Sponsored by La Brea Bakery
When it comes to restaurant fare, today’s consumers harbor higher-than-ever expectations. They want clean, high-quality ingredients, better sourcing standards and fresh takes on familiar dishes. They are also looking for new and exciting dishes infused with global flavors.
These demands coupled with ongoing difficulties sourcing ingredients and a growing deficit of experienced workers are prompting more operators to seek out prepared products that have longer shelf lives, simpler prep, and the ability to deliver more value without sacrificing quality.
Stocking up on these kinds of prepared ingredients combined with other simple strategies can help foodservice operators meet consumers’ increased expectations, all the while saving time, money, and labor.
Check out these three strategies to get started:
1. Use versatile ingredients for endless innovations. With food costs continuing to rise and labor remaining a big challenge, operators are looking for ingredients that allow them to elevate their menu items — but not the cost or time it takes to prepare them. According to a recent survey, 23% of operators say they are using more versatile ingredients while 30% say they are looking to simplify their menus.
Investing in prepared ingredients, such as high-quality bread, is a simple yet affordable way to generate interesting dishes that aren’t likely to be found on competitors’ menus. For example, a stand-out game day steak sandwich could be made with ribeye steak, mixed mushrooms and blue cheese on a French baguette from La Brea Bakery. Just slice the baguette lengthwise, brush with olive oil, place in a 350-degree oven to toast, and top with sliced ribeye steak, mixed mushrooms, and blue cheese crumble.
Or create a sit-down-restaurant-style, grab-and-go Breakfast Sandwich with La Brea’s artisan Ciabatta roll. Just toast the roll, top with fried or scrambled eggs, and strips of bacon, and drizzle with maple glaze. Thaw-and-sell artisan bread products all arrive frozen, but they don’t need to be baked, so operators get what they need now more than ever — more menu versatility with less labor.
2. Value engineer your menu. Making all of your menu items in-house from scratch can yield delicious results, but it also requires hours — sometimes days — of prep by skilled workers. Yet, operators don’t have to sacrifice quality or value when time and labor are tight. Instead, they can value engineer their menu by using food products that combine improved functionality with reduced labor and costs — like La Brea sandwich carriers.
With La Brea’s thaw-and-sell carriers, the exciting, value-forward menu items consumers crave — think Pizza Crostini Bar for a crowd, or Vegetarian Bahn Mi Sliders — can be at operators’ fingertips. Best of all, with this strategy operators can focus what skilled labor they do have on other ways to make the menu more exciting.
3. Repurpose extra ingredients to reduce waste. Reducing waste has become key to appealing to today’s sustainably minded consumers, many of which belong to younger generations. According to a recent survey by Food Insights, “people 45 years and younger are more likely to think about food waste while grocery shopping, eating out and eating at home.” That, and the fact that a whopping one-third of food goes to waste, presents a huge opportunity for college and university foodservice operators and others to capture more of the growing number of waste-conscious young adults.
A prime example of waste waiting to happen is fresh artisan breads — sandwich loaves, baguettes, ciabatta rolls and more — operators use to create exciting dishes. It typically takes 24 hours and skilled labor to bake the kind of crispy, crunchy breads with soft interiors consumer love, but only one day for them to go stale and unusable.
However, thaw-and-sell artisan breads, such as those made by La Brea Bakery, can be ready as needed and viable for up to four days. There are many ways to use extra thawed bread in new dishes. For example, leftover bread for a roasted vegetable strata or a Southwestern Bruschetta appetizer. Slice bread into rounds, brush with butter and fresh garlic, then toast and serve with a side salad, pasta or other dishes. Alternatively, thick slices of baguette are perfect for using in French Onion Soup With Red Wine.
Finally, don’t let all your efforts go to “waste.” Let your customers know about your waste reduction and sustainability efforts, either verbally or by calling out your commitment on the menu.