Last week we looked at how you can manage the labor costs in your restaurant, now let’s take a look at how to keep your food costs down.
Any restaurant owner knows that managing food costs is one of the most important and difficult tasks when it comes to ensuring the success of your business. There are so many things to consider, including fluctuations in the costs of food, that it is really important to continuously monitor the food costs for your restaurant and make sure that you are taking steps to keep them down, while simultaneously refusing to compromise on the quality of your ingredients.
Luckily there are many ways that you can effectively manage food costs in your restaurant, and below are some great tips on how to ensure you are getting the best prices, cutting down on waste and creating a menu that works perfectly for your restaurant type.
Firstly it is important that you do your research. There is a wealth of information available to you which will help you understand food prices, all you need to do is access it. Tracking food prices is a great way of keeping abreast of what products rise and fall in expense, and the most astute of restaurant owners will adjust their menus accordingly. Get ahead of the game by looking at the NRA Forecast which predicts which products are on the rise and which you can bag for a bargain.
While quality ingredients are hugely important, if you want to wow your customers, it is still imperative to look at the ingredients you need and think about the produce specifications. Continuously buying the highest grade ingredients without understanding why they are graded differently means you could be paying far more than is necessary when actually, for the dish on your menu, purchasing a grade below would make absolutely no difference to the quality of your food. It is important to do this for all your ingredients. Often restaurant owners negotiate hard for the main, big money ingredients they need for their menus, and don’t dedicate the same amount of time and research to the others. Remember, there are deals to be made on every item, so make sure you don’t overpay for any single ingredient. If you are using the same vendor time and time again and are happy with the cost and quality of their product you could set up a contract, lock in the price which will protect you if unpredictable factors see an extreme rise in its cost. Also be savvy, make sure you double check invoices, and weigh at least some of the produce you receive to ensure it is at the correct specifications. Some vendors will try to cut corners if they think they can get away with it, and you should be wary of that.
Use your staff effectively to save you money. While you think it may be a time saver to buy pre- prepped produce, why not get your cooks to do this? You can save a huge amount of money by just being willing to do a little extra work yourself. Of course you have to factor in labor costs, but in almost all instances, doing prep in-house will work out more cost effective. Training staff to check customers orders before they serve is another clever money saver. Food sent back to the kitchen is wasteful, and can often be avoided if staff are aware of what each dish should look like, and what each customer ordered.
Careful menu planning is one of the best ways to effectively control your food costs. You want to offer your customers a variety of choices that reflect the style of your restaurant and work to the strengths of your chefs. At the same time there is nothing worse than a menu stuffed with an endless number of dishes, offering so much choice that the customer feels overwhelmed and it is an impossible task for the cooks to produce each dish to a high standard. Think about your kitchen space, the talents of your chefs and what kind of restaurant you want to be. Each ingredient used in a dish should have a purpose, adding to the texture or flavour, if it doesn’t, what is it doing in there in the first place? Link dishes so that excess or waste from one could be used in another. Stock from meat dishes could be used in sauces, tops and bottoms of vegetables could be used in soups and garnishes. Store food carefully so it lasts, and think about portion control too. While your portions should be decent and satisfying, if you overload the plates you will see them returned to the kitchen with half the dish left uneaten. Keeping food waste to a minimum is imperative if you want to keep your food costs down.
It is also important to evaluate your menu regularly. See which dishes are popular, and which dishes are simply not selling, don’t be precious, even if to you a particular dish sounds amazing, or you have some personal attachment to it, if you keep it on your menu and no one is buying it, this inevitably means you are buying ingredients for it that aren’t getting used. Take it off your menu and you are saving money straight away. If you understand which dishes sell best, and keep a detailed and accurate record of which ingredients you need to replenish and when, you can keep a tight reign on what you need, again eliminating waste and ultimately reducing your costs.
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