4 ways to control your food and labour costs

Controlling your food and labour costs is one of the biggest keys to running a successful business. We asked Cindy Simpson, Executive Vice-President at Imago Restaurants, for her suggestions on how to rein in these costs:

Buy well

It’s not just about price and savings. Our suppliers have a lot of resources we can use to develop great menu items, both food and beverage. Their knowledge and insights also help us stay connected to the customer.

Ask questions

I spend a lot of time with people outside our company asking questions and finding out what people want when they go to a restaurant or a pub. Having that open dialogue with your suppliers, your partners and your friends is key. Every business is a living, breathing entity and you have to really approach it that way. The answers are all there, you just have to find them. You won’t find them sitting in an office.

Use food-costing tools

Make sure you have all the food-costing tools in place to help your chef achieve the budgeted food costs. You have to train your chef, and you have to work with both your chef and your suppliers. Together all of you can make it work. But again, you can’t be in the office – you have to be out with your people.

Develop your people

We always hire the best people we can, but that’s only half the job. We need to take care of them, encourage them and support them, and make sure they don’t leave us. It’s extremely important to develop them. Make your team stronger every day, all the time.


Cindy Simpson is Executive Vice-President of Imago Restaurants, a privately-owned company that owns and operates six Duke Pubs in Toronto. Imago was founded in 1985 and now has 300 employees.


Beth Pollock is a communications and content marketing expert. Working with Restaurants Canada, she has edited and published two newsletters (RC Insider and BITE); developed the RC Show website; managed social media feeds (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram); and written press releases, blog stories, operational manuals, and an op-ed for the Globe & Mail. Beth is also a freelance writer who has written for a number of publications about food, travel, and children’s books, and has written over 600 posts on her personal blog, Of Muses and Meringues about recipes and her personal travels. She has published three books for children.