30 ways to be thrifty

15 May 2009 by
30 ways to be thrifty

The current economic climate is as much about saving money as making it. So we asked the people at the top of the profession for a simple piece of advice that has helped them… and could transform your business

Gordon Campbell Gray, founder, Gordon Campbell Gray Hotels

Put movement sensors in your back-of-house areas - we did and now use 2,000kW of electricity instead of 13,000kW, which is a substantial saving. Similarly, we refitted our heated towel rails from the original 400W design to a 100W version, saving us a massive 26,000kWh a year. These measures are environmentally beneficial, economical and in no way impact on the comfort of guests; they just eliminate wastage.

Andy Townsend, chief executive, Legacy Hotels

Cluster occupancies to allow floors to be shut down, saving energy costs. Also, place extra towels in the dressing table drawer or wardrobe in double rooms so single guests don't use two sets.

Richard Harden, Harden's Guides

Switch the outside lights off during the day, put a movement sensor on the loo lights - which will probably cut electricity usage by three-quarters - and then try dimming the lights in the main restaurant before service.

William Baxter, deputy chief executive, BaxterStorey

Install an eCube. It's an energy-saving device for your refrigerator that costs a small amount, and is paid back in a short time as it can reduce energy consumption by up to 33%. This reduces bills significantly and at the same time minimises your CO2 impact.

Paul Kitching, chef-patron, 21212, Edinburgh

Unpack all deliveries immediately as they come in and arrange for the boxes and packaging to be taken away with the supplier as they leave. This limits the amount of packaging and wastage you have on-site - and therefore need to dispose of - and is better for the environment, too.


Raymond Blanc, consultant chef, Maison Blanc, and chef-patron, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Some pastries and desserts that we sell at Maison Blanc can be frozen and then defrosted in the stores and decorated with fresh seasonal fruit before they are sold. It will always remain about freshness, but with the products we freeze, we can make more at one time and deliver bigger batches to the individual Maison Blanc stores, which saves money.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef-patron, The River Cottage

Grow your own and forage your own - it's so easy to go and collect your own wild food. At the moment seaweeds, sea spinach and sea beet are all around the coastline and free for the taking.

Robin Hutson, co-founder, Hotel du Vin

Reduce or delete superfluous garnishes on a dish and concentrate on the main ingredients being the best. All the extras add up to a significant cost, which doesn't necessarily improve the product.


Grant Hearn, chief executive, Travelodge

Our biggest cost-managing asset is our 13-week forecast, which enables us to predict room sales to within 1% of actual revenue, three months in advance. This helps us to flex wages (our biggest operating cost), laundry, and even food and beverage stock control to reflect demand.

James Horler, restaurateur and executive chairman, Ego Restaurants

Make sure your general managers are front of house for all but three hours per week. Also ensure that they are working at peak times, and that you don't have too many of them employed, for the sake of salary levels.

Andrew Stembridge, managing director, Chewton Glen, Hampshire

You can talk to managers all you like, but you must also immerse yourself in the business, and be more hands-on yourself. Talk to your staff about the situation, be honest and ask them to be more flexible than they might normally be to help everyone fill the busy times and keep jobs.

Jonathan Downey, owner, Match Bar Group

Move to pay your staff fortnightly rather than weekly. It helps a little with cash-flow, but the major benefit is to reduce the amount of payroll time and costs incurred. This also improves the attitude of staff - it's no longer just an easy week-to-week thing that some less-committed team members can leave at any time - you can effectively double their commitment, too.

Kit Chapman, owner, The Castle, Taunton

Get your porters to cover breakfast, with fewer waiters involved. Front-of-house wages are a big cost, so managing them is a top priority. You'll need to manage your porters in this case very closely, and review them regularly. But you need your staff to be nimble and multi-task, and you must use them as effectively as possible.


Anton Mosimann, founder, Mosimann's

Make a daily tour of your kitchen to look at the bins, as there's no need to throw anything away - even parsley stalks can be used for flavouring, for example. It's important to get staff to take ownership of supplies such as paper hand towels, to avoid wastage. I've asked my staff to use half the normal amount of paper towels, and we've installed a clingfilm dispenser, which has saved at least 20%.

Rob Kirby, chef director, Lexington Catering

Introduce clear rubbish bags in the kitchen to make the teams aware of their wastage. You could also get the chefs to do the flowers. It sounds mad, but if you stick to one variety (long-stem roses, one-colour tulips, sunflowers, etc) packed tight in large vases, it can create stunning effects. Initially my chefs baulked at the idea, but now they fight over who does the flowers each week. It saves huge amounts on designer florist bills.

Brian Miller, general manager, Danesfield House

We rent a black bag compactor for £20 a week, so that we now only need one skip instead of two, saving us £100 a week in collection fees. It means we save £4,000 per year.

Robbie Bargh, founder, Gorgeous Group

Don't throw away any fresh fruit or berries at the end of the night - purée them down and freeze the pulp to use as a great base for cocktails and Bellinis.


Claudio Pulze, London restaurateur

Instead of a set menu, talk to your suppliers every day about what's plentiful, good and cheap, and use that. It's important to have complete flexibility at the moment and work on a daily basis rather than traditional quarterly seasonal changes.

Sat Bains, chef-patron, restaurant Sat Bains

Give your head chef and sous chef a budget to spend each week when they do the ordering. It's a way of keeping a lid on your outgoing expenses.

Antony Spencer, deputy managing director, Shire Hotels Group

Review those boring contracts, particularly gas and electricity. Current pricing is so volatile it is worth watching spot rates daily and making a bold decision about when it is right to renew these. It's helpful to find a "nerd" in the organisation who loves doing this kind of thing and give them charge of it.

Martin Burge, head chef, Whatley Manor, Wiltshire

It's important to have more than one supplier for each food type. You can then cross-check prices and haggle to get the best deals. It's also important to make sure you weigh goods to the last gram when they come in.

Andrew Cosslett, Chief executive officer, InterContinental Hotels Group

Establish where you have lots of people in your organisation buying the same thing and consolidate. Use your size and scale to get the best deal with your suppliers. But this is not just about price: you need to forge strategic relationships with suppliers that can support you to achieve your goals. It may sound simple but it can have a huge effect on your bottom line.


Joe Levin, director of F&B, The Grove, Hertfordshire

We've been working with clients to come up with some innovative cost-saving ideas. These include sticking together and varnishing old pencils from our conference rooms to make interesting canapé trays; using defunct key cards to make fun and brilliantly branded display trays; setting pieces of broken china in simple clay to make giant platters; and stiffening the kitchen's giant egg trays to hold the newspaper cornets of fish and chips canapés.

Francis Guildea, manager, The Swan and The Crown (Adnams'), Suffolk

Wrap chilly alfresco drinkers and diners in blankets made from recycled wool instead of using expensive patio heaters. This is good for the environment as well as the bottom line.

Vanessa Scott, owner, Strattons Hotel, Norfolk

Instead of buying luxury miniatures, buy large sizes of liquid toiletries, up to 25 litres. This can save you thousands of pounds, and you have less packaging to dispose of. Speak to a local soap maker and develop a bespoke soap for your business, which makes a great PR story too.

Bruce Poole, chef-patron, Chez Bruce

We have replaced our large, fresh flower arrangements with more permanent plant displays. This has done away with our considerable florist costs and there has been no decrease in the quality of what we offer, as the plants look great. I wish I'd done this years ago!

Damian Clarkson, managing director, Red Snapper Events

Use Prosecco instead of Champagne, and add crème de cassis to wine to make Kir, bulking out your drink offer.


Peter Hancock, chief executive, Pride of Britain Hotels

"Dead money" - ie, sitting in the cellar - is often overlooked. Recently, one member, who was holding a serious stock of fine wines, some bought years previously, had the bright idea of offering them at minimal mark-up to guests staying at full price in the most expensive rooms. Not only did this provide his discerning regulars with a much appreciated bargain, it also released cash for use in other areas.

Anton Edelmann, chef-patron, Anton's

Buy wine directly from France - we reckon we're saving 25% by doing this. We're not making that much more as we're giving it back to customers, offering more expensive wines at cheaper than ever before. It's bringing in lots of extra people and is a really good marketing point. On Mondays we sell any wine over £60 at half price, including Champagnes, and our average wine spend is £80 - it's amazing, all of a sudden we're selling hardly any house wine.


Jonathan Raggett, managing director, Red Carnation Hotels

To get guests to buy into reusing their towels, we donate money to a charity each time a guest declines to request new towels. So far we've donated £276,000 to our two designated charities It's a win-win situation: guests love the idea, it's good for the environment, a nice marketing point and saves our laundry bills, too.

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