The slight of hand trick comes with no extra charge to the consumer but may save restaurants from demise. That’s the advice wholesalers and consultants are offering restaurants caught in the crease of rising food costs and the looming recession.
Fearful that raising menu prices will bitter restaurant goers, many restaurants have turned to cheaper ingredients, smaller portions, and in further extents, psychological trickery—such as the usage of smaller plates or lighter silverware. (While the smaller plates increase the appearance of size, lighter silverware causes the bite to feel heavier.)
Perhaps psychological trickery sounds harsh, but these times have proven to be harsh on restaurateurs. The National Restaurant Association reported a 46% decrease in traffic from January to February when polling its members. That doesn’t garner much optimism for the upcoming months.
Ratselli Foods, a wholesaler that specializes in helping restaurants cut costs, divulged one of its many “tricks” to the Washington Post:
“What you do is skewer the shrimp before you boil them,” said staff consultant John Roehm, “It straightens them out so that when you serve them, they look bigger. Now you can buy a smaller, less expensive shrimp.”
While this may be an appealing method in some kitchens, other establishments have simply restructured prices accordingly. As the article points out:
“A lot of restaurants prefer to charge more rather than fiddle with the food, on the theory that customers think of menu prices the same way that drivers think of a gallon of gas—they hate to see it get more expensive, but don’t blame the gas station when it does.”
This outlook has yet to be concluded as the majority way of thinking, and restaurants aren’t planning on waiting. With an emphasis on value for both sides of the bill, business plans and menu outlines have come to the desks of industry consultants across the country with the hopes that enlisting fresh sets of eyes may increase lagging profits.
Whether it’s the scaling back of appearance, the redesigning of menus, or the scrutinizing for the account of each penny; many restaurants will be with facelifts this spring season.