In the U.S. last year, inflation rose 7 percent — the fastest spike since 1982. This year, economists expect growth to level out at around 3 percent, with energy and food supplies behind the rise. While some of those inflated costs will be passed on to consumers, restaurant operators often hesitate to test the boundaries of what guests will pay at the risk of turning them off completely.
But there are ways to make inflated costs both less obvious and more palatable to guests – and you can reach out to Team Four for help in making adjustments within your operation if you need it. Start with a keen understanding of your menu cost. When you introduce new menu items, make sure they are profitable and feature them as repeat specials to test their popularity. If you have a popular dish whose main ingredient has suddenly become a lot more expensive or which suffers in quality when a substitute ingredient is used, swap the dish out altogether so your guests aren’t in the position of comparing today’s price with the price they paid for the exact item last week. If you have to increase prices, do so in several small increments scattered across your menu at different intervals.
There are also things you can do to enhance the perceived value of your menu and help guests connect with your values, like promoting local suppliers on your menu, website and social media, as well as ensuring any premium ingredients you use appear in prominent places on your menu (and aren’t lost in side dishes). You can also make your best guests feel special by surprising them with a treat now and then, whether it’s with a round of drinks, an appetizer or a dessert on the house.
Finally, watch your waste. Make sure you’re measuring food portions carefully and adjusting them as needed if guests are regularly leaving food on their plates. Are there food-preparation tasks that take too much of your staff’s time and could be replaced with speed-scratch or pre-portioned ingredients? Can you turn to tech tools to manage your waitlist, streamline your ordering or expedite the turning of tables? Speaking of tech, review your agreements with providers and ensure you’re not paying for features you’re not using – there may be an opportunity to renegotiate pricing.