Eight ways to lower costs at your foodservice operation

By Diane Chiasson

A new year has started, and perhaps one of your restaurant or foodservice operation’s resolutions is to try to cut on costs and reduce waste. Food and linen wastage, theft, poor inventory control and not selling your most profitable items can contribute to thousands of dollars going down the drain each year.

It is essential to be on top of all facets of your operation and ensure that you check, evaluate and keep track of each and every single item that enters and exits your restaurant.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, recommends reevaluating some of the areas in your operation to help you save a few bucks:

1. Know your costs

In order to make a profit from your restaurant or foodservice operation, you must know exactly how much each one of your menu items will cost to make, and how much profit you earn from your selling price. If you have not done so already, make these calculations so you are aware of which items are the most and least profitable. With this information, you can push your most profitable items by featuring them more prominently on your menu or having your staff upsell these items.

2. Evaluate your inventory

Restaurant or foodservice owners and operators have a tendency to over order on food products, resulting in waste and spoilage, or ordering food without a real sense of how much they should be ordering. Keep track of each and every single item you use on a daily basis for a few weeks, and figure out an average of how much of each ingredient you are using per week. Then order accordingly. You could be saving yourself thousands of dollars a year.

3. Check waste

Chefs, line cooks and prep cooks can be careless when prepping food, and tend to waste a lot of good food. In order to keep track of who is wasting what, replace the garbage cans in the kitchen with clear bins. Give each cook his own bin so at the end of each shift, each employee is accountable for his/her own wastage.

4. Save electricity

Save on your electricity and gas bills by turning off unused burners, stoves and fryers during off peak hours. Calculate how many minutes each appliance needs to get to the desired temperature so you know what time you need to turn them on before you begin your lunch or dinner service.

5. Portion all menu ingredients

Portioning all your ingredients ahead of time will not only help your restaurant serve your customers more efficiently, but will also help to control freshness, waste and spoilage, and help chefs stick to the original recipe. It is also a good idea to establish a schedule/routine for prepping food based on anticipated sales, thereby cutting on costs.

6. Evaluate your labour cost

Overstaffing will take up a big chunk of your profits, so it is essential that you evaluate how much staff you realistically need. Managers should carry around a shift card so they know the scheduled hours of each and every employee per shift, and begin cutting servers as soon as business slows down. This will help you avoid all those “overtime” costs. Another idea would be to train your staff to work more than one job at your operation so that your employees can move around and do the work where it is needed as opposed to hiring multiple staff members to do individual jobs.

7. Control use of linens

Restaurant staff have a tendency to use towels, linens, napkins, aprons, etc. liberally, thereby increasing the cost of laundering these items. Instead of allowing your employees free range on these items, consider doling out a limited number of aprons and towels per employee per shift. This will help control usage of linens. Also make sure that your employees are using towels to clean and wipe spills instead of napkins.

8. Be aware of theft

Theft is prevalent in all restaurant and foodservice operations, so it is crucial that you have the right tools to prevent it. Keep tight control on your inventory levels; lock up alcohol; limit staff access to cash drawers; never allow deliverymen or drivers into your storage area without supervision, and if you do suspect someone is stealing consider installing security cameras.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FSCI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is recognized as the world’s best restaurant, foodservice, merchandising, hospitality and retail consultant based in Toronto. She has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years.Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing consulting services including restaurant and retail merchandising, interior design, marketing, brand identity, menu design and training.

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