Food Cost-cutting Tricks from Insiders

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Joined Oct 28, 1999
Here's a fairly broad topic, but let's take a shot at it...
Does anybody have some unusual/unique food-cost cutting tricks/techniques/tools? What are you doing that is innovative to keep costs down without sacrificing quality?
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2000
buying the whole animal and breaking it down saves an incredible amount of money....leads to creative cooking too.

Finding my own wild mushrooms. Course that's seasonal and definately iffy on the morels. But I barter my cooking skills for morels from more seasoned hunters!!!
Chantrelles I can find on my own and generally have loads to share.
 

pete

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About a year and half ago we put a charcutiere (sp?) plate on our menu. It is a great way to use up all those little scraps of meat that you accumulate over time. We look at it as free money.
With our bread service we offer a condiment tray of 3 spreads. One used to be EV olive oil. Now I make my own jellies for it. I usually make a spicy red pepper jelly, or if making fruit jellies, I use frozen since you cook the fruits for a length of time. Not only is it cheaper to serve the jelly, the guests find it different and love it.
 
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I cut the stalks off broccoli and peel them for stir fries. I use the florets for a different recipe. I puree veggie scraps and/or bean scraps for dips. Buy grains, nuts, spices in bulk -- the price difference is incredible. Use concentrated tomato paste in a tube to add body and dimension to dishes without long cooking times. Use rice flour instead of more expensive arrowroot.

Buy organics through a co-op such as Purple Dragon in NJ. Always use leftover bread for another purpose - panzanella, bread crumbs, croutons etc.
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2000
I make strada with leftover bagels,
bananas foster from cut nanas...
hmmmmmm...make meragines when I make pastry cream
I also buy from organic coop and frontier spices in bulk.
years ago I made fruit leather from older fruit and made my own raisins
tried to make mango chutney but liked the stuff in the jar better
made jam liked mine better
mushroom stems into duxelle or stuffing

[ March 06, 2001: Message edited by: shroomgirl ]
 
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`I make bread pudding using leftover breakfast pastries

[ March 12, 2001: Message edited by: Nicko ]
 

nicko

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Originally we used to buy smoked salmon, I got tired of the high cost and started buying whole salmon and, cured and smoked my own. It was great fun, and the taste was so fresh.

When I was working at a brewery we used to use all of the leftover beer to marinate our brats.
 

pete

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If you have a chicken breast on the menu, stop buying the breasts. Buy whole chickens. The carcasses can be used for stocks, and the rest of the meat can be used for stews, chicken salad, or fillings for all sorts of things. This carries over into most meat items you buy. The less it is handled by the butcher, the less it will cost you. If you can use the scraps in creative ways, then it is cheaper to buy it that way.
 

nicko

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I think it is obvious that any time you can cut your own whether it is meat, chicken or fish you save money. In smoking my own salmon I would buy the whole fish and the scraps were used for a pasta dish or a mousse.

I think what the Jim is asking is do you have any unique ideas for saving money? One example would be a Chef David Burke of the Park Avenue Cafe and his famous swordfish chop. A piece of the sword fish that was hardly if ever used by anyone became his signature dish and made him a lot of money.
 
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Just a few ideas at this time - Once skinning a salmon while making a tomato confit i had the urge to throw the skin into the already flavorsome olive oil. Marvelous -the sking cooked slowly inside extravirgin olive oil with plum tomatoes whole garlic cloves, fresh wild tyme(Persien ZaAtar) s bit of suger. Wow. It got bulky and bacame a dish on it's own. The japanese deep fry the slamon skin for sushis but i don't know the exact method.
Also carpscios from leftover meat/fish scraps. Take the fish meat left on the bone -mkae a tartar.
 
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I priced um out and the bought blintzs were cheaper and really good....Cohen/Wilton
with labor costs and the quality I'll continue to use um....there's a case of pre made item being cheaper than scratch....pretty unusual for me to use "store bought"
 
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Inventive chefs will find a way to make a dish out of scraps, but my favorite is the cost-cutting measure forced on us by management- I call it The Thirty Percent Less Syndrome and it's where the boss comes running into the kitchen in a panic and screams "Make all the portions 30% smaller. We're losing money on everything!" This is how you wind up serving 3 oz of veal scallopini that you already sliced off a 38lb on the bone leg of plume de veau. This happened 25 years ago- does anybody break down their own veal anymore?
 
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thebighat..
I do,and every other primal or sub primal piece I order. I save a minamum of 35% by breaking down my own meats,poultry and fin and scale fish.1 braclet of veal will give you 10 different applications...but buying pc foods leave you only one.Now, there is labor cost you need to attach to the bottom line..this skill is not possessed by most "line cooks" But the cost divided by labor is definatly worthwhile. especially when you understand the money that can be made of a leg of veal opposed to a top round of veal.I think the most important thing to understand is how to balance your menu as far as cost per plate.Most can't serve foie Gras,caviar,saffron,lobster,prime meats etc,on the same menu and charge x amount and hope to make money...But If you cost out your recipes and take atvantage of the seasons you can make things work. Balance,Balance,balance.
It's not always about the food,Look into your beverage program,paper goods,cleaning supplies etc.I use 1500 cs of evian water a year over 30 cs a week..I put them on our refreahment areas with tons of other goodies (everything is all inclusive)I buy it through 3 venders who compete for the buisness. Well along came dazani water 5.99 a cs opposed to 13.99-14.50 well guess what I just saved myself over $12.000.00 a year just buy switching water, and the customers love it. Just an example.
cc
 
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Joined Jun 9, 2001
this is a topic that needs more ideas. you either make it or brake it with food cost. here is my 2 cents:

soups: they are the basis for utalization in kitchens. dont think of throwing anything away until you think of using it in your soup first

stocks/broths: making stocks and broths, i think, is the most important thing in a restaraunt or hotel, not only for the quility that it brings but you can utalize alot of things and put them inside your stock or broths. if you have bones, you can make that stock and before you throw those bones away, make a remoulage (sp?)

speicals: this is very important to move iteams that are not selling so well.

menues: when you make a menue, i think that it is important to utalize things. incorperate dishes that use one or more of the ingrdetns in other dishs

pates and terrines: this is good for meats and fish and veggies that arnt moving so well. use these and make an app or something.

butchering: as said before, butchering is very important. you pay so much to get things broken down. do it yourself and utalize the bones and scraps. NO WASTE.

growing herbs: grow your own herbs and veggies. as around to other emplyees and see what they grow

cook within the seasons: why buy pineapple when it is not in season? it will cost you an arm and a leg, plus the flavor will **** . buy within the season and it will be cheaper.

change menues often: this will ensure that the iteams not seelign will be deleted from the menue.

monitor price changes: i think the worst idea is to have one vender. i think it is important to have a few of them. this will allowyou to compare costs

monitor the loading dock: it is important that you check in the order right. weigh everythingf and make sure the proce matches the recpiet. this will allow you to refuse bad produce, ect. it will save you a lot of money in the long run.

monitor what is coming back: monitor that plates that are coming back and see what people are not eating. this will allow you to deleate iteams that are justing being wasted.

monitor the garbage: take a look on what emplyees are throwing away. most people dont really care if they waste things but it iwll add up

have stander recipes: this is really important. if one person is using a cup of somethign and the other is usiing 2 cups of something when they shouls be actually using 2 T then that is money down the drain.

monitor your staff: this goes for the front and back of the house. in the back, monitor what they are doing and wasting. also monitor what they are eating. if they are making steak for themselves every night then that is money out the door. watch the front of the house and see wha they are eating and drinking. pop even costs money.

when slow, let people go: when it is a slow night, let people go home early. you dont want to pay them for doing nothing. send them home.

watch the time cards: some employees are sneaky (like me) and will come in early and go home late. that means extra overtime. watch the time cards.

lower end iteams: it might be useful to have lower end iteams like a pasta in which you can use those left over veggies for.

portion control: watch this closely. it will make or brake you.

wheel and deal: most of the time, if you shop at the farmer markets, you can wheel and deal and get lower prices. you might want to try this.


hope this helps.
 

kuan

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Most chefs can keep a handle on food costs. Many managers can also keep labor costs to right around target. FWIW, I've never had our in house PnL's agree with corporate, I'm sure many of you would agree as well. A charcuterie "department" works well if you have the proper staff and restaurant (read hotel). The bulk of us have to work with mediocre low paid staff and a fairly unenlightened management team.

Depending on the type of operation, you can save $$ by bidding on the top 10 items. If half your food cost is beef and you spend 120k a year on PSMO's then by George you better be bidding on beef. A lot of people try to belittle you by saying that's a rookie thing to do and more experienced managers don't need to do that kind of thing, but trust me, it works.

So get the top 10 items which make up the bulk of your purchases, make a grid with the supplier's names and make them do work for your business!

Kuan
 
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I'm not sure if this was the post you referenced Kuan but it did give me a wealth of information on controling food costs. Now if someone could start a thread on the management side of the restaurant biz....or maybe I shall compose a question. Hmmmm..... :)

Jodi
 
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I am very fortunate in the area of money ie food costs , labor costs and supplies . I was trained by Swiss and German chefs and this part of the business was hammered into my head so as to be second nature . For food I find it very simple , use the real thing , fresh and at its best and cheapest . The less you use of convienience items the better the food and the lower the costs .
Each property you work at will have different storage , and different equipment . Do the most you can with what you have got . Also Train your staff to take care of proper storage and rotation , this will save waste from spoilage . Last and not least , give the back of the house employees a meal and the leftover scraps at the end of the shift . This will save you from theft .
Of course these are just my opinions but I have found them to be usefull . Doug ......................:chef:
 
1,908
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Joined Oct 28, 1999
Great input! So now, especially with Isaac's voluminous listing, where do we all draw the line between the teatering scale of balancing food cost vs. labor cost? For instance, butchering meats... do we pay somebody 'x' dollars per hour (plus benefits, etc) or do we buy meat cuts fabricated? Or chicken base vs. scratch chicken stock? Certainly there is a quality trade-off, but dollars are dollars, at least to the 'higher-ups'.
 
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Joined Jun 9, 2001
well, i think it all depends on what sorta restaurant you are working at. if it is a place that can afford labor, then more power to ya.

see, i look at it like this.... when i worked at a small restuarant, we bought our meet and broke them down. now, if you think about it, it was a small place which menas only like 2 people in the back of the house. so if we were to hire an extra person, we would actually be wasting money. why? becasue yo uare just not paying your employees a certain wage... you are paying for a lot of other things through paperwork, time, training, etc. HOWEVER... when i worked at a hotel, we had the staff and the money to make our own things from scratch like braking primals down, making stocks, etc.

so there IS room for convience iteams taking into consideration the type of place you working... if you CAN afford the labor or not.

even at the hotel, i saw a lot of things being waster or that could be utalized. its a scary thing really once you think about it. i remember in school when we learned to fill out the P and L statement and figuring out the bottom line and it wasent much at all. TO MAKE A PROFIT IN THIS BUISINESS... WE CAN NOT WASTE A THING. it IS a strugle... heck... it is up road battle.
 
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When I was growing up, the rumors were that applesauce was added to the ketchup and TVP to the hamburger in the school cafeteria....

:p

Where I work, we use the freezer a lot. This way the labor cost doesnt' go up necessarily, if business is slow you can do a lot of backup (cakes, pie crusts, pies) and not have to work longer on busy days.

Not innovative, but I thought the applesauce idea was. Can applesauce truly be cheaper than ketchup?

~~Shimmer~~
 

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