Operators need to invest in quality ingredients to stand out from the competition, says Chris Welsh, managing director of Serious Food Distribution
As customers have become more discerning and want to eat good food as well as enjoy a memorable dining experience, it is no longer acceptable to serve a dish that lacks creativity or one that uses average ingredients.
The most successful food service operations are those that maintain a point of difference by offering ingredients with provenance and a real story associated with their creation.
Food trends in the hospitality sector are generally set by suppliers whose passion for food comes before finance. This is already much in evidence in the retail sector, where supermarkets are capitalising on growing consumer interest in food provenance and are actively promoting small British producers.
Current food trends suggest that chefs are searching for unique products that they can champion. One of our new best-selling products, for instance, is artisan bread from Holland. While you wouldn't naturally associate Holland with bread, this product is made by the fifth generation of a family of bakers and is a good example of how a product can be a key driver in food trends and behaviour. Bread is a popular accompaniment to every course on the menus of fine hotels and restaurants in Paris, Milan and Amsterdam, with London and the UK set to follow.
One of the key challenges in the future for suppliers to the catering industry will be the provision of "clean" products. More and more British consumers want to be assured that their food is safe, free from colouring, additives and preservatives, as natural as possible and sourced by ethical and food safety-accredited suppliers.
Opting for cheap, questionable ingredients as a means to achieve short-term profit will only result in failure. The bold chef who can maximise the demand for interesting and unique produce will be able to justify a premium for menu choices, which will ultimately increase margins, reputation and profitability and, more importantly, customer satisfaction.
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