If it has been more than four months since you calculated the cost of your menu items, you could be losing money – or an opportunity to make more of it. That’s according to Restaurant Owner, which shared these tips on squeezing profit from your menu: The volatility of food costs means an item on your menu could generate profit one quarter and loss the next. Knowing your menu cost can help you decide whether to adjust portion size, change side dishes or substitute ingredients. It also helps you readily identify escalating vendor costs so you can renegotiate or shop around without delay. Finally, knowing your costs helps you know where to focus promotions so you’re driving customers to the dishes that earn you the most money.
Does your menu harness the power of words?
Your menu should showcase your restaurant’s concept as well as guide your guests’ buying decisions. To help, Foodable recommends you choose menu language carefully. Omit words like “real,” “delicious” or “fresh” – they should be understood – and aim for words that help describe the food’s origins and treatment. Remember guests’ dietary preferences and make your menu easy to navigate for people with food allergies or other dietary constraints. If you don’t have set dishes for these guests, your menu can still state your chef is willing to work with a guest to create a suitable meal. Finally, be concise, providing a simple sentence to describe each menu item. That leaves some words for your server to use when describing your food to guests.
Employees prevail in lawsuit against Taco Bell
In a class-action lawsuit that took close to a decade to resolve, a California court ruled Taco Bell owes $500,000 to employees for unpaid lunch breaks between 2003 and 2007. Eater reports the case involved 134,000 employees who claimed the chain paid them for 30 minutes instead of an hour if they skipped their 30-minute meal breaks. They also accused the chain of withholding legally mandated break times. While the penalty will do little harm to a behemoth like Taco Bell, which reported more than $8 billion in U.S. sales in 2014, it should impact the chain’s policies for handling employee payments.
Composting mandate benefits Seattle several times over
Seattle’s mandatory composting program, launched in 2015, has helped restaurants reduce food waste, improve profits and build better relationships with the community. According to a Foodable report, restaurants that compost reduce their food waste by 30% or more. Because composting encourages operators to examine what they discard, it helps them see what foods most often go to waste so they can adjust their serving sizes and food orders accordingly. It also helps add to the story they tell customers, since restaurants that compost are often the same ones to offer local, sustainable food. The ordinance that ushered in the composting mandate passed easily in Seattle. Still, for the restaurants that have struggled to adopt the new measures, Seattle Public Utilities offers training and tools to help operators get started.
Help employees walk your talk
Your employees are the face of your brand. If your restaurant is focused on health and nutrition, your employees’ health can work to help – or harm – how customers perceive you. QSR reported on brands (Smoothie King and Wok Box are two) that have invested in employee health by hiring nutritionists to inspire healthy choices at work and elsewhere, partnering with local gyms to offer fitness benefits, scheduling daily walks, bikes or runs for staff, and sponsoring races or other fitness-themed events with employee participants. Smoothie King and Wok Box have employees who have lost weight and improved their health since joining the business, which they say reinforces the health of their products to customers.
France embraces the burger
American-style burgers have gone high-brow. They’re now the top-selling food item ordered in French restaurants, from quick-service chains up to white-tablecloth fine dining establishments, according to a new study by the food consultancy Gira Conseil. Burgers are served in 75% of French eateries and 80% of those businesses claim the burger is their most-ordered dish. Last year, the French ate 1.2 billion burgers, up 11% from the previous year.
Honor thy reservation
If your restaurant is plagued by guests who make reservations and don’t show up, you might appreciate one Australian restaurant operator who has taken to social media to shame the no-shows. Erez Gordon, the owner of Bishop Sessa in Sydney, started a Twitter campaign (#shownoshame) to call out the names of guests who did not honor their booking. He told Smart Company that if it’s okay for guests to air their opinions of restaurants online, it should be okay for restaurants to turn the tables. Though critics say his approach is extreme, it has decreased the number of parties who disregard a reservation and don’t call to cancel it. No-shows are a problem across the industry and can cost restaurants thousands of dollars per night.
New York restaurants are going to the dogs
New York City restaurant patios will likely get some new guests this spring. According to the Associated Press, the city’s health department announced new rules allowing dogs to be permitted to join their guardians when dining outdoors in the city. The dogs must be licensed, leashed and vaccinated against rabies. A state law passed in October granted municipalities rights to establish their own rules for dogs and outdoor dining. Restaurants may restrict dogs from their patios if they choose.
Restaurant trailblazer goes cashless
Sweetgreen, the fast-casual chain that has won praise for its sustainable ethos and progressive leadership philosophy, thinks cash may become obsolete for many businesses. As a test, it is limiting customer payments to credit cards or the restaurant’s app in some locations in the Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. areas. Restaurant Business says the chain hopes to expedite checkouts, streamline operations and be more sustainable. A sign in some locations says “forward-thinking businesses are
going cashless.” Before the restaurant makes the change permanent, it is inviting guests to email their comments about the experiment.
Does your technology comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?
If you’re adding technology to your restaurant – a new website, app or digital communications – ensure the disabled can access those tools. The National Restaurant Association reports restaurants have received letters from plaintiff law firms claiming their websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities. The Department of Justice has, thus far, provided little information about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to web accessibility, according to the association, though it has said it planned to set digital accessibility requirements for restaurants and other businesses covered by the ADA’s Title III by 2018. Despite the lack of requirements in place, the Department of Justice has entered into settlements with a number of businesses over the accessibility of their websites and mobile apps. It’s best to prepare now.