Putting a Freeze on Rising Kitchen Costs

Sponsored by Reuven International

The pressure is on the foodservice industry to deliver higher volumes and faster service — all without sacrificing product quality and customer satisfaction. It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, and one made even more precarious by rising fixed costs, shrinking margins and the need to outperform the competition.

“The foodservice environment is becoming more demanding on owners and operators to provide a high-quality meal at an affordable price for their patrons,” says Chef David Cocker with Reuven International. “That’s why professionals in the industry are now looking at other variables to support keeping their food and operation costs down.”

A Study in Savings

Between the weakening Canadian dollar, elevated shipping costs and minimum wage increases, foodservice owners and operators are facing threats to their bottom lines on all fronts. And while shifting from a service-focused operation to leaner front and back of house operations can be a tempting strategy from a revenue-savings perspective, this approach can detract from one’s quality of service and drive customers across the street.

An alternative is to keep operations intact and focus on using fully-cooked frozen food products that require less prep time while maintaining a consistently high level of quality. It’s an alternative that’s gaining popularity, says Cocker. “With increasing labour costs, foodservice operators are now looking to more labour-friendly products that will aid leaner kitchen brigades to speed their chits to the pass, reduce variable costs and provide a consistent dining experience for their patrons.”

Examples of such products, he explains, include Reuven’s line of fully-cooked value-added chicken products that are made using state-of-the-art processing techniques and are deboned, portioned and trimmed by hand. This results in high-quality ingredients that an operator can use to produce meals that look and taste as if they were artisanally crafted in the back of house.

The benefits of this approach extend beyond customer satisfaction. By working with fully-cooked wings, for example, kitchens can eliminate the thawing, blanching and cooling requirements of working with raw ingredients. The cost savings associated with reduced labour, along with improved food safety measures and more efficient cooking processes, are significant.

“There will also be measurable oil savings with the removal of the blanching process, which can extend the lifespan of your oil from 150 to 200 per cent,” Cocker adds. “Removing the blanching process will greatly minimize the presence of extraneous fat, moisture and air that leads to further oil degradation caused by thermoxidation, polymerization and hydrolysis.”

Working with fully-cooked frozen chicken products also results in less yield loss when compared to cooking from raw. Recent studies showing that raw product can contribute to upwards of 45 per cent yield loss compared to 22 per cent with frozen fully-cooked alternatives.

Moreover, moving to a fully cooked frozen product can prove favourable when it comes to inventory control. As Cocker explains: “Having raw wings move through the entire blanching, cooling, and preparation stages will achieve a shelf life of only two to four days. If a restaurant runs into a slow weekend, this could cause an increase of inventory sitting and denaturing in their cooler, whereas a fully-cooked frozen product will always be waiting in their freezer because of its much greater shelf life.”

A Case for Frozen

All foodservice operators need to adapt to the increasing variable costs in their current operations in order to make a more successful and profitable business without compromising quality and customer satisfaction. There are options to achieve this, but if Reuven’s case study is any indication, they begin with the right ingredients.

This is the third in a four-part series examining the use of raw and fully cooked chicken products in the foodservice industry. Look for more discussions in future issues and learn more at reuven.com.

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