The 2 fastest-growing menu items over the last five years

A survey released by the marketing firm NPD Group shows that over the past five years, breakfast accounted for 60% of the U.S. restaurant industry traffic growth and continues to be a bright spot. In fact the two menu items that had the biggest growth are both items that bars could easily offer, even if not serving food presently: coffee and breakfast sandwiches.

From February 2005 through February 2010, servings of specialty coffee and breakfast sandwiches grew twice as fast as the industry.

Is this an area that you could get into? If you open your bar early in the morning or at a time that could be deemed “breakfast time”, then you need to introduce promotions to capitalize on this trend.

Make sure you do your calculations correctly when it comes to pricing in your establishment, but both of these items are high margin items and could add a nice little profit to your bottom line.

“There is a lot of activity around the breakfast daypart right now, with chains expanding into the daypart, and the addition of breakfast menu items, promotions and deals,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. “Currently only one out of ten breakfast opportunities is satisfied by foodservice, and there are more breakfasts skipped than served in restaurants, all of which means that breakfast is a significant growth opportunity for the foodservice industry.”

Are you poisoning your customers?

poisonHeston Blumenthal, consistently rated as one of the top chefs in the world recently closed his UK restaurant The Fat Duck due to food poisoning allegations. More than 400 customers canceled reservations immediately, 500 past customers were said to be affected and the spin-off negative publicity might have done long term damage to his brand and business.

According to the Health Inspector’s Report:

“The outbreak continued for at least six weeks because of ongoing transmission at the restaurant. Such transmission could have occurred either through continuous contamination of the foods prepared in the restaurant or by person-to-person spread between staff and diners, or a mixture of both mechanisms.”

The incident will however leave a bit of a bad aftertaste as the investigation by the health board did find that some of the staff who also had contracted the virus might have returned to work too soon and the whole incident is estimated to have cost Blumenthal over £500,000 in lost business.

There are very few businesses that could withstand such an impact.

If you want to avoid food poisoning in your own kitchen, have a look at this information on food hygiene. It’s a series of articles broadly similar to the course offered by the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health for its Food Hygiene Certificate.

Do you "portion control" your bar?

portionI’m travelling between Columbus Ohio and San Antonio Texas today on my way to my quarterly mastermind meeting (more about that later). Walking through the maze of gates and terminals in Chicago airport, I was reminded how the larger chain restaurants and cafes can teach smaller owner run establishments a lot about portion control and cost control.

As a restaurant chain grows and more outlets are added, the risk of group failure is multiplied by every additional outlet that opens. Restaurant chains therefore have to have a solid system of cost and portion control in place before they scale up so that they don’t take their weaknesses with them to each additional opening.

As I was walking past Auntie Annes, a bagel chain, I noticed that one of the workers behind the counter was busy rolling the dough for the bagels. Once she had the dough rolled, she laid the length of roll on the counter over a pre-printed image of a pretzel, allowing her to make sure the size of her dough matched the size painted on the preparation area. This way, every bagel prepared by every worker remains the same size and head office is able to calculate their costs for this item very accurately. If every worker had his own ideas for the size of a bagel, cost control would go out the window and consistency would be eliminated.

If you’re not applying the same mentality to your serving sizes and portions, then now would be a good time to do so. Here some simple ways to start controlling your portion sizes today: Continue reading

Expose yourself. Just make sure it's clean

Something tells me that the title of this post is going to pique a lot of interest in what I could be talking about here. For those of you who have arrived here in the hope of catching a glimpse of something risque, you may be disappointed, but that will depend on your interpretation of risque!

This blog post is aimed at bars and restaurants that expose their kitchens and preparation workspaces for the public to see. Maybe I’m a little bit paranoid when I say that I don’t like when my food and drinks are prepared FAR from my inquisitive eyes and so I love to see an exposed kitchen or preparation area because it means I can run very fast if I see something I don’t like.

Conversely, when I see a clean exposed kitchen, I’m thrilled! It’s a bit like a dirty toilet in a bar. If management are willing to allow public areas remain dirty, then what’s happening behind the scenes? Continue reading

The technology used to bring fish to the desert

I came across this fascinating article in Wired Magazine yesterday and I had to share it with you.

It’s the amazing story of  Chef Paul Bartolotta. His Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare in the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel offers fish species that rarely make it onto US plates. To obtain such species he utilises speeding refrigerator trucks, thermal microchips, and an on-staff marine biologist.

Here’s how a typical shipment of fish gets from pier in Europe to platter in Las Vegas in just 53 hours:

http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-10/st_vegasfish

Can you easily calculate your food cost?

I come across bar and restaurant owners all the time that are unable to calculate their food cost/margin or their beverage cost/margin. These simplest of calculations can be done on the back of a napkin. I’ll try to explain each aspect of it here as simply as possible:

Whether you run a steak and seafood restaurant, a family restaurant, a pub or a martini bar, you need to know what your food cost is.

The basic food cost calculation itself is simple:

Opening Inventory Value + Cost of Purchases  – Closing Inventory Value = Usage Amount

Usage Amount / Sales Revenue = Cost of Goods Sold (%)

This formula can be used to calculate your food cost anytime you want to: monthly, weekly or daily. We will use this formula to calculate a weekly food cost.

First, you need to collect the information that is required to do your food cost calculation.

You will need to have done a physical inventory of your stock, and you will need to add up your purchases for the week. You will also need to have your food sales for the week available.

Your opening inventory is the dollar value of what you began your week with. If you do a regular food cost calculation, your opening values will be the last closing value you had.

Your purchases amount is the dollar value of whatever you purchased during the week.

Your closing inventory dollars is the value of what is still in stock at the end of your week.

When you add your opening inventory and your purchases, you calculate the total product that you purchased for the week. When you subtract your closing inventory, you end up with your usage for the week.

Because your closing inventory is still in stock, you need to subtract it from the equation, because even though you purchased it in that cycle, you haven’t used it yet.

Then you take your usage and divide that by your food sales for the week. The percentage you arrive at is your food cost.

Here is an example of how this calculation works:

Opening Inventory:     $10,300

Purchases:                   $5,500

Closing Inventory:       $8,200

Food Sales:                  $22,000

Using our formula, your food cost would be calculated in the following way:

$10,300 + $5,500 – $8,200 = $7,600

$7,600 / $22,000 = 34.55 %

In this example, you began with $10,300 of food product in stock. You purchased $5,500 through the course of the week, and at the end of the week you did a physical inventory and determined that you still have $8,200 of product in stock.

Therefore, your usage for the week was $7,600.

By dividing your usage into your food sales for the week, you see that your food cost is 34.55% and your profit margin is 65.45% as a result.
I hope this helps.

Why Toothpaste Plays a Big Role In Your Bar

toothpasteAn American Politician once said: “Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to get it back in!” when referring to the Watergate scandal.

What, you might ask, has that got to do with running a bar or a restaurant? Well I’ll tell you.

Do you remember the last time you were down to the end of the tube of toothpaste and you wanted to make sure you got every last bit out out of it? Partly because you (read I) were too lazy to go to the store but partly because you didn’t want to throw it away when there was at least one more day’s worth clinging to the sides…. Continue reading