Measuring Meal Production & Calculating Meal Equivalents
Updated: January 2019
Overview: Labor costs in the foodservice department will use most of the The Certified Dietary Manager, Certified Food Protection Professional's (CDM®, CFPP®) budget. The CDM, CFPP should calculate productivity and prove efficiency in the department to administration.
The Certified Dietary Manager, Certified Food Protection Professional (CDM, CFPP) assures that productivity for patient/client services is measured and compared to a standard productivity equivalent.
Implement & Evaluate
1.1 CDM, CFPP will work with administration or the finance department to measure meal production.
CDM, CFPP measures meal production to assist in calculating FTE (full-time equivalent) needs.
1.2 CDM, CFPP will work with administration or the finance department to determine which staff will be included in total hours for selected productivity standard.
Consider: Which labor hours will be used in the calculation of meal productivity:
✓ all staff involved in producing meals?
✓ management staff?
✓ clinical dietetics staff?
✓ support staff?
✓ consultant dietitian?
CDM, CFPP follows up on decreases in productivity by checking variances in the patient/client meals, non-patient/client meals, meal equivalents.
1.3 CDM, CFPP will work with administration or the finance department to determine what will be used to calculate meal equivalents.
Determining Actual Meals Served:
Consider: What food cost data will be used to determine actual patient/client meals served (meal equivalents)?
✓ Patient/client trays
✓ Meals on Wheels
Consider: What food cost data will be used to determine a meal equivalent for non-patient/client meals?
✓ Floor stock
✓ Catering from outside groups
✓ Staff meals
✓ Tube feedings
✓ Guest trays
✓ Use an average price for a typical cafeteria meal (market basket) for café/catering/guest meals/staff meals. Market basket example: 4 oz. protein, 1 vegetable, 1 grain, 1 beverage = $3.20
✓ Cost out floor stock, tube feedings, catering, and cafeteria costs and divide by the market basket price to determine meal equivalents.
✓ Use a standard for nourishments/supplements and/or tube feedings, such as three nourishments/supplements are equivalent to one meal
✓ Meal Equivalents (ME) can vary greatly, as it depends on what each CDM, CFPP counts as a meal. The key is to develop a system that you use consistently and not to compare your department to other facilities, rather use your monthly meal equivalents to track changes and trends throughout the months.
Example: LTC Facility - January
Market Basket Price
*Three (3) nourishments = 1 meal equivalent
Step 1: Convert Catered Meals to ME
Catered Meals Sales DIVIDED by Market Basket Price
$1,200 ÷ $3.20
=375 Meal Equivalents for catered meals
Step 2: Convert Nourishments to ME
# of nourishments DIVIDED by ME # for nourishments*
600 ÷ 3
= 200 Meal Equivalents for nourishments
Step 3: Add All ME together
ADD: Resident meals + catered + nourishments = Meal Equivalents for January
6,500 + 375 + 200
= 7,075 Meal Equivalents served in January
1.4 Actual meals are counted using a standardized method and recorded on a weekly productivity form by category.
✓ Count every tray delivered for patients/clients.
✓ Count every meal delivered for Meals on Wheels.
✓ Count every meal delivered for staff or doctors.
1.5 Total meal equivalents are recorded on a weekly productivity form.
1.6 Labor hours are tracked for foodservice personnel and recorded on the productivity form.
1.7 Minutes Per Meal, Labor Hours Per Meal, Labor Costs per FTE, Labor Costs Per Meal Served or Meals Per Labor Hour are determined for patient/client and nonpatient/ client services.
Minutes Per Meal Served
Total Labor Hours MULTIPLIED by 60
DIVIDED by Total Meals Served
Total Labor Hours
x 60 minutes
DIVIDED by Total Meals Served (164)
480 ÷ 164
2.93 Minutes per Meal
Labor Hours Per Meal Served
Total Labor Hours DIVIDED by Total Meals Served
Total Labor Hours
DIVIDED by Total Meals Served
÷ 164 Meals
.05 Labor Hours Per Meal
The 2016 ANFP Skilled Nursing Facility Benchmarking Program showed .19-.39 average labor hours per meal
Labor Costs* per FTE
Monthly Labor Costs DIVIDED by Total FTEs
DIVIDED by FTEs
$2,074 per FTE
Labor Costs* per Meal Served
Labor Costs DIVIDED by Total Meals Served
1 Year: Labor Costs
*labor costs include wages + benefits.
Meals Per Labor Hour
Total Meals Served DIVIDED by Total # of Labor Hours
Total Meals Served
DIVIDED by Labor Hours
÷ 32 hours
Estimating Staffing Needs Using an Industry Productivity Level
This reference has determined the meals per labor hour for the following foodservice operations:
Quick-service restaurant 9.5
Fine dining restaurant 1.4
Family restaurant 4.8
Acute Care Facility (hospital) 3.5
Extended Care Facility 5.0
School Foodservice 13-15.0
Check your calculations for determining your department’s labor hours and meals per labor hour against this industry standard. If there is a significant difference, it is the responsibility of the CDM, CFPP to evaluate this difference and justify the current staffing level or make necessary adjustments.
Gregoire, M. Foodservice Organizations, A Managerial and Systems Approach. Seventh Edition. Prentice Hall, 2010. pp. 450-451.
1.8 The CDM, CFPP in Healthcare calculates Labor Hours Daily per Patient/Resident
Labor Hours Total for Day DIVIDED by # of residents.
DIVIDED by # of residents
Legvold, Dee, and Salisbury, Kristi. Foodservice Management by Design. Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals, 2nd Edition, 2018.
Kristin Klinefelter, MS, RDN, LD has been in the dietetics field for 20 years, working in a variety of consulting and education capacities. She has been working with the University of North Dakota's Nutrition and Foodservice Training Program for ten years and served on the Certifying Board for Dietary Managers (CBDM) for six years.
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