Chefs' menu design tips that could save you a fortune

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th September 2019

We all know the mantra championed by a certain supermarket -  that is, to paraphrase, every small saving goes a long way. 

The squeeze on restaurants and the wider hospitality industry is tighter than ever.

In such an uncertain economic climate, keeping to a small budget is crucial, and can mean the difference between being able to afford to pay staff, to invest in new equipment and even to expand - and having to close the doors. 

We asked chefs how they minimise their overheads and maximise their profits with thoughtful menu design. Here's what they said: 

Keep your menu small

A small menu means little room for waste. 

Keep track of your invoices 

seasonal veg

Seasonal, plant-based menus

can help you increase your margins

Check your orders - make sure nothing is missing, make sure you were charged the agreed price, and keep an eye on  fluctuating prices. 

Use seasonal produce 

Seasonal ingredients not only taste better, but they're better value, too. 

Embrace the nose-to-tail trend...

Buying whole animals not only brings your margins up, but it'll teach you a thing or two about using different cuts. If you're at a loss, contact a charcutier or another specialist and agree a deal with them to dispose of the bits you don't feel comfortable using. 

Another advantage of this is that you'll meet more interesting producers who may sell specialist breeds you can only get if you're willing to fork out on the whole beast. 

...And the vegetarian one 

Plant-based dishes are a great way of maximising margins. That doesn't mean a less exciting plate of food, you might just need to be more imaginative! 

It's fine if some dishes don't reach the right level of profit as long as you make up for them elsewhere

Customers will expect to pay a high price for monkfish, hand-dived scallops or a fillet of beef, so there's no need to avoid high-cost ingredients. 

Use the less glamorous parts like cheek and roe to create good value dishes like stews and ravioli. 

There's  no such thing as waste 

Odds and ends can always be used in other dishes - croquettes made from offcuts of ham, bone broth as a soup base -  or for staff meals. 

The complete nose to tail

Fergus Henderson's iconic

nose-to-tail book

If you're a tasting menu kind of place

Work out the price per head, the spend per head, and use that as a basis for your budget. That way, you're controlling the money coming in and the money going out. Simple. 

Secure your margins from day 1

A new kitchen team is bound to make mistakes and waste a little, plus you'll need to account for rising food costs, so you need to plan for this from the get-go. 

Don't be too greedy 

Although it's tough, respect what your customers see as good value and meet them halfway. If you're savvy with cost savings elsewhere, your food and drink margins can be reasonable, and you won't scare customers away. 

Menu design isn't everything 

As some of you suggested, other ways of saving costs can go a long way to improve your GP: minimising stationary, making sure you only have staff in when you need them - or indeed, hiding blue roll from the FOH team. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th September 2019

Chefs' menu design tips that could save you a fortune