Restaurants vs. inflation: 5 cost-saving ideas for a safer ride

Guests sitting and standing in a restaurant with green chairs and ceiling lamps.
Guests sitting and standing in a restaurant with green chairs and ceiling lamps.
Photo: Toa Heftiba

Prices of food and electricity are soaring in Europe. This is making it harder for many restaurants to handle all their costs. Here are some cost-cutting tips to help you get your restaurant safely through inflation.  

The inflation is a real punch to European restaurants that recently struggled through two years of Covid lockdowns.  

In some countries, inflation has reached its highest level in 40 years. This has resulted in higher prices on food products, such as dairy, meat, eggs, fish, coffee, grains and potatoes. On top of this, the gas crisis has doubled and tripled the electricity bill for some restaurants.  

Governments are negotiating solutions and ways to help businesses survive. In the meantime, there are things you can do to protect your restaurant until the inflation winds calm down again.

We’ve put together a list of ideas to help you! 

A shorter menu with guest favourites 

When the bills are getting higher it’s tempting to raise prices on menu items, but before you do that, it’s a good idea to consider other ways of keeping costs in check.  

Most restaurants have dishes that are favourites among guests and others that don’t sell as well. During times of inflation, you can reduce costs by trimming your restaurant’s menu. A shorter menu, packed with guest hits, reduces your risk of ending up with unused ingredients.

And what about the popular menu items that are a bit too expensive to prepare? Have a look at them and consider each ingredient as well as every step of the preparation process. Can something be replaced with a cheaper but equally good ingredient or prepared in a more energy-efficient way?  

A chef chopping parsley in a restaurant kitchen
Photo: Jason Jarrach

Discover hidden food-waste culprits

Waste of any kind is bad for a restaurant’s budget and for sustainability. Nevertheless, food is still wasted every day in most restaurants. Small amounts of wasted food pile up to kilos during the week, leading to unnecessary costs.

Here are some common food-waste culprits:

Pay extra attention to food waste during the week to pinpoint where you and your team can do better. Find creative ways to use broccoli stalks, cauliflower leaves, and other commonly discarded vegetable parts.

You can also consider smaller portion sizes, and skip the bread basket when guests order a heavier dish.

Try weighing your food waste at the end of the day to find out how much it matters!  

Restaurant data is ‘chef’s kiss’ during inflation  

Restaurant analytics data is always your best friend when you need to optimize a part of your workflow, but during inflation, this data becomes even more important. 

With data insights from sales, peak times, and menu-item popularity, you can make informed decisions to save money and resources. 

What if the data shows you that a certain day is always very slow? Reduce the opening hours on that day or remain closed — in other words, stay open when it counts! 

We’ve already looked at the restaurant menu in the section above. It can be tricky to compare the popularity of dishes without data. When you have data, on the other hand, you can get actual numbers to help you decide which dishes to trim from the menu.  

Choose energy-efficient kitchen equipment  

The current electricity prices are a shock to many European restaurant owners. In Denmark, one restaurant’s monthly bill went from €4.034 to €127.000 in just four months. For this reason, it makes a lot of sense to check if your kitchen equipment is sufficiently energy efficient.

Inflation might not feel like the right time to buy equipment, but if you were already planning to invest in a new oven or espresso machine, it’s well worth getting one that will save you money on the electricity bill.  

On this site, you can read more about energy-saving kitchen equipment, energy labels and EU requirements for a range of different products. Save the link on your phone and use it when you’re going hunting for new equipment. 

Buying used restaurant equipment is an even better choice for your budget and for the environment. Luckily, there are plenty of good, used products to choose from. Do you have your eyes on a used countertop griddle? Don’t forget to check the energy labels! 

Someone using an espresso machine in a restaurant.
Photo: Amelia Hallsworth

Let online guest reviews guide you  

Online guest reviews also contain valuable insights that can help you make good decisions. Keep an eye on the feedback from guests to get a better idea of how they experience your efforts.  

When you have started to make changes to combat restaurant inflation you can use online reviews to get an idea of how guests are responding to the changes. That’s the best way to find out if you need to adjust anything to get happier guests.

Once you start making changes to get your restaurant safely through inflation, you will notice more ways to fine-tune things. Some of the adjustments you make might simply be temporary fixes to save your restaurant’s budget. Others changes, such as reducing food waste and choosing energy-saving equipment, are also beneficial in the long run— both for your business and for the sake of the environment!