Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Why is a dinner item often more expensive than the equivalent lunch item? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
I offer a little insight on how and why I price my lunches and dinners.
When you pay for your restaurant visit, you pay for a number of things. The two big ones are “food and production” and “hospitality”. Now, to break those apart, here’s what goes where:
Food and Production:
- Purchase (raw food cost)
- Dishes and BoH (“back of house“) operations
- FoH (“front of house”) payroll
- Linens and cleaning cost
- Fees and Subscriptions (includes, for example, reservation systems, credit card processing, that stuff)
- License costs
- Depreciation, loss
Some things are static, such as my lease, power, linens, licenses, etc. Other things vary between lunch and dinner:
- Lunch isn’t prepared and served by my A-team. Many times waiters and cooks have to prove themselves during lunch before being allowed on the dinner line. This means I pay less in payroll.
- Lunch doesn’t usually serve a full menu. The menu is optimized for faster production and oftentimes smaller portioned. Smaller menu means less storage, smaller dishes mean less storage, and faster turnaround means less secondary storage costs (hot/warm holding, etc.)
- Lunch diners spend an average of 45 minutes from entry to exit, dinner guests take over twice as long. This means faster turnaround during lunch hours, which either means more covers or less staff needed. Both saves me money.
- Lunch guests don’t want/need candles and expensive bottles of water. They want food. We cater to this by dropping down to the bare bone of fine dining hospitality, removing fluff.
Last, but not least, lunch is a competitive market. We compete with in-house cafeterias, the dirty water hot dog cart, chain restaurants, and delivery businesses. By pricing ourselves competitively we ensure good covers every day of the week (low day is Tuesday, high day is Thursday, by the way) and a hot, pre-stocked, kitchen for dinner. That saves us money (I don’t have to pay someone to come in at 3pm and set up stocks and sauces, for example, I can have the lunch crew do those during slows and as part of their prep) and time, which in and by itself is money.