Fixing Food Profit Margins

By Clint Elkins, SB Value

Running a catering business is a balancing act. On one hand, you want to provide your clients with top-of-the-line products. However, on the other hand, you also recognize that you need to keep costs low to ensure sustainability. Thus, you often find yourself needing to make hard decisions on where to save and where to splurge, all for the sake of your bottom line.

With more focus being placed on costlier foods, like local produce and organic ingredients, it can be difficult to keep clients satisfied while still ensuring you are doing right by your company.

If you notice that your profit margin has not been keeping up with your output, you may find that one of the following solutions can help to readjust your expenses and recover from a sticky financial situation.

Save on your bases

While a fully handmade meal may be ideal, it’s worth considering opting for store-bought stocks, broths, sauces, and other bases. Clients value organic meat and produce, so by saving some change on soup and sauce bases, you can load up on flavor with premium ingredients and spices while still cutting costs on such meals.

Consider going plant-based

Although there’s a lot of buzz about the cost of a vegetarian or vegan diet, there is actually a lot of merit in saving money by sticking with plant-based foods. Instead of shelling out for gourmet cuts of meat and pricey seafood, alternative proteins like tofu, tempeh, and quinoa all make for a high-quality yet affordable meal. These ingredients can be cooked similarly to meat and are actually better at absorbing and retaining flavors, so don’t be afraid to go a little crazy with the spices and marinades.

Plan your menus with intention

While you may be clamoring to try a new recipe, be sure to identify the ingredients you need so you can determine if it’s the most cost-effective option. In general, foods that are in season will always be more advantageous than out-of-season foods, as they likely don’t have to travel as far. Another way to cut costs is to plan your menu around tasty sides, with a lesser focus on protein. Be smart about what you’re offering, and always stay abreast of market prices so you can plan strategically.

Cut down on food waste

Believe it or not, food waste can account for as much as eight percent of your food costs. When things spoil in the fridge or you toss out those not-so-glamorous stems, that’s money going right into the trash can. Instead, get creative and find ways to use all of the parts of your ingredients. Likewise, get a good feel for how quickly you go through ingredients in your kitchen to avoid overbuying anything that is perishable.

A word of caution: Don’t skimp on your signature dishes. While we’ve offered several options for saving on food and ingredients, know the right time to incorporate these budget-saving choices. If, for example, your company is known for its renowned pasta sauce, stick to it! Look to less prominent ingredients, and even things like plasticware and cleaning supplies, to cut costs. You don’t want to leave people disappointed by changing your most popular recipe in an effort to save.

Much of cutting costs comes from the ability to get creative, which is a seemingly inherent quality for those in the culinary field. It doesn’t need to be a big move to make a major impact – small ways to save certainly add up, so do your part and keep an open mind.

Clint Elkins is the VP of Sales at SB Value, a group purchasing program designed to reduce catering, kitchen and food-service costs by leveraging the collective buying power of thousands of companies.