Restaurant Toolkit

How to Make Your Restaurant More Profitable With Nate Pollak

In the third installment of our content series, The Secret Recipe: inspiration, education & tips to help your restaurant succeed in delivery, we hear from entrepreneur, author & restaurateur, Nate Pollak.
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Before we get started, let’s meet Nate Pollak!

Nate Pollak is the co-founder of The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen restaurants and author of Grilled Cheese Kitchen.

Before opening The American, Nate’s professional experience included over six years in management consulting and finance. He also spent several of his younger years working as a server, bar manager, restaurant host, and 2-time chili cook-off champion. Nate launched his first restaurant at the height of the recession with his wife, Heidi Gibson, a seven-time national grilled cheese champion. The American is now known to be one of the best grilled cheese spots in the U.S and has expanded coast to coast. Nate’s go-to delivery place? Cozy Wok, an artisan vegetarian Chinese spot in Oakland.

As a restaurateur, you know that running a successful restaurant requires passion, perseverance, people skills, and insight into what you spend, what you make, and where. You have to be aware of your bottom line constantly – the number itself and what’s contributing to that number. We know that this can feel overwhelming, so we partnered with restaurant owner and author Nate Pollak to learn 3 simple ways to make your restaurant more profitable.

As we know you’re busy running a restaurant, we’ve summed up Nate’s top tips on how to make your business financially successful in this one-minute video:

How to make your restaurant more profitable

1. Focus on what you’re great at and learn to outsource the rest

A lot goes into running a restaurant. From supervising employees to overseeing inventory, creating marketing campaigns, making great food, and taking care of your customers.

And with the increased adoption of online ordering, it seems that you also have to be a data expert just to ensure your operations are running smoothly.

While it might feel like you have to do it all on your own, it’s impossible to be good at everything.
That’s where lesson #1 comes in: focus on what you’re great at and think about what would make sense to outsource.

The past couple of years has been an unprecedented time in the restaurant industry to hire and staff your business appropriately.

It’s not only tough to find the right people, but training and retraining your teams can be a real headache. Maintaining a lean operation with limited staff is key to running a financially successful restaurant.

“Focus on what your customers love you for. The rest is just details”, advises Nate. Are there ingredients in your menu that take forever to prep?

Maybe the ingredients for a particular dish are really expensive or highly perishable, and you never manage to make the right amount.

Chances are there’s a vendor or another local producer that can make the ingredient you need without all that extra labor, training, and staffing headache.

Maybe the ingredients are not the problem, but your staff is getting pulled to work on cleaning, payroll, or managing social media.

To determine what gets outsourced, identify the strengths and skills of your team. Focus on what you’re great at and consider outsourcing the rest to professionals. The goal here is to focus on what you do best, serving people and making delicious food.

2. Review your menu for efficient inventory management

In our first installment of The Secret Recipe by Otter, we discussed simple steps to improving your restaurant’s menu to boost sales.

As a restaurateur, we don’t need to tell you about the importance of your menu. It’s one of the first things customers see about your restaurant.

It’s a reflection of your brand, the style of your food, and the quality of your business. But did you know that your menu is also key to maximizing your profit and minimizing your costs?

The simple answer is to understand the right quantities of each product you’re buying. You work with fresh produce, which can mean a lot of food waste if you're not on top of your inventory. Ask yourself this question: are all the raw ingredients that you’re bringing in to create your menu items being used efficiently? Nate advises having a “rule of two”: every raw ingredient you get must be used in at least two menu items. That way, you’ll avoid over-ordering and having ingredients sitting on your shelves and potentially spoiling. Make sure to use everything you’re buying efficiently so your menu can be a money-saving machine.

3. Launch a virtual brand with the resources you already have

There’s been a lot of industry buzz around virtual brands in the past year. You’ve likely read a couple of articles or heard about a major chain that launched a virtual brand of their own. The concept of virtual brands is still so new that the idea of creating one can feel complicated, but did you know that you can easily launch one with the resources that you already have?

Virtual brands are digital storefronts on delivery platforms like Uber Eats, Postmates, Caviar, and Grubhub.

That’s where the name comes from: they are called “virtual” because the customer can only see and order from these restaurants online. A single restaurant can have multiple brands in the same space, making them more profitable.

Say you’re running a grilled cheese sandwich place like Nate. Why not launch a virtual deli or a cold sandwich brand? Many of your ingredients and skills will translate well to this new idea. Then you can launch it with minimal risk and see what kind of revenue you can capture.

To get started, think about your inventory: what else can it be used for? Can you launch some new menu items and create a new concept? Maybe you can even take your current offering and pivot it to a new branding, new package, and new price to promote it to a whole new demographic online.

“The key here is to capitalize on what you already have in house to add more topline without sacrificing anything of the bottom line,” advises Nate Pollack.

So what are the benefits of creating a virtual brand? Today’s customers have no problem ordering food from places they haven't tried before, so creating a new brand has multiple benefits:

  • Dominate the delivery platforms. Having multiple brands means multiple appearances on platforms like Uber Eats, Postmates, Caviar, and Doordash. If you’re currently listed on these delivery platforms, you appear 1 time on each of them. But what if you could appear 2 or 3 times?
  • Increase your sales. Along the same lines, 3 appearances on each delivery platform translate to 3x the reach and potentially 3x the orders and sales.
  • Optimize your kitchen space. If your kitchen has enough capacity to prepare more food, why not take advantage of it?
  • Limit waste and take advantage of your current inventory. You can create a virtual brand with the ingredients you already use to optimize your inventory.
  • Experiment with your kitchen. Having an additional brand will allow you to try new concepts and dishes without changing what people love about your leading brand.
  • Multiply your ROI. The idea is to use the resources you already have (space, staff, ingredients) to significantly increase your investment return.

Track and manage your performance to increase your bottom line… and how Otter can help

Now that you know how to increase your profits in three simple steps let’s talk about tracking these numbers.

As a restaurateur, you know that analyzing your performance data is a key factor in optimizing your business to increase sales and decrease mistakes, but it shouldn’t feel like a full-time job—and we’re here to help with that. At Otter, we provide innovative and straightforward restaurant solutions that allow you to optimize operations, increase sales and understand performance, all in one place. Fill out the form below to learn more.

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