Food costs continue to rise around the world, which can make it difficult for you to efficiently run your restaurant. After all, food is exactly what you need to bring customers in. If your food costs are running too high or you’re charging too much, then you won’t have many customers stopping by. Luckily, there are some ways your restaurant can manage food costs and still satisfy your hungry audience. Keep reading to learn about five things you can do to help manage food costs.
Know Your Inventory
When it comes to managing food costs, inventory is everything. If you don’t keep track of your inventory, then you can end up ordering too few of certain ingredients. For example, if you need potatoes for a specific dish but don’t have enough potatoes, you can’t make the dish. And if the other ingredients for that dish are single-use, you risk all those ingredients going bad before your next order of potatoes comes in.
Not knowing your inventory can also lead to you ordering too many of certain ingredients. While frozen and canned ingredients can last a long time, all restaurants know that fresh tastes best—but ordering too many fresh ingredients can lead to disaster. You’ll have more of a certain food than you know what to do with. Although some chefs can whip up new specials to get rid of the excess, sometimes that isn’t possible, and you still end up with food waste.
Design the Right Portions
How you portion food at your restaurant will also determine your food costs. Some restaurateurs believe that bigger is better, yet half of what they serve goes home in to-go containers or stays on the plate. While you certainly want your patrons to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, you don’t want to enable food waste either. The balance comes in designing the right portions.
If your typical steak dinner features an 8-ounce steak, a half cup of pasta, and a cup of salad, your patrons are probably going to struggle to eat it all. Consider shrinking your portions down into something more manageable to ensure your patrons are satisfied with their meal without excessive leftovers. You can find scales and measuring devices that will help you plate the right portions at your restaurant. Choosing to limit food waste can save you money in the long run.
Prioritize Seasonal Ingredients
Another way to save money on food costs is to prioritize using seasonal ingredients. Seasonal food will change depending on your location, but no matter what is available where you are, using that will help you save money. The savings come from not paying to ship a specific ingredient from far away; you’ll be purchasing something from right up the road.
Once you learn what seasonal ingredients are available in your area at specific times, build seasonal specials around those ingredients. If most of your dishes rely on cheaper local ingredients, you can save money in the short term and interest returning patrons in various seasonal specials throughout the year.
While you may feel tempted to continue a popular dish with shipped-in ingredients after those ingredients are no longer available locally, try to avoid this practice. The reason the dish tastes so great is that you made it with local and fresh ingredients. Store the recipe away for the next season the ingredient is in, and people are sure to come back for it.
Manage Your Waste
Even if you know your inventory like the back of your hand, shrink your portion sizes, and use seasonal ingredients, you’ll still have food waste. Managing food costs isn’t about completely cutting out food waste but about managing it well. Many methods will help you cut down on food waste, but you’ll still need a plan to deal with the waste you inevitably have left over.
Get creative with your food scrap waste. You can easily use leftover vegetable peels to make a vegetable stock and turn old breadcrumbs into bread pudding. For food waste that’s no longer fit for human consumption, consider starting a compost pile and using it in a garden. Gardening will allow you to have access to local fresh ingredients, and composting will allow those ingredients to thrive.
Change Your Menu
To accommodate smaller portions, seasonal ingredients, and waste management, you may need to change your menu. Most restaurants know what their popular dishes are and what isn’t performing as well as they would hope. Take this opportunity to make changes to your menu so that you can use your food wisely and keep customers happy.
Consider shrinking the menu down to your best performers and focusing on your seasonal offerings more than your consistent menu staples. This practice can help you keep costs low and garner interest among repeat customers who love your establishment but crave something new.
You can also consider the food waste from other dishes on your menu and determine if previously wasted ingredients could feature in a new menu item. If the recipe succeeds, you can make the most of every ingredient you buy and ultimately cut down on costs.
However, when you change your menu, make sure to give your patrons a space to voice their opinions. Invite your customers to share their thoughts as you make efforts to manage food costs. If you’re only cutting out poorly performing dishes, you may not hear much feedback, but keeping the door open to customer criticism helps guide your decision-making. This acknowledgment will keep them coming back, even if they have to find a new menu item to love.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help manage food costs in your restaurant. Consider implementing any of these five ideas to gain better control over your food spending. If you need a high-quality selection of food service equipment in the Edmonton area to help you manage your food spending, we can help. DSL offers a variety of high-quality food service equipment to help your restaurant function at its best.