In last week’s edition of CORE Profit Strategies, we explored the top 4 reasons operations need recipes. Some of you may have taken a second look at your current recipe database or started building new ones. Congratulations, you have taken the first step. Keep writing them and don’t stop.

One of the reasons that recipes are not updated or maintained is that there always seems to be something wrong with the calculations. You have everything in place and there is still an unexplained variance between the actual and theoretical (potential costs).

If you have a recipe system that can tell you the variance down to the ingredient level, then you will quickly see what items are causing the variance. If you don’t have that level of detail, then you will need to do more work to determine the root cause.

If you are able to determine what is causing the variance the next step is to look at your recipes again and double-check them for accuracy. If everything looks good and there are no problems with the ingredients or the quantity, the recipe is perfect. 

So, what is the problem?

One factor that is often overlooked is the yield and net weight of the ingredients.

Ingredient Yield

Depending on how you purchase your ingredients most items will be processed to some degree prior to being used in a recipe or served.

So, how do you determine the ingredient yield of an item for a recipe? Let’s look at some examples.


Purchased by the piece (each) in most cases and when processed the leaves and core are trimmed and discarded/composted/fermented. This leaves behind the servable product, the florets.

To add cauliflower to a recipe it needs to be converted from the purchase unit (each) to a unit of measure (UOM). In this case, using the weight is the most accurate measurement.

Say the cost of cauliflower is $5.00 each and it weighs 1 kg (2.2 lbs) after trimming. The next step is to convert the kg to grams (lbs to oz.) and determine the cost based on the smallest unit of measure.

$5.00 ÷ 1000 g  = $0.005/ gram
$5.00 ÷ 35.2 oz = $0.14 / oz.

The conversion in your recipe program will be 1 each = 1000 g (35.2 oz).

As we all know the size of the cauliflower head varies. I wouldn’t worry too much about that as there will always be a slight variance, but it is a low-cost item. If the pack size for a case changes from 9 – 12 then I would recalculate the ingredient yield.


Capers come in a 4-liter (56 oz) jar.

Since there is a specific UOM of a liter (oz) it should be a straightforward conversion, right? Not really.

It would be but a lot if the volume in the jar wasn’t liquid, and, in most cases, discarded. The yield is determined by draining off the liquid (reserve it if you are not using the capers right away) and then using one of two options:

    • Net weight – number of grams (oz.) of capers without the liquid
    • Net volume – amount of ml (oz.) of capers without the liquid

I think it is worth having both yields because if the capers are used as a garnish on the line a volume measure is easier to control. You could have a soup spoon in the container that is 15 ml or 0.5 oz.

Let’s say the capers are $10.00/jar and without the liquid it weighs 1 kg (2.2 lbs). Again, convert the kg to grams (lbs to oz.) and determine the cost based on the smallest unit of measure.

$10.00 ÷ 1000 g  = $0.01/ gram
$10.00 ÷ 35.2 oz = $0.28 / oz

The conversion in your recipe program will be 1 each jar = 1000 g (35.2 oz).


Meat items can be more challenging to calculate depending on the form you purchase them in.

For example, if you purchase a whole item, such as beef tenderloin, you will have several calculations to complete. 

To start, the tenderloin weighs 2.75 kg (6 lbs) and costs $50/kg ($22.72/lb) for a total of $137.50. 

If the tenderloin is fully cleaned with no trim then the math is straightforward. It would cost $8.50 for a 170 g (6 oz) steak. 

The problem is that there is always trim, and some operations clean the tenderloin as well. This is where it becomes more involved.

In this case, you have 5 different uses/levels of trim:

    1. Primary use of center cut steaks
    2. Head and tail used for beef medallions
    3. Used for stir fry/stew
    4. Ground beef
    5. Silver skin, etc. that has little value and is used for stock.

Once recalculated that same steak would cost approx. $19.17.

As you can see, determining the ingredient yield on proteins with usable trim is more complicated and is better discussed than written.

That gives you a general idea, but with the vast number of ingredients used in Food and Beverage operations the topic of yields is extensive. 

Want to know more about calculating ingredient yields? Schedule a call with me here.

Pro Tip

Once you establish yields it is good to keep a spreadsheet with the information to easily refer to and update as needed.

Net Weight

What is net weight? 

Net weight is the same as yields in some ways but it is a term that is more often used at the manufacturers’/producers’ level. In a nutshell, the item is a usable product when everything else is removed.

Fresh Fish 

This is a good example because fresh fish is generally packed on ice which can add a lot of weight. Vendors will put the net weight on the box which deducts the weight of the ice and container. Or at least they should. 

Know Your Products

Sometimes net weight is not so obvious or paid attention to and can have a significant impact on your food cost.

I always knew about net weight but didn’t think much of it because it was written on the box. That is the case in the example above, but there was still a lesson to be learned.

Several years ago, frozen vegetables were used in a buffet restaurant I worked in. Initially, the supplier offered a product with significant cost savings. The product was tested, and we determined that the quality and yield were comparable to our current product, so we made the switch. In our testing process results were always tracked which included taking a picture of the box. 

A few months went by, and the buffet chef was complaining about the vegetables and how much more they needed to use to fill a pan. After a quick discussion, I asked him to check the net weight. He looked at me like I was crazy and then proceeded to check the box. When the current box was compared to the one that was tested there was a 10 percent change in the net weight. 

How could that be? 

The box and contents were the same size. However, many frozen products are glazed with water to help preserve and prevent them from drying out. In this case, the water glazing was also used to bulk up the weight of the case. Classic bait and switch.

It Doesn’t End There

Net weight can be less visible, especially since some proteins are massaged/pumped, which is an accepted practice of adding protein, salt, and water. The protein levels must be listed on the box, as well as any other added ingredients.

What people don’t realize is the added water can leech out when thawed. That was the concern we had when reviewing the actual to potential food cost in one of our outlets. 

Based on the sales, we were using a great deal more chicken than we should have. The first step was not to look through garbage cans, it was to ask questions. How was the chicken coming in? Frozen! Was it IQF or a block? A 25-lb. block. I had two concerns:

    • How much liquid was leeching out due to the addition of salt and water?
    • What would prevent someone from adding water to the bag of chicken before it was boxed and frozen?

The team was asked to thaw out a case and weigh the liquid. To everyone’s shock, the liquid was 30% of the total weight. In this case, the random value chicken breast was costing more than fresh chicken breasts.

The moral of the story – know your product and know the net weight and cost of your recipes based on it.

Not sure where to start with calculating your yield and net weight to ensure profit sustainability? Schedule a free 30-minute consultation for an expert opinion.

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