11 Clever Restaurant Hacks that Save You Money

By: Ryan Gromfin

5 Minute Read

Nov 06, 2018

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As technology advances, life is supposed to get easier, right?

So much for that. Our stress levels have for the most part remained the same; some might even argue they have gone up as demands in a restaurant get greater and greater.

This is exactly why we need restaurant hacks.

Think of them as shortcuts – quick fixes to get a result faster, easier, and cheaper. Below are 11 proven restaurant hacks that are easy to implement, fair to your customers, and will help you save money.

1) Get Rid of the Waste on Your Menu

Your menu has a few items that don’t sell that well. Get rid of them. It doesn’t matter that they use ingredients you already have or that they are a few guest’s favorites; if they don’t make you money, get rid of them.

It can be tough to kill your darlings, but you'll have to if you want to make the most of these restaurant hacks. Try engaging in some menu engineering to take an objective look at your menu and learn which items need to be cut.

2) Buy More From Less Vendors

Nobody is more frugal than you.

You check your prices every week and order from whoever has them the cheapest. While you may be saving pennies, you are leaving dollars on the table.

Your vendors are hip to this game and will manipulate pricing to get your business on the items you care about, while increasing the ones you don’t. Everybody has expenses, not just you. Instead of playing the game, call your favorite vendor, guarantee them the majority of your business in exchange for a purchase agreement with better pricing. It’s called a prime vendor agreement and independents can save as much as 7% on purchases.

3) Rethink Your Menu Pricing Strategy

When everything on your menu ends in .95 or .99, it's hard to increase prices without getting caught in the act.

Related Article: The Menu Pricing Game – Strategies on Pricing Restaurant Menu Items

So, while your vendor is raising prices on you daily, you are stuck charging the same price to customers. To avoid this, switch to a random pricing model and increase the price of two or three items monthly by a nickle or a dime. That way, every item on your menu increases yearly without shocking your customers.

4) Only Run the Dishwasher When It's Totally Full

Come on, seriously. Your team would never run the dishwasher with just a plate or two in it, wasting all that water and detergent, would they?

5) Switch to LED Lighting

The upfront cost can be a bit steep, but you may be able to work with your local energy or lighting company to find amazing deals by switching out your energy sucking bulbs for cooler LED.

Added bonus: you will save on air conditioning expenses.

6) Install a Pressure Gauge on Each Beer Line

Does your business have a bar component? If so, you know that every beer has an ideal pressure for perfect dispensing, but if you only have one regulator on your whole system, you can’t dial it in.

If you move a decent amount of draft beer, the $75 per line will be made back in a month.

7) Install Low Flow Toilets

Again, the upfront cost can be a bit high for this, but if you work with your vendors and your city, chances are you can find some programs to offset the cost. An older toilet will flush about 5 gallons, while the newer low flow will flush about 1 gallon per visit.

8) Less Trips In and Out of the Fridge

Every time you open that walk-in door, cold air (read: money) comes out of it. Don’t prop that door open and don’t go in three times for something you could have gotten on the last visit. Instead, work to consolidate your trips and try to take at least two things out (or put something back in) every time you open the door.

9) Trim the Fat 

Not off your steaks – fat tastes good. Trim the fat off your staff.

You likely have a couple of employees that are breathing in the good oxygen and exhaling stress all over the place. Get rid of them and move on.

The costs associated with finding a replacement may add up, but this is another scenario that saves you an abundance in the long run. The longer your weak staff members are at your restaurant, the more they drain from your team's morale and from your efficiency.

10) Buy Seasonal Produce

Another one of those “Captain Obvious” moments, but a lot of menus have fresh strawberry garnish next to a couple of eggs in the middle winter.

Question everything and have a meeting with your produce suppliers every month to audit your account and prepare for the upcoming potential price spikes.

11) Ask Your Meat Purveyor for “Left Over Cuts”

I don’t want you to serve old meat, but every meat processor has some cuts that are lying around that either get ground up or shipped off.

I put rib-cap on my menu 15 years ago when nobody knew what it was because my meat purveyor was cutting it off and selling eye of the rib to a restaurant a hour away from me. What a score – arguably the best piece of meat in the steer for about $4 a pound. It never hurts to ask.

Restaurant Successfully Hacked

Just remember one thing when you are “hacking” your restaurant: cutting quality, portions, or guest experience may save you money today but will assuredly put you out of business tomorrow.

Don’t make a change unless you get better for less!

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