This pandemic has shaken up restaurant operations forever. One of the biggest changes has been adapting our menus to do more with fewer ingredients, for cost-effective yet heavenly recipes.
This article isn’t just about adapting our menus to the limitations of the pandemic. Creating a versatile kitchen is a skill that will boost profitability and consistency for years to come, no matter what the future holds.
Here are the best ways to do more with fewer ingredients for a more versatile and cost-efficient menu.
- Choose signature ingredients to make multiple recipes pop
- Dress up menu items with bold and flavorful sauces
- Take a value cut and make it amazing
- Make the switch from fresh to frozen
- Practice dayparting to get the most out of your ingredients
- It’s all about the menu descriptions
Let’s go over the amazing benefits that come from creating versatile menus, then go into depth about the six techniques listed above. We’ll also throw in a few more ways to increase restaurant efficiency.
Advantages of Adapting Menus to Do More with Less
Mastering a versatile menu will boost restaurant success. Here are the advantages of switching up your menu to incorporate fewer ingredients.
- A menu small enough to fit on a phone is a significant advantage when customers are ordering delivery on their mobile devices. Plus, not overwhelming customers can often be a good thing. Let them focus on what you do best.
- Save time and money on training in diverse menu item preparation.
- Back of House will have fewer preparations to master.
- Having fewer menu items simplifies the entire process – reduce preparation, delivery and service times.
- During times of slower business, fewer offerings ensures that ingredients stay fresh. There is a reduced risk of spoilage because the menu does not include as many perishable inventory items.
- Storage needs for inventory are reduced, resulting in a streamlined restaurant design and reduced storage costs.
- By purchasing larger quantities of the same items instead of smaller quantities of more items, you may actually be able to negotiate and save money per-unit.
Of course, purchasing fewer ingredients is critical, especially in unpredictable times in the restaurant business – but fewer ingredients does not have to mean substandard fare.
If you’re considering cutting your menu down to your best, most versatile dishes, don’t hesitate. Some of the most successful restaurants and chains, including Olive Garden, have cut their menus down by up to 40%.
Taco Bell, McDonald’s, BJs, the list goes on… and these popular chains have not regretted decisions to cut back. They are masters of their recipes, and they are saving significant costs and prep time.
How to Make your Restaurant Menu More Versatile
How can you change up your menu without cutting down on quality? The key is choosing fewer ingredients that are still high-caliber, and focusing on those dishes that customers love and crave most.
First and foremost, narrow down your menu offerings to your best sellers. Beyond that first step, there other ways to increase your menu versatility and cost-efficiency. Here’s how to do it:
Choosing Signature Ingredients and Dishes to make Menu Pop
You need to select only the best, most versatile ingredients to bring into your kitchen. Choose high-quality stuff that goes far and is essential in your most popular dishes. For example:
- Stock Oaxaca cheese, which melts easily and tastes amazing, if you serve pizzas, sandwiches, and other meals that feature stretchy, melty cheese. Think about that dairy product that is going to make multiple menu items standout and taste incredible.
- Items like soups with bold flavors can be used in multiple dishes. For example, a tomato soup could stand on its own, or be used in a casserole, skillet or sauce.
- Grains, homemade or frozen, can be transformed from standard dinner rolls to cinnamon monkey bread to buttery cheeseburger sliders.
Consider what really makes your menu items standout. Consider quality, not just quantity, and not just price. It is possible that one product is cheaper, but it does not go as far as a higher-quality ingredient. You may end up buying three times more of the cheaper product to get the recipe just right.
Dress Up Menu Items with Bold and Flavorful Sauces
Signature sauces that can be used all over the menu to create specialty flavors for multiple dishes. Use Knorr sauces and customize with your own ingredients. These same sauces that are bold and flavored-forward can be used to dip, layer, share, or dribble to make more standard, less expensive ingredients more special.
Examples include Knorr Intense Flavors Chilli or Knorr Intense Flavors Deep Smoke. Transform anything like flatbreads, pizzas, salads and French fries with these little additions. This same concept could be applied to all kinds of toppings and flavorings like jams, nut butters, etc.
Take a Value Cut and Make it Amazing
Every chef and consumer see the wide disparity between meat prices depending on the cut, and of course, there’s a reason for that. On the other hand, you’re a great chef, and you can make even the inexpensive meats taste amazing with the right techniques. With more affordable meats, you can stretch your budget further for a more versatile menu.
- Chicken thighs can be made tender with innovative flavors like crispy honey soy chicken thighs or Caribbean Jerk Chicken Skewers
- Chuck roast is affordable and can go a long way, creating all kinds of innovative recipes like Philly cheesesteak sandwiches or French Dip sandwiches
- A flank steak can appeal to steak-lovers in flavorful recipes like Mexican Fajitas or Kabocha and Beef
With the right recipes, you can create recurring customer demand for these value cuts of meat, cutting your bill significantly over time.
It is also important to remember that prices on some meat cuts have changed over the years. For example, short ribs and chicken wings used to be some of the most affordable cuts out there, but they’re more popular and therefore much pricier nowadays.
Practice Dayparting to Get the Most Out of Your Ingredients
If your restaurant is open all day and serves two or three meals, you might use the same ingredients in different dayparts to make your consistency less obvious.
For example, the bacon and Cheddar on the breakfast sandwich can also become your double bacon burger in the evening. Reusing the same, signature ingredients that make your items mouthwatering time and time again.
It’s All About the Menu Descriptions
Remember that it’s all about the menu descriptions. There’s no need to focus on the cut of the meat if it isn’t filet mignon. Instead, do what you do best and emphasize the textures, tastes, senses, and overall experience of the food.
More Ways to Increase Restaurant EfficiencyIn addition to simplifying your menu, these are a few changes you might consider making to increase overall restaurant performance and customer satisfaction.
Back of House Modification
Mix up employee responsibilities
The Greene Turtle is a sports bar that decided to give managers and assistant managers the opportunity to cook. This allowed the leaders of the restaurant to get a feel for how the back-of-house operates, and the establishment saw a significant improvement in overall efficiency and communication. They now require all managers to log time on the cookline.
Utilize speed-scratch cooking processes This style minimizes labor costs and drives consistency. This means using ready-made, or convenience, products and adding fresh ingredients to round out the meal. Use versatile equipment, as well as save labor costs Versatile equipment means you can use less equipment and free up space in the kitchen. Some of these equipment items include steamers, egg stations, and toasters.
Conclusion: Ingredient Inventory is Everything
Remember, Chick-fil-A for example emphasizes the chicken sandwich, and almost all of its menu items revolve around its crisp, juicy and delicious peanut oil-fried chicken.
Building your business around just a few incredible menu items that customers can’t help but come back for is the key to a successful restaurant. Which dishes do you want to be known for?
One of the best ways to minimize costs and increase efficiency is by streamlining ingredient inventory. Giving customers too many options may actually pull the attention away from your true masterpieces.