In recent years the restaurant industry has become one of the hardest in terms of profits, with some restaurant owners complaining that their net profits sit between just 4 and 7%. This highlights how important it is for any restaurateur to not only manage costs wisely but to cut any unnecessary ones. For example, just revisiting a recipe can save thousands of pounds. Maurizio Ferraiuolo, senior partner at Aston Hospitality Experts, has a look at a few practical ways this can be achieved.

Remove unnecessary ingredients

Removing ingredients that don’t make a big impact on the recipe can save your restaurant big bucks. A restaurant chain in the US saved £12,000 a year after removing olive oil from one of their sauces. Iced tea can cost as little as 5 pence to produce when you buy it in bulk, but soda can cost up to three times as much per glass. You also can improve your margin by wisely managing your prep (mise en place) or cutting back on some tasks. For example, making tartar sauce every three days rather than daily saves as much as 20 minutes in labour.

High-margin items

Even though you should try to save whenever you can, a good technique lies in the power your waiting staff have in pushing customers into buying items on your menu with the highest margins. For example, restaurants often use pasta, which costs a few pennies per ounce, garnish it with some more expensive items, such as chicken or seafood, and price it a few pounds less than a dish made entirely of pricey ingredients, such as steak, so customers have the perception of getting a much better deal. You also might use specials to get customers through the door and hopefully convince them to return. For instance, you could offer half-price burgers on slower days of the week, like Monday and Tuesday.

Food costs

Don’t hold back from speaking to your suppliers about better deals on the items you purchase from them. You can consolidate suppliers to increase your purchase volume and be in a position to demand better prices. Check items that are about to reach the best before date and make a special dish or drink. This will turn potential wastage into revenue. Make it a habit for your staff to check the fridges daily and to maximise the use of food and drink.


Restaurants lose about 4% of their total sales to theft and loss. Most of this 4% comes from employees stealing, for example a waiter who does not ring up food and drinks for friends or chefs making free food for themselves and others in the team. You should have your managers reaffirm the company’s policy on stealing and its consequences to employees. Install security cameras, which act as a deterrent. Also, tighten cash-handling procedures. For example, have a cashier ring up sales and issue receipts rather than have a waiter handle the entire process.

Share the facts with your employees

If your team don’t buy into the change and participate actively, it will be very difficult to turn the corner. Furthermore, ‘telling’ your staff without an explanation won’t inspire change. Instead, regularly meet with your team and share the facts. explain what the cost-effective changes are, and how much money they will save the business as well as how they would benefit from it.

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Knowing the numbers will empower your team to take responsibility; it will help them to visualize the impact of the changes, and take proactive steps, such as turning off unused equipment or finding ways to decrease food waste.