Since 2019 the world has struggled with rising food prices. First, inflation has affected restaurants and their food costs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, the war in Ukraine took another hit to our food supply by threatening massive amounts of grain, seed oil, and more. Rocketing energy prices and increased fertilizer costs have also been passed on to food prices.
One way restaurants can cut down on food prices is to take a second look at where they are sourcing their ingredients. Is it the cheapest quality option? Of course, you don’t want to sacrifice too much quality. Still, some ingredients like butter and vegetables can pass as high-quality even when they’re more cheaply sourced, as they are often mixed in with other items. Strike deals with your local sources if you can for things like eggs and honey, which you can get cheaper just by lower delivery costs alone.
Find new ways to salvage food that you formerly discarded. Keep a journal of the ingredients you’re throwing out and use that to get creative with new food items. For example, if you throw out a lot of vegetable bits that aren’t included on plates, consider making vegetable stock with it and serving it as soup. The same can be done for bones and other meat pieces that would otherwise get thrown away. You can serve a bone or beef broth straight from your kitchen rather than sourcing it elsewhere. Not only that, but it also adds a homemade item to your menu that diners will love the taste of.
Ingredients like lettuce can be fully used- if not for salads, then for slaws and stews. The white root base can be thrown into your vegetable broth seamlessly! Consider offering a lettuce-wrapped burger, sandwich, or taco for those on the Keto bandwagon or diners looking for low-carb options. Also, think about using stale bread to make croutons or breadcrumbs. These simple ingredients are staples in almost any kitchen. You no longer have to outsource things like buns or breadcrumbs when you can do it yourself with your extra food.
Changing portion sizes can be a wise option, although seemingly controversial to diners. In truth, you can serve more vegetables and carbs and a smaller portion of protein, which is usually the most expensive ingredient. Diners will still leave satisfied and happy. In truth, the amount of protein we’re used to receiving in America is well above the recommended serving size. Jazz your vegetables and carbs up a little more to let them shine, and let the protein take a back seat.
Another way to offset food prices is to encourage ordering certain items that result in the least food waste. For example, use bolding, highlights, and other design elements to draw attention to specific menu items. Highlight creative ideas like a lettuce-wrapped burger, or use your homemade vegetable stock for Chef’s choice vegetable soup. Something that once would have been garbage could become a source of revenue with a bit of preparation.
Help your ingenious ideas stand out more by giving them shout-out spaces. In addition to strategically displaying these items on your menu with highlights, bolding, or whatever you choose, give them their own table tents or whole pages in the menu. Including pictures of your food items will make these advertisements much more potent. People don’t just eat with their sense of taste but also with their eyes. Choose well-lit, color-saturated photos of your food, preferably with a white background. In editing, you can change the background colors, but a white background provides nice fill lighting that helps your items stand out.
Make your cheaper-to-produce dishes your specials. Whether that’s your homemade vegetable soup or a crafted drink, upsell it and sell more! Prices are going up all across the board, so when you have a yummy special that looks like a great deal, people will go for it!
Always advertise your new and old menu items, but you want to put the things you’d like to sell more in everyone’s eyesight. As mentioned before, including high-quality images on your menus, table tents, and signage is imperative to success. People like to see what you’re describing on your menu: does it look fresh and well-plated? Can you almost smell the dinner rolls through the picture? If the answer is yes, you’re doing it right.