Increasing food costs is a top concern for foodservice operators. Sixty-six percent of commercial operators and 58 percent of non-profit operators cite food costs as an overall business concern, according to research recently conducted by the Zoomba Group.
While beef and other meat prices have stabilized in 2016, the amount still remains significantly higher than in the past. Consequently, these prices add additional pressure to already tight foodservice budgets.
To successfully address this issue, foodservice operators can either pass the price increase along to customers or absorb the cost themselves and seek alternative ways to stabilize and/or increase profits.
Although foodservice operators cannot control the rising cost of beef, they can effectively utilize preparation techniques and equipment to produce higher yields and significantly cut costs.
Maximizing Food Yields
Restaurateur Charlie “Charlie the Butcher” Roesch found that equipment and preparation play a large role in the outcome and yield of the final product. His Buffalo, N.Y.-based operation, which includes six restaurants, a catering operation and wholesale of slow-roasted meats daily to 75 grocery locations, is known for its signature “Beef on Weck” sandwiches.
Because Roesch dealt with a 30 percent price increase in his beef over the last three years, he made the decision to implement the latest equipment technology to get a handle on costs. Utilizing slow, steady heat, Alto-Shaam’s Cook & Hold oven technology tenderizes meat by activating its natural enzymes, thus rendering even tougher cuts of meat fork-tender. Plus, instead of 14 servings out of a rib-eye, the ovens are producing 18 servings.
In addition to the higher yield, Cook & Hold ovens have helped Roesch save on overall operating costs, since there is no need for a ventilation hood. The ovens can also be set to automatically switch from the cook to hold cycle, allowing items to prep overnight, saving labor.
John’s Pork Roast restaurant in Philadelphia also has benefitted from the addition of an Alto-Shaam Cook & Hold oven, which is helping its bottom line. Not only has this equipment reduced shrinkage of its pork roast, but it also allows owner John Bucci, Jr. to cook beef in-house instead of purchasing expensive cuts of pre-cooked meat.
Keeping Food Warmer for Longer
There was a time that the general philosophy of foodservice operators was that holding food hot was a necessary evil due to lack of labor, equipment and/or space to prepare items simultaneously.
With today’s latest equipment technology, more chefs are utilizing all types of techniques to hold food in a ready state to serve quickly. This not only results in increased speed of service, but also helps maintain food quality.
This wasn’t always the case. Because most holding cabinets utilize dry air, any moisture is quickly sucked out of the food being held. Adding to the issue, most holding cabinets have fans that blow dry air, which forces moisture to evaporate, potentially drying out food and impacting the quality.
When the cavity temperature drops below a set point, 2600 degrees of heat radiates off a metal rod, so it’s almost impossible to stop at a set point. As a result, temperatures typically rise 15 to 20 degrees over a designated set point, which makes cavity temperatures difficult to control and maintain.
Alto-Shaam’s hot holding options are designed to maintain quality, without overcooking or drying out food. Rather than utilizing an intense heat source, Alto-Shaam’s Halo Heat® technology uses low intensity, high-volume heat. A long cable wrapped around the holding cavity emits temperatures in the 300 to 500-degree F range, pulsing on and off throughout the process. A large digital readout ensures holding at the optimal temperature.
Five low-temp holding cabinets are available, offering capacities of three, five or 10 full-size pans or eight or 16 full-size sheet pans. Double compartment and roll-in models, along with warming drawers in a variety of sizes, also provide added flexibility for operators. Carts for banquets accommodate 96, 128 or 192 plates for high-volume heated holding. Other Halo Heat holding options include waterless food wells, display cases, merchandisers and carving stations.
Extending Shelf Life
When it comes to extending product shelf life, cook-chill systems also can save time and money. Cooking in bulk and rapidly cooling the food in a blast chiller can extend shelf life by up to five days. Instead of having leftover food going to waste, operators can serve the exact amount of food needed by quickly retherming the food before service. Colleges, health care facilities, restaurants, caterers and other foodservice operators can benefit from this system.
Rocky Rockwell, a corporate chef for Alto-Shaam, previously used a plate retherm system at a major university to serve plated breakfasts to 2,600 cadets in 10 minutes.
While he was prepared to do this every day, he would sometimes get a phone call at 4 a.m. letting him know the cadets had other plans for breakfast.
“Under our old system, all of that food would already be hot and in the warmers. It would all be wasted,” Rocky said.
But after incorporating Alto-Shaam’s rack management system, Rocky would cook in bulk in a combi oven, rapidly cool in a blast chiller, plate cold and simply retherm right before service.
In addition to the time savings that came with using roll-in racks, Rocky also was able to use those meals the next day. By doing this, Rocky was able to save about $5,000 worth of food each time a banquet or a breakfast was canceled. In addition, food chilled in Alto-Shaam’s Quickchiller™ blast chiller extends shelf life, as it can be served up to five days from the time it was originally cooked in the combi oven.
By taking advantage of the latest equipment technologies, foodservice operators can save time, money and labor, while ensuring food items are maintained and served at the highest quality.
Alto-Shaam can help you design the best solution for your foodservice operation. Request a demo today.