The Breakdown

BY Amy Antonation


The Breakdown

With restaurant budgets squeezed ever tighter, money has to come from somewhere. A refrain we’re hearing more often? Skip the in-house prep and buy comparable already-made menu items. With labor costs skyrocketing, it may make more sense to outsource some food prep than to trumpet, “All items made in house!” on your menu.

But how much can you really save taking this route? Paul LaRue, restaurant operations consultant at US Foods, estimates over two-thirds of operators don’t accurately cost out recipes or factor in labor costs. He provides four cost breakdowns for a simple vinaigrette, assuming an entry-level cook being paid about $15 per hour can assemble a gallon of dressing in about 20 minutes. 

The path of least resistance 

  • Buy premade quality vinaigrette at $15 per gallon 
  • Virtually zero labor involved 
  • Total cost: $15 or 11.7 cents per ounce 

Housemade, but… 

  • Buy bulk commodity ingredients for $7.50 
  • $5 labor 
  • Total cost to produce: $12.50 or 9.8 cents per ounce 

Middle of the road 

  • Buy decent ingredients for $10 
  • $5 labor 
  • Total cost to produce: $15 or 11.7 cents per ounce 

The high road 

  • Buy quality ingredients for $17.50 
  • $5 labor 
  • Total cost to produce: $22.50 or 17.5 cents per ounce

Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to


Amy Antonation

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