Fish and Chips forever

Economising without compromising on taste or value

Yes, we are in tough financial times, but sensible restaurateurs should be able to economise without having to lower the standard of the food they offer, or the value they deliver to customers.

We need to think about the way we use our skills and resources as experts, to find different ways of sourcing and putting quality ingredients onto the menu. This is often much harder than it sounds and it’s why a lot of people just don’t bother doing it. After all, it’s much easier to buy foods in or purchase supplies in pre-prepared packets.

At Cucina, we find that there are some contexts where ‘cheaper’ certainly does not mean ‘inferior’. The use of pomace (later pressed) oil over virgin olive oil(early pressed) for example, can bring appreciable savings with little or no difference to the taste or quality of the food.

Another challenge for restaurateurs is the ballooning rate of food inflation, currently running at between 7 and 10 percent. We always aim to take a sustainable hit and shield the customer where we can.
When we get an extra tariff, we usually wait until September to pass that onto our customer, but even then it will only be the typical 3 percent or 4 percent rise that everybody expects each year.

Economising is also to do with what you produce, how much you produce and how much you waste. It’s about your portion sizes, as well as how much you serve and how much you sell. And recognising that on some dishes you make more margin than you do on others.

Rather than remove the items you don’t make as much on, you should still aim to keep those in your shop, so that if somebody buys 2 items– a high margin and a low margin, you’ve still achieved what you need to achieve.

Too many restaurant owners take those loss-leaders off the menu, forgetting that they may be what drags the customers in the first place.

A Cucina example here would be our Fish and Chips on a Friday. This dish makes a much lower margin than say Lasagne on a Monday or some of the other dishes. But it’s the Fish and Chips that draws people in. It’s one of our signatures, and we want to go on being proud of it.

Keeping Fish and Chips on the menu just means working on the margin of other dishes so that we can keep delivering what the client is expecting of us. Some would say: ‘No – we can’t afford fresh fish. Let’s go to a bought-in battered or breaded version. We’ll stick that in the oven and serve it up’. But that’s not what I would recognise as fish and chips.

Our version is at least the same standard you’d expect from the fish shop round the corner. But we’re still sensible with it, looking carefully at our fresh fish option. We now use Pollock – Gordon Ramsay’s favourite fish. This is a sustainable species and every bit as delicious as the Cod that we used to use.

All of which means that we are able to put on fish, chips, mushy peas and tomato ketchup for just 2 pounds. Special batter with a tasty ingredient for a bit of extra ‘crisp’ helps ensure that our food is just as good, if not better, than the fish and chips which costs you five or six pounds down at the corner fish and chip shop.

The only thing we can’t promise you is old newspaper to serve it up in. That’s progress for you!

Till next time,

Steve

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