January 2019 Culinary Depot Blog Posts

    Hack Your Expenses! 13 Ways to Cut Restaurant Costs ASAP

    It’s tough out there for restaurant owners! Labor and food costs are on the rise, and competition for customers is fierce. The next time you’re feeling the squeeze on your bottom line, just try these 13 penny-pinching moves. From a “secret” employment tax credit to tactics for trimming food waste, get ready to cut restaurant costs…right now. 


    Tackle Food Waste: The Top Way to Cut Restaurant Costs


    cut restaurant costs


    If you’re like most restaurants, you throw away between 25,000 and 75,000 pounds of food each year. That’s a lot of money going down the drain – and into the garbage. Here’s how to cut restaurant costs related to food waste:


    1) Rethink Waste: Are those overripe tomatoes really unusable? Or, could you turn them into a gazpacho soup or house-made bloody Mary? Stale bread gets a second life as croutons, bread pudding, or a soup thickener.


    2) Portion Control: Do some detective work to cut restaurant costs. Spend an hour in the kitchen tonight during the dinner rush. Are plates coming in still loaded with food? Your portions are too big! Cut restaurant costs by reducing portions, and then keep them consistent. Instead of eyeballing portions, staff should use portion control scales.  


    3) FIFO for the Win: Expired or spoiled ingredients often make up the bulk of a restaurant’s food waste. That’s where FIFO comes in – and it’s one of the easiest methods to cut restaurant costs. FIFO stands for “first in, first out.” That means the oldest ingredients should be kept in the front of storage areas so they’re used first. When new inventory arrives, clearly label it with an expiration date to simplify the FIFO process.


    Look for Labor Savings


    cut costs


    Here’s another staggering statistic…the average annual cost of restaurant employee turnover is $146,600.To cut restaurant costs, get staff smart using these strategies:


    4) Get Turnover Under Control: The restaurant biz is notorious for a high turnover rate of 70%, according to a 2017 report by the National Restaurant Association. So, what can you do to keep your star employees happy? Try implementing some of these 13 creative ways to reward restaurant staff (and cut restaurant costs along the way). Simple ways to show your team some love include “employee of the month” programs and small gift cards for meeting goals.


    5) The “Secret” WOTC Tax Credit: In 2015, the U.S. government launched the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to incentivize businesses to hire certain individuals like U.S. veterans, residents in lower income areas, and even SNAP recipients. The WOTC program is an awesome way to cut restaurant costs related to labor – and help out folks in your community. Bonus: If you’ve hired employees that fall into the WOTC guidelines, you may even qualify for a retroactive tax credit. Talk with your accountant ASAP!


    Give Yourself a Marketing Makeover


    restaurant marketing strategy


    Maybe your social media campaign is getting tons of “likes” but it’s not moving the needle on your bottom line. Or, you offer online coupons but no one is redeeming them. To cut restaurant costs – and boost marketing ROI – consider swapping in these low- and no-cost tactics:


    6) Find an Influencer: Influencer marketing is a smart way to cut restaurant costs on social media. Essentially, you pay a person or another business with a big social media following to talk up your restaurant. Look for influencers with followers who are similar to the customer you’d like to reach. Do you run a sports bar? See if there is a local sports blogger who could write a blog about your bar. To find the influencers near you, use www.BuzzSumo.com. Influencers often charge between $25-$75 per thousand followers for a mention.


    7) Get Eventful: Live events give guests a reason to come in, making them one of the most powerful marketing strategies. But why pay a cover band big bucks, when you could host a live event yourself? If you’re serious about ways to cut restaurant costs, try these events (they’re more fun than a live band anyways!):

    Live trivia night is trending nationwide, but trivia hosts can be very expensive. It’s time to cut restaurant costs again! Join thousands of restaurants and bars that run trivia night themselves using a digital trivia platform like Buzztime. Buzztime gives you everything you need to run live trivia: up-to-date questions, all the answers, tablets for automated scoring, plus training and marketing support.

    On top of running trivia night, your staff can host other live events. What about a weekly Mixology 101 course led by your best bartender or a cooking class workshop with your chef?

    Another popular way to cut restaurant costs but still offer up awesome entertainment is with a Plant or Paint Nite workshop. Guests pay the workshop host directly, who then provides supplies and step-by-step instructions for potting a terrarium or painting a masterpiece. There’s no cost to you.


    8) Think Cooperatively: Want to cut restaurant costs involving marketing even further? Take a collaborative approach. Make a list of 10 local businesses that cater to the same audience as you. If you run a trendy bistro, maybe there’s a nearby clothing shop or yoga studio? Reach out to these businesses and ask if you can set out menus or flyers in their business. In exchange, you’ll do the same for them! You could also promote each other on Facebook.


    Smarten Up Your Sourcing 


    farm to table


    Hopefully, you’ve already talked to your food and liquor distributors, asking for their help as you cut restaurant costs! For example, ask your liquor distributor if they know of any wine or spirits brands offering promotional pricing. Some brands will also send in a rep to run a tasting or event (for free). To cut restaurant costs, it’s also a good idea to diversify your sources. There’s no need to ditch your primary distributor, but you may be able to get better prices using these tips…


    9) Focus on Local Farms

    The farm-to-table trend is only getting more popular with customers. And that’s good news if you’re trying to cut restaurant costs. Local, in-season produce is often cheaper than what your distributor can provide. Why? Because you’re not paying to have it shipped in from across the country. Use these 11 best resources for sourcing local food.  


    10) GIY (Grow It Yourself)

    As you seek out ways to cut restaurant costs, look to your own backyard…or rooftop. “Hyper” local sourcing is also a major trend cropping up at restaurants. From rooftops filled with potted herbs above NYC eateries to vegetable gardens behind suburban pubs, savvy restaurateurs are reducing costs by growing ingredients themselves. Plus, if you grow it yourself, you can justify a higher markup on the menu…after all, it’s homegrown and harvested by hand!


    Get Energy Efficient  


    energy efficient


    Going green is still a buzzworthy concept for customers – and it’s also an excellent way to cut restaurant costs. Here’s how to do it!


    11) Beware of Vampires: These are energy-sucking appliances that can ruin your efforts to cut restaurants costs. You may have turned a machine or appliance off, but it’s still guzzling energy on standby. To cut restaurant costs, cut off the power supply when the appliance is not in use. Common vampires include TVs, ranges and ovens, POS devices, and audio equipment.


    12) Become an Energy Star: Federal, state, and local government are all on a mission to help you reduce energy consumption (which will cut restaurant costs). You may qualify for some pretty big grants, rebates, and tax incentives just for upgrading to an Energy Star or energy-efficient appliance.


    13) Lighten Up: Still using those incandescent bulbs? They may be cheap but only last for 1,000 to 2,000 hours. Compare that to 60-watt LED bulbs which last up to 25,000 hours – and don’t cost much more. As you look to cut restaurant costs, you could also try CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) which last for 5,000 hours and use a quarter of the power of incandescent bulbs.


    Now that you have 13 ways to cut restaurant costs, the next step is putting a plan in place. It’s alright to start small. In fact, little cost-cutting measures can add up to a major boost in your bottom line!

    3 Ways Your Bar or Restaurant Can Increase Customer Loyalty

    One of the best ways to ensure long-term success in the foodservice industry is by fostering customer loyalty. According to Bain & Company research, a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25-95% increase in profits. So while most diners come and go, earning repeat visits from a select group of customers should be a big point of emphasis. This post will explore 3 things bars and restaurants can do to increase customer loyalty.


    Rewards Programs


    rewards programs


    Customers love to feel appreciated. So what better way to express your gratitude than by offering a rewards program? Also known as loyalty programs, these promotions originated as cards that were punched or stamped with each visit. But since the advent of social media, many restaurants are updating the programs so they fit seamlessly into the digital world. Today, computer-based platforms make it simple to track the amount of money customers spend at your restaurant. When the time comes to reward customers for reaching a certain plateau, giving customers 10-15% of the money they’ve spent at your establishment is standard.

    When rewarding customers for their loyalty, try to keep things simple. If you’re offering a free meal or drink, don’t include stipulations that can lead to confusion and possibly resentment from customers. For example, some restaurants might only offer the reward of a free meal during weekdays. If a customer doesn’t read the fine print and arrives on a Saturday night to redeem his free dinner, he’s not going to take the news well. It might prevent him from returning to your restaurant in the future.  

    If you still have reservations regarding a rewards program, consider this 2017 report from Bond Brand Loyalty. According to the report, 81% of customers said they were more likely to do business with a brand that had a loyalty program. Perhaps even more amazing, 73% were more likely to recommended brands that offered good loyalty programs. So not only does a rewards program help ensure customers will keep coming back, but it also increases the likelihood they’ll recommend your restaurant to a friend or family member.


    Online Engagement


    online engagement


    Email, texting, and social media make it easier than ever to keep in touch with customers. Whether you want to offer exclusive discount coupons, announce an event your restaurant is hosting, or just send holiday well wishes, the online medium lets you do so with the click of a mouse.

    Since customers use different types of social media, try to maintain accounts on a variety of platforms. Post often, as a simple picture Instagram can be enough to convince a customer to dine at your restaurant that night. Also keep in mind that some customers might get overwhelmed by constant notifications—especially when it comes to text and email. So don’t overdo it. And leave an opt-out feature that makes it simple for customers to get off your mailing list.

    Your staff should be diligent about reminding diners of your online presence. They should be able to tell customers about the advantages of signing up and even offer to sign them up on the spot if they’re so inclined.

    If someone complains about your restaurant through one of your social media channels, do not simply ignore them. Engage with them, if only to apologize for the experience and assure them it was not the norm. Better yet, offer a free drink or dessert to remedy the situation.


    Value Your Customers’ Opinions


    value customer opinion


    A small but simple way to show patrons you care about them is by asking for feedback. Restaurants can always improve on something, and often customers can see the blind spots that you can’t. Granted, not all customer suggestions will be brilliant. But they should be respected nonetheless. And as the owner/operator of the restaurant, it’s your job to decide whether their feedback is worth integrating or is better left as an idea.


    There’s no hard and fast way to ensure customer loyalty. If it were that easy, no restaurant would ever go out of business. The 3 recommendations listed are pretty common throughout the industry. So it falls on you to put your own unique spin on them. By differentiating yourself from competing bars and restaurants, you’ll already be ahead of the game.

    5 Things to Know About Millennial Dining Habits

    Written by: J. Vigotsky


    In 2019, millennials will be between the ages of 23-38. So while we think of the generation as being young, the fact is millennials are becoming an important demographic for bars and restaurants. So if you’re located in an area that’s popular among young adults, you should be doing all you can to win them over. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when it comes to Millennial dining habits.  


    Customization is Key


    customization is key


    There’s a reason why Chipotle and Pieology have been so successful. It’s because they allow customers to customize their orders. It doesn’t matter how experimental you want your pizza or burrito to be. These restaurants are happily willing to oblige. And that’s something millennial diners appreciate. Offering custom meals might not be easy for all restaurants. So if you can’t offer complete customization, at least give diners a bit more control of their side dishes. Refrain from adding an extra charge to their check, and you might just have their loyalty for life.  


    Healthy Eating is Important


    healthy eating


    Millennials love natural, organic, and locally-sourced food. If it’s farmed sustainably, even better. Compared to other generations, Millennials are far more likely to adopt plant-based diets. Meat, dairy, and eggs are no longer the diet staples they once were. So what does this mean for restaurants? The most obvious takeaway is restaurants should feature several vegetable-based dishes on their menus. Preferably locally-sourced. Offering a standard salad of greens might’ve been enough ten years ago, but now is a different story.


    Good Wi-Fi is a Must


    good wifi


    A 2018 study, 39% of Americans between the ages of 18-29 report being online almost constantly. Needless to stay, staying connected is extremely important for Millennials. If your bar or restaurant doesn’t provide quality Wi-Fi, you’ll likely rub some of these customers the wrong way. The solution is to ensure customers can always stay connected. Offer free, quality Wi-Fi, and Millennials won’t feel a pressing need to avoid your restaurant. They might even tag you on Instagram.


    They Crave New Experiences


    new experience


    Known as open-minded and curious by nature, Millennials love to try new things. So when they go out to eat, they’re not likely to order the same dish over and over. Instead, they’ll branch out and try anything that catches their interest. A good way to appeal to this curious nature is by offering sampling platters and drinks. Even better, rotate your restaurant’s offerings based on the season. And since Millenials prefer fresher food, a rotating menu kills two birds with one stone.


    Dining Should be Social  


    social dining


    The Millennials’ obsession with social media is well documented. That’s why it might come as a surprise that the age group appreciates a communal dining experience. Instead of sitting in booths and at small tables, they often prefer seating at long tables where they can sit with friends and strangers alike. These tables encourage a friendlier atmosphere and help turn the meal into more of a social experience.


    If you’re considering making changes to your bar or restaurant in hopes of attracting Millennials, be aware that there is a downside. A few years ago Applebees overhauled its menu in an attempt to satisfy the younger demographic. They started offering modern dishes that were trendier than the standard fair. Unfortunately for Applebees, Millennials didn’t take to it. And even worse, the changes alienated a large portion of the restaurant’s regular diners. So if you’re going to update your bar or restaurant for the sake of Millennials, make sure there are plenty around who will appreciate it. And think about whether your regular customers will be put off by the changes.

    5 Awesome Post Ideas for Your Restaurant’s Instagram

    Written by: J. Vigotsky


    Engaging with customers through social media is becoming increasingly important for bars and restaurants. Not only is the practice free, but in many cases it’s just as effective as paid marketing. If your bar or restaurant isn’t already posting on Instagram, then it’s time to start. This post highlights 5 ways you can use your restaurant’s Instagram to win over customers.


    Food Pics


    instagram food pics


    Amazingly, research shows that people aged 18-35 spend an average of five days per year looking at pictures of food on Instagram. So what better way to represent your restaurant than by posting pictures of its most delicious meals? While it might be easy to just snap a picture and post it online, you’re better off putting tender love and care into each photo you share. First consider what meals are most photogenic. A rack of glazed ribs certainly looks more appetizing than a bowl of white rice. Next, make sure your lighting is perfect. Use a reflector if you have to. Better yet, opt for natural lighting. If you or someone in your restaurant is savvy with editing, play around with different settings to help your pictures look good as possible.


    Outdoor Eating Areas


    outdoor eating areas


    Especially during the warmer months, people love to eat outside. If your bar or restaurant have an outdoor eating area, there’s no shame in showing it off through Instagram. Pick a beautiful, sunny day and snap a photo of it. If there are already people dining there, make sure they’re okay with you taking a picture. To make your outdoor eating patio most appealing to customers, take your picture during the golden hour. This is the time before sunset or after sunrise when the sun’s light is softer and better for photography. Since your bar or restaurant likely isn’t open during sunrise, your best bet is to snap that photo a little before sunset.

    Unveil New Menu Items and Special Deals


    food and drink specials


    Before social media was around, making customers aware of new menu offerings could be very difficult. Word of mouth could get to them or you could advertise in the local paper. But now sites like Instagram make it easier than ever to make announcements. If you’re unveiling a new food offering or a drink special, simply make an Instagram post about it. You can even hint that something will be announced in the near future to keep your customers waiting anxiously. After all, a little showmanship isn’t the worst thing.


    Behind-The-Scenes Photos


    chef preparing food


    Consider giving customers a glimpse behind the curtain by posting pictures of your staff in action. Maybe your chefs want to demonstrate how they prepare a restaurant specialty. Or your bartender wants to show off the liquor offerings of his bar. It’s easy to think of a restaurant as just a place to get food. But pictures like these remind customers of the people who make your bar or restaurant what it is.


    Re-Share Your Customers’ Content


    instagram reshare


    Sometimes customers will have already taken pictures at your restaurant and shared them. To see what’s out there, simply look up your location on Instagram or search to see if your restaurant has been hashtagged. If you come across a picture that you’d like to repost, contact the original poster and make sure it’s okay if you re-share the picture from your account. The last thing you want is to repost the photo without permission and find out the customer didn’t appreciate it. If you want to reward customers for letting you use their photos, consider offering a free drink or dessert.


    The ideas listed in this article only scratch the surface of what can be done with your restaurant’s Instagram account. Keep in mind that as we move further into the social media generation, marketing strategies will continue to evolve. For bars and restaurants that are looking to stay ahead of the curve, maintaining a strong online presence can help in a big way.