What’s the profit on the $17 burger at Goodkind? It’s not what you think


As diners, we often assume an understanding of the economics of the restaurant industry based on our knowledge of supermarket prices. But the price we pay for chopped chuck, chicken breasts, or seafood at the grocery store really has no relation to how much (or should cost) a dish at a restaurant.

This is largely because the cost of preparing a dish in a restaurant includes so much more than the cost of the food itself. It includes the cost to pay the people who cook the food, as well as the people who serve it to you. Beyond that, it includes a host of “invisible costs,” ranging from the cost and maintenance of kitchen equipment to the monthly cost of rent and utilities. Ultimately, the price of food on a restaurant’s menu reflects the costs of running the business.

All of these costs add up extremely quickly, especially for restaurants that spend money on high-quality items, source local ingredients, pay their employees fairly, and provide their customers with a full service experience focused on hospitality.

To help explain how it all breaks down, I spent an afternoon with Katie Rose and chef Paul Zerkel, two of Goodkind’s owners. During our time together, they opened their books, candidly shared bills, and disclosed information regarding salaries, operational costs, and food costs.

Using this information, we were able to calculate exactly how much it costs them to make their $17 Burger Nite Burger and how much it returns to them in profit.


For those unfamiliar with Burger Nite at Goodkind, it’s a beloved and long-standing tradition that was started about a year after the restaurant opened.

To encourage people to stop by on Tuesday nights (initially one of the slowest nights for the restaurant), they started offering a weekly burger special. Designed by Zerkel, the toppings for the weekly burgers changed every week, varying between simple and downright wild.

For example, on a Tuesday in September 2018, when I stopped by to review their burger for my Burger Trail series, they were serving a half pound burger topped with heirloom tomatoes, sweet onions, quick pickle relish, yellow mustard, piparra peppers. and celery seeds. It was basically a riff on the classic Chicago dog (a “drag in the garden” burger, if you will).

In 2018 — which was unquestionably Burger Nite’s heyday — the Bay View restaurant was selling around 100 burgers a week. But, even then, no one banked on Goodkind burgers.

“It was never a source of income for us.” notes Katie Rose, who not only creates the cocktails on the Goodkind menu, but handles various duties, including the restaurant’s finances. “It would be different if we used cheaper ingredients, but that was never the goal. We create burgers that reflect what Goodkind is all about, and that means keeping high quality and sustainability in mind. The meat we use does not travel very far. The buns we use are made just down the street. And all of this matters to us and influences our decision.

The price of Tuesday night burgers started around $12 and gradually increased over the years, reaching around $15 (just before the pandemic). Even then, in almost every case, the burger was a profit proposition at best.

“We kept doing it because it appeals to people,” Zerkel says. “And I have a lot of fun with it. It’s become a signature item and it’s also become a neighborhood thing. On weekends, we attract people from all over, including people driving from Illinois. But on weeknights we see a lot of regulars and many of them live in the area. And we have regulars who come every week just to grab a burger.

Due to rising food costs post-pandemic, Goodkind’s burger currently costs $17. On average, the restaurant sells between 50 and 60 per week. And most people casually assume that at $17 a burger, Goodkind must be making a pretty sizable profit.

Other people, like this gentleman who wrote a public Google review of his Burger Nite experience at Goodkind, actually believe they are being scammed.

Goodkind Burger Google ReviewsX

But would you believe me if I told you that 60 burgers – after calculating the basic costs of making them – only fetch Goodkind $35.40?

It’s true. And yes, the rising cost of food absolutely contributes to this fact. But the cost of beef (or rolls or cheese) is only part of the big picture.

Breakdown of burgersX

Before we get into the actual numbers, it’s important to note that Goodkind sources 21-day dry-aged beef from Wisconsin for its burgers. They save some money on the cost of beef (while improving quality for customers) by buying it in whole cuts and grinding it on the spot; in exchange, they spend a little more on prep/work. Goodkind also saves money by making most of the specialty toppings for its burgers, rather than buying them prepared/premade.

That said, here’s how the costs of an average Goodkind burger break down.


FOOD FEE: $5.69
Bun: $0.87
6 ounces ground beef: $3
Cheese: $0.32
Classic condiments (ketchup, mustard, onion, pickle): $0.50
Specialty toppings: $1.00 (that’s a bit low for most Goodkind burgers)

LABOR CHARGES (15 minutes): $10.72
Preparation (mincing the meat, preparing the ingredients): $5.72
Cooking, burger construction, plating: $5

Let’s stop here and do the math.

$17.00 (menu price)
-05.69 (food cost)
-10.72 (labor cost)
$0.59 (profit)

And this super simple calculation doesn’t even take everything into account. For example, things change if a customer orders their burger to go. For a burger, add a compostable/biodegradable take-out box ($0.36) and a recycled paper bag with handles ($0.41). This would result in a profit shortfall of -$0.18.

Goodkind doesn’t use a third-party delivery service, but if they did (as many restaurants do), it would likely cost them an additional $2.51 for the service. This is a generic estimate based on a cost of 13% plus $0.30 per order, which is pretty average for most delivery services (although it will vary from company to company and sometimes from place to place). Subtracting these delivery costs (and the aforementioned take-out packaging) and a single burger would result in a profit shortfall of -$2.69.

Even if a customer is enjoying their burger in Goodkind’s dining room, the above breakdown also doesn’t take into account the additional labor needed to provide a full dining experience.

First, the labor costs above only take into account Goodkind’s kitchen staff who actually prepare the ingredients and make the burger (most of whom earn an average of $18 per hour). What it doesn’t include are the salaries of the two extra cooks in the kitchen, a dishwasher, and all of the front desk staff, including the host, general manager, bartender, or waiter, who all work together to deliver the Burger Nite experience. for restaurant customers.

It’s a sharp reminder that the most valuable players in any restaurant are the people you never see. These are the people who prepare the food before the cooking even occurs. These are the employees who wash the dishes, the people who order the food, pay the bills and clean the restaurant. They are the people who look at the guest list for the evening to determine if there is anyone with a birthday, allergies or special circumstances that need to be acknowledged or taken care of.

If we include everyone contributing to this experience, the actual labor cost to run Goodkind for 15 minutes on an average Tuesday is $60.60 ($242 per hour).

The other important factor here that is not included are the very basic fundamental costs that come with running a restaurant. These include things like rent, utilities, insurance, bank charges, POS system, garbage collection, pest control, fume hood cleaning, phone and internet service, service laundry, knife sharpening (the list goes on).

You don’t even have to see the estimated costs of these additional items to realize that the $17 fee for the burger in question doesn’t even begin to cover the expense of making it.

The point of this article isn’t to discourage you from heading to Goodkind — or any other restaurant — and eating a potentially underpriced dish. The goal is to give you a better understanding of the true cost of food and the impact of your purchase.

Ultimately, understanding at least a modicum of the economics that go into operating a restaurant and providing a hospitality experience should make us better diners.

Maybe that will tempt you to order a beer or a cocktail with your burger (the markups on alcohol are always higher than on food). This might tempt you to order an appetizer on the side. Even better, it might encourage you to visit more regularly, be generous with your tips, and have a higher level of patience when it comes to responding to the service you receive.

Even if it just keeps you from writing an unnecessarily pointed (and misinformed) review on Yelp or Google, this article was well worth the time and effort it took to write.


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