Cash Saving Tips

Because every penny counts…


No matter how long you’ve been running your restaurant, you’re always going to want to run a “tight ship” – maximize sales, while limiting expenses… its just smart and …. Think of all the things you can and will do with the extra cash!


Once you’ve opened your restaurant, you now have “Value” to offer for pennies on the dollar… How is this so?  Well, if you run a tight ship and your food costs are less than 30 Percent, this means you can Trade for your services at 30% of their value instead of 100%.  How smart is that?

You’re going to need lots of services:  printing, graphic design, landscaping, handyman/ maintenance, interior décor (plants, artwork, lighting, etc…)  Here’s where to get creative.. think of everything you’ll need and ASK the provider if they will trade for the value.  Everyone likes to go out to eat, but some people don’t like to pay to go out to eat… a nice trade account at your restaurant is appealing – who doesn’t like to feel important by simply signing the check and walking away?


I learned long ago – “You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get!”   So see what you can get of great value from your suppliers…  Over the years, I asked for:  Lots of Prize Items for my Mug Club members and for employee rewards… I filled a closet with neon beer signs, T-shirts, hats, jackets and other clothing items and big ticket items like: skis, snowboards, golf clubs.. Where did this stuff come from… my suppliers of course – food distributors, beer, wine & liquor suppliers…. They all have these warehouses filled with stuff collecting dust… they’re glad to get rid of it and especially glad you’re buying from them SO ASK….

I even got a gas grill with 100 pounds of choice steak and marketing money to drive business to my restaurant.  A famous Energy Drink company gave me thousands of dollars a year for Live Entertainment in exchange for the promotional and advertising value of my “BRAND”  even better yet, I had a contest to win a snowmobile and the dealer gave me a leftover machine for less than half his cost… this drove tons of business all winter and I made money from this promotion… I got the machine for pennies on the dollar all because I was heavily promoting that dealer with a winter clientele.  It was a WIN WIN!

On top of this, many of your suppliers have graphic arts departments and printing capabilities… they’ll print your menus, your table tents, posters and fliers for your big events… even giant display banners to hang on your sign or building… I’ve gotten all these things over the years FREE… Because I ASKED!.. you can too.


Many products and services you will buy are a commodity and you can get comparable from many suppliers, so why not get the absolute “Best” price on everything you buy… the Only way to do this is shop suppliers and if you like one in particular, ask them to “Meet” another’s price for a comparable product or service…

Remember to shop: 

  • Food suppliers
  • payroll companies
  • credit card processors
  • landscapers
  • cleaning companies
  • trash removal services
  • and the list just goes on and on..



Why buy décor for your restaurant when local artists want to sell their work.. you can display it, sell it and realize a portion of the sale – an easy way to decorate and make money at the same time…  Same with floral arrangements…you can ask for flowers and vases and advertise that florist’s business…  What else can you display and sell that adds to your ambiance, is “on-brand” and makes you money?


Don’t forget this one… your restaurant is going to generate lots of empty bottles and cans and in many states, your restaurant has to pay the 5 cent deposit… most restaurants forget this and actually throw away the bottles and cans… that’s just lost money.  Just about every area has local recyclers that buy back bottles and cans for the 5 cent deposit… you know, my restaurant was so busy I got back $500 – $700 per month and the recycler picked up at my restaurant.


Cost of goods and cost of doing business rises with the economy… you’ve got to keep up to preserve your profits… so don’t be afraid to strategically raise prices, as long as your “perceived value” offering remains high and you are giving value and fun to your customer… don’t forget to routinely shop your competitors to see what they are charging for similar product, both food & drink.


The chain restaurants have an unfair advantage over independents… simple economies of scale and massive buying power… You have to ask yourself if your customer absolutely expects “Free Refills” from your independent restaurant or if you can charge for each soda or coffee, based on other fun and amenities you provide.  If not, you’re going to save yourself some money, but more importantly you’re going to build your bottom line and profits.  In my restaurants, I once calculated that I would lose $15,000 – $20,000 in soda sales if I gave Free Refills, on top of the few thousand dollars in product cost.  Thus the reason that I never gave away free refills… I was the fun place to be and the dominant restaurant Brand if my area.  You need to make this decision based on “What’s best” for your own restaurant!


Again, I made the mistake when I first opened to have fine linen tablecloths and fancy expensive silver in my casual family restaurant.. I needlessly spent too much money only to see the monthly linen bills and cleaning costs for stained linens, as well as all the expensive silverware that ended up in my trash bins and employee’s apartments.

Later, I pulled the tablecloths from my tables and purchased my own colorful polyester napkins and a washer/ dryer and paid my staff to do the laundry.. I saved a little money, but found out that the cost-effective polyester napkins were not absorbant which irritated my customer…I later switched to cheap aluminum utensils wrapped in a paper napkin topped with my restaurant’s brand “logo sticker”.   My customer never cared and I saved a ton of money each season.

So this is just “Food for Thought”. Some concepts need fancy linens and silver… some don’t –  you decide what’s really important for your restaurant.


If you build a family of staff – your own “Dream Team” that I talk about… the staff will work hard and keep your place safe.  You treat them right, they’ll treat you right and act like an owner, working safely and noticing hazards and other issues that need attention.  All of this will save you money in worker’s comp and insurance rates that rise from claims.

Do yourself a favor, care about the details and your people and run a safe and tight ship… another WIN WIN!