Can I Cut Costs Without Customers Noticing?

This edition of MRM's "Ask the Expert” features advice from Buyers Edge Platform. Please send questions to Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at

Q: What are some ways I can cut costs without customers noticing while still maintaining a high level of value?

A: Restaurants are known for their razor-thin profit margins and nowadays, every penny counts. 

Reducing costs without sacrificing the high-quality standards that customers expect is vital for a restaurant’s survival in today’s environment. With the pandemic still impacting restaurant’s and the foodservice supply chain, operators are looking for any ways to cut costs while ensuring their customers don’t notice. 

There are several areas where you lose money every day without even knowing it. Here are three ways restaurant operators can cut costs without customers noticing:

1. Standardize Recipes 

When one chef uses exact measurements of ingredients and another doesn’t, you’re losing money. It’s crucial your chefs are using consistent recipe measurements because it’s an easy way to maintain accurate plate costs. For example, let’s say one of your menu items is a chicken salad. Your lunch rush chef measures out a cup of diced chicken, but your dinner rush chef just eyeballs the measurements. By not standardizing your recipes, you may run out of ingredients more quickly and may need to order more inventory – which can put you over your weekly or monthly food budget. To avoid over measuring, try using portion cups to ensure recipes are made the same no matter which chef is working that day. Scoops and portion cups help keep consistency, and customers should not notice the change. Consistency is crucial for accurate plate costing. 

Pro tip: Measuring in grams produces a more precise measurement than ounces. For expert level recipe standardization, convert weight measurements from ounces to grams. 

2. Pay Attention to Utilities 

There are changes and improvements to your utilities that can save you money and increase your bottom line. For example, what is one of the first things your chefs do when they start their day? We’re pretty sure step one is to turn on the burners and heat up those fryers. When your chef turns the burners on right away, it heats up your restaurant and affects when your air conditioning kicks on. Work with your gas company and HVAC partner to figure out the best times to turn everything on and heat up the kitchen that doesn’t add to your electric bill.

Another utility you can make changes to without customers noticing is lighting. Make sure you are using the right light bulbs. If you are still using incandescent bulbs in your restaurant, it’s time to make the switch to LED. Changing to energy-efficient light bulbs is an effective way of lowering your energy bill and being more eco-conscious. Switching to LED bulbs can lower your costs by 50-75 percent per fixture.

3. Utilize Back-of-House Technology

Technology takes the guess work out of food cost management and can help cut costs in many areas of your operation. This includes labor and inventory. In most cases, those two go hand in hand. Back-of-house staff spend wasted hours manually counting inventory and trying to figure out their cost of goods sold. Food cost management can be overwhelming and if not done correctly and in a timely manner, can cost an operator much needed profit. With the help of food costing software, your kitchen staff can spend more time working their stations and less time counting ingredients.

Technology centralizes all your key inventory metrics in one place. Simply put, utilizing technology can keep your food costs under control and even reduce labor. 

Cutting costs is important. Cutting costs without your customers noticing is even more crucial. Put these cost-cutting practices in place at your operation and watch your profits begin to increase.