When there are changes to be made in your restaurant, you can always choose the upward or downward spiral. The fact that the change has to be made isn’t going to go away – your job is to simply make the best of the situation.
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There’s a point in every business where we get comfortable within our restaurant. We get good at what we’re doing and then just let it coast because we have so many things we have to do. You might have made a few tweaks to your menu, you’re happy with how it’s being executed, and then you start to worry about some other things happening in your restaurant because that’s where your attention is now focused.
Sooner or later, it’s going to hit you like a ton of bricks. Your food cost might get out of control or your customers stop coming in as much. You’ve become complacent. You’ve been raising prices, keeping up with new trends, but truthfully you’ve just coasted along. Then you’re hit with a food cost issue.
More often than not, this is what happens even if it’s not something we do intentionally. We cut corners, get more careful with or even cut back on portioning, find cheaper ingredients, change your ingredients .. but then your customers notice. Even if they can’t put their finger on the exact change, they know something is not the same.
I was working at a really high end Mexican restaurant where we used cheese that was four dollars a pound – it was actually more expensive than any protein that we purchased at the restaurant. This cheese was totally worth the price – it held up really well, never separated .. it was just a really delicious cheddar cheese. When they stopped working with me, they changed their cheese.
One day I get a phone call from someone who used to eat at the restaurant all the time. They told me they would buy their enchiladas but they’re not as good anymore. This person had taken one home and put it in their fridge and said that the cheese did some weird thing in the fridge.
While they didn’t know exactly what was different about the food from the restaurant, they definitely knew that it was something and they weren’t happy with it and simply didn’t like the restaurant anymore.
Imagine, if that one person who decided to call me and tell me the story .. how many other people were out there experiencing the exact same thing. How do I know? Because the restaurant went out of business 3 months later. They made a seemingly simple change which affected their customer’s satisfaction which affected the number of people who showed up at the restaurant. Once that happens, you have to start focusing more on marketing so you ignore the operations of the restaurant. While you’re spending a ton of money on new marketing, you can afford to hire the staff that you need … it’s a downward spiral that you can’t control.
THE UPWARD SPIRAL
Here’s a thought. When you find out that you have a food cost issue, double down on it. Go to a better quality product. Call your vendors and tell them that you won’t pay more than a certain amount but you want a product that’s the same or better than what you’re using now. Have them bring you six different cheeses to test.
When we weren’t able to work with a vendor anymore at our pizza restaurant, we had to change cheese providers because this specialty cheese we had only came from that one vendor. While others were saying it was OK because everyone uses THIS cheese without any problems, I didn’t stop there. I asked them to bring that plus five other cheese that were more and less expensive. When they brought them in, we made pizzas and found the two that we really liked on the pizza when it was hot. But since we were a “pizza by the slice” restaurant, our pizzas sat for an hour under heat lamps. So we reheated the pizzas and tested it that way. The next test was putting the pizza in the fridge overnight and testing it again the next morning. One cheese stood out but it was more expensive than what we were paying for the other so we went to the vendor and told them that we wanted this particular cheese at this particular price.
It took a bit of negotiating but the vendor finally said that if we agreed to buy this cheese from them for a period of a year in a specific quantity they would lock in that price for us, and if the price went down, they’d pass along those savings too.
That’s the upward spiral.
Whenever you need to make a change in your restaurant, choose the high ground .. the upward spiral. If customers aren’t coming in then come up with new things for your menu, increase the food quality, let people have an amazing experience in your restaurant and tell the whole world. When you operate the best restaurant, you don’t need to worry about marketing.
Your Next Step
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