Contributed by Catherine Corley, vice president of marketing insights, Sam’s Club for foodservice

This article is the Bottom Line Solutions online exclusive for the February 2009 issue of Chef Magazine.

Times are tough. Money is tight. We've all seen the stories and heard the news, and we get it. Operators and consumers alike are doing everything they can to pinch those pennies—save costs anywhere. In light of these current economic conditions, running a successful restaurant can be especially challenging. And let's not forget the hard work and long hours it requires. The National Small Business Association validates these sentiments, sharing that, with consumer spending down, 71 percent of small-business owners have a negative outlook on the economy, up from 43 percent last year.

These are the five consistent cost-saving tips restaurant owners say they're using to save money and keep their businesses afloat during these tough times.

Always compare prices. No matter how insignificant the purchase may seem, it is always a good idea to compare prices. Some stores will offer price matches to meet or beat the current deal.

Use credit options that pay back. Credit has tightened considerably, but is still available for today’s small-business owners. For those who have a good credit history, it can pay dividends to search out institutions that offer cash back or reward options.

Lower printing and shipping costs. Most business owners say that the majority of their costs are related to shipping and printing expenses. Operators can save substantial amounts of money by seeking out discounts in these high-expenditure areas.

Become tech-savvy. It is no secret that taking a business online can increase the potential audience and help drive traffic to brick-and-mortar locations. Look into creating a Web page. For instance, Sam's Club offers its small-business owners a complimentary Web site and a range of online advertising packages. Sam's Club business members are utilizing this tool to help save money and increase their exposure.

Be prepared. While it may be tempting to do so, business insurance is one area that should not be cut. Buying appropriate insurance up front saves money in the long run and could potentially keep an operator from going out of business.

As a leader in the foodservice industry, Sam's Club understands the challenges of independent restaurant owners and provides a variety of low-cost products and unique services designed especially to help them succeed. Sam's Club saves the independent restaurant owner money through a wide selection of food, serving equipment, cleaning supplies, and paper products, in addition to the added value of cash-back rewards. Small-business owners are invited to take the Invoice Comparison Challenge to compare prices available from other distributors or office supply stores. With everyday low costs, Sam's Club partners with restaurant owners to meet their individual needs with unique solutions—all designed to save operators money. During the 2008 National Small Business Week, Sam's Club conducted more than 5,000 invoice comparisons and identified more than $3.5 million in savings for small businesses through products available for purchase on its shelves vs. other competitors. Visit