What should your PPD be when it comes to food costs?

Food Cost

What should your PPD be when it comes to food costs?

Plate costs per day can be as low as $6 in skilled nursing and as high as $12 at high-end CCRCs, so how do you know what to budget for your community?

If your community is self-operating and has a daily plate cost goal of $8, your residents can eat very well with fresh, quality ingredients and some organic foods.

Food costing starts with menu planning, reviewing your historical food cost and analyzing your historical food waste. Here’s how to get started.

Track Food Waste
A commercial kitchen should be tracking food waste. This should not be viewed as shameful; some food waste is normal. But you can’t change what’s not measured. So start by measuring everything.

Talk with your dining team and explain that tracking food waste is simply a starting point to determine possible areas where your dining department could change its purchasing and preparation habits. Incentivize the team to fill out a waste sheet and submit it every week. Motivate them by giving gift cards or prizes for regular waste reporting over two weeks, four weeks, eight weeks and 32 weeks.

Common areas for waste are meat, fish and produce that are not properly stored and go bad; over-buying fresh produce that goes to waste before it can be used; over-preparing food for lunches or dinners that residents are not ordering; not being consistent with portioning; and not paying attention to pack sizes when ordering, which results in over-ordering.

Two other helpful tools are a daily food log that documents which dishes were a hit and which were flops, and a record of exactly how many of each were sold.

Also, create plans in your menu for incorporating foods from the previous day into recipes for the following day. An example would be using roasted chicken in chicken and rice soup the next day.

Review Historical Food Cost
Review food invoices with the dining director. Look for these areas:

  • A lot of pre-prepared foods. For example, did you know that simply serving fresh broccoli versus frozen can save a community up to $12,000 a year?
  • Price changes of staples and recurring items. Market changes can cause drastic swings in product prices. It’s good to know what alternative brands or products you can substitute if costs get out of line. Also, sometimes vendors just change their prices. Be familiar with how much you pay for products. Many times, your reps can simply adjust costs back down.
  • Too few vendors. Having multiple vendors can help keep them honest and competitive. In addition to your main provider, it’s a good idea to have other vendors for produce, meat, seafood and specialty goods. That way, you can compare prices between vendors.

Get Savvy with Menu Planning
With an arsenal of historical intelligence about your dining program, you can plan creative menus that stay within your daily plate cost goals, while serving healthy, fresh and delicious foods that make residents happy!

Some tips and tricks: Save some budget for upscale foods and special foods by offering other lower-cost foods that are delicious and healthy. Examples: Beans are excellent sources of copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium—nutrients that many Americans don’t get enough of. So get creative with beans and rice for lunch, such as a Southwest bowl with black beans, grilled corn, roasted peppers and cilantro-lime rice, and save your budget to serve Muscovy Duck for dinner. Look at your menu plan as a Tetris game, moving tiles of different food costs around until your budget aligns. It’s fun to offer both low-cost and higher-cost foods that, when blended, help you land on your target price per day.

The Culinary Coach recipes and cycle menus do just that. We help upscale senior living companies deliver excellent dining experiences for $8 per day. That’s a self-operated cost. If you’re using a contractor to feed your residents, the costs will likely be more as the contractor charges a markup on the foods.

Follow these easy steps to get started: Analyze. Plan. Track. If you need any coaching or help, give us a call at 888-776-5135. We love food costing!