Research your competition, but find ways to differentiate. Chains often spend millions on trend research to develop fully tested menu items. You can find inspiration from chains while still making the dishes your own.

Understand the details about the products you are buying. Think about waste considerations, i.e., fresh versus frozen. Also consider pre-cut produce and proteins, which can eliminate waste, and requires less skill back of house. Working with third-party online and warehouse clubs often means you can get a better price than broadliners.

Look for nontraditional sources of supply to give you regional connections. Operators may also want to partner with local bakers for specialty breads and desserts. This helps distinguish a menu, and often the quantities you need to order are smaller.