February 26, 2013 |

2009 May: Ask Chef Jeff

By Jeffrey Freehof

2009 May: Ask Chef JeffQ: I want to add fried foods to the menu to increase sales, but I’m not sure if I should get one of those ventless, countertop fryers or a floor model fryer.

A: It’s as simple as figuring out your space. If you have a hood and exhaust system and can fit a floor model fryer under it, it’s the way to go. I replaced a 5-foot fl at top grill with a new 4-foot grill just to fit a fryer under the hood. If you have to install a hood just to accommodate a fryer, then the countertop ventless unit makes more sense to get.

Our menu boards are old and kind of run down. Money is tight but we’d like to replace the menu board and raise prices. Any suggestions?

If you are not already exclusive with Coke or Pepsi, offer to be — but tell them you need help with the cost of new menu boards. I’m not crazy about the ones with the push on letters. I’ve had a local vinyl lettering company do up menu panels for me. Have them make you extra numbers to change the prices easily. If you want to get high-tech and modern, and really differentiate yourself, consider digital menu boards.

Sales are way down, which changes how I spend money. With lower sales, I need to spend less in my advertising budget. Where is the best place to cut back?

On the contrary, when sales are down, you need to cut back in as many controllable cost areas as possible. If you cut advertising, things can continue in a downward spiral. You really need to advertise more. Unless you are in an area where you do a lot of business with hotel guests, I would suggest getting out of the phone books. I did that and took those dollars and spread them amongst television, radio and extra print — which have given me a much better return on my investment. After four years of being in business in Georgia, I finally got with the times and got a Web site. If you don’t have one, it’s a real must. I shouldn’t have waited.

I know you did a salad and homemade dressing demo at Pizza Expo. I can see how it gives a better perception and flavor to the customer, but what do you use to serve them?

There are all kinds of different containers you can get for dressing. I buy 3-ounce plastic soufflé cups with lids to put my dressings in. I think my cost is about a nickel for the cup and lid. We portion dressings daily, so they are ready ahead of time. Make fresh salads ahead throughout the day so that it is fast and convenient for the customer to come in and grab a great salad with your homemade dressing. Think about getting some deli containers to sell your dressing in bulk. Your customers will think of you more often when they are eating your salad dressing at home! ?

Jeffrey Freehof, owner of The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, is Pizza Today’s resident expert. Send your questions to: Ask Chef Jeff, c/o Pizza Today, 908 South Eighth Street, Suite 200, Louisville, Kentucky, 40203