Anybody who works in the food industry, especially those in the high ticket or destination joints can tell you that the economy is shifting ever towards a downward spiral. Regardless of the fact that the government is only now beginning to utter the word recession, people have been moderating their spending for some time now. Question is how far is this trend going to go? And more importantly how are those of us who work in the service industry going to deal with it, both today and in the future.
With the advent of the Food Network and other contributions to the national food obsession, there are more people than ever wanting to eat out at restaurants. The standard bar for cuisine has been raised higher over the years and the average customer has become much more sophisticated as a result. Consequently there are millions of food crazed potential patrons wondering the streets of our nation in search of a fun night out while trying to retain their homes at the same time.
The mortgage and credit crises, coupled with huge increases at the pump and a myriad of other factors has put our potential customers in a bind. Do they put another meal on the credit card, or do the smart thing and eat at home for a change. I only say this because I am in the same bind. As a free lance chef in the wine country of Northern California, I have watched my event business dwindle drastically over the past year, almost to the point where I am considering auditioning for a reality show just so that I can keep busy for the next few months (unless of course I get booted off in the first round).
Unfortunately there is no concrete fix for the dilemma looming in our industries future, because there are far too many variables. The success of any given restaurant, recession or not, has to do with a large range of factors including; the city and neighborhood of origin and its inherent economic base, reputation, price point and so on and so forth. The fact is that every business is different and subsequently has a different set of issues to deal with.
I do know however, that in many cities around the country entrepreneurs are beginning to forgo the idea of opening full fledged dining establishments all together, in favor of trendy new fast food concepts where the overhead of running a dining room is done away with entirely.
Of course the rich will always get richer in times like these (because they just bought our homes for a steal) so the very best establishments in any given area will probably always do well, but that does nothing for the average Americans who have to cut somewhere.
If you own and operate a food business at this point in time, or you are helping to manage one now is the time to take stock of your future. If your numbers have begun to slide as of late this is an obvious thought, but the same goes for those establishments that are still thriving, because it is better to be prepared than not. Listed below are a few thoughts on how to either get back on a solid track, or remain solid through the lean times.
- If your establishment is not keeping a tight rein on the numbers through inventory, labor and other cost controls, now is the time to do so with a vengeance. This will help give you a concrete idea of where your business stands.
- Take the pulse of your neighborhood, by talking to your customers and local business colleagues. This not only helps to garner a sense of what is happening around you, it also can provide valuable information on the needs of your client base as the economy changes.
- As your information builds through collecting Profit and Loss Statements and so forth, begin to put together future projections including every tiny detail of your establishment, as a way to get an idea of where you might be headed and how to prepare.
- Tighten up your labor cost as much as possible, both by trimming the fat and motivating the stars on your staff to produce more efficiently.
- Focus on improving the quality of your food and service where ever possible as a way to not only keep the customer you have wanting more, but to continue to acquire new ones. Fact is, when times are tough people tend to be much more discerning when it comes to spending there money.
- Be flexible in any way possible, allowing for change to occur where needed
- Keep your chin up with the knowledge that all of us are in the same boat and as long as we are doing are best, we can hope for it in return.