CG-Educator Lesson Plan

Here are highlights from the ‘Menu Pricing and Food Cost Control’ lesson plan.

Other modules include Purchasing, Inventory Management, Inventory Control, Menu Engineering, Menu Pricing and Food Cost Analysis


This lecture introduces the students to menu pricing and food cost analysis. It will show them how to use CostGuard to do the tedious number crunching for these analyses.


By the end of the lecture, the student should be able to

  • Use the What if function to change a menu price
  • Use the What if function to change the food cost
  • See how a change in vendor pricing will affect the food cost and profitability of an item.



Start the lecture with a discussion of the objectives for the class. Make sure that the students understand the program. If they need help with parts of the program, make sure they can click the help key (F1) or access it from It would help if students are familiar with the Recipe section of the program. This lecture is more suited for a “hands on” session as the students can see the results of their decisions immediately. This lecture was designed to support classroom lectures on profitability and Cost-Volume-Profit analysis.

Menu Pricing and Profitability

Menu Price is what the item will sell for. Food Cost is how much it costs us to make a serving of that dish. Contribution Margin is the difference between the two – how much money you make when you sell the item.

Why is this important?

Contribution Margin dollars become your profit after you subtract out the fixed costs such as rent, electricity and insurance. The higher the Contribution Margin, the more profit you will make.
Before starting the Analysis you should review the options in Recipe Setup-Options. The percentages in this area are used in the What-if scenarios. To review the percentages and the Margin Formula, click Recipe, click Setup and then click options. Choose the formula, either Food Cost % or Contribution Margin % and then enter in the percentage. The percentage should be the target or ideal percentage for the establishment.

How to figure out the Contribution Margin of a dish

Open a Recipe. Look about half way down the screen to the box labeled Pricing. To start the What If, you need to enter at least one of the following Fields:

Current-Sells For: if this is a menu item, type in the sales price here.
Food Cost % or Gross Margin %: Depending on which option you chose in Recipe Setup Options, this field calculates the actual percentage based on the portion cost and the sales price that you entered. 

CostGuard calculates these fields automatically.

Current Cost Field:  This is the portion cost of the ingredients for this recipe.  Current Margin $:  This is Selling Price minus Current Cost.
Target Sells For:  Based on the formula and percentage that you selected in Recipe Setup Options, this field calculates the target menu price for this item.
Target Food Cost % or Gross Margin %: This field repeats the percentage that you chose in the Recipe Setup Options menu.  If you have a Category for this Recipe and you created Target Food Cost % in the Recipe Setup, then CostGuard will use that percentage. 
Target Margin Dollars: Subtract the Current Cost from the Target Sells for this result.  This shows you how much you would make if you sell the recipe for the target sells for.

How do you use this function?

1. You can spin the Current – Sells arrows and “spin the number up or down” a dollar at a time and see how it affects your final margin.

Question for the class

What happens when you increase the menu price? What happens when you decrease the menu price?

  • You can also play “What if” games by spinning the percentage, and watching the Current – Sells For field show the Menu price with the current cost and that percentage.

This lets you see what happens when you change the percentages.

Question for the class

If you decrease the target percentage what happens to the target selling price? If you increase it, what happens to the target selling price?
Pick a menu item such as Brownie Serving. Pick three different reasonable menu prices for your area, such as a fast food restaurant, a family style restaurant, and a four star restaurant. Have the students enter in these menu prices and see what happens to the Contribution Margins. Have a discussion of how overhead (rent, utilities, other fixed costs) need to come out of that total.

Food Cost Analysis

This section of the lecture deals with the impact of changes in prices for certain items. As the price of ingredients change, they will affect the overall pricing structure.

To start –
1. Start CostGuard.
2. Click Recipe, Click Recipe Manager. Find “Dinner menu for Child’s party” and make sure that the yellow arrow is to the left of the name. Click Edit. The menu will open.
3. Look at the pricing field – your company requires catering events to have a 25% food cost and set the price of the menu based on that amount. Use the dial up and down buttons to find the menu price.
It is ____________________ and if you serve 200 people, you will make ________
4. Now, the original plan was to serve 200 people. You have a memo on your desk that the group leaders called, and their estimate is now 300 people. Change the recipes to reflect this. To do this, click the ingredient tab, then click the convert button  at the bottom and change the number of servings.
Now, with the same menu price, serving 300 people, you will make __________ . This is how much more than when you served 200 people? ___________________

  • As you are looking at this second set of numbers, your executive chef calls. He just received a call from one of your suppliers that the hard crusty rolls are going to have a 15% per unit price hike.

6. Click the Ingredient Tab. On the far right side is the Recipe Tree. Right Click Rolls. Click Recost Item. Another popup will appear. Type in the new unit price for the rolls. Hit enter.
The new unit cost is _______________
The new case price is ______________
What happened to your food cost percentage? What is it now? __________________
Change the menu price again, to meet the 25% minimum. What is your new menu price? _____________________________

Questions for the class
  • When the price of rolls increased, what happened to the profitability?
  • What would happen if the food cost percentage decreased to 20%? How would this affect your profitability?
  • If the price of rolls went up, and you cannot change the menu price, how many more would you have to sell to make the same amount of profit?


This class was designed to show student how menu pricing and food cost influence the contribution margins for a menu item.

Assessment Questions

  • Why is the Contribution Margin so important?
  • Why are accurate food cost calculations so important?
  • How do you determine a Target food cost Calculation?

Assessment Answers

  • Because it is the per menu item profit. Labor and other fixed costs need to be subtracted from the Contribution Margin before a final profit can be determined.
  • If they are not accurate, then the Contribution Margin will be off as well.
  • Target Food Cost is determined by many different factors including desired profit levels, local cost structures, and chain or corporate policies.