The National Restaurant Association’ s Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.
About one-third of sales in a typical restaurant goes to food and beverage purchases, making cost management in the kitchen critically important to maintaining profitability.
After jumping more than 8 percent in 2011 – the strongest annual increase in more than three decades – wholesale food price growth has slowed, but prices remain elevated. And overall, average wholesale food prices have jumped nearly 30 percent in the past six years.
Meanwhile, menu prices have not risen at nearly the same pace, putting additional pressure on restaurants’ bottom lines. In fact, food costs are cited as the top challenge by more than one-quarter of restaurant operators this year.
In the What’s Hot in 2013 survey, the NRA asked professional chefs how to best handle the pressure of elevated food costs. ”About one-third said that changing menus would help do so, while one-quarter said that adjusting plate composition could help ease the pressure. Another quarter said that they explore new sourcing options and suppliers to offset elevated food prices. Only 4 percent said that raising menu prices is the way to go.
While restaurateurs can’t control the commodity market, they can control which ingredients to use and how to use them in their own kitchens. Some ways to alleviate food cost pressure are:
- Closely monitor what food is left on consumers’ plates. If your guests are consistently leaving the same items – like salad garnish, french fries or salsa – you can serve less of it or eliminate it altogether. Not only will this save on costs, but it also helps the environment by cutting back on waste.
- If you don’t want to change a core menu item completely, consider adjusting parts of it. For example, if one type of lettuce is becoming more expensive, substitute a different type. Or, if the price of milled rice is spiking, use other grains.
- Serve free items only upon request rather than having them on counters or automatically served by staff – for example, condiments, bread, crackers, chips and salsa.
- Wholesale beef prices increased at double-digit rates between 2009 and 2012, and are still rising. When planning new menu items, explore underused cuts like shoulder, cheeks and skirt steak, as these are often more inexpensive, but yet full of flavor.
- Use fresh produce that is in season, as supplies are more plentiful and prices typically lower. Consumers are also attracted to freshness of ingredients, so this can be a marketing opportunity as well.