If you want to calculate food costs accurately, start by determining the exact yield of your ingredients and recipes. Any unused food product after preparation becomes a waste. And this equates to throwing away a monetary value you already disbursed. Conducting yield tests limits such losses and controls your menu prices.
The Importance of Counting Costs
The test reveals the volume of food you actually use. It can determine the difference between an ingredient’s original form (during purchase) and its outcome (after handling, trimming, or cooking).
Yield testing also suggests the usable amount left at certain stages of food preparation. With it, you can answer these questions:
- How much food needs to be purchased based on exact amounts per recipe?
- What form of the ingredient minimizes losses and maximizes costs?
- Which method of handling or cooking produces a greater yield?
How Yield Tests Can Affect Your Decisions
Testing can help you make better decisions on three aspects:
The exact amount of food to purchase
The test determines the amount of food to buy based on portion sizes. By calculating the amount of waste and trimmings from an ingredient, you can identify the exact volume you need to purchase.
Identify the As Purchased (AP) weight, which is the original form of the ingredient. Prepare it as needed, recording any waste or trimmings by weight. Subtract this value from your AP to determine the Edible Portion (EP).
Here is a basic yield test formula to follow:
EP / AP X 100 = yield percentage
A yield test example
The task is to serve 50 guests 100 grams of fish fillet per portion. Conduct testing to tell if you should order whole fish or purchase filleted portions.
Trimming or Waste:
A 500-gram whole fish needs to have the head, tail, and bones trimmed and discarded. Wastage is 100 grams. EP is 400 grams of fillets ready for serving. Following the formula, your yield percentage is 80%.
The best form of food to buy
Based on your yield test calculator, you can determine the form of food you should purchase. Which costs less? A whole fish cut into portions? Or a ready-to-cook, pre-fabricated filleted fish at 100% EP?
The test revealed that if you need to serve 50 portions, you should purchase 6.25 kilos of whole fish versus 5 kilos of fillets. Compare their prices and decide from there.
The appropriate cooking method to use
Yield testing also suggests the best cooking method to maximize costs.
- A 1605-gram Australian rib eye, roasted in an oven at 100°C for 2 hours (core temp 60 °C) and rested for 15 minutes, weighs 1468 grams upon serving. Yield is 92%.
- A 1605-gram Australian rib eye, roasted in an oven at 180°C for 1 hour (core temp 60 °C) and rested for 15 minutes, weighs 1395 grams upon serving. Yield is 87%.
Roasting the beef at a lower temperature over a longer period produces a higher yield. This means you can purchase less raw meat since you can still serve 92% (as opposed to 87%).
Cooking Loss Test
As the term suggests, the cooking loss test determines how cooking affects yield. This is connected to your Ready To Serve (RTS) as most food increase or decrease in volume after preparation.
Depending on the cooking method, food can lose moisture and shrink. It can also absorb liquid and weigh more. Testing will help you determine the proper technique to achieve your target yield.
Cooking Loss Test: How much is lost?
Cooking Loss Test: How does it relate to pricing?
A chef roasts 5 kg top round at 350°F. After cooking, the roasted beef weighed 3.5kg. The 5 kg top round was purchased at $50. This means 1 kg raw beef costs $10 ($50 divided by 5 kg).
1. How much was lost during roasting?
5 kg original weight - 3.5 kg cooked weight = 1.5 kg weight loss.
1. After cooking:
Divide the price of the raw ingredient by the cooked weight.
2. Cooking loss formula:
Cooking loss is the weight loss divided by the ingredient’s original weight.
2. How much is 1 kg of roasted beef?
$50 / 3.5 kg cooked weight = $14.30. This means 1 kg of roasted beef costs $14.30.
3. Cooking loss for this roast beef:
1.5 kg weight loss / 5 kg original weight = 30% cooking loss
3. How much is the price difference?
You have an increment of $4.30 from the original cost per kilo.
4. Due to cooking loss:
The price of beef changed from $10/kg of raw beef to $14.30/kg of roasted beef.
Cooking loss is inevitable. However, you can still choose a method that does not affect your food costs significantly. Always conduct a yield test before making business decisions, from purchasing to waste management.
Restaurant operations management is an ongoing process, but it's important to ensure that foundation is laid correctly to minimize any hiccups. This will help with overall operational efficiency. One way to get started is to use the FREE Operational Plan PDF developed by the expert chefs in Unilever Food Solutions.
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