Sticker Shock!

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by durangojo, Jun 27, 2011.

  1. durangojo

    durangojo

    Messages:
    2,171
    Likes Received:
    89
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    this is my 'fetal monday' so i won't be long here, but okay, it's a rant...induldge me.

    i feel like every time i order i'm getting sucker punched, thrown under the bus and tatooed with a big L on my forehead. even at the wholesale level, especially at the wholesale level, food prices are totally out of whack. having been busy with parties the last month we got the restaurant opened 2 weeks ago with a 'soft' menu to try out new menu items, prices and get responses before settling on a final menu. across the board food prices on everything are up...somewhat expected, but not to this degree. the suppliers sugarcoat it and cry winter freezes, fuel increases, supply and demand, but it is pure and simple price gouging. meats and seafood up 3 to 4 bucks a pound, dairy off the charts, and what's up with oil? the $10 gallon of 75/25 blended oil last year now costs $23. pine nuts 5#...$121...okay halibuts $18 a lb, i'll use something else, organic salmon $12 a lb, i'll use atlantic, tuna $14 a lb,i'll cut  smaller portions... pine nuts, shaved parm and aged gorgonzola are out. i feel like i'm  getting pimped every time i order, and now besides being fed up, i'm angry. everything trickles down, but the customer cannot be expected to pay for everything! seems like the little guys just aren't that important...it's us little guys that gives people dining choices as opposed to just eating the circus food that large formula restaurants put out. how are we expected to make a living, which we are all entitled to, stay in business and keep our cutomers returning? it's no wonder that high end restaurants are closing down to reopen as scaled down simplier menus and prices. i have been a loyal customer for 19 years and in fact for a 5 year stint was ordering for 2 restaurants i owned simultaneously...still no price break. i blame the food suppliers system of bonus rewards for higher sales...sell more, get a caribbean cruise, a fishing trip to the bahamas, a european vacation...at who's expense? you know the food pimps aren' paying for it...we are...then with trickle down, the customer is...Dylan sang,"don't think twice it's alright"...i sing, think twice, it ain't alright.

    so what do we do?...i see the choices as:

    ~ downsize portion sizes...prices stay the same

    ~ keep portion size....raise prices

    ~ take item off the menu

    ~ close your door

    ~ move to a monestary

    what do/have you done?

    okay, rant over

    joey
     
  2. thetincook

    thetincook

    Messages:
    1,103
    Likes Received:
    29
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Well... I wouldn't cry price gouging. We're in a period of high inflation, high energy prices, iffy governmental policy*, rise of food competition,  and loss of food production.

    So, the big thing is to evaluate your purchasing strategy. Aside from the usual rebid more frequently and working the rep harder. Use fewer suppliers, order less frequently, and take advantage of early payment discounts are the three things that most operations don't do.

    You might also examine if cash and carry for some or all of your items would be a good fit for your operation.

    Have you done your menu analysis yet? I like starting with the BCG method if the menu items have been in service for a while http://knifesedge.typepad.com/knifes_edgerestaurant_ran/2005/06/stars_puzzles_p.html

    *Seriously. The Fed classified milk and butterfat as a hazardous substance, so dairy producers have to build special containment levies and lagoons, etc. What do you think that's going to do to the price of butter?
     
  3. chefedb

    chefedb

    Messages:
    5,516
    Likes Received:
    177
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    In many cases it is cheaper to buy in a place like Costco plus you don't tie up all your cash in inventory. You can buy 2 or 3 items rather then cases, that sit on shelf. Play hardball with purveyors, play one against the other. Check out alternate lower cost entrees, introduce new dishes and ideas. Try not to over produce. Limited menu, where you can buy your big sellers in volume and demand a good price from purveyor. Increase vege and starch portion and cut don steak an ounce. Serve filling bread, it fills them up.Make most things from scratch its, cheaper and better.
     
  4. thetincook

    thetincook

    Messages:
    1,103
    Likes Received:
    29
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    You might also check out no roll beef for some applications.

    Lol at serving bread. Make sure you stuff them AFTER they order.

    Think limited menus are trending right now?
     
  5. left4bread

    left4bread

    Messages:
    406
    Likes Received:
    28
    Exp:
    mgmt
    Me? 

    I'm:

    ~downsizing potions...prices stay the same

    ~cutting use of dairy products

    ~using canola oil instead of blend (for cooking)

    ~aggressively sourcing proteins (without quality suffering)

    ~insisting on a scale being used/portion control

    ~taking chef jackets and towels home for laundering

    ~watching in house sales trends

    ~using cheaper cuts of beef (as in, the "add steak" to salad is primal sirloin, not strip loin)

    ~actually lowering the prices on some menu items, bigger gross profit items.  not sure it'll work.

    ~labor: sending everyone home early and struggling to get stuff done.

    But yeah, prices are effed.  Cutting corners without damaging quality... it's not easy.
     
  6. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    In many cases it is cheaper to buy in a place like Costco

    Not just the warehouses, Ed. Sometimes it's actually less expensive buying from regular supermarkets than from purveyors. I see this all the time with small restaurant owners, but the real shocker was when I ran into the owner of a local barbecue joint who buys virtually all his pork products in the supermarket, "because the prices are much better."

    There are all sorts of possible explanations for that. But the simple fact is, when a retailor can sell an item at a lower price than a wholesaler, sumpin ain't right!
     
  7. rgm2

    rgm2

    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    sounds to me like the purveyors are following in the foot steps of the oil companies and everyone else. They mark things up based on %. If the formula for a restaurant is 300% of the food cost, then your prices will go up 3 times as much dollar for dollar. I am pretty sure they follow the same type of formula. And you will pay it because you have no choice. Restaurant owners/managers are going to have to be much smarter and better when it comes to advertising. You will have to pay closer attention to what your customer base is wanting, not really what you want to do. Your customers will pay more if they are getting what they want. If it wasn't true then Ruth Chris would not be able to stay in business when Applebee's has $10 steaks. It all comes down to paying attention to your target market. If you have the best Mac & Cheese and they want that, they will pay for it. Being a new place, you are most likely going to have to be stronger in the marketing department than other places, but you have the fact that you are new going for you! take advantage of that and make the most of it. Smaller menu and amazing chef specials. People will pay more for specials than they do for the regular food items, I see it at work every day. It truly amazes me how it works. 

    Good Luck!
     
  8. durangojo

    durangojo

    Messages:
    2,171
    Likes Received:
    89
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    RGM2,

     i'm not a new restaurant, just a seasonal one.....this is summer season #19.....we are an historic boathouse on a high mountain lake in southwest colorado. we don't advertise at all. we turn away 20 to 30 guests a night and serve somewhere between 50 and 80, which is plenty for me. most of our customers are local...it is not a tourist place, which may help to account for us being so busy. plus, we are only open 4 nights a week and catering parties on nights we are closed is huge....our customers have the means to pay for anything and they are willing to really...the point is why shoud they be made to pay these absurd prices and i really don't want them to feel that they are being gouged as well.... just made up the new menu yesterday and downsized our 8 oz filet to 6 oz, 10 oz flatiron to 8, using 16/20 shrimp from U15's, smaller tuna portion, smaller lamb portion, no pine nuts, pistachios or shaved parm... i  pretty much  make everything i can...all the desserts, sauces, dressings, soups, chowders ,laz, meatloaf etc. not much canned or frozen...i buy artisanal bread from a local baker for $3 a loaf, but that's what i pay through a wholesaler and it's a much better product....organic produce from local farmers, but ky is right....often the supermarkets have lower prices on lots of things....but then i gotta take the time to go shopping and it's a 50 mile round trip, plus shopping time....one question, if, as the purveyors say, it's the fuel costs that is one of the culprits for higher prices, wouldn't it reflect in the grocery stores as well? they( purveyors) are just crooks...thanks all for the ears, the advice, and the opinions...

    joey

    oh ed, meant to add that the closest costco is four hours away in albuquerque!
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011
  9. thetincook

    thetincook

    Messages:
    1,103
    Likes Received:
    29
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Quote:
    Nice problem to have! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif
     

    Just a curious question since I don't have any experience with seasonal restaurants, but if your clientele is heavily local, aren't you leaving a lot of business on the table during the off season? Weather too bad?

    PS, picked up some pistachios from one of my local markets for 3.49/lb roasted/salted/unshelled.
     
  10. durangojo

    durangojo

    Messages:
    2,171
    Likes Received:
    89
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    shelled pistachios here, $16/lb......

    the restaurant is about 4 miles off the highway at 8500 feet in the colorado rockies.....its not a maintained road in the winter, the boathouse has no heating and the lake is frozen... for the most part most this is a second or third home  for our local clientele...yeah, why advertise...all you do is answer the phone to turn even more people away....then they get real pissy!

    joey
     
  11. thetincook

    thetincook

    Messages:
    1,103
    Likes Received:
    29
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Woah, neat set up.

    What do you guys do in the off season? I read how back in the day the crews of NYC restaurants like Pavilion and Colony would migrate to restaurants in the Hamptons to follow their clientele.
     
  12. fzeciri

    fzeciri

    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Owner/Operator
    Whew glad I'm not the only one that gets a headache every week buying food.  I actually buy half of my food from Sam's Club and the other half from US Foods.  A lot of my bread that I just use for breakfast toast I get from a cheap local grocery store for about 70 cents a loaf, instead of 2 dollars a loaf from US Foods.  It's cheaper for me to buy ham at walmart than anywhere else... It just doesn't make sense.  I was complaining to an old family friend a few weeks ago about prices (he works for a midwest supply company called Hawkeye Foods) - he said, as a salesman, he's allowed to increase prices by 30percent for his commission alone... that's ridiculous, however when you purchase online the rates are significantly lower.

    So I set up an account online with US Foods and do all my ordering through the net now, no more salesman in every week.  Of a typical 800 dollar invoice I'm now closer to 700, sometimes 600.

    I know my place isn't a high end place having to deal with fresh salmon, tuna, etc... so maybe my experiences wouldn't work the same as a mom and pop place. 
     
  13. chefedb

    chefedb

    Messages:
    5,516
    Likes Received:
    177
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    KY Agreed supermarkets are cheaper on many occassions.
     
  14. rgm2

    rgm2

    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    So here is my question... have you asked your customers what they think is a better option for them? Smaller portion or a pay hike for the current size? Has anyone ever done a larger and smaller portion on the menu? How did it turn out? Demographics plays a huge part in marketing. I feel your pain. It really comes down to choices. Some people do not feel like they have "gotten their moneys worth" unless they get a 24 ouch porterhouse and throw the other 2/3 of the steak in the garbage or fed it to their dog. 

    You know your customer base better than I do. I know a lot of people that would rather have leftovers the next day because your food is so amazing. It is a really tough call. Good Luck Joey
     
  15. fishinchef

    fishinchef

    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I've been having the same problems mentioned above.  Between the fuel prices, value of the dollar, and weather conditions it's been rough.  Supplies are always up and down but the increase of staple foods is what caught my attention as different. For my demographic it's important to have options.  I try to keep the menu a decent mix in both size and price structure.  I'll sell lots of the cheaper stuff during the week and high end entrees all weekend long.  But honestly my new menu changes are totally price/cost related. 
     
  16. durangojo

    durangojo

    Messages:
    2,171
    Likes Received:
    89
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    one big problem with us is that we are located 25 miles outside of town and between 3 mountain passes so we are already the problem stepchild. they have us by the short hairs so to speak and know it because we just can't cruise into town to shop as it takes up most of a day...a prep day that i don't have to give up. i do go into town one day a week  to shop and go to the farmers market as i don't have the cooler/freezer/storage space  to store whole cases of every single thing we need. i do get tax exempt sales at the stores so that helps but it comes down to the time factor..what are you willing to pay for to get it to your place? even bigger bugger is when something MAJOR is shorted on the truck and you can't even get it in town, or if you could would be just too cost prohibitive...now, here you sit with full bookings all weekend and are out of filet or ahi...lose, lose situation...customer being denied, waitstaff makes less tips on a high end items, less revunue for the house...aargh! oh yeah, on more than one occasion i have told the sales rep that i didn't care if they haad to buy and butcher the cow themself, i wanted my meat.....in the end i got it...sometimes! 

    as to what i do in the winter, well sadly i cannot afford not to work so i do different gigs mostly in warmer climes...cooking on boats in the bahamas, dude ranches in arizona, premier mountain restaurants at ski resorts and just this past winter cheffin at a small 'boutique' guest ranch in southeast arizona......oh yeah, it keeps me hoppin for sure....somewhere in there i'm sure there's therapy needed for all this....

    joey
     
  17. durangojo

    durangojo

    Messages:
    2,171
    Likes Received:
    89
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    okay, last rant...

    guess the real kick in the pants here for me is trust, or lack of it. back in the day it used to be that you could trust your sales rep to inform you of new products, price changes, to get you the best price they could and in general to have your back. now, they do none of that...they are merely order takers. it is a struggle/juggle to be a good steward, to serve your customers a good meal at a fair price...not an overpriced good meal...that's easy!  i can only hope that when these reps are on their caribbean cruises slurping down supersized 'sex on the beach' umbrella drinks with abandon, that they realize they got there not by stepping up on the backs of the little guys, but by crushing them...again a sad reminder that we are not the planet's finest species. meanwhile, since i don't grow my own vegetables, raise my own cattle or lambs or chickens, and don't catch my own fish, i will continue to rock on......hmmmm, maybe my next restaurant should be a true 'farm to table' place. a cafe next to a farm where i only serve what i can grow or raise...."harvest grille"...i like it!...

    joey
     
  18. foodpump

    foodpump

    Messages:
    5,007
    Likes Received:
    560
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    Sales reps????  Trust?

    I do a lot of business with one large pastry supplier, he comes in once a year to drop off a claender and tells me what has went up.  Past tense, went up.  Pehaps I don't know?  Supplier puts opn a large pastry and chocolate show, bring in big name Chefs , I get no word of it through the supplier, but through my friends.  I call up, make my reservations, smile at the  rep when I walk in, and darned if I didn't get the half of the prizes given out during that show. 

    Since the last 15 years I'e been running my own business.  Most purveyors fobb off the newbie sales reps on the small independant guys, to train them up.  Yo tell them why the "new" chicken is a bit cheaper than real chicken, well, if it's 18% pump it should be, but I don't buy that garbage.i  What's pump?  Oh dear.  How to read a Julien code. 

    Want to save some money?  It'll cost you in the short term, but pay off big in the long term, 

    - Build a shed and buy in spuds and onions, they'll keep well. 

    -Pop up a remote 6 x 6 walk-in freezer and buy in large quantities,

    -get in uht milk and cream for the longer shelf life

    -get in frozen raw dough and proof and bake your own breads.

    -buy in local fruits and vegetables.  Freeze, dry, pickle, and cure. 

    Yes it's labour, but it's your labour and you're not waiting with bated breath for the delivery truck  wondeing how you'lll get screwed if  some bigger account wants the items you ordered.

    One way or the other it'll cost
     
  19. durangojo

    durangojo

    Messages:
    2,171
    Likes Received:
    89
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    thanks foodpump for taking the time...i do buy local fruits, vegetables, cheeses and some meats..i buy bread from a local bakery because i like to help support community businesses....i don't believe i've ever seen or heard of uht heavy cream, but i will look into it....i do use quite a lot of cream for clam and green chile corn chowder menu items...and at $20 a gallon it certainly adds up. where would i find that exactly? walmart? thanks

    joey
     
  20. foodpump

    foodpump

    Messages:
    5,007
    Likes Received:
    560
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    Doubt it, but then I've never actually been in a mall-wart neither./img/vbsmilies/smilies/smiles.gif

    You should be congratulated and praised for buying locally.  Not only smart, but supporting the community and financially smart as well.

    I have some luxuries you don't have, as I am in the middle of a large city, and I can choose whomever I want to.

    Stopped catering 4 years  ago and am now concentrating soley on chocolate and pastry.  Go through a lot of chocolate, some months as much as 200 kilos, and before I wised up, I was buying in only weekly or monthy quantities.  For a staple like chocolate, this is a big no-no, and the purveyors saw my big, red, shiny butt sticking out.  Prices would fluctuate like crazy, purveyor's B.S. would flow like water. 

    Like I said, I finally wised up and bit the bullet. Dealt direct with the head office in Toronto and am now buying in 6 mth quantities.  Rented storage space specifically for this too.  It is a financial burden, buying in such large quantities but the benifits are pretty good.  For one thing, I'm not paying the purveyor's prices, my prices stay very stable with the mnfctr in Switzerland informing in advance of any price changes, so I can buffer myself a bit before th prices do change