Foodservice Updates is designed to help foodservice operators keep on top of all the industry news and provides tips for keeping business running smooth. We endeavor to provide the latest tips and solutions to keep you in the know.
Plan an open-minded menu
Record-setting inflation and ongoing food supply problems have transformed menus – but chefs are finding that the transformation can be for the better. As Fortune reported recently, food inflation’s effect on the price of many popular kinds of seafood has resulted in chefs serving up lesser-known, exotic alternatives. One example: the snakehead fish available on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It’s a frightening-looking cross between a catfish and an eel that happens to be a delicious crowd pleaser – and even better, only $6 for a whole fish. Other operators have needed to remove much-loved signature items from their menu because the costs just don’t add up. The owners of Chicago’s Parachute removed their signature bing bread from their menu, not only because of the 63-cent profit it generated for the restaurant but also because lower-cost substitute ingredients weren’t cutting it and there was a significant amount of labor required to produce it. They wanted to move toward a more equitable system that compensates staff better, and the bread wasn’t helping them get there. Looking across your menu, are there items that drag down your profits, overall food quality or staff compensation? In a recent interview, Chef Kathleen Hoffman, senior culinary manager for U.S. Foods, said in the current climate, she is focusing on helping chefs create scaled-down menus that address all of those challenges: “We help them winnow their menu down so they do five things really well instead of 10 things just okay,” she said. “The days of the 20-page menu are over.” For chefs, this often means making the call to remove menu items that guests love and have come to expect. Just trust that doing so can actually help you protect your business for the longer term.
Provide an escape
If being short-staffed has had a negative impact on your online reviews, take heart that you’re not alone: According to Yelp’s State of the Industry Report, complaints over short-staffed restaurants shot up 229 percent in the first quarter of the year. But some positive – and telling – news came to the surface as well: Slower service and higher prices have not deterred guests, who have shown continued interest in both indoor and outdoor dining options. In fact, NPD Group reports that on-premise restaurant visits climbed 38 percent during the first quarter as compared to the 45 percent drop at the same time last year. At the same time, people are being drawn to dining options that offer an experience: Yelp reported openings for conveyor sushi spiked 500 percent, dinner theater increased 240 percent, supper clubs rose 200 percent and themed cafes climbed 75 percent over the same period last year. Of course, last year looked quite different from this year in a number of ways – and now we’re looking at the likely prospect of a minor recession (and a rise in unemployment) on the horizon. To be sure, the constant fluctuations in the economy and ongoing labor challenges will keep operators on their toes in the months ahead. But the good news is that consumers will continue to look for positive experiences that provide an escape. Where possible, consider what experiences you can offer guests that require minimal labor – whether through automation, pop-ups, or rotating menu items that have an experiential element.
How to Maximize Your Menu with Less
If you feel like you need another set of hands in your kitchen, not only are you not alone, but Tyson Foodservice has a variety of ways to give them to you. With a full portfolio of ready-made products that exist to help streamline your menu and make back-of-house life a little easier, you can consider us your own personal prep squad.
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