How To Control Your Food Expenses

Even though food prices are predicted to rise this year, there are many ways you can control what you spend on ingredients for your restaurant.

These simple cost-saving tips will help you keep your food costs down without compromising food quality or your customers’ experience.

#1: Get The Best Prices

Make sure you are getting the best prices from your suppliers using these strategies:

  • Research Prices. Use the Restaurant Food Index to compare costs between different vendors, and compare your prices with fellow restauranteurs to make sure you are getting the best deal.
  • Try a Single Supplier. You may be able to negotiate lower prices by sticking to one supplier for all your needs. Make sure to talk to each vendor to see if this is an opportunity.
  • Order Intelligently. To save money, buy non-perishable items in bulk, and see if you can get a discount by ordering mass amounts in limited shipments.
  • Join Forces. Consider becoming a member of a group purchasing organization (GPO), which leverages the purchasing power of a large group of restaurants to secure discounts from vendors.
  • Step Up Prep. Save money by doing more prep work (i.e., chopping lettuce and carrots, breaking down chickens and other proteins) vs buying pre-cut or pre-packaged items..

Shrink Your Shrinkage

Shrinkage is the amount of reduction in inventory due mainly to waste and theft. With some experts claiming shrinkage can be as high as 25% in the bar and restaurant industry, it’s important to identify and reduce the most common culprits:

  • Food Prep Waste. Reduce waste by training staff on proper slicing and trimming techniques to yield more usable product. Rather than discarding byproducts, try to use what you can in sauces, garnishes, sides and soups.
  • Plate Waste. On average, diners leave up to 17% of food on their plate. By reducing plate size, pre-portioning ingredients, and using consistent measuring devices. you can reduce portion sizes to match diners’ eating habits, reduce waste, and save money.
  • Errors. Ordering errors can be reduced by using online ordering and integrated POS systems, checking orders against corresponding tickets, and training staff to know every menu item.
  • Accidents. Spilling, dropping, or burning food can’t always be avoided, however, having specific work stations and an efficient layout in your kitchen can help everyone do their jobs better.
  • Theft. You can reduce both intentional and unintentional employee theft by establishing clear rules for comps and employee discounts, using video surveillance, and tracking inventory, sales, comps, and other shrinkage on your POS system.

Adjust Your Menu

The Natural Resources Defense Council lists “expansive menu options” as a leading driver in food waste due to more ingredients needing to be stocked and managed.

Here are several ways to streamline your menu to not only cut inventory costs, but improve customer service and potentially increase sales.

  • Streamline. Determine what items are either not selling well or are too costly to produce and cut them from your menu.
  • Cross-utilize. Create dishes that use many of the same ingredients in other menu items.
  • Seasonalize. Use seasonal ingredients to keep costs down and add the flavors of the season to your menu..

Control Your Inventory

Consistently staying on top of your inventory will help you control food usage and costs. Here are some suggestions for mastering your inventory levels.

  • Utilize Technology. Utilize smart inventory management software to gain insight into changing inventory needs, and help you plan and order based on historical sales and trends.   
  • Avoid Overstock. Buy ingredients in bulk only when you are sure the item will get used before spoiling or getting stale.
  • Appoint Inventory Gurus. Choose key members of your staff to check inventory levels consistently, labeling and dating new deliveries and organizing shelves using the “first in, first out” rule.

With these few cost-saving steps, you can control your food expenses while reducing waste and increasing your operational efficiency.   

Learn 6 Ways To Cut Restaurant Costs Immediately.

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