Restaurants make critical menu adjustments, safety practices

photo of restaurant owner

University of Illinois Extension, U of I Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN), and the Illinois Restaurant Association are helping restaurants adjust operations as they face supply shortages, safety restrictions, and labor challenges.

A webinar held May 28 focused on menu adaptations to help manage resources and adjust pricing in light of supply shortages and increased input costs.

A June 4 webinar focuses on compliance resources and disinfectant practices that provide a safe physical environment for patrons and staff. Strategies for building consumer confidence, as well as approaches for enhancing the customer experience under new operational guidelines, will be presented. Speakers include Larry Lynch, senior vice president of science and industry with the National Restaurant Association; Tristan Popadziuk, owner and roastmaster for [CxT] Roasting Company; and Jordan Brotherton and Carter Phillips, University of Illinois.

Register online for the June 4 10 a.m. webinar. 

“The supply and the availability of the products we’ve been using as an industry may not be the same moving forward,” says Gretchen Ernst, Gordon Food Service customer support manager. From meat to cleaning supplies, shortages affect a restaurant’s ability to offer full menus at profitable prices. Costs are climbing, Ernst says, and restaurants must balance a price increase against the threshold consumers will pay.

“With the supply chain and cost of products being so volatile right now, we’re seeing success in a smaller, tighter core menu,” Ernst says. “Smaller menus require a fewer number of unique products, and you run less of a risk that an item you need will be temporarily unavailable.”

Smaller menus also require less diverse skill in food preparation as restaurants face labor challenges. Some restaurants are using QR codes on tabletops to offer temporary digital menus which allow for quick updates while reducing a potential point of contact between customers through permanent menus.

Watson’s Shack & Rail in Champaign offers unique takeout marketing, including large format family ordering. Classic Events Catering, an Urbana restaurant, markets date night takeout ordering.

Phillips says restaurant operators need to analyze their menus for profitability, popularity, and the ability to travel as a carryout item. Two instructional videos related to menu analysis and recipe costing provide tools to allow operators to make informed decisions about menu choices, Brotheron says.

Dustin Allen, executive chef at Peoria Heights’ Edge, says his company has “learned how to do carryout,” including family-style menu options that have been well received. Sixty family farms provide the restaurant’s food inputs, so Allen is now incorporating new menus items to take advantage of what is seasonally available.

A recording the of the webinar is available.

Source: Kathie Brown, Extension Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Community and Economic Development
Source: Jennifer Russell, Extension Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Community and Economic Development
Writer: Judy Mae Bingman, Communication and Marketing Manager, University of Illinois Extension,