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Managing foodservice costs through COVID-19 and beyond

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Photograph: Shutterstock

In normal times, managing a restaurant successfully means being mindful of costs and protecting profit margins.

But these are not normal times.

The presence of the pandemic makes protecting margins and eliminating unnecessary costs more important than ever before, and this guide may help. Check out these seven tips for managing costs within restaurants ,navigating the current COVID-19 environment and establishing successful habits for the market after the pandemic subsides.

Be vigilant with labor costs

Let’s start with one of restaurants’ largest expenses—labor. Furloughs and layoffs have made labor costs a sensitive subject in today’s environment, but many businesses likely can’t afford to have extra staff these days. The bottom line simply can’t bear it.

Scheduling conservatively can help ward off unnecessary expenses—just be ready to pitch in and help should customer demand exceed t team’s capacity. This is also a good time to invest in training the team as it will make team members efficient and keep them committed to a particular business. This protects restaurants from the costs of having to replace employees due to turnover.

Lastly, consider implementing a time-tracking software solution. These systems can alert operators if employees are in danger of going into overtime and can also monitor when employees clock in and out to ensure everyone is using their allocated time wisely.

Optimize inventory

Operators already vigilantly monitor your food costs to ward off waste, but now’s the time to get even more creative with those otherwise discarded items. Adjust the menu to add options like soup stocks, cocktails and other items that are tailored to use items that would otherwise be discarded. It’s a great way to get life out of those previous expenses.

Reimagine the menu

In the past, operators may have adjusted the menu based solely on how well items sell. Now’s the time to look again at the menu with an eye toward how much given items may cost. This expense could be due to the sheer price point of the ingredients or it could be because operators are forced to purchase certain ingredients that are only used in a single menu item. Now’s the time to ask: Could those items be eliminated? Is there another way to incorporate or replace those ingredients so they are not brought in for a single purpose?

In addition to reviewing ways to control costs surrounding the menu, this is also a nice chance to review opportunities to enhance profits. Encourage waitstaff to push highly profitable menu items. On the kitchen side, the bottom line could also benefit from efforts to replace lower-margin menu choices with higher-profit selections.

Invest in automation

While automated solutions may seem like an additional cost, over time an effective automated solution may actually save companies money. Utilizing automated solutions to tackle routine tasks like hood cleaning and oil management can allow operators to send staff home and complete these tasks for a fraction of the cost. In addition, because operators are being mindful of staff’s exposure risk, they’ll find automated solutions can also support their ability to distance staff and reduce their infection risk as much as possible.

Rethink the vendor strategy

In the past, adjusting the vendor strategy in order to minimize staff’s exposure to numerous delivery drivers has been a key point. However, rethinking the delivery vendor strategy can also have benefits when it comes to reviewing costs.

Are the vendors the most affordable? Now’s the time to look, and while sorting through numerous vendors can be time consuming, it’s worth  it for operators to know they are paying less for the same products. This could also be a good time to talk with vendors to see if it’s possible to get a better price for bulk ordering. This not only can save restaurants money, it may reduce driver visits, allowing operators to accomplish both of their goals at the same time.

Maximize seasonality and regionality

Utilizing seasonal foods allows operators to provide customers with fresh offerings. It can also help reduce costs. This is because seasonal menu items are often less expensive than non-seasonal fare. Operators can further support this strategy by adhering to a regional philosophy. By sticking close to home, restaurants eliminate the costs associated with shipping frozen product long distances. Operators can also increase their chances of finding a better price by opening themselves up to increased competition from a wide array of regional suppliers.

Partner up

For many restaurants, drawing customers inside remains a struggle. One way operators can overcome this is to partner up with other local businesses to provide customers value they won’t find anywhere else. For example, a restaurant could partner with a local brewer to provide new beverage options at the restaurant. Operators could also partner with a movie theater, spa or escape room for event packages that include dinner at the restaurant followed by vouchers for the other business.

Watching the bottom line every moment

These seven tips are just a few of the things operators can do to control costs in your business. To learn more about how automated solutions from Restaurant Technologies can help businesses control costs, contact us today

This post is sponsored by Restaurant Technologies