During today's In the News segment, I defended pizza: in the $25 and under section of the NY Times dining section, they reviewed Roberta's of Bushwick. They said it was good pizza, but despite that they offered some good interesting dishes. Hrumph!
A good portion of the class was dedicated to labor cost. Based on how busy a dinner shift was, we scheduled servers, bussers, hosts and bartenders, taking into account how much they were paid, expected number of covers and average check. I don't like exercises like this because the feedback you get from it can be guesstimated from just vibing the business of a room. In the resto biz, when things are slow, it's acceptable to send extra staff home, and it's also normal to call up people who are on informal call. Filling us students with formulas and numbers...I don't know, there needs to be a balance, an expectation that we will learn when things really need to be calculated, written and statistically analyzed, and when things can just be winged.
Up to this point, we studied cost control in terms of food and in terms of labor. Today we looked at "other expenses". While a restaurant only has one primary source of income, there are plenty of sources of expenses aside from labor and food.
- Operating expenses (linen, uniforms, china & glass, kitchen utensils, cleaning, decoration)
- Music and entertainment (live or mechanical, ASCAP, booking agents, meals to musicians)
- Marketing (mail, phone, internet, comped food, ads, signs, copies, public relations, agents)
- Administrative (data processing, office supplies, postage, cash over or under, bank fees)
- Facility maintenance (fixtures, equipment, air conditioning, refrigeration, electrical, floors and carpets)
- Occupancy (rent or mortgage, equipment lease, real estate tax, insurance, depreciation, licenses)
To control costs like this, there are two key ways to categorize them. The first way is by fixed, variable or mixed. Ask this question: If no one comes to the restaurant one night, will the expense cost less? If people come, will the expense cost more?
Whether people come in or not, rent and salaries will remain the same -- fixed. If no one comes in, I can send lower level salaried people home and the food can be served tomorrow -- variable. If no one comes in, I still have to pay for air conditioning and side towels, but if people come in, I'll have to crank up the air and use more side towels -- mixed.
The other way to categorize costs is by controllable or uncontrollable. Hourly wages are controllable -- if the biz starts to go south, I can cut people's pay or lay people off to adjust in the short term. Rent for a restaurant is usually determined by a multi-year lease -- if the biz is tanking, it could be years to a lease renegotiation, therefore it is uncontrollable.
The last part of the class was more talk of our friend alcohol, which is leading to Monday's discussion on liability issues. Alcohol has beneficial qualities. The wine industry had to sue the FDA to go public with scientifically proven evidence that alcohol can be a positive influence, but still the government insists that bars post signs warning pregnant women away from booze, despite the fact that all the studies from the 80s that claimed alcohol hurts fetuses have all been disproven. It's been shown that moderate alcohol consumption through out pregnancy does NOT hurt babies, and it's been shown that alcohol abuse in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters also does not hurt unborn children. Only alcohol abuse in the 1st trimester, a time when many women don't know they are pregnant, has been shown to cause all sorts of developmental issues.
There's the whole French paradox thing, where despite eating much more animal fats than the U.S., the consumption of red wine keeps down cholesterol. In fact, in recent years the French have had an anti-alcohol (oh, excuse me, anti drunk driving) move that has directly lead to a spike in heart disease. Alcohol thins blood, letting less stuff clump up -- the same rason docs recommend an aspirin a day, only this is so much more tasty and pleasurable. Moderate (2 glasses or less for the averaged size person) on a daily basis has health benefits, but 14 glasses one day a week would lead to all the alcohol problems reviewed yesterday.