Less is more: F&B challenges, Part 2

Creativity in hotel food and beverage not only means re-engineering menus to please customers but to also deal with supply issues in real-time. For example, chicken wings are always popular on bar menus, said Greg Griffie, senior vice president of the Atlanta, Georgia-based Davidson Restaurant Group, but with poultry shortages chefs have become creative. (Read Part 1 of this report by clicking here.)

Contributed by Jeanette Hurt

“One thing we did was to create spicy, crispy fried cheese,” Griffie said. “It’s the texture and the spice customers are craving. So, how do you complement your cocktails and outdoor atmosphere, and how do we give an item that’s crave-worthy?”

Gowings, the signature restaurant at QT Sydney

Food and beverage staff also must look at what is selling and what isn’t. “It’s menu real estate,” Griffie said. “It could be that your pricing is wrong, or it could be the right protein, but the accoutrements aren’t fitting.”

The size of the menu matters greatly, Griffie added. “Less is definitely more, no matter what the concept is.”

QT Hotels & Resorts properties in Australia and New Zealand have reduced the size of their menus, according to Adam Petta, director of culinary at Event Hospitality, parent company of QT. “Our menus have reduced in size, however, changing more frequently,” he said. “This allows us to operate efficiently and to exceed our guests’ expectations. We also have flexed our hours of operation to meet the market demand as we continue to recover from the pandemic.”

Griffie also recommended going back to the basics – focus on purchasing for that day and the next day and “not getting ahead of yourself,” he said. “If you need two bunches of parsley, you buy two bunches of parsley, not a case.”

Griffie said that hotels and resorts also need to audit their expenses. “We find that this is huge,” he said. “Instead of buying a lower grade of quality, you need to manage your business so you can buy the quality product. It’s basic, but it’s often overlooked, and oh, by the way, how many credits do you have from your returned seafood, and did you get charged for an item that was never delivered? Make sure you’re collecting on those. If you can save or find credits, you’ll be able to spend more money elsewhere.”

Auditing expenses goes hand in hand with sustainability and eliminating waste. “It’s not just good for the environment, but it really helps your bottom line,” Griffie said. “We believe you can buy a premium product and more than make your margins.”

Data, said Petta, is of paramount importance. “We are focused on data and guest sentiment,” he added. “We use data to enhance guest experiences, drive profitability and understand patterns to forecast. We listen to guest sentiment to ensure that we are creating offerings that are both current and profitable, while remaining on trend in the markets we operate.”

“If you need two bunches of parsley, you buy two bunches of parsley, not a case.” – Greg Griffie

When it comes to wines by the glass, unless a bar has an ability to dispense large quantities of wine through some sort of keg system, hotels and resorts need to be strict about portions. A standard bottle of wine holds five glasses if the pours are 5 ounces, but if you up it to six or eight ounces, then you get much less. “And what happens with that last ounce is it gets added to the last ‘fourth’ glass from the bottle,” noted Guy Rigby, president of Octopus, a F&B consultancy based in Toronto, Canada.

But portion control of wine isn’t the only thing that should drive a wines-by-the-glass program, as they typically account for two-thirds of the wine sales in a restaurant. “It’s a matter of reverse engineering,” Rigby said. “If you want to charge US$10 per glass of wine and you need the wine to be at 25% (cost), then that wine needs to come in between US$12 and US$13 per bottle.”

So, instead of just being swayed by the wine salesperson, who is trying to sell you a hot, new wine that is more expensive than you need, “You should not buy a wine at US$15 when you know your wine should cost US$12.50,” Rigby said. “You need to go to your supplier, and say, ‘Send me your six or 10 Chardonnays between US$12 and US$13 per bottle,’ and you need to do a blind tasting, and you pick the best one.”

That’s good for your marketing and sales to your customers. “It’s great for servers and bartenders to say, ‘We have a great wines-by-the-glass program. We had a blind taste testings, and we picked the best wines,’” Rigby said.

You must work with and collaborate with your suppliers, Petta added. “Our preferred supply partners are as engrained in our business as they are their own,” he said. “You must have consistent communication to work collaboratively (to effect) creative ways that benefit all parties.”

“Our preferred supply partners are as engrained in our business as they are their own. You must have consistent communication to work collaboratively (to effect) creative ways that benefit all parties.”  – Adam Petta

And do not burn bridges, Griffie advised. “Every vendor is important, and having that dialogue and partnership is important so you’re not surprised when the truck shows up and the product isn’t there,” Griffie said. “They’re going to know about supply issues before we do so you have to keep an open dialogue so that, in the case of an event where you need 100 chicken breasts, and they’re not available, you’re able to modify for that.”

Outsourcing food preparation to suppliers – buying prepared patties, pre-juiced oranges, etc. – can also help you save on cost. “A lot of chefs are obsessed with buying meat and butchering it, and I would say ‘Show me your sales analysis,’” Rigby said. “If you’re buying whole tenderloins, and you mostly only want center cuts, how are you using the rest of the tenderloin? If you bought 100 tenderloins but only charged for 85, what happened to those 15 tenderloins? You need to do potential cost analyses on your high-selling proteins.”

Petta said that having commissary kitchens integrated into their business has really helped. “The integration of commissary kitchens to parts of our business has been a major asset in our success,” he said.

Small, sharable bites and appetizers that are easy to prepare – salsas, guacamole and chips, or different types of hummus and pita breads – can increase sales. “You want to drive more revenue out of the same customers while saving on labor costs,” Rigby said. “Put yourself in the seat of the customer who is waiting with drinks and getting hungry.”

Salesmanship in small plates menus also must be important, Rigby added. “You have to work together as a team,” he said.

Social media-ready desserts can also drive more sales. “Instead of four or five boring desserts have a signature, show-stopping item,” Rigby said.

Also, challenge the wait staff and bar staff to sell such signature desserts, and whoever sells the most, gets a reward.

Rigby encountered a brilliant pastry chef at a restaurant once who would create such a signature dessert every month, and whoever sold the most would then get a special cake or dessert she created for them to take home to their families. “She knew her servers, and she knew it was a big deal for them to take such a dessert home,” he said. “It was something she was doing all the time, and this was working very well for the restaurant.”

1 comment
  1. Joe Aiello
    Joe Aiello
    July 5, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    This is one if the best written articles on F&B I’ve seen in a long time. It should be distributed to and read repeatedly by new managers everywhere. A really great job.