These days, there are more social enterprises in the restaurant business than ever before.  The increasing popularity of clean living, vegan and alternative eateries has opened up a new market for pop-up restaurants and small enterprises, offering a wide range of specialist menus.

Whatever type of food you’re selling, and however you’re presenting it, there are still some basic facts that remain consistent thought the hospitality industry.

In order to ensure that your food-based social enterprise remains successful, you need to add a pinch of savvy thinking to your recipes to ensure success.

1. Keep you food costs as low as possible

If fancy recipes and well-presented food are the key elements of your social enterprise, the best way to cut your costs is to find a cheaper way of buying your ingredients.

Just be careful though, because lower cost food should not mean poor quality food.

By finding creative ways to source your produce you may be able to skim those margins just a little more, which could make a big difference overall. Try talking to local whole food sellers or farmers and see if you can strike up a profitable relationship with them.

Being able to use fresh ingredients, straight from source is a big selling point for the customer and could help you raise the profitability of every dish you sell.

Another way to keep your costs low is to calculate your food costs regularly, as the market price for some ingredients fluctuates depending on season and availability. If a key ingredient increases in price at certain times of the year, be clever with your menu and redesign it to suit seasonal produce that can be acquired for less.

2. Love your customers with a loyalty program

From petrol stations to supermarkets and everything in between, lots of businesses offer some form of loyalty rewards program for regular customers.

There’s no reason that your social enterprise couldn’t incorporate this into its income generating streams, too.  Discounts or freebies for returning customers are great ways to ensure they return to your establishment.

A half price meal or a free desert is a small price to pay for customers that will keep your tills ringing.

3. Incorporate modern technology into your eatery

You can easily enhance the customer experience by using modern technology to make ordering quick and easy.

Using a table top POS (point of sale) device will allow your customers to quickly view menus, order food and even pay. This will in turn help waiting staff become more efficient, allowing you to cut down on the cost of wages with a smaller team.

On a broader scale, your website could also take bookings and pre-orders for food, which helps your front of house and kitchen staff be better prepared for each booking.

4. Consider your portion sizes

Unless you’re offering Michelin Star levels of dining experience, you probably like to offer your customers a full, hearty plate of food during their visit.

Whilst this is great for their bellies, it may not be good for your bottom line. Offering a smaller plate size, for example, means your ingredients can go further, and therefore you’ll generate more profit from each dish.

Reassess your menu to offer full or half size portions and price them accordingly. You’ll be surprised by how many diners only want a smaller portion of tasty food, as opposed to a plate full of average fare.

The same theory applies to sharing platters and dipping plates, which are also a more cost effective way to control portion sizes.

5. Don’t forget your daily specials

The lure of the specials board works in two ways.  Firstly, customers like to try something different, and a specials board usually looks like it offers “better” or more adventurous food than the dishes on the regular menu.

Secondly, using your newfound knowledge of seasonal produce, you can design your specials based on what you’re able to source at lower cost. Remember, low cost produce should not be bad produce, but it should be creatively cooked to produce unique and tempting flavours.

At Inspire2Enterprise we provide support, information and advice to any individual or organisation in the UK looking to start, run or grow a business where society profits. Cook your way to success with our top tips for social enterprises within the food sector.