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Being a chef is not just about knowing how to flip an omelette or season a steak - you’ll also need good organisational skills, a trusty calculator, and some basic culinary math skills to rise to the top. There are many ways to calculate food cost. The rule of thumb is that your food cost should amount to about 33% of your menu price. Here’s a basic guide to working out your costs and determining menu prices.

1. Know your ingredients.

Write down what ingredients go into each dish, and how much of it does. It may seem silly to jot down things like salt and pepper or cooking oil, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to be accurate with your costing.

2. Portion control.

You can’t have a mini crab cake that turns into a jumbo crab cake in the hands of a different chef. You should be able to communicate with your fellow cooks to ensure that the portions are consistent. Use a weighing scale to measure out each portion when you’re starting out, you’ll eventually get an instinctive feel of things after making the same dish a few times. Remember, portions affect costing and costing affects your final margin.

3. Do a breakdown of the cost price of each ingredient.

For example, if you’re using 10 grams of prawns, divide it accordingly based on your order invoice. Don’t forget to include all costs - for example, service taxes, delivery charges etc - that are related to your food costs.

4. Determining menu prices.

Whatever your total cost of making a dish - the food cost should be about 33% of your menu cost. For example, if your dish costs $24, your food cost should be about $8. If your portions get bigger and your menu price remains the same, your food cost will go up and your profit margin will go down.

5. Customers are number sensitive.

It may not seem like much to add on a dollar or two to justify some varying costs, however, be aware that customers are very sensitive to price hikes, so you’ll want to be as accurate as you can in your kitchen math the first time around.

Finding the right menu prices and striking the perfect balance between delighting diners and making a profit isn’t always easy. However, it’s a necessary and important step for your business to be successful.

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