About this time each year, experts scramble to beat each other to the punch and be the first to make predictions for the coming year. Some predictions deserve to be considered, while others are just plain common knowledge and are really not newsworthy. I have always believed that doing what you do best, while offering what your market demands, is a great start. Cutting-edge, hip and trendy restaurants will always have a place in the market. They are exciting, fun, and necessary. But remember that the majority of these restaurants created their own success by doing what they knew best, not by following trends. Following trends is a tricky game; if you’re reading about it, it’s probably too late to get on board. That being said, serious cooks and chefs should always be expanding their culinary horizons and repertoires. It is necessary to continually develop if you are to reach your potential. So here are my predictions for 2010. Take them for what they’re worth and add a few of your own. That’s what this whole blogging thing is about.
Menus Shall Be Streamlined
Eliminating costly slow-sellers, high-cost, and labor-intensive items may be necessary to survive. A smaller, more manageable lineup of killer items, rather than dozens of so-so dishes, will assist in controlling costs. Use daily specials to market higher cost items, limiting the amount of inventory on hand while satisfying that creative star demand.
Menus Shall Include More Customer-Driven Options
People love to customize their menu options without feeling as if it’s a burden on the staff. You don’t want to lose business because of inflexibility in preparation. Multiple portion size options on appetizers, entrees, and desserts will encourage guests to try additional items and, as a result, help to raise check averages.
Menus Shall Be Priced Fairly and Competitively
Minimize luxury ingredients to keep costs down without altering the essence of a dish. Experiment with lower cost center-of-the-plate options, try roasts and underutilized cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. Value drives loyalty. Charge what you have to, but be fair.
Business Will Never Be Turned Away
Restaurants that once shied away from kids’ birthday parties, civic events, and SMERF (social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal) business are now thinking twice. Regardless of the price point, find a way; offer alternatives to keep menu costs down. You never know who’s in the group or what future business will book as a result of it. Savvy operators know that a dollar profit is a dollar profit! Forget the percent game for now. You can’t pay a bill with a percent or put a percent in the bank.
Higher Quality Provisions Shall Be Used
The world is so food savvy, expectations are high, and people know quality. Questionable fish, select meats, aging produce, and cheap groceries are a fast ticket to any empty dining room. It all starts with purchasing fresh, high-quality ingredients.
Job Descriptions and Station Boundaries within the Kitchen Shall Be Eliminated
Teamwork will rule the day. Associates hesitant to cross station borders and think globally may find them out of favor and possibly out of work. Just remember that this concept will apply to all levels within the organization, even yours. Walk the talk!
Chefs Shall Rethink Menu Balance
Foods such as updated retro style cold appetizers will increase in popularity among chefs as a strategy to balance work loads and productivity in the kitchen. Creative salads, cured and smoked meats and poultry, cheese flights, raw, marinated, and smoked seafood, upscale contemporary charcuterie, and Americanized sashimi-style and cooked sushi will be offered. Chilled items allow for greater menu and labor distribution, while introducing unlimited cutting-edge and pro-health related menu possibilities.
Chefs Shall and Will Execute at the Highest Level
Flawless execution is required at any price point. You can’t fool yourself or your customers. Your restaurant is not a test kitchen. Cook what you know and are good at. No one wants to eat an experiment.