Sponsored by Hormel Foodservice
Change is a constant in foodservice, but no one anticipated the changes COVID-19 would force upon the entire industry. From raw ingredient purchasing, to food prep, to cooking and packaging it safely for delivery or carryout—and then sanitizing everything in sight—the industry may never return to its pre-pandemic routines.
But what the pandemic hasn’t changed is the industry’s collaborative nature. To continue feeding hospital patients, students and faculty, foodservice directors and their suppliers had to solve problems together. Understanding every operation’s unique needs comes from those personal connections, which is one reason why Hormel Foodservice has maintained a direct sales team since its founding in 1990.
“We talk regularly about intentional curiosity, meaning we ask a lot of questions about an operator’s menu, the operation itself and what its patrons want from that experience,” says Annemarie Vaupel, vice president of marketing at Hormel Foodservice. “We go into an operation seeking the operator’s needs first. That person’s agenda is more important than our desire to sell something.”
David Reeves, system director for Food and Nutrition Services at Lee Health, called his relationship with Hormel Foodservice “a partnership that’s lasted 20 years.” Leading a team to create 15,000 meals daily for the five-hospital company in Fort Myers, Florida, is a challenge made easier, Reeves says, when a manufacturer’s rep knows his business from the inside. “They always have long-term people who are seasoned in the industry. Hormel Foodservice people can help beyond just food and make suggestions that are operations related, too.”
The cost of kitchen labor was a serious concern long before the pandemic hit, and by May 2020, a Datassential report said 63 percent of operators had reduced staff to match the slower pace of business. Worse, as cooks and chefs contracted the virus and were quarantined, already reduced staffs were stretched to produce the same amount of food.
One short- and long-term solution to the problem is using fully cooked proteins to streamline prep, shorten cook times and generate a variety of menu options for guests, says David Weber, vice president of sales for Hormel Foodservice.
“Chefs want to put out great food, but they don’t have the employees to do it all from scratch,” Weber says. With prep efficiencies increased, chefs gain the option of cutting staff hours or employing fewer cooks. “We see a lot of opportunities to help chefs with speed-scratch items that remove much of the prep work from the picture, and we can point to items that reduce or eliminate labor.”
Good as scratch
Weber mentioned the portfolio of Premium Prepared Proteins, which includes fully cooked chicken, beef, pork and turkey products that remove time-intensive efforts like smoking, braising and roasting.
“Chefs and cooks can let us take care of things like braising, smoking and searing while they spend more time making every plate look awesome,” Weber says. “We look for peripheral items on menus that make labor a challenge, and we see if we can’t find a better product fit for that operator. Our goal is to make them more efficient in every area of the kitchen.”
Reeves recalled his introduction a few years back to the CAFÉ H® line, which includes chicken tikka masala made from fully cooked chicken thigh meat stewed in a creamy tomato sauce spiced with classic Indian flavors.
“That’s an example of their speed-scratch products, things any chef can cook with relative ease and labor savings,” Reeves says. “At another organization I worked, we brought that in, heated it, garnished it as we wanted and served it with rice. It was a huge hit and incredibly simple to prepare.”
After a lengthy career as a foodservice distributor representative, Chip Herchert tried his hand at restaurant ownership. When in the role of owner-operator, he began to realize the value of a manufacturer-direct sales force that understood its products so well that it saw solutions he didn’t know he had.
“As a distributor rep, I knew there were only three things I could do for an operator: Save them money, make them money or solve their problems,” says Herchert, owner of two restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky—Sidebar at Whiskey Row and The Hall on Washington. “A heat-and-eat item like the HORMEL® FIRE BRAISED™ fully cooked short rib, that’s solving a problem for me when I can’t find cooks who can do that consistently.
“That the Hormel Foodservice sales team spots opportunities like that, that’s proof that they train their people better than most.”
To learn more about how your operation can benefit from the Hormel Foodservice direct sales model, visit our partner website’s We Hear You page.