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6 Tips for Reducing Restaurant Food Costs

reducing restaurant food costsOver the past few years, we’ve seen friends in the industry continually squeezed by rising restaurant food costs. Restaurants need to think of even the smallest operational changes that could result in reducing the cost of kitchen orders.

Andre Pellerin, President & Co-Founder of notes ” Thirty-five to 40 cents out of every dollar restaurants spend is on food costs, and those costs are soaring.” Indeed, according to the CRFA’s 2013 Restaurant Operations Report, cost of sales is still the largest cost faced by restaurants at 36% of operating revenue.

Let’s highlight a few ways restaurants can get a better handle on their food spending.

1. Prioritize Communication With the Front-of-House

According to StarChefs, it’s crucial that chefs be more interactive with their serving staff and never hesitate to tell them which menu items need to be pushed. When a restaurant’s food costs are running high and/or business has dipped, tell your serving staff what low-cost menu items to emphasize to guests. “If you have lower food cost items on your menu, you have to motivate your staff to sell those at certain times.” notes restaurateur Ethan Stowell.

2. Stick to the Recipe!

Well Done Chef notes that too many restaurants have cooks with no idea what a standard plate should consist of. “Imagine you have one cook who puts 30 mL of demi-based sauce on a plate vs another who puts 80 mL. That’s over 200% of the difference, and this can throw your cost average for the plate out by as much as 30%.” writes Chef Jason Sandeman.

3. Go Seasonal Whenever Possible

Seasonal updates to the menu can be about more than adding cold dishes in the summer, warm in the winter. Veggie costs obviously vary from season to season. When produce is in-season there’s greater supply, and demand from food buyers is more easily met. That usually means good low prices. Consider keeping many of your specials built around seasonal vegetables.

4. Talk to Your Dishwashers

Jeffrey Summers at Summers Hospitality Group makes a great point about stopping by the dish washing area for a quick cost control chat. “You’d be surprised how much your dishwashers know about what items on your menu are over-portioned or come back uneaten for other reasons.” he notes.

5. Remember: Nothing is Too Trivial

The Wall Street Journal makes note of one US restaurant that focused on fountain drink costs. “Even though they typically cost the restaurant only a dime a glass. Some of the most effective moves recommended include cutting out the middleman syrup supplier and offering only one size drink instead of three. Goodbye, costly cups.”

6. Find New Ways to Connect with Local Suppliers

Rising fuel costs means manufacturers and suppliers are paying more to move product across the country, and that cost can be passed along to the independent restaurant owner. Chefs and kitchen managers need to stay on top of new ways to connect with local food suppliers in their region they may not be aware of. This is all the more important with a growing numbers of Canadians making an effort to buy local products, even if it means paying a bit more.

Most restaurant-based technology aims at improving the dining room, with little focus on the back-of-house. We’re obviously biased, but we feel the foodservice industry will benefit from online food marketplaces like

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25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices

 Cover image via Flickr



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