Six ways to battle rising food costs in your restaurant

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By Diane Chiasson
Rising food costs are always a big concern for the restaurant and foodservice industry, especially over the past few years, when food costs are increasing at a high rate. As of late, we have seen drastic hikes in the cost of beef, chicken, pork and coffee.

Food prices are one of the most significant line items in an operation’s budget, so many foodservice owners and operators have either had to raise their prices or lose money from their bottom lines.

One way to keep your food costs in check is to control your portion sizes. Product portioning affects not just your food costs, but also your guest experience and the quality of your food.

It may also be time to schedule a visit with your suppliers or explore new suppliers.

But before you become militant with your staff about portion control, hold a staff meeting to explain why food costs are rising and how staff can help by reducing waste and following your portion control guidelines. Your staff is the key personnel in helping you keep food costs down, so they must be on board with your plan and believe in it themselves.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, offers the following tips to help you cut down on your food costs:

1. Review your menu items

Have you noticed that certain items on your menu never get finished by your guests? Perhaps it’s because you are giving them too much food. Analyze the food you are serving and what is coming back, and decide if you need to re-evaluate your current portion sizes.

2. Weigh everything

Your restaurant operation should have strict guidelines on the portion size of each and every single menu item. Have your employees use scales to pre-portion ingredients such as meat, cheese and other pricier items. Digital scales are inexpensive, accurate, lightweight, portable, and easy to use. Pre-portioning would also help keep your food products fresher and more organized.

3. Have measuring cups and spoons handy

For ingredients that are not as easy to pre-portion, use measuring cups and spoons, and place the appropriate tool with the ingredients. Be sure to keep recipes for each menu item visible to all kitchen staff so that they are able to reference the recipes at all times.

4. Renegotiate with current suppliers

Always keep checking to see the cost of food from other suppliers. If you want to stay loyal to your current supplier, ask to see if they can match the price. If you are a restaurant owner or operator who finds it more convenient to order all your food products and supplies from the same purveyor, it may be time to shop around. There is always a way to get a better price.

5. Go local

If you are a small, independent operator, consider turning to local suppliers for some ingredients. Although per pound, your local suppliers may charge more than your current supplier, you could cut down on food waste. For example, it might be smarter to buy four pounds of tomatoes from a local supplier for $2 a pound, than buying a 40 pound case of tomatoes for $40, and throwing out half the tomatoes because you didn’t use them.

6. Reevaluate your equipment

Although you might need to spend a bit of money to save money in the long run, consider purchasing more energy-efficient equipment. For example, invest in an oil conserving deep fryer, which uses 40 per cent less oil and 10 per cent less energy than a traditional fryer. While you may have to cough up some big money up front, think of all the money you will save on oil and electricity over the next several years.


About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto. Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655, or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com.

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