Cut costs and increase revenue: tips for restaurant owners

Quote & Buy

Cut costs and increase revenue: tips for restaurant owners

Sometimes in the restaurant business, it can seem like there are far more ways to spend money than save it. However, there are opportunities for your business to cut costs and maximise profits by reviewing how you plan your menu, train your staff, invest in infrastructure and interact with customers.

Featuring seasonal produce in your menu not only saves you money but can also be a great selling point.

Menu: Keep it short, sweet and seasonal

Feature seasonal vegetables in your menu; for example, leeks and spinach are best in autumn but zucchini, broad beans and asparagus are winners in springi. Using seasonal vegetables can save you money, and increase your marketability; advertise dishes like warm, hearty soup made from seasonal pumpkin in winter, or cooling sorbet made with fresh mangoes in summer. Similarly, using local produce can save on cost in some cases and also be a selling point.

You can often achieve great results with lower cuts of meat; for example, use topside instead of sirloin to make a melt-in-your-mouth roast with a longer, lower oven time. Make as much as possible in-house rather than buying from suppliers; use off peak times to prepare demi sauces and tomato based sauces which are both delicious and cost effective.

Buying in bulk can offer big savings, but only if you can store the food so it won't spoil. Food wastage is one of the biggest challenges for restaurants, so by periodically tracking which dishes aren't selling well and trimming the menu accordingly, you can cut down on food spoilage costsii.

Staff: Hire attitude - you can train skills

Experience and qualifications are always important when you're hiring staff, however, it could be an advantage to look for the right attitudeiii and motivation as one of the main selection criteria. If you shortlist by experience first, you may pass over terrific individuals who could make a great contribution to your business. To build a good restaurant, you need both front of house and back of house staff with a good attitude to service - people who are customer focussed, adaptable, honest and loyal. If such individuals apply, are qualified and, even better, are experienced, then you are off to a good start.

If you are worried about spending money on training staff who might leave your business, consider the old management response to this concern: what happens if you don't train staff and they stay? Set high standards in personal presentation and food and equipment handling; you'll attract and keep the sort of people to build your business.

Infrastructure: It's meant to help, not get in the way

Invest in infrastructure which is user friendly and efficient. Make sure that equipment is available, safe to use, serviced and fully operational. Pay attention to ensuring that your fridges, cookers, cutting and mixing appliances are well maintained. It's also important that the dishwashers, garbage disposal and grease traps are in good working order because if something makes it difficult for a staff member to do a job correctly, it can have a negative impact on your operations, and decrease productivity.

In the long run, it can be worth the trouble to install movement sensors to switch on lightsiv in fridges, larders and other intermittently used areas. Timers can be installed to shut down equipment like griddles, warmers, convection ovens and other equipment which is frequently forgotten after a busy session, helping you to save electricity costs.

Learn what your customers want and focus your menu around that.

Clientele: Keep in touch with today's customers

Sydney restaurateur Neil Mirani advises restaurateurs to know what current dining trends are and adapt your menu accordingly.

"Customers love being offered sharing plates for all courses", he says. "It creates a relaxed atmosphere that groups want to return to."

Learn what your customers want and focus your menu around that. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can provide invaluable customer feedback and also an opportunity to reach many more customersv.

Environment: It's easy being green

Look after the environment; have organised recycling bins, serviced grease traps and water saving devices installed. Provide staff training and information to support this and tell your customers about your efforts on social media. With only a few "green" practices, you can reduce your restaurant's environmental footprint, and also save money on energy costs. According to Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA), initiatives supporting sustainable practices can also help set your restaurant apart from the competition, improve staff morale, and increase customer loyaltyvi.

iSydney Markets, Info on Produce - Seasonal Guide, viewed 24 May 2014,

iiMealey L, '10 Ways to Save Money at Your Restaurant',, viewed 29 May 2014,

iiiTaylor B 2011, 'Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill', Harvard Business Review, viewed 24 May 2014,

ivVandersteen J, 'Commercial use of motion detection light switches', Houston Chronicle, viewed 24 May 2014,

vBusiness Victoria, Social media marketing for small business, viewed 24 May 2014,

viRestaurant and Catering Australia, Environmental Sustainability - Green Table, viewed 24 May 2014,