Ron Gorodesky, President of RAS, maintains that successful restaurants generate food costs in the low to mid 30's. However, different types of restaurants typically run higher or lower percentages - steak houses may run up to 40% whereas Italian restaurants may run about 28%.
Comparing your cost percentage to restaurants with similar menus and service levels provides a more accurate perspective. The 1995 Pennsylvania Restaurant Operations Report, published by RAS in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, provides industry information and food cost averages based on menu-theme, sales volume, years in business and other categories.
For example, the report lists an average food cost of 35.7% for American/Regional menu theme restaurants and 32.0% for a restaurant in a multi-unit organization.