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The Caterer

Beacon Purchasing food and menu tips

30 June 2009
Beacon Purchasing food and menu tips

Let's face it, the quality of the food preparation and cooking is hugely important, but if the menu and ingredients are not up to scratch in the first place, you're facing an uphill struggle.

A well-planned, properly costed menu can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful business. Here are some of Beacon's tips for getting the food offer right:

  • Local and seasonal sells Even in the current downturn, consumers are still interested in local products. Talk to your suppliers about the local foods they can supply and make your menus seasonal. It gives your waiting team a good talking point with customers; it's good for your local economy; and it can help to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Product substitution When prices for some ingredients are high, look at what you could replace them with. For example, talk to your butcher about different types of meat or using less-traditional, less-expensive cuts on your menu. Cooked slowly, these can be as tender as the best cuts and full of flavour, and they are becoming increasingly popular too.
  • Promote sustainability Fishmongers can provide you with a host of information on sustainable fish - look for MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) accreditation. Some of the less well-known but equally delicious fish are more plentiful and lower-cost - for example, pollock and hake are good alternatives to cod and haddock (check out supplier websites like M&J Seafoods for menu-planning ideas).
  • Build strong relationships with your suppliers Compare prices regularly and be upfront with your suppliers if you think their prices are not good enough. Given the opportunity, they may well prefer to reduce their prices for some items than lose you as a customer. But don't forget: it's not just about price, but quality, service and reliability as well.
  • Bargains Most suppliers run regular promotions, so keep an eye out for these. Suppliers often use these to trial new lines or pass on manufacturer incentives for certain products, and they can be an excellent way of offering customers promotional "specials", where you can sell a dish at a preferential price.
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