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This month we look at: chicken wing prices, how to prevent employee theft, the Super Bowl of the restaurant industry (Mother's Day), inflation and national restaurant sales trends from March.

Anyone else feel like 2024 is speeding by? I recently took a trip to Colorado to film a video with one of our clients, and I can attest that time definitely flies when you're doing something you love (which for me is getting to meet our clients face-to-face).

The shoot went really well, and it was amazing getting to interact one-on-one with the people we're all here to serve and help succeed. Great people, great food and a great (and huge) selection of agave-based spirits - can't go wrong.  

While I was there, our team shared a bonding moment together by toasting with and then eating a chicken wing covered in their hottest sauce available (aptly named "Bear Hot" after the black bears that roam CO). You'll see below that this exercise in trauma bonding inspired our Item to Watch this month - and it is one to watch, as prices for MarginEdge customers are at a 2-year high. 👀

We've also got some info on inflation (brace yourself), and how to prepare your restaurant for Mother's Day (brace yourself again). 

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- Rachel & the MarginEdge team

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Overall sales by segment MAR 24

Fast Casual ended the month with -3% down compared to March 2023's numbers, and Full Service ended with -1%. While both segments ended the month down, mid-month performance was stronger, peaking around 3% for Full Service and 5% for Fast Casual. 

The average food category costs as a percentage of sales decreased slightly again from last month for MarginEdge customers, with food costs averaging 28% of sales.

Dig into the full report.




Chicken wings

Chicken wing prices have been quietly, but surely increasing over the past few months. While not as volatile as in previous years, these pricey parts make a big impact not just for restaurant owners, but even for investors. Wingstop stock has been negatively impacted by wing costs a few times in the past and has had to pivot to keep profitability growing. 

When looking at chicken wing prices across MarginEdge customers, the median price per pound increased to $2.87 just last week. For comparison, we've included the charts for the median price per pound for chicken breasts and whole chickens below. Both of these aren't seeing nearly the same level of increase, likely pointing to prices being most impacted by demand rather than supply chain or production issues.

chicken wings price chart apr24chicken breast chart apr24chicken whole prices apr24Because chicken wings are hard to substitute for, you may want to look into contract pricing with your vendors if you have a chicken wing-heavy operation, and if you already have it in place, be sure to spot-check prices. 



CFO 1 Source | New Orleans, LA


How do I deal with employee theft?

Employee theft is an unfortunate reality of running restaurants. And while it's no one's favorite thing to deal with, as an operator, there are several ways to handle it. The best way to do so by far is to have a game plan in place to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are a few ways to do that from our friends at OnePoint Franchise Accounting.

  1. Get your GMs on board. Theft likely isn't going to happen right in front of you, so making sure your managers are well-equipped with cash management best practices is key. You can also set up your POS to require a manager's approval for voids and discounts, but you'll of course want to consider frequency and feasibility of needing a GM to approve everything.
  2. Make cash deposits frequently. Daily deposits are a lot easier to sift through than multi-day ones when cash goes missing. You can even set up a smart safe that records daily deposits onsite digitally, communicates with your bank, and sends an armored vehicle to pick up the physical deposits once a week.
  3. Incentivize cash accuracy. If you're having consistent issues with deposits not adding up, incentivizing your management teams may help. You can consider tying deposit accuracy to manager bonuses or other incentives. 

Taking preventative steps, like carefully vetting new hires and conducting regular financial audits helps deter theft by reinforcing oversight. By using technology, encouraging open dialogue, and keeping a close watch, you can effectively prepare for and prevent employee theft.

💬 Ask [me] anything!
Really. Each month we’ll take a look at the questions we get and answer one here. Have a question about our product, accounting, or restaurant operations in general? 💌 Email me or message us on our social media channels.



Tafts' Ale House | Cincinnati, OH


Order Inflation Up (still)

Oof. I wish there was better news to report here folks, but looks like inflation is still gonna inflate - at least according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest report. Food away from home came in at 0.3% change from February, and overall food inflation increased slightly at 0.1%. Compared to 12 months ago, food away from home prices were up 4.2%, which is lower than February's YOY but only by 0.2%. 

When looking at segments, Limited Service meals are 5% higher, and Full Service meals are up 3.2% over the last 12 months. Both of these percentages are continuing to drop from February.

The overall index sits at 3.5% up year-over-year, which is an increase from February's report. Energy and shelter continue to be the biggest culprits, with gasoline and transportation services seeing the highest jumps. I'm running out of ways to say that the Fed cut will likely be delayed yet again. Here's hoping April's report will be a little better.

Tl;dr - food away from home inflation increased last month. No good news yet.



Imperfecto | Washington, D.C.


Super Bowl Sunday aka Mother's Day

There are a few days a year that strike fear into the hearts of restaurant workers everywhere. And one of those days is absolutely Mother's Day (especially if you do a brunch service). We know this isn't your first rodeo, and likely have tips and tricks up your sleeve to keep things running smoothly, but here are a few extra nuggets to consider when preparing to maximize your profitability on the big day.

1. Create a special menu or LTO's. Paring back your menu for a busy day is always a good idea (like prix fixe menus on Valentine's Day). To decide what to include, conduct some quick menu analysis and make sure your most popular dishes make the cut, ensuring guests will still be happy. This is also a great opportunity to introduce mom-themed specials or limited-time offers that will improve margins. And don't forget to include options for the kids!

2. Prep your A-team. While restaurant crystal balls haven't quite come to fruition, there are a couple of ways to predict what this year might require staffing-wise. First, you can check your POS or sales data to see volume and peak times from last year. Then, closer to the big day, you can check your books and schedule your team as necessary. If not enough people are available, you can try incentivizing your team with days off later in the week, bonuses, or looking for temporary staff to help cover.

3. Put the "fun" in functional seating arrangements. For Valentine's Day, you need a sea of two tops. Mother's Day, not so much. Most people will be coming in family groups, so expect big tables. And if you have outdoor dining, try to maximize that space as much as you can - but check the weather first. May is (usually) the perfect time to dine outside, and (bonus for your team) it makes cleaning up kid spills and accidents a little easier.  

Check out this article for a few more ways to prepare your restaurant. 

What's [me] into




    • Chelsearosefitzy's restaurant opening GRWM - Owner of the Lobster Clam Lighthouse Shanty Sea Shack, in Cape Cod, MA, Chelsea takes us along while she gets ready to open her restaurant. Glad to know we're not the only ones with home Crocs and work Crocs.
    • Gabriella Zottola - POV: the girl that finally got a day job quits her restaurant job. Extra points for the realistic key chain shaking.
    • The Bitchy Waiter - Spring is here, and so are diners regretting their choice to sit on the patio. 


    • Building a food culture - Having a strong work culture isn't just for funzies, it can actually improve performance and job satisfaction. This article looks at a few places restaurants can focus on when it comes to developing a strong food-centric work culture. 
    • Webinar: Emerging tech strategies for restaurants - This isn't *technically* an article, but this upcoming webinar hosted by NRN will dive into insights from their 2024 flagship annual Restaurant Technology Outlook report that surveyed 600 restaurant operators on their digital strategies.
    • The NRA's consumer outlook report - As most Americans have spent their pandemic stimulus savings stockpiles (say that five times fast), 2024 might look a little different for consumer spending.


    • A Deeper Dive - This episode chats with CEO of Wingstop, Michael Skipworth, to discuss how the company overcame its chicken wing cost problem (noticing a trend to our April edition here?). Spoiler: it's about using ingenuity and flexibility to still meet your guests' tastes.

    • The Bar Business Podcast - With 20+ years' experience in the industry, host Chris Schneider looks at the 55% Prime Cost standard and how much that still applies in today's economy. 



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