How to Effectively Leverage Purchasing Trends at Restaurants

This is the first in a series of “Ask the Expert” columns from Wade Winters, Vice President of Supply Chain for Consolidated Concepts Inc. If you have a question, please send it to Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at

Q: How can restaurant operators leverage purchasing trends/fluctuations when making their buying decisions?

A: Most restaurant concepts have a consistent core menu that contains ingredients often inflexible of change.  For example, if you are known for your chicken wings, you better have chicken wings on your menu all the time.  When the wing market gets volatile, all you can do is hope to time the market right when you book your wings. 

There are few options for substitutions and you are often at the mercy of market pricing.  Implementing another product as an LTO, which may have more favorable pricing, could mean relief for a core menu item that has a higher food cost as a result of market fluctuations.  In the example of the wing house, they may want to introduce a boneless wing with various dipping sauces.  Boneless wings are typically further processed, frozen and have stable pricing compared to fresh chicken wings.  Customers that may typically order the “regular” wings may decide to order the boneless wings instead if they are being promoted correctly.  Redirecting the customer to a higher margin item should help the restaurant better control their food cost.

There are also opportunities to take advantage of seasonal products that are abundant and lower in cost compared to other times of the year.  This is typical of produce.  There are also opportunities on other products such as proteins.  For example, demand may be driving up the price on chicken, but might result in lower demand for certain beef items.  Having flexibility on your menu to add and remove items based on opportunities is critical to surviving in the world of foodservice.