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Your restaurant stays busy. Customers love the menu, and local reviews are very good. Still, you stay focused on that critical difference between profits and bottom line. The numbers don’t leave much room for error. As manager or owner, you work hard pushing the spread.
From white tablecloth restaurants to QSR chains, different operations deal with different challenges. Overall, industry analysts peg acceptable average food costs between 28 and 32 percent. Can you improve on that with restaurant cost saving ideas? By updating old strategies and implementing new ones, we believe you can.
Restaurant Cost Saving Ideas
If there were just one weird secret about how to reduce food cost in restaurant management, someone would have bottled it, sold it and made a fortune by now. Instead, successful controls result from ongoing processes involving both management and staff.
1. Honestly Assess What You Serve
When you’re looking over restaurant cost saving ideas, don’t let fondness for menu items cloud your vision. Just because you’ve always served a favorite recipe doesn’t mean that it’s still ordered often enough to keep it profitable.
What kind of prep time goes into an expensive entree? Has it become a signature dish that’s past its prime? Are you over-serving portions or sides? Look at everything you serve with an honest, detailed assessment.
2. Don’t Throw Away Profits
With today’s root-to-stem thinking in commercial kitchens, it’s easier than ever to reduce the volume of produce that winds up in your trash. Most trimmings, tops and leaves that used to be discarded are now tasty, textural additions to salads, sides and entrees.
Small modifications in prep techniques put a big dent in the 10 percent that wasted produce can add to food costs. These types of adjustments also save kitchen staff time, and that’s an important factor in holding down overall restaurant operating expenses.
3. Buy the Best, Store It Right
A low case price on produce isn’t always your best deal. Deeply discounted perishables often have limited shelf lives, and that can waste valuable food-cost dollars. Culling spoiled inventory wastes employee time on the clock too.
Do more than inspect incoming orders. Set up a rotation system, implement first-in-first-out policies, and keep equipment in top shape. A walk-in on its last legs does more than run up utility bills. Its failure can ruin expensive inventory and complicate operations for days.
4. Put More Plants on the Plate
Customers appreciate veggie starters, sides and entrees as part of a larger movement that promotes sustainable farming practices. The dining public’s attitude towards a better environment gives fresh produce a marketable advantage over traditional proteins.
Consumers like to feel good about their dining experiences. They enjoy creative, well-prepared dishes that satisfy their appetites for both good taste and good health. Offer them a variety of plant-based menu options, and you win their loyalty. You also hold down food costs.
5. Serve the Season’s Freshest
Every month on the calendar belongs to something delicious growing in the fields, so put that seasonality to work in your menu design. Feature fresh Brussels sprouts during colder months, and serve savory salads with romaine lettuce hearts when the temperatures climb.
By plating produce according to peak season, you hold down purchasing costs while filling the pantry with premium vegetables. That helps ensure longer shelf life, and it gives seasonal vegetables a special cachet. Customers love knowing that they’re enjoying the very freshest selections available.
6. Tap Into Employee Ideas
Have you asked your employees about their thoughts on how to reduce food cost in restaurant management? They receive, store, handle, prep, cook and serve your inventory every day. Many of them bring years of industry experience to their individual stations.
Brainstorm with back and front of house staff on a regular basis. Their involvement can produce great cost-saving ideas. Your appreciation for their input can boost morale, increase productivity and reduce turnover. Those aren’t the kinds of strategies you can plate, but they definitely help keep food costs down.
You Want the Best
Accurately calculating restaurant food costs isn’t easy. Holding down those numbers adds even more responsibility to your job. In our role as an established grower-shipper here in California, we’re committed to helping you keep your restaurant operations running smoothly.
From planting and harvest to packing and shipping, Hitchcock Farms stands proud to serve. You can depend on us for premium produce that holds up to the highest standards and helps hold down food costs. You want the very best supplying your food service operations, and we deliver.
Dan Holt is an experienced produce professional who started in the industry as a quality assurance inspector in the early 1990s and leads sales at Hitchcock Farms as Vice President. Prior to joining Hitchcock Farms, Dan enjoyed success in organic, specialty and conventional produce and with independent operators, regional and national chains in North America and abroad. Dan continues his passion in produce through collaborative inspiration and promoting healthy and sustainable food.