I bought lunch last week for eight people, and the total cost came to $3,430, including GCT. That's an average of $428.75 per head. Each of the eight meals did not come to more than $500, two of which were around $300. And to be honest, the food could easily have fed at least another two or three people. Might I remind you that back in September (All You Need is a Nanny - Part 1), I bought lunch for a family of four (one being a baby, the other four years old), and the bill was over $8,000! Nuff nannies spent on that one! In fact, when you make a splurge like that, it deters you from ever eating out again, especially in this financial climate. Alas, this plan would not be too popular with our restaurateurs, nor would Thursday Life want to discourage Jamaicans from dining outside the home.
Firstly, we would hate for you to miss out on Monty's Café on Old Hope Road, diagonally opposite the NCB tower. While the parking is no picnic during lunch hours, there is ample air-conditioned seating and fabulous food waiting inside. The smaller-sized Curry Goat, at $495, is delicious and plentiful, as is the small Fried Chicken Breast at $285. Roughly half of all the meals they have on offer are under $500.
Then there's Our Place Jerk Centre on Hope Road, adjacent to Sovereign Centre, which dishes up a huge Jerk Chicken Lunch for $500, and just as big fantastic Fried Chicken for the same. You can also get the latter in medium for $400 and the small for $300, "which was just raised from $250," supervisor Nicola Taylor informed us, "due to the increase in the price of chicken." She added, "All the small sizes for the chicken meals went up from $250 to $300." The small Stew Beef, however, remains at its original $300, and the rather ridiculously large portion of Spaghetti & Meat Sauce rests at $500. According to the entire team, they get plenty customers each day, many of whom are regulars.
Of course, the ever-popular Dino's Meals To Go in Barbican Centre, snugly wedged between the fruit stand and Scotia's ABM, is another must on our list. Although the large meals tip over $500, you can still get the small Fried Chicken for $500 and the small Stew Pork for $450. These 'small' portions are a far cry from being small!!
Throughout the last six weeks I have scoured the capital for places that serve meals for $500 or less, and while certain that there are many more out there, I have eaten at 32 of them during this time. Might I add that at each eatery I have devoured more than one dish, and in some instances three...bringing my consumption up to a whopping 75 or so restaurant meals in a month-and-a-half. So much for dieting before the exciting Christmas season we have in store for you!
In the meantime, here are some tips for current or future restaurateurs as they navigate the choppy financial seas ahead.
* Buy and sell in volume — classic economies of scale theory.
* Shop around and get the best prices you can from local suppliers/farmers.
* Form solid partnerships with these local suppliers/farmers -- steady loyalty can bring better deals.
* Avoid buying expensive imported food -- start getting more creative with local products.
* Store all fresh food carefully, cleaning up items like scallion, lettuce and herbs as you get them -- that way the leaves don't brown and spoil, resulting in waste.
* Use older fresh vegetables and herbs in soups -- whatever you do, don't get to the point where you have to throw them away.
* Don't throw away the stalks and stems of vegetables -- use in soups or stock.
* Make your own stock for soup/stews with meat and fish bones.
* Portion sizes should be monitored, and be exact, down to the last 1g!
* Cost out each meal, down to the last cent, including incidentals like salt, pepper, oil.
* Don't have a massive menu choice, unless you have a massive client-base -- it can result in wasted food.
* Consider different meal sizes for your customers.
* Eliminate air-conditioning usage by planning outdoor seating for a new restaurant.
* Change all lighting to energy-saving bulbs, and if using AC, then go for the inverter AC.
* Minimise how often you open fridge and freezer -- set up a cooler of ice, if possible.
* Monitor all expenditures, including that of cleaning materials -- every cent counts.
* Don't be over-staffed, but ensure your staff is trained efficiently -- the job must be well done.
* Restaurant staff should not be taking their breaks at any time during service -- this is completely inefficient.
* Restaurant owners need to be eating, breathing, sleeping at their business -- this is a 24-hr a day job!
* Listen to customer feedback, and try and keep their meals at an affordable price... preferably for no more than a nanny!