March 23, 2017
Posted in: Culinary Arts

Changing The Menu To Fight Food Inflation

The Spring 2017 Market Forecast from Lynx Purchasing predicted inflation in food prices are ahead for the UK. Political unease combined with supply problems are creating challenges for restaurateurs and suppliers alike. At the same time, chefs and home cooks must find ways to compensate when there are price hikes in the ingredients they rely upon.

If you’re a Texas culinary arts student, these problems may seem remote. However, shifts in availability and costs happen everywhere, and it’s vital for any chef to learn how to adjust your menu and recipes in response. Here’s what you need to know about compensating for food inflation.

When it’s time for a change

“Raising prices on the menu takes careful thought.”

The current situation in the UK illustrates how multiple factors can come together to make dinner a significantly more expensive proposition. Weather in southern Europe damaged the crops of produce like lettuce and broccoli. Meanwhile, a strike among Icelandic fisherman led to a lack of cod and haddock, and wine prices faced increases due to inflation and higher import duties.

A prudent chef or restaurant owner pays close attention to the wide range of issues that might make it necessary to alter prices. Setting or raising the prices for the dishes on the menu takes careful thought rooted in an overall business strategy. According to the National Restaurant Association, the most significant considerations include:

  • The costs involved in preparing the dishes.
  • How the profit margins for each item sold line up with the volume purchased.
  • Labor expenses.
  • Further costs due to any complimentary items the restaurant provides.
  • Whether dishes involve ingredients prone to sudden shifts in price.
  • Comparisons with past changes in prices and what competitors are charging for similar items.

By accounting for the relevant concerns driving up operating costs, a restaurant or catering service can take the appropriate steps. Often, that means a bump in prices, but there may be other ways to cut down costs and increase profit margins. Chefs and restaurateurs must consider all possibilities for eliminating unnecessary expenses and the effects they will have on customers’ dining experiences.

A roast is a consistently cost-efficient dish.

A roast is a consistently cost-efficient dish.

Adapting the menu

When cutting operating costs or simply passing along a price increase to customers is not a workable solution, dealing with food inflation requires changes in the dishes themselves. For chefs, it can be a major challenge to manage the rising costs or unavailability of ingredients without hurting either the quality of your food or customer satisfaction. Successfully making changes to the menu to align with market conditions requires some creativity, but it can be accomplished.

Wherever possible, a simple substitution is often the best idea. For instance, with certain varieties of fish difficult to obtain, UK restaurants may focus on offering whatever high-quality types are readily available from week to week. This way, the business can emphasize the freshness and novelty of the various fish while continuing to produce great seafood.

Substitutions will also be vital when it comes to dairy. With high demand around the globe and the UK relying heavily on imports, it’s no surprise that suppliers have raised prices. Wherever possible without compromising flavor, chefs should consider incorporating cheaper non-dairy substitutes into recipes.

At the same time, issues with imported produce are making it difficult to source salad items. This is a good reason to consider making greater use of root vegetables and other locally grown ingredients. Lynx recommended concentrating on finding applications for cauliflower, cabbage, parsnips, turnips and beetroot.

Similarly, alternating among different cuts of meat can help culinary professionals to stay ahead of food inflation. Varieties that are relatively inexpensive tend to serve well for slow-cooked dishes. With well-chosen flavors and the right presentation, even a cut of meat that is generally unpopular with customers can become a new favorite.

Building a career as a chef calls for meeting the difficulties presented by food inflation head on. If you’re working toward a culinary arts certificate online, consider how you would adapt to changes in the supply and costs of your preferred ingredients. By drawing on the skills you’ve learned, you can find inventive ways to keep dishing out fantastic food even when costs go up.