How to save your profits despite menu substitutions

If recent consumer trends are any indication, it’s only going to be more and more common that customers at your restaurant will request substitutions to the menu items they order.

Be it allergies, intolerances, diet restrictions or just individual preference, the list of possible substitution requests is nearly endless – while the opportunity to prepare and serve dishes the way you’ve planned is at risk.

And though all restaurant owners want to keep customers happy and returning time and time again, making sure menu substitutions don’t cut into your bottom line is just as important.

If your restaurant accepts requests for menu substitutions, take control of the increased costs with these simple steps.

Know your exact recipe costs

While your customers may not realize that vegan, vegetarian and allergy-free versions of your menu items cost the same – or more than – their original version, you need to.

To ensure you can afford to offer substitutions, and accommodate requests that come in, you’ll need to carry out exact recipe costing of each item with and without substitutions. This includes the change in ingredients, but also the time needed to prepare a substitute dish.

Sound tedious? It can be if you don’t have the right tools. Using integrated inventory management software that allows you to easily and accurately calculate and view your recipe costs makes managing substitutions and effective retail inventory control fast, easy and most of all, profitable.

Manage your inventory

You and your staff will need to be able to find substitution items in a hurry to accommodate customers, especially during a rush. Managing and tracking your food and beverage inventory is key.

Consistently labelling each and every item as it comes in will help you fulfill any substitution requests on demand. And keeping track of what you order vs. what is used every week will ensure you’re not wasting food and profit.

If you’re not already using inventory management software to track and label your inventory, it can be a time-consuming and error-prone chore. Investing in a professional software system that can help you accurately and consistently label, search, track and fill orders as part of your retail inventory control will save time, money and your sanity.

Charge more

Changing even one thing in a dish on your menu adds time and cost to production – money you need to recoup elsewhere to protect your bottom line.

The standard rule of thumb to follow for profitable menu costing is to ensure your food costs are about 30 to 35 percent of the sale price. So if it costs you $1 to make a menu item, you’ll want to charge your customers at least $3.30 for that dish. And you need to factor in the price of ingredients, as well as the labour and overhead costs into your equations.

You can also consider adding a modest surcharge to your menu for any substitutions. Don’t forget to train your staff to remind any customer that requests a substitution about this surcharge. Even a modest flat fee of $1.50 per substitution will likely offset the increase in cost for accommodating your customer – at a price you can both be happy with.

Marking up the most profitable menu items you sell can also maximize your revenue and offset substitution costs. Coffee, soda, alcohol, dessert and even your children’s menu dishes are all low-cost items to buy and prepare that can recoup the cost of more expensive dishes where substitutions are commonly requested.

Offer diet-restricted options

Another way to manage your costs and inventory is to redirect your customers from requesting substitutions to any dish by offering them diet-restricted dishes on your regular menu.

Specially marked dishes for those with common allergies, intolerances or meat-free and vegan diets, make customers feel accommodated, while protecting your bottom line.

Invest in the right inventory management software

Don’t wait for the costs of offering menu substitutions to eat into your profits before taking action. Streamline and simplify your restaurant inventory management while saving money and boosting revenue.

Optimum Control’s full hospitality solution software combines the simplicity of managing costs and retail inventory control in a spreadsheet with the genius of fully integrated, mobile solutions.

Talk to us today and learn more about the features and benefits we offer in our suite of inventory management software to help you take control of your business.