Going Lean on More Than The Menu

Trimming the fat is something restaurateurs know very well. A judicious amount adds flavor and increases tenderness, but excessive quantities make the meal bad for you and detracts from the character of the lean meat.

The operation of a restaurant can be viewed the same way. Think of the establishment’s amenities and decor as the flavor-adding fat of the business, and view the manager as the trimmer who must leave the right amount to make the best possible experience for the diner.


Today’s economy creates a whole new layer in the fat-trimming decision. Businesses need to cut costs. They must find ways to provide that flavor in the most cost effective manner they can.

How can modern restaurants trim the bottom line without ruining the atmosphere or their menus? There are a few options worth considering that go beyond the most common suggestions.

Clever Redecoration

restaurant in greece

Commercial grade dining tables have tough, non-porous surfaces. But in time, thousands of cycles of plate arrivals and departures will make even the best pieces look a little tired.

Rather than breaking the bank on new tabletops or refinishing the old ones, take a page from Grandma’s book and get nice tablecloths. The utilization of bulk linens can save money while improving the look of the dining room.

While there is a certain reluctance to move to a higher-maintenance eating surface, keep in mind that it’s still cheaper than replacement surfaces and isn’t an irreversible decision if you aren’t happy with it.

But chances are, you’ll love the look. Color options will give your place some character, and your ears will appreciate the decreased noise level.

Savvy Sourcing

restaurant supplier
photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

When it’s time to complete payroll, an oven is broken and the health inspector is poking through your kitchen, it’s much easier to stick with known sources for your food.

But we sometimes take for granted that we are reaching the price point and quality level we desire by sticking with the suppliers we’ve used for years.

Many times a thorough review of the available vendors for all our food inputs, from cutlets to carrots, can scare up some significant savings that require only a test run of recipes. As long as you’re ending up with the same quality of product at dinner service, you know you’re better off cutting a bill by 3 or 4 percent.

Improving Cold Storage

cold storage
photo credit: Dwight Sipler

When you have some time, observe your staff for the number of trips they make into the walk-ins. Are they efficiently consolidating their movements into and out of the dining area?

Every open/close cycle of that door releases cold air into the kitchen and warm air into the cooler. While the former is good news for the burners, the latter is accelerating your electric meter.

If it seems that waiters are retrieving items A and B separately even though they go into the same dish, train them to be more efficient in their time and cold-air consumption by retrieving the items together.

And consider insulation, gaskets, hinges, latches, and upkeep of the coolers as well. A surprising (and upsetting) amount of efficiency can be lost with very small drafts.

Your goal throughout this process is to save money in any way that does not affect the quality of the meals you serve. If you can do that, you’ll remain in the black when others are struggling.

About the Author: This article is written by Tara Miller