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As food costs are rising, small measures can help ease pressure

Click here to see the original article from the National Restaurant Association.

About one-third of sales in a typical restaurant goes to food and beverage purchases, making cost management in the kitchen critically important to maintaining profitability.

During the last five years, average wholesale food prices rose roughly 25 percent.  Operators can expect to get pricing relief on several of the major commodities in 2015, including dairy and pork.

Meanwhile, menu prices have not risen at the same pace, putting additional pressure on restaurants’ bottom lines. In fact, food costs are cited as the top challenge by about one-quarter of restaurant operators this year.

When operators were asked which actions they took to manage rising food costs in 2014, common answers included increasing tracking of food waste, cutting costs in other operational areas, raising menu prices and shopping around for other suppliers, according to the NRA’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast.

While restaurateurs can’t control the commodity market, they can control which ingredients to use and how to use them in their own kitchens. Some ways to alleviate food cost pressure are:

  • Closely monitor what food is left on consumers’ plates. If your guests are consistently leaving the same items – like salad garnish, french fries or salsa – you can serve less of it or eliminate it altogether. Not only will this save on costs, but it also helps the environment by cutting back on waste.
  • If you don’t want to change a core menu item completely, consider adjusting parts of it. For example, if one type of lettuce is becoming more expensive, substitute a different type. Or, if the price of milled rice is spiking, use other grains.
  • ImageServe free items only upon request rather than having them on counters or automatically served by staff – for example, condiments, bread, crackers, chips and salsa.
  • Wholesale beef prices climbed in 2014 and are projected to continue to rise in 2015. When planning new menu items, explore underused cuts like shoulder, cheeks and skirt steak, as these are often more inexpensive, but yet full of flavor.
  • Use fresh produce that is in season, as supplies are more plentiful and prices typically lower. Consumers are also attracted to freshness of ingredients, so this can be a marketing opportunity as well.

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