Last week, we reported on the top food trends for 2012.

As has been the case for the last few years, many of the trends centre on locally-sourced ingredients and simple presentations that highlight quality.

Well, that’s fine—but incorporating new items into your menu can be challenging, both for your customers and for your staff. Add that challenge to possibly higher food costs associated with high-quality ingredients, and careful menu development becomes a top priority.

So how do you take advantage of the latest food trends and still keep your food budget under control? Take a look at these tips, based in part on this great article from Foodservice Equipment and Supplies magazine:

  • Try to look at the big picture. If you have separate people handling budgets for equipment, food purchasing and labour, you’ll need to get everyone together to see where you can economize and where you can increase spending. Consider applying savings in all areas, including transport, energy savings from efficient equipment, and waste removal, to your food budget. The key to this, of course, is communication and careful record-keeping—so keep on top of your expenses!
  • Incorporate new dishes into your current workflow. You’ll get backlash if you try and make your pastry chef grill your new locally sourced bison steaks—but he or she probably won’t mind using local strawberries in an early summer dessert.
  • Use your current equipment as much as possible. Buying a new piece of equipment for a single type of dish can often backfire if the dish doesn’t take off, so try and make your existing equipment do multiple duties as much as possible. If you have a waffle maker, for example, use it for traditional sweet waffles—and then consider using it for savory dishes to replace bread.
  • Downsize. Literally. Buy smaller plates, use smaller portions, and concentrate on simple, attractive presentations that emphasize the flavour and quality of the ingredients you’re using. Highlighting vegetables and grains allows you to present smaller cuts of more-expensive protein.
  • Manage food waste. Even if you don’t subscribe to a full-out “nose-to-tail” philosophy, teach your staff to use trimmings and unusual cuts for things like soups, stews, pizza toppings and salads.

How do you incorporate new menu items into your menu? Have you taken advantage of food trends in the process? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Image credit: nebulux76