How can I use gross profit pricing for a new restaurant?

When opening a new restaurant, you are going to have to make assumptions about all your expenses and your head counts regardless of whether or not you price by gross profit. Since you will already have those assumptions, it only makes sense that you set prices so that you will collect enough markup (gross profit) from each of those assumed customers to cover all the expenses you are assuming.


Since you won’t have “real numbers” to work with in your startup, it will be important that you create your budgets conservatively. Set realistic expectations for traffic and for expenses, based on your/your advisor’s experience and averages in your area. You’ll need to be doing all this regardless of whether or not you price by gross profit. Pricing by gross profit simply guarantees that if you bring in the customers you assumed, and you keep your expenses down to where you assumed, that you will at least make the profit you budgeted for.


Without pricing by gross profit, you are simply guessing at whether or not there will be enough markup to cover your expenses. Pricing by a budgeted cost percentage doesn’t take into account the other expenses of the restaurant.


In short, budget conservatively and use your assumptions on customer counts and expenses, along with accurate recipe costs to price by gross profit in a startup.


Brandon O’Dell

O’Dell Restaurant Consulting




office:  (888) 571-9068

Quick tips – Update your menu often

You can greatly improve your cash flow by adopting a policy of smaller, more frequent price increases instead of waiting for a year or longer before raising prices a larger increment.

Use this simple example to catch my drift:

Chicken tenders $5.99 from January 2008 – January 2009
Price raised to $6.99 after January 2009
4000 orders of chicken tender sold during whole year
$23,960 in sales for year

Chicken tenders $5.99 from January 2008 – March 2008
Chicken tenders $6.29 from April 2008 – July 2008
Chicken tenders $6.49 from August 2008 – October 2008
Chicken tenders $6.79 from November 2008 – January 2009
Price raised to $6.99 after January 2009
4000 order chicken tender sold during whole year, 1000 order per quarter
$25,569 in sales for year

By not waiting to raise the price, you gain an additional $1,609 in profit for the year off one menu item. You also help mask the price increase by doing it incrementally. Your customers are much less likely to notice $.20-$.25 increases compare to a $1 increase.

Does this franchise restaurant have too high of food costs?

Is the cost of food and supplies less when you own a franchise because of their buying power, or the same, or even more because of kick-backs from suppliers?

The franchise I am looking at shows cost of goods to be from 34% – 38%.
This sounds a little high to me. Is this what the norm is in this industry?

It all depends on the menu and prices. If you’re evaluating a potential franchise purchase, the food cost percentage is the last thing you should be worried about. Percentages don’t equal profit.

You should be concentrating more on the average profit and investment, how large the investment is, how fast that profit will earn back your investment, and whether that profit makes the investment worth your time.

Franchises do normally have increased buying power. Whether that results in a lower food cost percentage depends on the pricing, not the purchasing.

There is no “norm” for the industry. Some operations make a profit with 45% food costs, some need to be under 20%. Achieving either one doesn’t mean either will even make a profit. The profit is made with the money that is left over AFTER you pay for the food. While operating efficiently, and not wasting product is important to profit, the importance of running a particular food cost percentage is grossly overstated in the restaurant business.