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How to reduce cost in Fast food restaurants and cafes ?

I wanted to touch these two segments as these enjoy high volumes of daily customers and small actions will lead to high savings in the short and long terms.

Before I start, I would like to share an observation about the F&B industry overall, especially during economic downturns when senior management and owners ask the executive chef and F&B director to devise a list of actions to cut costs and keep profits at certain levels. This is when a list in most cases would include but not be limited to :

-Product substitution which is buying products of relatively lower quality at lower prices.

-Freeze hiring or simply to no more replace leaving staff members which might affect service quality in one way or another.

- Reduce operating expenses ( reduce electricity bills, recycle, buy necessary stuff, etc..)

-Reduce or eliminate free of cost Or added value amenities - I remember working for one of the reputable chains that used to give a branded chocolate next to each coffee purchased by their customers, The thought was to save cost by stopping offering this chocolate but they didn't know that from customer point of view this became an expectation and they believe that they pay already for this piece of chocolate when buying the coffee, such action leads to losing credibility in brand offerings and ultimately leads to losing certain unhappy customers.

Coming back to the title, the reason for sharing the above few points was just to share that certain F&B companies tend to make drastic decisions to save bucks but they end up hurting their brand image in one way or another, so my next points are about few actions that could be taken that saves bucks and a customer would not feel any less value in what they are getting!

Starting with a cafe situation, let's consider a big chain of coffee shops where they sell daily hundreds if not thousands of coffee cups!

A coffee cup consists of coffee beans grinding, Milk foaming & toppings/syrups in most of cases, where are the opportunities?

- Regular dosing of the grinder, controls the amount of coffee that grinds into the handle.

- Ensure buying Milk jugs that have two lines marked, one for small and another for large (or single and double dose ), the last thing you want is to have more milk added inside the jug that your staff end up throwing after each cup to make a new round! this bit of milk x cups x days of the year counts!

-Make sure to have jiggers & pumps for dosing all syrups and never leave it for a Barista's estimation!

- Have a policy about staff making a coffee / drink for themselves from the display during breaks! if no clear policy, you will see all staff shopping as they want and treating themselves The number of staff x days of the year counts!

- Take training of new staff very seriously and step by step, these are the ones who can cause high losses in the first period by making mistakes, some companies might say ok let them learn by making mistakes and in many cases coffee shops might be short of staff and needs two extra hands from day one! Again, considering the high turnover of staff x number of wrong drinks - doses made during their trial period x days of the year ...DO THE MATH!

-Enough about coffee shop saving opportunities, let's address a bit of what could happen in fast food, we can take a Burger example!

-I start with the last point that I talked about in coffee shop cases! New staff, new training!

-Knowing the menu, the products, and the ingredients is a must even before starting the job! Yes, i have joined a top burger-making chain once and they have an app , where you should get a 100% score for answering all product knowledge questions before your day 1 joining on the floor, if you don't get it, don't come in , yet!

-You should have a chart of preparation by the hour, as you know fast food chains have peak and low periods during the day, breakfast, lunch & dinner! and normally in fast food, food is not made a la minute but is prepared and stored in hot cabinets and steam boxes or under a heating lamp just before the high traffic time comes! therefore it is important to know how many meat galettes to grill in advance and how many portions of fries and apple pies to fry in advance for example!

If you grill or fry too early before the traffic, you end up having high wastage, all fast food use timing alerts to comply with HACCP, and they have to through the pre-cooked food when alarms go on, therefore having a chart of production by hour/ half hour would reduce wastage big time!

- Line of production & order taking! In fast food, you have a team that takes orders and they need to double-check and ensure no mistakes in taking and feeding an order into the system as each mistake will cost you remaking that order again!

Production staff should look at the screen carefully to check the exact instructions for making every burger or sandwich, as someone who has asked for a burger without ketchup or Mustard, the moment you apply these ingredients to the bun will simply mean it goes to the garbage and you have to make another for the customer!

Therefore, training, managing the communication & supervising the production team to ensure they are following instructions for making every product is key in reducing wastage and reducing the cost of sale!

- Managing inventory & orders, Almost all fast food units have limited storage space which needs to have an efficient stock of ingredients and enough stock to produce enough for daily traffic, this has to be managed smartly and using technology for sure!

- Reports & Technology, a unit manager should follow strictly system history for ordering, production & preparations, as these tools are important for optimal unit performance, yet many still tend to make decisions based on their judgment.

- Have a staffing to Operating hours chart! It happens that a unit that doesn't have such a tool ends up having too many staff during low-traffic times, or less staff during high-traffic periods and this is when inconsistency happens in the industry!

-In brief, the fast food industry depends heavily on having these "Charts" by the hour, for production & staffing, if you don't, you are missing a lot of saving opportunities!

More to be shared in the next blogs, remember saving should never be at the expense of quality and customer's expense! otherwise, you end up having short-term gains but long-term pains !

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