by Kat Rico
Photo credit: Erin Bibeau
Larimer County is a fantastic place for both restaurants and food product businesses. We sure do love some local flavor! Many businesses in this industry face three problems frequently, and if you’re planning to go into business in this area, you need to have a plan. According to our consultants who specialize in food products, here are three common issues you need to be ready to address as a business owner:

1. Cost control – This is absolutely the most important thing you can do to contribute to your business’s success. Wasted or spoiled food is literally throwing money in the trash, so being aware of this issue is incredibly important. Ask yourself: 

– How do we control food portions? 

– What are our best practices for managing inventory?

– What can we do to minimize spoilage? 

– Do we have the right partnerships with suppliers to get what we need, when we need it? 

Having trouble with cost control? On April 29, 2015, the Larimer SBDC is hosting a special panel and networking event entitled, “Controlling Your Costs in the Restaurant/Food Industry”, where we are bringing together four restaurant and food industry experts to share their knowledge with you. You’ll also have the opportunity to network and create potential partnerships with other business owners at this free event. To pre-register for this free event and for more information on our panelists, click here.
2. Creating a competitive advantage – Annual sales for Larimer County’s restaurant/food industry exceed $1 billion, so as you can imagine, standing out from the crowd is a challenge. Think critically about what you can do better than your competitors, the unique value your product provides and how to best position yourself for success. Some key questions to ask are:  – What ambiance does my product/restaurant convey?  – Does my product meet specific dietary/environmental concerns? If it doesn’t, can it?  – Who wants to buy my product and where will they want to buy it? 

3. Employee development and retention – It’s not just enough to get top talent, you have to keep it. Constantly retraining new staff is costly, both in money and time, and can negatively affect the moral of your staff and customer experience. Some quick tips for increasing employee retention: 

– As much as your ambiance needs to entice customers, that same attitude can help you keep hold of your best and brightest employees. 

 – Have a training program ready to roll out at a moment’s notice, so that when you do have to replace someone you can get your new employee up and running quickly.

– Keep a wary eye on staffing. Too many employees standing around will make them bored and cost you money. On the other hand constantly understaffing contributes to stressed employees and a poor customer experience.

– Your company may be small and there may not be much room for advancement, but giving your employees a chance to learn new skills will give them a reason to stay along with adding value to your business. Watch for trainings from community organizations and local colleges like the Larimer County Workforce Center and Front Range Community College.

If you’re having trouble narrowing your vision and creating your plan, the Larimer SBDC is here to help with free, confidential one-on-one consulting with experts who have been there, done that. 
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