How do buffets make money?

Inevitably many hotels will, at some stage, have to create buffets – whether this is a simple Continental breakfast buffet or an elaborate Christmas or New Year’s affair. All of these can potentially make or lose money if not controlled and managed correctly. There is an art to creating an offering that is tempting and interesting, but most importantly one that delivers a profit!

In this article, Kitchen CUT Co-Founder John Wood looks at some key points to consider.

Breakfast buffets

Breakfast is probably the most common buffet in a hotel and in many cases is now expected by guests and hoteliers alike. However, having spent an average of over 100 room nights per year in hotels, my experience of breakfast buffets is often poor even in quality hotels. Breakfast is all too often cooked and served by some of the weaker/less experienced people in the team without a sous/head chef in sight! It is an extremely important meal and in most cases touches many, if not all, of your guests staying in the hotel. Therefore, the offering needs to reflect the skill, creativity and flair of the restaurant and chef that runs it.

You can read our full article on serving up a profitable breakfast here.

breakfast buffets


Bed and Breakfast guest allocation from rooms to kitchen is often quite low and this can cause friction amongst the management. However, whatever the allocation, the team needs to find the best way to create a creative, fresh and suitable offering that reflects the star status/ ranking of the property and impresses the customer enough to return for another meal period.


Many Chefs assume that restricting the offering on a buffet will reduce costs, whereas a broader more interesting offering, displayed in smaller amounts, whilst regularly replenished can deliver a better food cost. The psychology of offering a wider variety of items but on smaller, less filled platters achieves two key things:
  • Customer perception is they have a lot more choice and variety (which they do)
  • With smaller platters and putting less out, people will take and consume less.


To establish an average cost for your buffets: STEP 1Choose 3 different days with different occupancy levels and ideally a different customer demographic. STEP 2Properly cost each of your ingredient items, your recipe and sub recipe items (this can easily be done on kitchen CUT in your Stock take/inventory feature) STEP 3Add any ingredients, recipes/sub recipes to this calculation when buffet is replenished. STEP 4At the end of service remove any “re-usable” items from the costed list that can “safely” be used again.- This figure is the items and cost of the food consumed. STEP 5Take the amount of covers and total net revenue that was taken for this buffet. STEP 6Calculate:
  • Cost of food consumed divided by the total net revenue x 100
  • i.e if total food consumed was £/$/€ 500 and the total Nett revenue was £/$/€ 2000 (for 200 customers)
  • it would be 500/2000 x 100 = 25%
  • The food cost is 25% and the GP is 75%
  • To calculate cost of food consumed per customer 500/200 = £/$/€ 2.50 per person
STEP 7Compare the 3 different days and then calculate an average across those 3 days.

Other buffets

The correct way to cost a buffet so that you can establish a correct selling price is by first creating all the relevant sub recipes and recipes and then combining them with any ingredients you would need to create a buffet for a fixed number ( or the number of the party/function) This will cost the entire buffet and using Kitchen CUT it will is possible to calculate the correct selling price to achieve your desired margin.

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