Six tips for dealing with the surge in beef prices

April 20 2015

With the rising cost of commodities, particularly the price of beef, restaurateurs need to be flexible in how their business runs - and what foods are served - in order to maintain a profit.

Recently, it was announced that two fast casuals - Shake Shack and Chipotle - have both reduced revenue projections for 2015 due to the surge in beef prices. Analysts at Technomic say that relief could be years away, so finding alternatives to beef is a solution that many restaurants are considering.

According to Technomic’s 2015 Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report, almost half of consumers have noticed an increase in the price of beef dishes in the past year. Many say that they have adjusted their purchasing choices for this reason, although some restaurants report they haven't seen a drop in sales, despite the price increases.

So, how do you deal with the surge in beef prices? Here are some options to consider:

  1. Source and promote high-quality beef - Technomic's research shows that many consumers are actually willing to pay more for beef that is grass-fed, all-natural and organic. So keep this in mind when sourcing ingredients and promoting dishes on your menu. Make sure your customers know that they're paying for premium ingredients. But, also be careful: Technomic also warns that, over time, higher prices could encourage consumers to eat at home more often.
  2. Customizable menus - Give customers a choice of protein options for each dish. For example, if there are burgers on your menu, allow customers to customize the burger with their choice of protein - beef, turkey, chicken or vegetarian are options to consider and each one can be priced accordingly.
  3. Add more non-beef dishes - A number of chains are already taking steps to provide more menu items featuring other protein sources. For example, McDonald's has recently brought back its Chicken Selects, while Burger King is offering Chicken Fries again. It's no surprise that chicken tends to be the protein source of choice for restaurants - after all, it's the most popular with consumers due to its low price, versatility and healthy perception. But, pork, turkey, lamb and vegetarian proteins are all excellent choices.
  4. Try different meat blends - If you're using minced beef in a recipe, why not use other ingredients in the blend to add flavour and cut the price? Other meats like pork or chicken will work well and you can also experiment with how lean or fatty the blend is. Add in various spices, vegetables and bread crumbs too - these will bring new flavours to the dish while also keeping costs down.
  5. Make the most of smaller portions - In many dishes, you can cut down the amount of protein being used and add in other extras like vegetables or carbohydrates to ensure the meal is just as filling, but not as expensive. For example, in burritos or tacos, you can use beans, lettuce, tomatoes and rice to bulk out the dish, giving it more impact with a lower price.
  6. Use cheaper cuts of beef - When serving up a perfectly grilled steak, you'll probably want to stick with more expensive cuts of beef. However, many dishes favour the cheaper cuts of meat - especially if they're cooked slowly at a low temperature. So, consider adding items like smoked meats, stews, roasts and casseroles to your menu.