Can caterers take steps to help ease the pressure of food inflation?

14 April 2022 by
Can caterers take steps to help ease the pressure of food inflation?

In short, yes! Thankfully there are some practical steps that may well prove helpful. Here Rachael Venditti, Business Development Manager at leading independent food procurement specialist allmanhall, explores ways in which caterers can become more efficient in their operational practices to ease some of the pressure of food inflation.

Should you be tweaking your operational practices and processes?

It's a good idea to consider revisiting your existing operational practices with a real focus on their financial benefit. During the pandemic kitchens had to adapt to an ever-changing environment that was outside of their control and devised systems that could cope with the guidelines laid down by the Government. Many of these changes have remained following the relaxing of rules, but now would be good time to review these changes to see if any further improvements can be made to enable a more cost effective and efficient operation.

Kitchen practices can be enhanced and made more efficient by considering, and where possible improving your team's skills. For example, a talented chef who is skilled and motivated in the kitchen will be more cost effective than bringing in pre-packaged products. Upskilling and training will therefore have benefits.

Consider reviewing how your teams are approaching stock management to see if there are opportunities to minimise holding stock and reduce wastage. Food waste can be a large and unnecessary expense. It's also an environmental issue, whether kitchen waste or waste from meals. So review and improve how your catering wastage is being both recorded and managed.

Now is also the time to giving consideration to your long-term capital investment strategy with regards to equipment. Using modern equipment can really drive cost efficiencies. New technologies may seem like a big cost upfront but will ultimately generate a return on investment as they use less energy, cook more efficiently and support waste reduction and help your catering team to optimise yield.

Recipes and menus

Real impact on food costs can be made through smart and effective recipe engineering, with restricted menus. Now more than ever, it is time to make adjustments that have no detrimental impact on quality or taste but that will shave off unnecessary costs! Recipes are an important way of managing costs, improving quality, managing dietary requirements, ensuring consistency and, of course, to help reduce wastage.

Consider reviewing the product specifications of the products you use without reducing the quality of a finished dish. For example, are class 1 vegetables really needed if they are being chopped up and put into a dish? Or could wonky vegetables be used instead, and savings be made. High-spend categories such as meat can be reduced or substituted. For example, replacing 95vl mince with 90vl, and offering more vegetarian dishes as an alternative. Perhaps review the need for luxury items and use own brand rather than branded goods where feasible. To do so, you may consider asking your suppliers for alternatives for sampling and so you can trial and test your options.

By undergoing a recipe review you can challenge your recipes and assess whether ingredients could be reduced or removed without compromising the dish. You may even discover some improvements! Why not start re-thinking about your menu cycles with the food cost for each dish taken into consideration?

By doing so, you will quickly identify those high-cost dishes and whether they can be adapted to reduce overall menu costs. Understanding changes in product pricing helps to influence your recipes and menus. For example, eggs and poultry are a particular risk area at present. Ensure you stay abreast of these things and adapt your menu accordingly.

As you are no doubt already acutely aware, communicating and sharing the challenges associated with rising food costs with your team and, importantly, your diners is really important. This will help to provide further understanding and will support any menu changes or required tariff increases you are compelled to introduce as food inflation impacts and pushes up your costs.

Another alternative is to outsource to a procurement provider, who will manage suppliers, undertake ongoing analysis and provide insight updates to help you plan, throughout the year. They will be able to help with budget management, negotiations around on pricing, terms and standards, and may also be able to support your team with dietetic advice and menu design.

Food inflation is a reality for this year. This we all know. Coping strategies, addressing the things you can control, are therefore going to be essential part of your catering operations. Re-assessing processes and menus may help your team to ensure catering budgets and food purchases go as far as possible.

For more information regarding food inflation, you may like to watch this helpful webinar from allmanhall.

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