The following are a few that have proven to be effective in increasing the consumer’s health benefits, while keeping an eye on the operator’s bottom line.
- Change the occasion: By introducing special daily marketing programs such as “Meatless Mondays” or “Fryless Fridays” the operator can reduce the cost of certain proteins, while encouraging a healthier meal experience.
- Individually plated portions: This allows for the operator to control portion size, while making the dish appear much larger to the customer. For example, pasta can be portioned into small casserole dishes, baked individually with sauce and cheese and served fresh and hot.
- Lesser known beef: Cuts of beef such as tri-tip, beef cheeks, and bavette (flank steak) offer less expensive protein options that can be as flavorful as their more well-known brethren if cooked properly. These cuts also offer a lot of value because they deliver quality and taste that appeals to diners. Moreover, value cuts give the operator additional margin that they wouldn’t get otherwise. A ribeye may sell for $20, but an operator can offer a great flat-iron or top-butt steak for $13 and make a $3–$7 profit per steak.
- Natural, not organic: Organic ingredients still carry a premium in the market place, but operators can satisfy their customers desire for organic by offering ingredients with the natural label instead. Natural labelled ingredients don’t require the same level of certification as organic, are less expensive, and carry a similar level of gourmet cache to consumers.
- Change the center of the plate: Swapping out expensive meats for vegetable-centric proteins is gaining in popularity. It allows operators to reduce their cost while keeping entrée level pricing. The challenge for operators is finding a vegetable recipe that is filling enough as an entree and comes off as an excellent value next to meat. Popular, budget friendly options include the introduction of the “cauliflower steak” and the utilization of portabella mushroom caps as a burger replacement.
- Add grain bowls to your menu: Grain bowls reduce the amount of protein you need to purchase, while offering the customer a personalized dish that fits their nutritional needs. Alternative grains such as quinoa, millet or buckwheat lend the dish a “gourmet” touch.
- Make that meat stretch: Blend proteins with other ingredients to increase your yield, such as mushrooms, legumes, potatoes or tofu. In contrast to beef, mushrooms boast fewer calories, less sodium and no saturated fat. Those nutritional benefits have persuaded school districts, which must meet national health standards, to try the mixture.
- Salad with protein as an entrée: By offering a protein-packed salad as a main entrée (such as salmon summer salad), operators can reduce the amount of meat that is typically offered in a main entrée. The operator can offer this entrée at the same or slightly lower price point while saving on the most expensive part of the dish.
- Get beans and legumes involved: Operators can use beans and legumes as an inexpensive protein replacement in burgers and Mexican cuisine. Furthermore, they can also be added to spaghetti sauce in puree form or as a compliment to any rice bowel or salad. Budget-minded operators will immediately notice the cost savings, as dry beans and lentils cost approximately 1 cent per gram of protein, while steak and ground beef can average over 4 cents per gram.
Entegra Procurement Services regularly publishes blog posts on food trends and innovations in food services. Entegra is more than a group purchasing organization (GPO): Our team of procurement specialists implement strategic sourcing to bring the most value to your business. We help our clients, in many segments ranging from the healthcare supply chain to restaurant supply, to cut costs and consolidate their portfolios.