Culinary Calculations – Richmond magazine

How much do menu items, from idea to inception, cost a restaurant? Typically, chefs aim for their overall food costs to hover around 30%, but in some cases, as seen below, that number is significantly higher. Despite a shift in diners’ desire for higher-quality, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, most menu prices have not kept pace with rising overhead costs, an increasingly competitive market and the significant prep labor some dishes can require. Since the pandemic, the food cost squeeze has been amplified due to supply chain issues and price spikes on staples such as cheese and flour. We present a local sampling of entrees broken down by costs to better understand the bang behind the buck.


Lamb Chopen Kebab, $32 

Rack of lamb, $12 

Onion, green and red pepper, garlic, purple cabbage, $3 

Cumin and sumac, 50 cents 

Corn oil, 50 cents 

Prep labor, $5 

Total food/prep cost: $21 

Food cost: 53% 


The Rundown, $24 

Coconut milk, 75 cents  

Onion, ginger, garlic, habanero, chipotle, 50 cents 

Turmeric, allspice, thyme, 25 cents  

Sweet potato, 25 cents 

Regionally sourced seafood (3 ounces each) 

  • Mussels, $1.05 
  • Shrimp, $1.90 
  • Catfish, 84 cents  
  • Monkfish, 93 cents  
  • Rockfish, $1.31 

Prep labor, $2 

Total food/prep cost: $9.78 

Food cost: 40.7% 


Fondue Burger, $16 

House-made bun, 70 cents 

Seven Hills beef, $1.38 

Fondue, $1 

Speck, 14 cents 

Mayonnaise, 3 cents 

Dijon, 6 cents 

Cornichon, 3 cents 

Manakintowne Farms frisee, 49 cents 

Potato, 14 cents 

Labor, $6.40 

Total food/prep cost, $10.37 

Food cost: 65% 


Tomato Pie, $12 

Flour, 85 cents

Dough starter, 50 cents 

Bianco Di Napoli tomatoes, 55 cents 

Local tomatoes, $2 

Pimento cheese, $1.20 

Young pecorino, 65 cents 

Seasoning, 25 cents 

Pizza box, 25 cents  

Prep labor, $1.75 

Total food/prep cost: $8

Food cost: 67% 


Shrimp & Grits, $19 

Nine shrimp, $2.22 

Smithfield bacon cream sauce, $1.79 

Ashland Mills Gouda grits, 69 cents 

Tomato bruschetta with Village Garden cherry tomatoes, $1.52 

Prep labor, $2.25 

Total food/prep cost: $8.47 

Food cost: 44.5%