Food & Business Tips
Even though these are tough times economically, don’t fall into the mistake that so many restaurant owners make when there is an downturn: cutting corners. Simple reasoning explains why this would be the biggest mistake anyone could take at this time. Our customers are feeling the pressures of lower income, or income that does not have the buying power it once had, so why would they continue to frequent a restaurant that is charging the same price for a dish which had been done better in the past? There is no easier way to upset regular guests then to keep a price of a menu item, only to cut portion size, use a lower grade of ingredient, or take away previously included side items. Taking away even small amenities such as the after-dinner mints or the complimentary snacks at the lounge bar may not seem like enough of an issue to make a person no longer come to your property, but look at it from their point of view, “Hey, if these guys are hurting so bad they can’t put pretzels on the bar, what the heck else are they slashing back in the kitchen?” Honestly, the customer makes a valid point, and once that seed has been planted, you can never recover your regular customers who not only can make your business through word-of-mouth, but can also break it. So how do you cut costs and, at the very least, keep your level of service and quality the same?
The answer lies at the foundation of why got in this business; the excitement of learning. However, this time, you are the teacher. I listen to chefs talk about how they cut maybe five $10/hr kitchen staff from 40 hours to 30 because of the downturn in business, and now they are far more efficient. Well, to that I say “You’re not thinking like a chef…you’ve become an accountant.” Bring them back full-time! Stop buying preportioned steaks and teach them how to break down primal cuts, same with seafood, same with vegetables (broccoli florets! chopped lettuce! sliced mushrooms! C’mon!) Teach your staff how to break down some chickens instead of buying 8-cut, try making your own bread, throw your toque into the dessert arena. By doing this, what have you now done? You are building a much more loyal staff (cutting hours is the fastest way to create turnover—and consider the costs of hiring and training), you are creating a sense of excitement in the kitchen, you are giving back what was given to you, namely an education and the tools to succeed. By buying the products unprocessed, you will be saving much more on the food costs than you can on labor. You must have staff there when the doors are open, so give them the time to hone their skills while saving you money. In fact, many times you can actually begin to offer better dishes of higher quality at the same price points. What a wonderful thing to do for the image of your restaurant; giving the customer better food for the same price during terrible economic times. You have increased customer satisfaction and counts, while energizing and teaching your staff (and maybe yourself) making for everyone in the front and back more loyal and appreciative of you. Now that is being a chef. William Knapp; CEC, CCA, CHE, FMP, MIHTM