Building a Successful Beef Program
6 Steps to Success with Beef
Even though the food cost is often higher on beef dishes, the perceived value of beef means you can ask higher selling prices, which means more dollars to your bottom line. So does it make sense to sell as much beef as you can, despite higher food costs? Most definitely!
Perceived Value Pricing means setting the price of menu items at a level that offers good return for the operator while still being able to sell the item in reasonable quantities. “The lowest price in town” is never a good long-term success strategy. You need to understand how much your customer is willing to pay for the quality and service you provide. The exact selling price you charge will depend on a number of factors including your concept, your customer demographics, your competition, and the day-part the meal is being served. This varies for everyone but there are some specific opportunities that operators have in common to maximize “Perceived Value” pricing.
How you merchandise your menu has an impact on its perceived value, but each meal still has to consistently deliver quality and a great eating experience. When it comes to beef you get what you pay for. Because beef pricing is generally dictated by supply and demand dynamics there are seldom any deals on beef – especially at foodservice. Most guests are looking for a tender, juicy and flavourful steak, not the cheapest steak available. Work with your supplier to ensure that your beef specifications include the following measurable quality attributes:
Highly marbled beef – marbling is the small flecks of intramuscular fat in the lean of the muscle, which contributes to juiciness and flavour. Marbling is measured by the grade (A, AA, AAA, and Prime) and its determination is a function of the Canadian Beef Grading Agency (CBGA). MORE
Well-aged beef -the term “aging” refers to the length of time beef is stored under controlled conditions while naturally occurring enzymes within the meat slowly break down some of the connective tissues that contribute to toughness. This is an important component to a great steak. The aging process usually occurs at the distributor level and is primarily “wet aged” in cryovac. For most beef cuts 21 days aging is optimal. MORE
Chose the right cut of beef for your application. Price doesn’t always dictate quality and won’t necessarily mean a better eating experience. How the product is cooked impacts greatly on the finished steak or roast. Familiarize yourself with the various cooking techniques and what method each cut performs best under. It is recommended that you work with your beef supplier to determine which cuts will work best for your operation.
Execute on the Quality
Photo of the Cooked to Perfection bookletProper receiving, handling, storage and food safety techniques play a big part in the quality of the finished product. For example, if frozen beef is not properly tempered (defrosted), quality will deteriorate and may also introduce unnecessary food safety risks to the product. Think of your decision to purchase high quality beef as only the first step to deliver a quality beef program in your foodservice operation.
Steak doneness is one of the most important factors in determining a quality steak. In fact, recent surveys have shown that 50% of customers say getting their steak done the way they like it is the biggest determining factor to a great steak experience. Getting steak doneness right is a team effort, starting at the table. Remember, one person’s idea of “medium-rare” may not be everyone’s.
With your decision to purchase and promote a high quality beef program on your menu you must take every opportunity to communicate this quality to your guests. Once they appreciate that the quality of your beef means a more enjoyable eating experience, they will understand the increased menu price.
When talking quality on your menu, point of sale materials or through your staff make sure you relay the quality factors that your guests understand and that influence the eating experience. For example, “We select only Canada AAA beef to ensure a juicy and flavourful steak every time” or “Our beef is aged a minimum of 21 days for maximum tenderness”.
With your beef dishes generating some of the highest revenue on the menu your time is better spent communicating the quality of these items rather than items on your menu like pasta dishes which historically produce less food margin. Steaks and roasts are not a “hard sell” to guests, they just want to know that they are going to receive value and have a great experience.
There are training materials and promotional resources available to you as a supporter of Canadian beef. Improving your overall beef knowledge will go a long way in determining the success of your beef program. Become an expert in all aspects of the beef in your operation: the source, quality specifications, how to handle, cook and cut it, and how to merchandise for best results.
Train Your Customers
There is a lot of misinformation about what makes a good steak. Many consumers believe what they’re told by so-called experts, whether right or wrong. And to most restaurant patrons, the staff and management are experts on the items sold on the menu but remember, your guests were someone else’s guests before and who knows what they were told about quality beef. Your job is to clear up the “smoke and mirrors” and teach your guests what really makes a great steak.
Communicating your beef quality and teaching your guests the “hows” and “whys” of quality beef will benefit you very quickly. Assuming their steak is tender, juicy, flavourful and cooked to perfection, and the knowledge of what contributes to steak quality, will undoubtedly have your guests searching the town for similar quality steaks. You will have set a new standard of excellence with your guests and now they know where to go to meet their expectations.
Your guests will become your best form of marketing – knowing what makes a great steak and where to find it. There is one school of thought that says all recipe information and kitchen operations are closely guarded secrets but that approach is a thing of the past. With the popularity of open-style kitchens, the promotion of fresh and quality ingredients, and the increase in restaurant-style cooking shows, clearly your guests want to know what they are eating.
If you buy quality beef and consistently deliver quality steaks and roasts, flaunt it at every opportunity. This will enhance the perceived value of the menu thus generate added revenue and grow your business.
Train Your Staff
Ensure your staff has the necessary knowledge and tools to make your beef program succeed. Just like the point of sale material on the table, if your staff cannot speak to the quality of your beef program and make informed recommendations to your guest they just become part of the furniture.
Take every opportunity to pass on your knowledge so that serving staff can effectively merchandise the menu to the guest. There are number of things you need to keep in mind when training wait staff.
- Keep it short – Attention spans are often short so keep to the point.
- Make it visual – Again, it is much easier to train if you are using visual aids like our Steak Cooking video or your own slide presentation on beef quality.
- Communicate why this information is important and what is in it for them when they are successful. Point out that bigger cheques mean bigger tips. Stick to information they can use with the guest – you may want to briefly discuss the quality of Canadian cattle but this is likely not relevant for the service staff. Concentrate on descriptions of the menu items, grade, aging, cooking and doneness, and how to deal with issues at the table such as over-cooks.
- Involve the kitchen – The back of the house is often ignored so if the chef can participate and back you up, the whole training process gains more credibility. They may also be able to communicate procedures to help ensure smooth service.
- Put the training to the test – Reinforcing knowledge through testing is proven to be beneficial.
- Bring leave behind materials for reinforcement and to train new staff.