Confessions Of A Restauranteur: How To Save Money

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every day this week, we’re letting you in on a secret, a piece of information from different industry insiders that will help you save money.

This week, a chef and restaurant owner confess. And Bistro 11 Chef Andrew Suthers isn’t just mincing words.

“Standard mark up is probably 30 percent food cost, but there’s some places that don’t have any problem charging 50 to 60 percent mark-up because they’re this name brand,” said Suthers.

Owner Kristin Rotter says while house wine looks like a deal, it’s not.

“When you order a glass of house wine most of the time one glass pays for entire box or bottle of that wine,” said Rotter.

She says go a tier up. The highest-priced wine usually has the least amount of mark-up.

And that’s not the only place owners drink up the profits. Call your well drinks.

“There’s a huge difference between the bottom and a Smirnoff, and you’re only paying a dollar or two more a drink,” said Rotter.

Suthers says to look for tricks on the menu.

“$8.95 is less scary than $9. That’s the oldest trick in the book,” said Suthers, “Something that may be worth $6 or $7, let’s throw that extra 95 cents on. That way you’re not scaring anyone away, but you’re making 95 cents per plate.”

Watch what you order, too. Suthers says anything frozen is marked up, and so is anything fried.

And then there’s steak.

“There’s a bigger mark up on steak, in general. If you go and look at cuts, if you look at a filet mignon versus rib eye there’s a bigger mark up on filet, even though rib eye is the better steak,” said Rotter.

Service can also play a role in how big your bill becomes.

“Be careful of servers looking to take your entire order at once, appetizer, dinner and desert,” said Rotter. “They’re not looking out for your best interest; they’re looking out for their ticket.”

The thinking is they’ll get everything onto your bill, before you become full.

Another tip is to always take advantage of restaurant specials. They’re usually losing money on whatever the deal is to either entice you back, or they’re hoping you spend more money on other items.

  • albert

    Precisely how does one save money when most of the recommendations by this chef involve spending MORE money?!? Terrible reporting.

    • teabaghater

      they are talking about what to and what not to order

      • albert

        Um, the title clearly says


      • albert

        If it were an article about what to order to give the place the smallest profit, then fine. But precisely how does ordering a drink with the more expensive vodka for a dollar more save me a dime?

  • Keith Stone

    Restaurants don’t loose money on specials. If they did, they wouldn’t have specials. If he is only marking up food 20-30% he will go out of business. A wholesale price on a restaurant grade 12 oz rib eye steak is $4.50, 2 sides ingredients can run between $2.50 to $4.00 total. So for 9.50 of ingredients, plus 10% overhead, plus 10% prep and clean up labor, that leaves a fully loaded cost of $ 11.40. Most places charge $21 or more, so in a wost case scenario is 84%…that is the wost case, knock a .50 off the steak cost, and take the lower side costs, and a $26 price and now you have a 300% mark up. Of course overhead and prep costs can have wide variation and don’t forget about employee theft, which is rampant in this industry. But I guess that is the difference between well managed restaurants and those that struggle to stay open. Most Chefs are great cooks, but have not idea how to run a business.

  • teabaghater

    your math is not entirely right they are not getting a rib eye for 4.50 and its not that chef do not know how to run it its the owners people that have money and think they are investing it.

  • Math done right

    Yor math is backwards. You need to look at the food cost of 30% from the final price. If a dish costs $30, you taok 30% of that($9)and that is what the food cost should be running. It’s the other 70% that goes to paying electricity, gas, payroll, etc. Ask questions before making blind internet posts.

  • LAVikings

    False math done right. Overhead has been removed from the equation. Mark up % is selling price / cost. Selling a blue widget for $3 that cost $1 has 200% mark up. A diner that sells for $28 that costs $ 10 (all in cost for ingredients, labor costs, overhead, etc.) has a 280% mark up. Markup is the multiple of cost to selling price. The math presented in this article makes no sense. It is some chef spouting off about costs, using non-standard financial terms and jargon.

    • James Finch

      You’re clueless.
      Food cost at the end of the day is the percentage of what is spent on food and what total money is taken in.

  • Murph

    The best tippers get the best food,strongest drinks and best service.That’s the way it has always been and always will be! That’s not exactly a secret either!

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