Offsetting Rising Labor Costs

As labor expenses rise in Washington, managing your food costs is more important than ever

With Washington’s minimum raise increasing in January and employee benefits expenses on the rise, restaurants are under more pressure than ever to manage their bottom line.  “As restaurants are asking themselves how are they going to manage the increases in labor costs, we’re hearing from a lot of our customers that they don’t want to jack up menu prices,” explains Sysco Business Resource Consultant Ricky Webster. “But how do you do that?” Managing your food cost is a good place to start. Here are three tips from Ricky to keep your food cost in line, and drive profits up. 

1. Know Your Numbers

“We find that a lot of the smaller restaurants we work with have been very relaxed managing their food cost. They don’t know what their food cost number is or more importantly what it should be.” According to Ricky, a profitable restaurant typically generates about 30 percent food cost. “For larger organizations with more buying power, that cost is probably going to be closer to 25 to 28 percent.”  As you write your menus, it’s also important to know the food cost for each menu item. “If you already buy from Sysco, there’s a tool available that will do the math for you. All you have to do is select the item and select the portion size and it does the math for you. It’s a much simpler way to approach breaking down a menu and figuring out recipe costs.” 

2. Take Inventory

“Managing food costs breaks down to doing a monthly inventory and sometimes a weekly inventory,” Ricky says. You need to know what you have, and you need to track waste or leakage. “So you know you sold 10 portions of steak this week, but you are missing 14 steaks. Where did those four go?” He recommends implementing a waste-tracking log. “Doing this will force you to take a deeper look at the cost of running your business.” 

“The only difference between a good restaurant and a great restaurant is consistency.”

3. Keep it Consistent

If your recipes are consistent, you’ll not only offer a better dining experience, but you can more accurately project your food costs and eliminate waste. There’s a quote from Thomas Keller that Ricky really likes. “The only difference between a good restaurant and a great restaurant is consistency.” “For example, you need to make sure that everyone on your staff makes your mashed potato recipe the same way,” Ricky explains. “If one person is adding two extra cups of cream and another is using cream cheese instead, you’re spending more money. Lock in your recipes, complete with their food costs, then train your staff to deliver them and you won’t end up with wildly fluctuating food costs.” 

More Sysco Tips and Tricks

for Inlander Restaurant Week

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Restaurant Week is always a hectic time, when your team is stretched in the front and back of house. A nationwide labor shortage and increases in minimum wage and employee benefits this year can add to the pressure, making saving time and labor in the kitchen even more critical to have a successful and profitable Restaurant Week and first quarter.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Restaurant Week Menu

You can begin uploading your Inlander Restaurant Week menu NOW. To have a super successful event that impacts your bottom line during Inlander Restaurant Week and beyond, Sysco Spokane’s Business Resource Consultant encourages you to ask these six questions.

Farm Fresh Spotlight: Sackmann Cattle Company

The Sackmann’s roots in Eastern Washington run deep, going back over a century. Owners Jeff and Jaime Sackmann both grew up on farming and ranching homesteads settled in the 1900’s. While ranching is in their blood, the Sackmann’s have continued to develop a contemporary, and successful breeding philosophy. Jaime holds a Masters Degree in Animal Science with an emphasis on ruminant nutrition and meat science.

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When you order Carlton Farms pork or beef, you’re ordering quality you can see and taste. What you’re also getting with each order is five decades of experience raising animals naturally and humanely– without hormones, animal proteins or growth accelerants.

A Better Bottom Line

Running a profitable restaurant has never been easy. And it’s not about to get any easier, as new wage and compensation laws kick in for Washington State. So how can your restaurant absorb higher labor costs?

“Keeping a close eye on your food cost is critical,” says Sysco Business Resource Consultant Ricky Webster. In our last Prep for Success newsletter, Ricky offered three tips to keep food costs down through inventory control, goal setting and consistency.

3 Reasons to start creating your Restaurant Week menu right now

We just made it through Thanksgiving. The Christmas season catering madness is about to start. But it is time to start thinking about your Inlander Restaurant Week menu. Here are three reasons to get started now, to make sure you have the most successful Restaurant Week possible.

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While Washington State may better known for its apples than its dairy farms, its milk producers are certainly worth celebrating. Royal Dairy, nestled in the Columbia Basin in Grant County is leading the nation with its commitment to becoming a zero-waste dairy.

Why Powerful Menu Descriptions Mean Profits

As you are putting the finishing touches on your Inlander Restaurant Week menu, make sure you pay as much attention to your written descriptions, as you do to developing the delicious dishes you’ll feature.

Research shows that a restaurant can increase sales by up to 30 percent just by utilizing enticing menu descriptions. Thirty percent! “Powerful descriptions are particularly important during a Restaurant Week promotion, because many diners are actively comparing your menu to other restaurants and selecting eateries solely based on menu offerings,”

Cashing in on Restaurant Week All Year Long

Tips for turning Restaurant Week customers into regulars

Research from Cake, a tech-solution division of Sysco, shows restaurants typically see a revenue boost of about 23 percent during an average Restaurant Week promotion. That can be a nice boost to your first quarter bottom line. Even better — how can you turn those first time customers into loyalists?

We asked Sysco Business Resource Consultant Ricky Webster for his tips for bringing those Inlander Restaurant Week customers back.

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