Cafés bear the brunt of offering healthy options

Australian cafés are paying the price of providing healthy options on their menus to meet the demands of health conscious customers, new research reveals.

In its annual Hospitality Industry Success Index (HISI) report, Silver Chef found that more than two thirds (67 per cent) of small business owners had introduced ‘healthier’ items to their existing menu in the past year, but a quarter (25 per cent) said they were unwilling to pass on the higher costs of buying these products for fear of losing customers to the competition.

Instead, half of those surveyed (50 per cent) admitted to absorbing this loss by working longer hours themselves in a bid to reduce staff wages – one of the largest revenue drainers in the business.

Other cost-cutting measures include minimising waste, reducing portion sizes and using cheaper products and ingredients where possible.

Organic milk and coffee beans, gluten-free bakery goods and locally-sourced fresh fruit and vegetables cost more to buy than the generally available equivalents.

While Australian restaurants and cafés have led the charge in healthy dining to date, the research revealed that almost half (48 per cent) of fast food and takeaway outlets would also introduce healthy menu options over the next year.

Brisbane eatery Project 41 owner, Stefan Blee, agreed with the results, saying external costs had rocketed while menu prices stayed the same.

“To ensure we can deliver the fresh, gourmet produce our customers have come to expect we’ve had to move costs from other areas of the business to meet demand, and quite often that means I will take on more hours myself rather than paying for additional staff to cover busy periods,” he said.

Damien Guivarra, Silver Chef COO, said this year’s HISI report showed how the hospitality industry is evolving to meet consumer demand.

“It’s great to see business owners embracing this shift in health, and we do believe it is paying off – with our research revealing over half of restaurants and cafes performed better than last year in spite of rising produce costs,” Damien said.

“In saying that, we know that business owners are keen to reduce their overheads and can achieve this by shopping smarter and dealing with multiple suppliers to ensure they are getting the best prices on their individual meat and produce needs.”

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