Yesterday I crossed that line so many restaurant owners draw between loss and profit. I walked into a restaurant supply house with a pocket full of cash and I didn´t need to buy anything.
A mistake we have all made. As soon as I entered the restaurateur´s den of iniquity I knew that the addiction- the demon seductively whispering- "We could use a new Robot Coupe. Wow, a six burner Montague. Heavy flatware will make a big difference"- was still subsurface ready to rise to the top at any moment. The adrenaline pumped hard as I walked down the aisle of carving knives with the brightly colored handles. The red, blue, yellow and orange high-impact plastic molded at the end of the glistening steel blade beckoned a purchase. The grip was comfortable, they matched Batali´s orange clogs, and they would look great in any kitchen. Why not pick up a few? Because, they are addictive impulse items that each of us ponders as a way to dispose of the few pennies we accumulate after a busy weekend.
I can´t imagine Dan Watts of the California Culinary Institute loading the cutlery sets they sell to students with these colorful beauties, but for the kitchen fashionistas, they will compliment the exotic chef pants designers create to make the entertainment factor of the business come full circle.
I wasn´t in Economy Restaurant Supply to purchase. I was there for research touring the aisles of impulse with Ghilaine Maze, an associate editor at Allbusiness.com offering suggestions on the new product guides she will be compiling over the next few months.
As a service to the Allbusiness.com reader´s Maze´s product guides will offer comparisons on everything from flatware to ovens to espresso machines. I can´t think of a better way to spend a morning- adventuring through the caverns of china and buffet bowls- at a supply house. Maze even had the pleasure of meeting Bob Shapiro, the Light Soda equipment guru who offered words of advice- we´ll save those for a later date.
"Great," you say, "but how do we pay for those trips to the supply house?" It´s simple- develop a special holiday section on your menu and use the motivation of your addiction to create new appetizers, entrees and desserts that will increase your profit percentage so that you can spend January perusing flatware.
Here´s the test. The chef has been requesting new sauté pans for months. The dishwasher really needs a few more racks for glasses. And, of course, the baker is looking for ten more spring load pans for the cheesecake. You can´t fill the cheesecake case without product.
Make the deal. If the kitchen comes up with a selection of special holiday items, priced a bit more festively than the regular menu items, you will take them to the supply house in January.
I walked into one of my favorite restaurants last night for dinner and the dining room didn´t resemble the space that I had been in less than a week before. Holiday parties have begun. Large groups, gathering to celebrate life, love, and friendship are toasting memories and relationships. If that doesn´t call for an few selections of impulse appetizers, an entrée with a perceived value greater than the actual cost, and a special dessert section with something as obscure as a Garapoli- that Swiss Hotel concoction of coffee liquor, cold coffee and a secret ingredient, what does?
This season get creative. Don´t be leery of adventuring with a few high priced, high profit specials. Bring in a few special bottles of wine and bubbly that you normally would stock. You won´t lose money on these items. It is Christmas. And, during the holiday season consumers consume. And spent.
For now, beat that supply house demon back into hibernation — except, of course, in cases of emergency glassware- work on those specials, increase your profit margin for the month, and look for Maze´s product guides after the first of the year. When the holiday season ends, you´ll have a positive balance in the profit column and you can plan a trip to Flatware Island.