Less is More: Restaurant Survival Tactics

Atlanta - By Doug Marranci

With all of the incidents of different types of food poisoning, deaths, and even babies are not safe, what is the Number 1 consumer trend in dining is today?

If you guessed Local products, you are correct. Local and Sustainable are the keywords that are buzzing in local eateries.

Current economic trends in my opinion will provide a balancing effect over time. The time is gone where you can sell a 200.00 bottle of wine, unless you have well established clientele and have been around for a long time.

Overall the statistics show that people are spending the same amount to eat in restaurants as they ever did. What has changed is that maybe five years ago, people might spend 100.00 eating out 2 or 3 times each week. It appears that these same people are still spending that 100.00, however due to increasing work schedules, they are eating out more often, and making that 100.00 feed them five or more times each week.

More trips to Fast Food and Midrange restaurants (price point 8 – 15.00) and less trips to expensive upscale white tablecloth restaurants. Newer upscale restaurants are finding themselves successful if they make their places more casual, and offer smaller choices.

Diners still want quality, however the most popular trends are small plates/tapas/sides and economic bite sized options. I did get a Bison steak that was 14 ounces, and cost 24.00, however I would have been happy with a smaller (still thick) cut, and nice choices of small appetizers and creative side dishes.

With all of the media buzz about our food sources, customers are recognizing and looking for the value of locally produced foods. The biggest reminder of our sad need for convenience is when you walk into the produce section of any grocery store and none of the fruit has any sort of smell. We require produce 365 and 24/7. This is why we have out of season fruits all year round, however they really only have a nice scent and flavor when they are produced locally and eaten in season.

My friends from other countries are amazed when they pick up a soft mango and it has no smell. One friend says that in Brazil, a mango in the kitchen will produce a wonderful aroma that can be smelled from all over the house. We miss this because most of the imported fruit is picked, packed and gassed while it is still green. There is NO match to a vine or tree ripened product.

Think really hard about what I have written. If you want to succeed today, imagine the increase in quality and flavor if you use locally produced items with no suspect chemicals, or gasses, untraceable salmonella and these products, and the Top Chefs’ already know how wonderful these products taste and smell.

At Atlanta Restaurant Exchange, we meet with and listen to many Restaurant Owners, Managers and Chefs’ and we hear about trends that are working in the “streets” As for trends in the restaurant industry, also look at what the big chains are doing with their menus. They have the volume, so local and sustainable is not always their forté, however you can bet that they spent many thousands of dollars figuring out that people want a 3 course dinner for two for 20.00, or at least one of two entrée choices for 7.99.

You may never have a 7.00 entrée on your menu, however, offering typical entrée items as “small plates” or appetizers can be an attractive options. Small plates usually do not come with sides.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to dine in many restaurants in Barcelona and surrounding areas of Catalonia. Most menus would offer every item as a “small plate” or “tapa” or a “Racion” which is a plate to share, or an entrée for one person. This is my favorite way to eat because I have such difficulty making up my mind, I really do want one of everything, and if the table orders small plates and shares, we all are satisfied and there is a feeling of value. It is easier to spend one hundred dollars seven dollars at a time than to pick four twenty five dollar choices.

Remember that Less is More, and that people want Quality and Flexibility and your restaurant can be a success no matter what state the economy is in.

Doug Marranci

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