Fast Food and Big Food

I have spent the last 32 years trying to make Allyn’s a better restaurant day by day. I have analyzed the details of everything from food and décor to budget. I believe that you need to change the ambiance of the restaurant every five or six years and, at the same time, keep the place in tip-top shape. I have seen restaurants of the past hold the same theme and slowly lose market share to the newer, more relevant concepts. I emphasize newer because a new restaurant is emerging every day in Cincinnati. A few days ago, I talked to a patron, and he asked me how business was. I told him very well. He made the same point: every time a new restaurant opens, everyone tries it out, which must impact other venues. It does have an effect. The pie is only so big, and restaurants are all vying for it. 

Keeping your restaurant fresh and new keeps patrons interested and coming back. It’s also an ongoing investment. Aside from replacing expensive kitchen equipment, fixing HVAC, refrigeration (I have over a dozen refrigeration units), faucets, sinks, toilets, grease traps, washers, dryers, doors, windows, tables, chairs, roofs, gutters, etc.…. it would be best if you also put aside renovation dollars to keep the image fresh. I also analyze the budget to keep tabs on prime costs, food, beverage, and labor. We have a third-party inventory of the bar every two weeks to maintain a good beverage cost percentage. We watch portioning in the kitchen for consistency and cost. But I never try to buy cheaper ingredients to lower my food costs!
Another patron and I were talking about food and health. He is a lean person and told me that he doesn’t drink soft drinks or sugary beverages and doesn’t eat at fast food restaurants. Since he is in the remodeling business, I found that unique. He said he was amazed at how crowded the fast-food joints were at lunchtime. There is always a line in the drive-through. 

The unfortunate truth is our nation is addicted to inexpensive, non-nourishing food that tastes great but makes us sick. And when the price of tomatoes goes up, fast food first removes the tomato from your processed burger. Processed meat on a refined white flour roll, with white fried potatoes and 192 grams of sugar or 48 teaspoons in a 64 oz beverage. Not a prescription for good health. It’s all about the tomato, in my opinion. Suppose it costs so much for a corporation to keep a tomato on a burger when tomatoes are costly; what the heck? Your customers are numbers to you, not patrons. The same goes for larger full-service restaurants with several locations. If produce goes up in price and you must skimp on a cherry tomato, cucumber, or, for god’s sake, a few pieces of avocado, screw you.   

Why do major food companies and fast food restaurants try to make products cheaper? Shareholders, that’s why. They want a good return on their investment. Ingredients play a significant role, and the more affordable, the better. That’s good for the investors but not the customer. High fructose corn syrup is a good example; our processed food is loaded with it. Finding a ketchup for the restaurant that didn’t have HFC in it was tough, but I did. I think the big food companies would have our health as their primary concern and try to improve what they sell to us. Wishful thinking, at least for now. That brings me back to Allyn’s and being an Integrated Nutrition Health Coach. Perhaps some big food companies need a more healthful approach to their mission statements. Next time, we will talk about that.