Beverage Cost Control

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1.0 Introduction
Alcohol sales (beverage sales) are an easy way to increase profitability because the costs are lower and the gross margin is far greater for beverage than for food. However, beverage costs must be controlled if an operation is to reach maximum potential of gross profit from beverage sales. Every reduction in beverage cost percentage renders a higher gross profit. Beverage costs that are above industry averages can negatively impact your profitability. A profitable restaurant typically generates a 22% to 28% beverage cost. Because of the impact beverage costs can make on an operation, it is important to know where beverage cost falls in relation to total sales on a daily or weekly basis. Beyond the bottom line, beverage costs also reflect an operation's control systems, management skill level, and value provided to the customers. The unfortunate reality of operating a restaurant is dealing with the negative affect on profits due to shrinkage. In particular, restaurant operations are likely to have lost potential profits due to careless draft beer pouring by bartenders, unauthorized giveaways, over-pouring liquor shots to boost tips, cash skimming and outright product theft. Joseph Thompson with Stock-Taker, a beverage auditing company in Atlanta, Georgia, has determined that the average bar is missing more than 25 percent of their liquor, wine and beer profits.

Restaurant owners typically evaluate their establishments based on their "cost of goods" percentage — more commonly referred to as “pour cost”. Pour cost is calculated by simply adding up the cost of the product used and dividing it by the cost of the product sold. For example, if a bar depleted $5,000 of liquor in January and had liquor sales in January of $25,000, their liquor pour cost for January would be 20% ($5,000 ÷ $25,000). A pour cost of 20% indicates that every dollar of sales generated, cost the establishment 20 cents. 

The main problem with pour cost is deciding what to compare it against. Most operators simply look at the average pour costs in the industry or at their previous annual cost percentages. On that basis, most operators are happy if their liquor pour cost is around 15%, draft beer in the neighborhood of 20%, bottled beer close to 25% and wine between 30% - 40%. But even if a bar’s cost percentages come close to these arbitrary targets, they may still be too high. 

Managers should compare their ACTUAL cost percentages to their POTENTIAL (or optimal) cost percentages. Potential cost percentages are determined by taking into account an operation's selling prices, purchasing costs, and sales mix. When calculating a potential liquor cost percentage, the desired liquor shot size needs to be considered. When determining potential draft beer cost percentages, the sales mix of each draft beer container used (mugs, glasses, pitchers) has to be figured into the calculation.

Determining an operation's potential bottled beer cost percentage is just a matter of dividing a bottle's cost by its selling price. For example, if Budweiser costs an establishment 50¢ per bottle and is sold for $2.00 per bottle, then the potential cost percentage is $.50/$2.00 = .25 = 25%.  Actual cost percentages are the actual costs incurred (taken from distributor’s invoices) divided by the actual sales generated (taken from the cash registers.) 

If an establishment’s actual beverage cost percentage is currently at 30%, then gross profit would be 70%. When the actual cost percentage is lowered to 25%, then gross profit increases to 75%. Let's assume a restaurant operation earns beverage revenues of $200,000 a year. By improving revenue & cost controls to help reduce the beverage cost percentage from 30% to 20%, gross profits will increase 10%, which is another $20,000 of additional profits being generated from the same revenue!

2.0 Beverage Cost Percentage Control
There are many methods used to control liquor costs and every operator needs...
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