If you have been following my blog, you will see some ideas on how restaurants can reduce their operating costs to offset some of the increased labor costs that will come with the increased minimum wage. Good news for the restaurant industry. The cost of one of your staple products is dropping. Coffee prices are being reduced by both mass distribution and premium brands alike. Switching to a premium brand like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts may also be a way to boost sales.
In 2012, prices rose for beef and veal, poultry, and fruit. Prices fell for pork, eggs, vegetables, and nonalcoholic beverages. For the remaining food categories, prices were unchanged for the most part.
What should we expect for 2013 food prices?
The Midwest drought has affected prices for corn and soybeans as well as other field crops which should, in turn, drive up for most animal-based food products due to higher feed prices. There will also be higher prices for cereals and bakery products but not for sugar, sweets and nonalcoholic beverages (soda and coffee).
Ingredients that will be more expensive
- Apples and other fresh fruit
- Fresh tomatoes
Ingredients that you should strive to use more of to reduce overall food costs
- Flank steak
- Fish and seafood
- Dairy and cheeses
- Potatoes and Sweet potatoes
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables
- Processed fruits and vegetables, especially frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes
- Brown rice
- Beans and legumes
- Whole wheat pasta
What you can do to contain food costs for your restaurant
Use your culinary creativity to find substitutions for your high priced ingredients. I have enjoyed some amazing salads recently, notably devoid of traditional tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Instead, with the high price of apples and other fresh fruits, I have noticed a stronger presence of desserts such as crème brulee, sabayon and coconut cream pie. I have also been delighted by filled cupcakes and chocolate desserts of all kinds.
Add a twist to a traditional comfort food. These foods are popular and tend to use simple, cost-effective ingredients. Add lobster to macaroni and cheese or create cheesey panninis featuring a scant amount of an upscale ingredient. Use trendy buzz words in your menu descriptions. Truffle oil, heirloom tomatoes and cedar plank salmon sound scrumptious.
Experiment with the use of reasonably priced ingredients. Mediterranean foods are rich in beans, pasta and leafy greens like Kale. They can be a delicious way to freshen up your menu, especially for reducing meat costs for entrees.
Spend an hour researching online. There are some great ideas you can experiment with. For example, foodie blogs and magazines suggest substituting pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds for pine nuts in pesto sauce. Frugal cooks suggest using chocolate chips or chocolate candy bars in place of baking chocolate. Retail promotions can reduce the price on high quality ingredient to encourage consumer sales. These same price reductions are not offered at the wholesale level.
I’d like to hear other ideas for containing costs and staying competitive. Share your tips and tricks to keep from raising menu prices so much you deter customers.