In need of some direction

Joined Mar 29, 2017
Good day comrades,

For many years, and many, many long hours I have sweated it out (like all of you) in the stainless steel hot box of food services.

Line Cook, Kitchen Manager, Head Chef been there.

Three years ago after spending a good deal of time running a line in my home town, I had decided a change was necessary

(Too long in one place 'makes Homer... something..somthing...').

Anyway, I answered an online ad for a Govenerment run organization looking for a Chef.  The ad itself didn't have too much information, but it did say enough to perk my interest.

I went to the interview and was chosen for the job out of a narrow three possible candidates. Blah..blah... 

My current position is Head Chef for a Social Enterprise (a Catering company)  which is run by a government run organization. It has proven to be one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had to contend with. I work with people who have "lived experience", mental illness, learning disabilities, etc.

I spend a whole bunch of my time watching percentages with a keen eye, as well a training...retraining...retraining...retraining... well you probably get the idea.

Last year the program ran a deficit. It was large enough to do a throughout cost analysis of all my menus, and food resources. I 'upped' the menu pricing according to my research.

I endlessly battled through the last year with my food cost, and my labor cost (my labor cost can grow expenentially because it can take two or three people to accommodate the workload it would have normally taken one or two people to finish in a standard kitchen situation... this is why we are compensate).

But! it is not the labor costs which I am concerned about. Although they are super high (at about 38% in January), I am graciously allowed up to 45%.  It is my food cost! It is embarrassingly high (even with the new menu pricing).

 Have any of you guys ever heard of menu price increases only affecting the labor bottom-line and not food cost? I realize this sounds crazy, but I'm charging, what it is I can charge for menu items before the pricing is not competitive.  If nothing I have asked above makes sense, please ask questions... It would be very helpful to me to figure out what is the hell is happening with my numbers. 
Joined Oct 29, 2016
It sounds like you are working for a good cause, if not a difficult one. My first thought is food waste. If pricing are rising theoretically your costs should go down. How is your waste log and standard portions? I know this is more difficult for catering. Do you serve plated, buffet, or both?
Joined Oct 31, 2012
There are two unknowns here. Your suppliers and your customers. 

 My first thought from reading your post is that there are kickbacks involved in your buying system. 

I currently work for a large company doing institutional feeding. I noticed early on that the prices for everything are

much higher than normal. I found out that this is because the there is a bidding process for the contract, the contract is for a set period of time and the two companies collaborate and pass the higher prices on to the institution. Once the bidding is over, there is no shopping around for better prices. The prices are artificially higher than need be and the supplier then cuts a check back to the company I work for. Apparently that is how it works and everyone knows it so my initial righteous indignation was misplaced. 

Anyway, on the other side of things, who are your customers and how do they pay? Who is the competition? 

Because you can charge as much as the competition does, more if you're better. 

But Government has it's own way of doing things, never the way ordinary people do things. So there may be more going on than meets the eye, as the saying goes. 
Joined Aug 15, 2003
Most likely you are throwing away too much food. Start looking in your bins throughout the day and see what people are throwing in there. Are you burning/overcooking a lot of food?

Are people stealing? 

Are people paying for the food (do some people get free lunch or whatever) who are supposed to be paying?

It might help if we had some idea of the type of food you are doing, what your % are, how much you are charging, etc. More info is always better, all we can do now is speculate. 
Joined Oct 10, 2005
High labour cost can also mean a lot of employees are eating on your dime. Do you have staff meals. Do people stroll into the walk in when they sre hungry and "fend for themselves"?

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