Food costs and consumer downturn taking a bit out of restaurants’ bottom lines

It seems like just a few weeks ago we recapped a list of strategies chef use to save money in the kitchen. And now the Wall Street Journal is piping in with what many high-end restaurants are doing to save a buck or two and increase their margins of return, if only marginally.

“With rising food costs, the nation’s restaurateurs and cooks are getting conscientious about what they put on the menu . . .” - Wall Street Journal

So what are chefs doing to cut corner as we move yet another year into rising food costs and can we learn a few more tricks?

At the bar, restaurants are offering lower priced, small plates of food that can be purchased alongside drinks. This is a good tip for entertaining at home during the spring and summer with mini-grilled sliders, small hot dogs or homemade sausages on sections of gourmet buns with an exotic homemade sauce, etc. – just think every day, retro foods updated.

Chefs are looking at cheaper cuts of pork. For home cooks, this could mean a long, slow cooked pork picnic cut, shanks, or many a gourmet’s favorite – pork belly. Try grilling and seasoning your own fresh side for a treat. Restaurants are even discovering chicharrones for the flavor and texture they provide.

Bulking up exotic recipes with flavorful sauces by creating a rice or noodle bowl is a great way to save money while incorporating a small amount of meat with a larger portion of grains and vegetables.

Comfort food continues to draw customers. Chefs recommend taking traditional favorites like macaroni and cheese and adding sauted vegetables or even poultry, seafood or meat.

And lastly, something great for our waistlines and restaurants bottom lines, create mini-desserts. Single serve trifles, small pot de crèmes, a rich cookie and small scoop of sorbet are all great options.

GE 4/21/09 Leave a Comment
Gina Edwards is a cooking instructor and editor of

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