At culinary school or technical college, none of us made big plans to fill our menus with pre-made foods. We didn’t dream about one day microwaving our way to the top. We also never could have known just how impractical it is to make everything from scratch with real-world time and labor constraints. Bravo to those who do, but for the rest of us, we’ve learned to pick our battles and find secret weapons that help us get close to scratch.
Step 1: Experiment with Speed-Scratch Products
It’s not a new term, but as “house made” and “scratch” continue to pique diners’ interest it’s good to remember that there’s help at hand. According to Mintel, creating exclusive menu items is a key strategy, since they provide consumers something they cannot get elsewhere. Over the past three years, menu item claims such as “signature” (15%), “original” (10%), “homemade” (25%), and “house” (67%) have all risen. From par-baked crusts to pre-mixed seasonings, cooks can find convenience ingredients that are either partially prepped, pre-measured or primed-for-use that simplify turning out signature, house-made dishes. It’s just a matter of finding the products that do enough of the work without encroaching on your creativity.
Taking speed-scratch products for a test drive is well worth the time. Sauces are a good place to start. They can be challenging to make consistently every time depending on your staff. So experiment with good quality dry mixes that allow you to just add water and a couple other back-of-house ingredients to make them your own, like red pepper flakes for heat or roasted garlic for authenticity. You’ll find that you can significantly cut time, elevate flavor and turn out once-demanding dishes easily.
Step 2: Factor in Versatility
Some prepared products can help you get to a finished dish fast, but are one-trick ponies. You’ll want to avoid these in order to maximize your budget. For example, I’ve found that I don’t like using pre-marinated chicken because I can only menu it in one or two ways. If I get that same flavor profile in a seasoning blend or sauce mix, I can use it to create multiple dishes, including chicken, soup, pasta and more.
Customer satisfaction is a top priority which is why using prepared products to turn out quality food and a customized menu are important. But, there’s a sweet spot in the cost-effectiveness of speed-scratch products, and versatility is a big part of it. Dry mixes that you can menu in multiple ways offer significant advantages over scratch and ready to use (RTU) products every step of the way, from purchase and storage to preparation and finish.
Step 3: Consider Equipment Investments
Making a strategic equipment investment is another way to leverage the made-from-scratch trend as demonstrated by Chandler Unified School District Food and Nutrition Director Wesley Delbridge who told Foodservice Director, “It’s hard with schools to start literally from scratch, but it’s the perfect setting to do finishing touches.”
After putting pizza ovens in cafeterias and having the staff assemble prepared ingredients and bake off pizzas on site, sales skyrocketed. “It’s the same pizza as before. But the smell and seeing the pizza come out of the oven doubled participation,” Chandler says. While the up-front cost of equipment may be high, consider the long-term impact on sales.
Where there’s a will there’s a way, so don’t shy away from the scratch trend. Get a head-start with smart, multitasking products and equipment.
Find affordable and efficient ways to get closer to scratch cooking with Foothill Farms.
*A guest blog by Jennifer Kent, Customer Service Manager Kent Precision Foods Group
Very often, we get questions from our social media followers about “How to Order” our products. A customer can order from us a few different ways. When we say “customer” we are talking about foodservice distributors, not individual end users. A foodservice distributor is a company that buys, stores, sells, and delivers tens of thousands of food products as well as non-food restaurant supplies to restaurants, hospitals, military bases, colleges and universities and specialty food stores across the nation.
Orders can be placed in a variety of ways:
1. EDI – Electronic data transfer. The order data gets transmitted to us from the customer directly. Once it hits our system, we check to make sure the items, pricing, address, etc. all match and process according to our standard lead times. We receive around 50-60% of our orders via EDI.
2. Fax – Customers can order by sending their PO (purchase order) to our order fax number (314-567-7421). The customer service representatives then enter the order into our system and double check that the pricing in the system matches the customer’s PO. The order is then released to the warehouse and processed according to our standard lead times. This is the second most popular way for customers to place their orders.
3. Email – Some customers send their POs via email. They usually send them directly to the customer service representative that is assigned to their account. The rep then enters the order and follows the same process as the above.
4. Phone – We do have a few customers who still call in their orders. We discourage this as we prefer to have a PO that we can refer to that shows the pricing, address, item number and expected delivery dates. If customers don’t have the ability to use one of the above methods to order, we will take their order via the phone. These calls usually get routed to the appropriate customer service representative who takes the order and processes it as with the above methods.
After the order is placed, it is assigned for entry depending on what products are ordered and what region they’re in. For instance, our Foodservice Sales is divided into seven regions. When we receive an order for our foodservice products, the order is entered by the customer service representative assigned to support that region. The same is true across all segments of our business: Foodservice, Consumer Packaged Goods, Personal Nutrition Solutions, Custom and Industrial.
Our standard lead times apply to all orders, no matter the method in which the order was received. For regular stocked items, our lead time is five full business days from order receipt to order shipment and 10-13 full business days from order receipt to order delivery. Orders that are picked up by the customer or for which they arranged their own freight, can be picked up after five full business days from receipt of the order. For made-to-order items, our lead time is three to four weeks to allow time for the item to be fit into the production schedule. Orders are invoiced on the next business day following shipment.
We believe that following the above processes and lead times allows us to service our customers in the most efficient way possible. The lead times allow us to avoid most stock shortages and to fill as many orders as possible in full and in a timely manner.
To speak to a Kent Precision Foods Group customer service representative, please call our toll-free number (800) 442-5242.
Ketchup originated from ke-tsiap, a pickled-fish condiment in 17th century China that eventually evolved to a tomato-based blend created by late 1700s New Englanders. From its beginning, ketchup blended with ingredients from mushrooms to exotic spices was common and often an indicator of the flavors of the region. In recent history, the ketchup standard has become somewhat uniform; a familiar staple in kitchens across the nation. We are here to tell you, times are a changin’. The virtual lid is about to explode off the ketchup bottle and a multitude of flavor blends will be trending, much like its condiment counterparts – mustard, mayonnaise and hot sauce.
What does a new ketchup blend consist of? The possibilities are numerous and make it a wow experience customers crave. Spicy ketchups are easily made with chipotle, jalapeños, or by adding a tangy barbeque sauce. These additions are simple and produce a big impact on the plate when served with fries and a traditional sandwich or burger. Experimenting with sweet ketchups could lead to tasty creations such as raspberry or cherry ketchup, possibly served with sweet potato fries. A simple addition of a few new ingredients like fresh minced garlic, horseradish, or hot sauce can add a new level of dipping enjoyment for consumers. Imagine a plate with small ramekins of variations of ketchup in a clock formation, ranging from sweet to spicy depending on the added ingredients. Pairing food with ranges on the “ketchup clock” provide a unique, gourmet experience with a common condiment.
Another trend in ketchup creation is to include larger add-ins such as roasted beets, sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, water chestnuts, or even nuts to add richness to a condiment dip or topping. Imagine a juicy burger with a zucchini ketchup topper…yum! Any idea to combine the familiarity of a dish with a simple little twist is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. For bacon lovers, why not mix a little bacon, spices, and ketchup to serve with waffle fries? The buttery, sweet texture of pine nuts could pair with cilantro ketchup and be served alongside a host of menu items. One great combination that could lead to another idea to keep the dishes exciting for guests.
A recent study of consumer flavor trends indicates that two in five people say they are willing to spend more on meals that showcase new and interesting flavors, which suggests operators have substantial room to experiment. Of course, Foothill Farms has a few easy ways to zip up ketchup with products that have been popular for kitchens and guests alike. Adding a dry mix to ketchup is a reliably delicious way to stay up-to-date with the trends customers will be looking for in the near future. And operators can compete for traffic by positioning themselves as offering an upscale experience at an affordable price. Redefining ketchup could easily redefine the popularity of any foodservice menu.
Today, foodservice professionals feel the pains from a variety of factors facing the foodservice industry. Some of those culprits include: inefficient employee training and skill levels, rising labor and food costs, time management (prep time), food safety regulations, special dietary restrictions, and food consistency goals. One solution to help in these areas is the introduction of dry mixes, especially sauce mixes. The prep is simple – pour hot water in a bowl, start stirring with a wire whisk and gradually add mix until completely smooth. In fact, here is a new cheese sauce mixing video. If you haven’t tried a dry sauce mix, we can tell you that it is a no-nonsense approach to reaching your efficiency, quality and consistency goals.
Beginning this May, we are offering a money-saving rebate for 24 of our sauce mixes. This covers everything from cheese sauce to bourbon sauce to stir fry sauce to cream soup base. Operators will receive a $5 rebate per case (up to $200) and the promotion runs through September 30, 2015. Please visit our website for more details on the promotion and a list of applicable sauce mixes. The downloadable form can be found here.
By Hailey – A millennial
The hardest things in college are choosing your major and deciding what to eat each day. When you first start college, as I did last fall, dining hall food really isn’t that bad, but after some time it just gets old, uninspiring and heavy. There comes a time when burgers and pizza will not suffice, not just because of the repetition, but because the scale is screaming at you and so is your health.
At my university, more than 25% of students live on campus. Although there are three foodservice dining hall locations on my meal plan, I usually eat at the closest one because of time constraints and let’s face it…pure laziness. We have four different choices of meal plans. Many females choose the 10 or 14 meal plan but guys and athletes choose 19 or unlimited meals.
Looking around the dining hall, there are lots of different choices. It is set up buffet style with a salad bar in one corner, two main dishes in the middle, pizza and burgers in the other corner, and a cereal station. Here’s the usual food breakdown: Pizza, soup, salad, burgers, fries, pasta, make-your-own sandwich bar, and cereal bar. Then there are two main entrées that change everyday. Revolving entrees that come to mind are chicken fried steak, raviolis, and barbeque salmon. There are also ethnic inspired choices like teriyaki chicken, gyros, and burritos.
Another temptation lies outside the dining hall but still on campus – food courts. The one across from my dorm houses a Panda Express, Papa Johns, Subway, Chic-fil-A, and so much more. This makes things harder when trying to stick with a diet and eating healthy (with the exception of Subway). It just seems impossible not to gain the dreaded freshman 15. The smoothie shop does help with meal replacement and healthier food consumption. You wouldn’t believe how good real fruit tastes some days. They offer parfaits, energy boost smoothies, and frozen yogurt.
Accommodating special diets is also a consideration on campus. For example, at the dining hall’s cereal station, almond and soy milk are provided for those students who are lactose intolerant. Also, some pizzas are made with gluten free crust for students avoiding gluten because of an intolerance or lifestyle choice. Additionally, many of us want to “eat clean” and/or organic. It is actually really easy to eat clean if you stick to the salad bar and only grab a baked, grilled or roasted meat from the entrée line. The struggle is repetition. A salad and a plain turkey patty is not something we really want to eat every meal of every day. As for organic, we definitely aren’t seeing it.
I know MyPlate and the new healthier eating initiatives set forth by Mrs. Obama are trending but I’m still unsatisfied with my college dining experience thus far. I think that more can be done to help college students enjoy eating on campus. First, make the caloric intake visible on the menu, not just online. Second, let us know what we are eating by placing an ingredient card next to the food. Third, offer samples of food so that trying new foods isn’t super scary. Dumping uneaten food makes us sad, too! Fourth, make sure there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (possibly organic) to choose from as well as lean meats and seafood. Fifth, implement cook on demand areas like stir-fry and brick-ovens. Finally, consider purchasing organic. Set up a station that only serves organic food. Try it just to see if your business picks up!
Although I talk a good number about eating healthy, please don’t take away my option for a hot fudge sundae or a chili dog! Millennials are hard to please and we want everything instantly but you know we are the future and we’re eating out.
Restaurants, K-12 schools, healthcare and college dining halls have diverse menus and making fresh sauces and dressings from scratch can seem unimaginable. Grabbing a RTU jug and pouring it into serving containers seems like the easiest and most efficient use of time and definitely the safest choice when it comes to flavor and outcome. Agree? Not altogether. Plus, depending on your culinary staff, you might be depleting morale by limiting their freedom in the kitchen. There’s a better option. Utilizing a dry mix can capture the essence of scratch cooking yet save time and not harness your culinary professionals’ creativity and experience.
Want to see how easy it is to make three staple ingredients (Cheese Sauce, Gravy, and Ranch Dressing) and ignite those creative juices? You will discover just how customizable dry mix products can be with the simple addition of herbs, spices or vegetables. Made fresh fare is perceived as higher quality by customers and they are willing to pay more for it. Therefore, taking the 60 seconds to combine these mixes with water, or in the case of Ranch adding mayonnaise and buttermilk, is totally worthwhile. We like to call it – Speed Scratch.
For example, ranch dressing can be transformed easily into over 45 delicious recipes. From fresh salads to unique sandwich toppers, ranch rates on the top of the popularity scale for chefs and diners alike. To spark your imagination think Thai Ranch Dressing, Mojito Ranch Dressing, and Sriracha Honey Ranch. The same goes for cheese sauce. Everything is better with cheese, right? Just ask your food friends in the pantry and fridge waiting for the popular add-in or topper: potatoes, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, tortilla chips and fresh vegetables, among others. Lastly, instant gravy mix takes the most difficult part of mixing gravy out of the equation; getting the flour to butter/oil and water mixture consistent each time (not to mention the flavor). The guess work is removed as minutes turn into seconds for a finished product and the amount of recipes that utilize gravy mix is mind-blowing. Check out these ideas.
These videos have their own page on Foothill Farms’ website at http://foothillfarms.com/resources_videos.cfm
Predicted foodservice trends tell us that consumers want healthier foods and fast. One product that can help chefs satisfy consumer demand is dry salad dressing mix. Dry salad dressing mixes like Ranch, Caesar, 1000 Island and Lido Italian are not just for green salads. Mixes can be used to make robust marinades, gourmet dipping sauces for appetizers, savory spreads for sandwiches, flavor enhancers for potato dishes, and delicate sauces for fruits and melons.
Currently, we are offering a rebate for our Ranch Salad Dressing mixes (V400, V402). The promotion goes through May 31 and offers operators a $2 rebate per case (up to $200) on Ranch Dressing Mix products, plus a FREE first case of Blue Cheese, Lido Italian, 1000 Island/Honey Mustard, and Caesar Dressing Mix when you complete the rebate coupon. If you haven’t tried our V400 Ranch Dressing Mix or our V402 No MSG Ranch Dressing Mix, please leave your contact information below and we’ll send you a sample.
This money-saving offer is available to foodservice operators in the U.S. only. Please visit our webpage for more details on the promotion. The downloadable form can be found at http://doclibrary.com/MFR457/DOC/FoothillFarmsDressingRebate20155452.pdf.