How to Combat Rising Food Costs at Your Restaurant
January 23, 2023
Rising food costs are a reality for restaurant owners across the U.S. According to One Table’s 2022 report, more than three out of four foodservice operators had to raise menu prices at least once in 2022. The report also predicts that if food costs keep increasing, 40 percent of owners and operators could find themselves increasing menu prices across the board. While ensuring menu prices align with your food costs is crucial for profits, continually raising prices could put a bad taste in your customers’ mouths. While many establishments will need to increase menu prices, there are several ways owners can manage food costs without giving their guests sticker shock.
Why Food Cost Management Matters
88 percent of restaurant owners stated their food and beverage costs in 2022 were higher than in 2019. Post-pandemic supply-chain demands and overall inflation are driving food costs across the country. According to the National Restaurant Association, food costs account for 33 cents for every dollar received in sales. So, as ingredients rise in price, keeping costs in check is necessary for establishments looking to profit. However, not every owner wants to increase menu prices drastically or change their menu pricing strategy. These four solutions can help operators strategically battle food cost surges.
4 Solutions To Combat Rising Food Costs
1. Trim the Fat
No matter how you plan to manage expenses, always start with a menu analysis. Are there dishes that aren’t flying out of your kitchen? Assess their popularity and look at their bottom-line ingredient costs. How many orders have you sold over the past few weeks, months, and years? You might discover that you can trim some of the less-ordered items, reducing spending on unnecessary ingredients.
As you streamline your menu, consider other revisions that might help you maximize your food cost percentage. Can you use a low-cost ingredient like chicken breast for lunch salads and as a dinner entree?
2. Stretch Your Ingredients
Are you utilizing each ingredient to its fullest potential? Something as humble as vegetable scraps can be repurposed to make delicious vegetable stock. Turn chicken and beef bones into hearty broth, which can be used as a soup base or reduced down to demi-glace. Even banana peels can create an exciting chutney.
Adding a canning or pickling program can also extend the life of ingredients. Cook down tomatoes for a house-made marinara sauce, pickle vegetables for salads, and use berries that are close to expiring by turning them into jam. Plus, fermented foods are a big 2023 trend, so you can entice customers while saving ingredients for future use.
Reducing food waste can do wonders for a restaurant’s food cost percentages. The more you can stretch ingredients, instead of throwing them in the compost, the more money you save in the long run.
3. Manage Your Inventory
Overpurchasing can wreak havoc on food cost percentages. Developing and sticking to an inventory management system will help track ingredient sale frequency. You might discover that you are purchasing a case of canola oil every week but are only going through one every two weeks. On the flip side, you might buy single jugs of oil multiple times a week, whereas buying a case will last you longer and give you a price break. Keep a weekly log of your products coming in and going out, then adjust your buying schedule to maximize savings.
4. Control Portion Sizes
Controlling the portions of the food your restaurant serves is one of the best ways to combat rising food costs. While generous serving sizes may be welcome by guests, they often lead to food waste while hurting your bottom line. Using standardized plateware, introducing portion scales and consistent measuring tools in the kitchen, and training your staff on plating consistently are all ways to manage food served to guests and keep portions and costs in check.
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