New Year’s resolutions aren’t always good news for restaurants and pubs. Customers trying to live more healthily are likely to be less inclined to go out to eat and drink, while the cost of a gym membership can definitely put a dent in their discretionary spend. Factor in consumers’ worries about post-Christmas credit card bills, and it’s understandable that operators can get the January blues.
So, if you can’t beat them, join them with a few resolutions of your own. The start of a New Year is a good opportunity to take a step back, examine the business and help to manage costs by ensuring that kitchen practice is up to scratch in areas such as portion control, managing waste, and ordering.
WRAP, the government backed waste prevention charity, estimates that the cost of food waste to the UK hospitality and food service sector is more than £2.5 billion a year, equivalent to wasting one in every six meals served. The figure includes not just the actual waste disposal bill, but also the cost of the food itself, the fuel used to cook it, and the time taken paying staff to prepare it and throw it away.
Even where operators already have measures in place to tackle these issues, a regular check of the systems in place is advisable, and there is almost always more that can be done.
If you plan menus and buy with tackling food waste in mind, it can help to eliminate many problems before they have a chance to occur:
· Update your menus seasonally to feature fresh meat, seafood, fruit and veg when they are at their highest quality and best value;
· Make the most of food items that you can use right across the menu. For example, tomatoes can be served grilled alongside a steak, roasted, and used in soup, salads and sandwiches;
· Use flexible menu descriptions, such as ‘fish & chips made with freshly-battered catch of the day’; ‘Sunday roast with this week’s chef-selected cut’ and ‘served with fresh, seasonal vegetables’ to make the most of deals from suppliers;
· Offer a smaller option for main courses, as well as dishes that can double as starters or a main course. Allowing customers to pick their own side dishes from a list of choices, not only reduces waste from unwanted accompaniments, but can upsell by encouraging groups to share a few side orders;
· Ensure key kitchen staff have a good grasp of margins and GPs when planning menus and specials. If this is a challenge, encourage staff to download the FREE Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, available for Apple and Android devices;
· Offer take-home options for unfinished food and wine.
· Talk to your meat and fish supplier frequently and make the most of daily specials boards to feature the best-available produce;
· Buy cleverly by making best use of your suppliers’ skills; for example a catering butcher can not only cut steaks to size, but can use the beef trim to make burgers and pies, or make fishcakes with fish not needed for a fillet. The extra cost of asking a supplier to do this should be balanced against both kitchen time saved and increased yield from fresh meat and fish;
· Reduce packaging waste by bulk-buying larger catering packs, where storage allows. To keep waste down, focus bulk-buying on non-perishable items;
· As food deliveries arrive, rotate stock properly in cupboards and fridges so the shortest date products are always used first.
As the WRAP figures show, food waste has ‘hidden’ costs such as the additional energy needed to transport, refrigerate and cook food that ends up being thrown away. When looking at potential cost savings, operators should also consider other aspects such as:
· Lights left on in cellars and storerooms;
· Kitchen equipment working too hard due to lack of maintenance or cleaning;
· Inefficient use of cleaning and hygiene products; an audit of most cupboards and storerooms will usually turn up plenty of half-used bottles and packs of floor cleaner, washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets etc. Use these up before buying more supplies;
· High energy bills; with the price of oil falling, it could be a good time to look at changing energy suppliers and locking in a better deal.
It may not be the most exciting topic, but the savings accumulated by tackling waste and inefficiency can add up. Consider incentivising staff with a monthly prize for the best money- saving suggestion, or just promise them that the bigger the efficiency and waste savings, the better the annual staff party will be!
From fresh produce to new utilities contracts, Lynx Purchasing can match your business with the right supplier. Ourfree GP Calculator App is endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs. It helps chefs to monitor margins, particularly specials, using their smartphone or tablet in a busy kitchen. You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play, using the links below:
For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play