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Little big buyers

Some independent restaurants in Houston are about to unveil the future of group purchasing.

DIY consumer research

Getting a bead on your customer base is no small task. Neighborhoods gentrify. Dining tastes evolve. Lifestyles can move the pendulum-like whims of diners from a hamburger and fries to a pineapple chicken pizza in a blurry moment. How's a restaurateur to cope?

Labor, food, energy, insurance, real estate—you name it, the fundamental prime costs of doing business are up, in some cases dramatically.

The price of hops, that's what.

Yes, customer habits are changing. But some operators are changing along with them—and reaping rewards.

Timing may not be everything, but when it comes to getting the best price on a wide variety of purchases, it can make a big difference.

Commodity prices are on the rise. And animal proteins—always one of a restaurant’s more expensive buys—are getting hit hard. But there are ways you can purchase and plate beef, pork and lamb to ease the pain—without shortchanging your customers or your profits. Listen to what these chefs, suppliers, economists and other experts have to say.

One might think that local ingredients are hard to come by during a Massachusetts winter.

Potatoes, seafood and almonds are three commodities that are key players on restaurant menus. Drought, high feed prices and other factors have wreaked havoc on several staple foods in the supply chain this year. How are these three commodities trending as we move into 2013 and how can they enhance the menu?

A major topic of conversation in the restaurant industry over the past 18 months has been the continued rise in commodity prices, especially for proteins. In 2012, beef prices rose 9.9 percent and chicken prices had a double-digit increase. These trends have continued in 2013, with the beef price pressure continuing a trend that started in 2010.

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