food cost percentage formula in action:

  • Beginning Inventory = $15,000
  • Purchases = $4,000
  • Ending Inventory = $16,000
  • Food Sales = $10,000
  • Food Cost Percentage = (15,000 + 4,000 – 16,000) ÷ 10,000
  • Food Cost Percentage = 3,000 ÷ 10,000
  • Food Cost Percentage = 0.30 or 30%

Quick Tip: Is your food cost percentage dramatically high or low? Make sure you’ve counted each item correctly, entered the right unit, and accounted for each purchasing invoice.

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What is a good food cost percentage?

On average, the food cost percentage is 28-32% in many full-service and quick-service restaurants. 

Of course, there is no exact “good” percentage — it varies depending on the type of food served and costs of operating the restaurant. In order to figure out what percentage is the best for your restaurant, you’ll need to calculate your ideal food cost percentage. 

How do you calculate ideal food cost percentage?

For this percentage to be the most helpful, you need something to compare it to — and ensure that your restaurant is on track. 

You can do so by comparing your actual food cost with your ideal food cost. In an ideal world, there would be no food waste or theft in your restaurant.

The calculation for ideal food cost percentage doesn’t take into account your beginning and ending inventories. Instead, it accounts for the total costs and sales associated with each dish or menu item.

To calculate your ideal food cost percentage, you’ll need to first calculate your food cost per serving. 

To help you with this calculation, we’ve developed a free Food Cost Calculator. Here’s how it works. 

First, we have you enter the type of concept you run and in what area. Then, it shares the five most popular items (and their price breakdown) on similar restaurant menus in your area. Then, you’ll be able to dive into these menu items to calculate each item’s food cost, the cost per pound and/or cost per cup for each ingredient.

You can also use the tool to create custom menu items and determine the ideal price for them. So play around with it and start brainstorming on how you can improve your food cost percentage.

How to calculate food cost per serving (or food cost per menu item):

Food Cost Per Dish = Food Cost of Ingredients x Weekly Amount Sold

Total Sales Per Dish = Sales Price x Weekly Amount Sold

Now that you’ve calculated your food cost per dish, here’s the formula for calculating ideal food cost percentage: 

Ideal Food Cost Percentage = Total Cost Per Dish ÷ Total Sales Per Dish

Check out the example below to see this ideal food cost percentage formula in action:

  • Total Cost Per Dish = $2,500

  • Total Sales Per Dish = $10,000

  • Ideal Food Cost Percentage = 2,500 ÷ 10,000

  • Ideal Food Cost Percentage = 0.25 or 25%

In the examples shared above, the ideal food cost percentage comes out to 25%, and the actual food cost percentage comes out to 30%. Now we know there’s an extra 5%, either due to waste, theft, or additional purchasing. Ultimately, you want your actual food cost to match or even be below your ideal food cost.

How can you optimize food cost percentage?

There are many ways to optimize your food cost percentage. Here are a few:

  • Be smart about your menu pricing. Raise prices on your menu by only a small amount.

  • Try menu engineering to identify which menu items are bringing in the most profit and update your menu accordingly.

  • Use plenty of carbs on your menu. Why? Because items like potatoes and pasta are generally less costly to buy in bulk.

  • Get creative with your restaurant menu design to strategically suggest and promote more profitable items to guests.

  • Shop around at different wholesale food sellers like US Foods so you can find the best prices for your restaurant.

  • Keep an eye on portion sizes. Are many of your dishes coming back half-eaten? You may want to consider reducing your portion sizes.

  • Don’t give away too many freebies, such as bread and butter, if your actual and ideal food costs are way off.

  • Adapting your menu along with seasons can help you save on food costs. Food items and produce that are in season will be cheaper, and seasonal items that are trending with customers will help with popularity and profitability.


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How can you price your menu with food cost percentage in mind?

Your menu prices need to meet the needs of your bottom line but also the needs of your target market. Toast’s Food Cost Calculator suggests menu prices for the top five items according to your restaurant concept and location based on the ideal food cost percentage. Here’s the formula we use, though it isn’t foolproof:

  • Find portion cost or total cost of ingredients within a dish or recipe.

  • Divide this by a target food cost percentage. You can choose what this percentage should be and move it around as you wish.

  • Round up or down. Keep menu prices simple and round up or down.

When you’re pricing your menu, you should also consider your local market. If demand is high for a particular menu item in your area, you may want to sell it for more or less, depending on what the market can bear. You’ll also want to consider labor costs, rent, overhead costs, and more when pricing your menu.

Your menu is the key to your revenue, and Toast’s Food Cost Calculator can help you calculate individual recipe costs, automatically convert units, and get suggested menu prices for your restaurant.

Why is food cost percentage so important?

In short, food cost percentage is important because keeping a close eye on and optimizing food cost percentage can help you achieve maximum profit.

Let’s say that Josephine runs a successful restaurant that serves 350 customers per day. If she doesn’t pay attention to her food costs, and her menu items are incorrectly priced by 75 cents, Josephine could lose $100,000 in revenue per year. 

Basically, pocket change can quickly add up. 

Taking the extra step to calculate food cost percentage and cost of goods sold down to the individual cookie, slice of bread, or burger helps your restaurant in the long run. 

The most successful franchises and restaurant chains also understand the value behind keeping a close eye on food costs. For example, if McDonald’s sells 68 million burgers a day, and they are off by a single penny on their cost of goods sold, then they’re losing $680,000 per day… or $248 million per year.

Here are four benefits to calculating food cost percentage.

1. Spend and earn smarter

By pricing each menu item based on food cost percentage and cost of goods sold, you will ensure that each menu item fits within your food cost margins. From there, you’ll know which menu items are most profitable and, in turn, which items to promote.

2. Efficiently engineer your menu

With food cost percentage data integrated in your point of sale, you can update menu items that are no longer profitable. Menu engineering based on food cost percentage will give you the insights you need to decide whether to retire, change, or re-price a menu item.

3. Better understand how food supplies impact costs and profitability

In 2018, a poor growing season left the world with a shortage of vanilla, making the price for the spice skyrocket. Bakeries and other restaurant concepts with an emphasis on desserts and baked goods felt the impact of this shortage. Keeping an eye on farming trends and even international trade negotiations – the 2018/2019 US-China trade war has had a huge impact on American farmers – is an important part of understanding and managing inventory costs.

4. Intelligently experiment with new recipes

Make a new recipe and see if it aligns with your ideal food cost percentage. If it doesn’t, see if you can adjust the recipe at all, or maybe you store it away for another time.

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