Last week, a Washington Post article outlined the earnings hardships national chains like Chipotle and Cheesecake Factory have been enduring due to record food prices. Panera Bread reported that costs for their dairy items alone jumped $2.5 million dollars over the same quarter last year. If you’re a small or independent restaurateur, you already know that the prices for beef, chicken and dairy have been eating at your already limited bottom line. How can you keep your key ingredients from running you dry? Here are some hints and tips from the experts about offsetting rising food costs without increasing your prices to outrageous levels.
Rethink Your Menu
Obviously, if you run a steakhouse, you just can’t just remove beef from your menu. But you can introduce interesting and appealing menu options with seafood or vegetable ingredients that are still relatively profitable. Creative ingredients and dishes can sometimes even command higher prices. Take your steak, up it a notch with a specialty sauce or new signature side and sell it at a premium price.
Fast-food giant Wendy’s recently did just that; they stepped outside of the burger/chicken game with pulled pork sandwiches. While pork prices have also risen, these new sandwiches have received positive reviews and customers have been willing to pay the premium price for them. Plus, they were able to add the new ingredient to several existing menu items, including a pork-topped burger and loaded French fries.
Encourage Ordering of Profitable Items Through Promotions
Studies show that consumers are willing to stomach price increases nearing the inflation rate. But, price your individual items any higher and you run the risk of pricing your customers out the door. If you are unable to adjust your menu, promotions can help steer your patrons to a more profitable dish or encourage more spending. Bundling items, or creating ‘value meals,’ can help offset the higher cost of beef or dairy with the higher profits in beverages, appetizers or non-dairy desserts.
Evaluate Your Kitchen’s Efficient Use of Ingredients
If beef prices increase 5%, and 5% of beef is lost to spoilage or waste, the affects to your bottom line are compounded. Better forecasting sales during peak or slow times can help minimize loss from meats that are no longer usable after sitting under the heat lamp or holding container too long. Looking for ingredient replacements can also limit your dependence – especially on dairy products.
There are several other simple ways to control ingredient waste. Many are common sense, like managing inventory levels to limit spoilage of fresh ingredients, or even identifying when fresh meats or cheeses can be kept frozen to maximize shelf life without compromising the final dish. Discover ways to utilize usable trim or byproducts elsewhere on your menu. Soups, garnishes or sauces can be prime candidates for excess food that might have been thrown away. Finally, scales and food portioners can ensure that consistent amounts of ingredients are used every time.
Shop Central For All the Tools
Central Restaurant has supported the independent restaurant industry for over 33 years by offering a wide selection of the equipment and supplies you need at competitive prices. Our catalog and website can help you find food storage options that keep precious ingredients fresh longer, portion control tools to minimize waste and promote consistency, and menus and promotion stands that get your message out to the customer. Be sure to check out our Value Series line of products too. They are chosen by our buyers to perform like the national brands at a significant cost savings.
Plus, our product consultants are available to lend their expertise. Give us a call at 800-215-9293 or use our online chat option to speak with one now.
Cover image by Smartshiva, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dairy_Cow.jpg under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.