May 26, 2020
Blog Post

A Menu that Saves You Money

Slowly, we’re seeing more and more states begin to carefully open back up, allowing for a new way of dining to take shape through COVID-19. Takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining are sure to be the foundation over the next few months, but indoor dining will have its place under strict protocols.  

With margins tighter than usual, restaurants will have to adapt their current operations in order to meet today’s needs successfully and stay profitable. One way chefs and owners can do that is by making theirmenu more flexible and sustainable. While the menu is the star of the show, there are many ways it can make or break your bottom line. Here are a few options that FoodMaven professionals recommend. 

Limit Your Menu

Many restaurants have already made the move to a limited menu. This is a great way to ensure you’re not over-ordering ingredients and spending more time than necessary on prep. By doing this, you can limit your menu without limiting your customers, while saving money.  

Here are some trends to consider when deciding what to put on your menu: 

  • Popular menu items with a broad appeal will engage a larger number of customers for a longer period of time. 
  • Studies show that beef and pork are most popular among men, while women are more in favor of cheesy items and innovative menu choices.  
  • Bowls and handheld options are popular with Generation Z consumers, when millennials are drawn to creative and innovative menus.

Don’t be afraid to mix up your menu every so often. By swapping out dishes from your full menu and creating new ones, you’ll encourage your customers to come back more frequently to taste what’s new. Keeping your menu flexible will also help ensure you stay profitable while markets flux during this pandemic. 

Adding special menu options are a great way to keep a limited menu new and exciting. When creating specials shop around first to see what’s on sale. Also, don’t be afraid to try a new product that’s at a low price, maybe a unique type of fish or vegetable, that might not be as popular but equally delicious.  

This is an opportunity to create excitement around your restaurant by promoting a limited time dish, while meeting your margins. Niche or unique options will stir traffic for a smaller number, but also will encourage new business.  

Shop by Season

Many menus are designed for the year, that means some ingredients cost more at certain times of that year and less in others. By identifying trends in pricing based on the season, you can save on ingredients.  

Keep the product options on your menu flexible. Produce is at its lowest pricing of the year when it’s in season. Use wording like “seasonal vegetables/fruit” on your menu so you can swap out your ingredients weekly, or even daily, based on what’s available. Additionally, some seafood is also more readily available and therefore cheaper by season. Serving dishes like pasta and tacos lend itself to different types of fish and flexibility in your menu.

Shopping by holiday and seasonal sales is another way to save money. Typically baking staples are cheaper around Christmas time and BBQ ingredients are on sale around summer holidays for example.   

Not only are seasonal menu items a great way to save money, they also keep your kitchen staff engaged in new ingredients and preparations. Additionally, your food will taste fresher and your customers will be coming back to experience something new. 


The best way to save on food buying costs to help operate is being flexible. Be prepared to substitute brands and types of products based on price and availability. This may require more time on your end in planning your dishes and comparing prices, but has the ability to raise your profit margins.  

Check out your local producers, growers, and ranchers first during this time. Larger suppliers are raising prices and are having trouble meeting demand through COVID-19. You may be able to find a comparable product at a lower price that supports a local supplier.  

Additionally, consider smaller portions of protein. We’re seeing significant changes in protein prices and cutting down on servings will help you meet higher prices.

Work with Non-Traditional Distribution

Another way to save money through food buying is working with non-traditional distribution companies. Large distribution companies are raising prices to compensate for the current challenges. Additionally, they tend to be much more rigid with a “one size fits all” model, instead of catering to your needs. 

Non-traditional distribution, like FoodMaven, typically have a much more flexible system which allows them to pass on savings directly to their customers. At FoodMaven, we are helping to positively impact the environment and our local producers by selling high-quality local, oversupply, and out-of-spec ingredients. These products are the same that you would find in traditional distribution, but at a fraction of the cost. Learn more about how you can save money while making an impact at FoodMaven.