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3 ways to cut costs with speed-scratch menu items

Across the industry, operators are always looking for innovative and clever ways to cut food costs and maximize labor. Getting the most out of everything, from ingredients to staff on the clock, can help to boost the razor-thin profit margins that are a reality of the business.

One way that operators can optimize costs is by menuing speed-scratch items. Speed-scratch combines prepared components with fresh ingredients for delicious menu items that come together quickly. For operators looking to save money and time, try these three speed-scratch strategies to help cut costs and speed up prep time.

Create craveable sauces

Scratch-made sauces can take a lot of time to make, and unfortunately, they may not be as appreciated as they should be. From rich béchamel for lasagna to a bright and delicious marinara for pasta, these dishes can all be made more easily with prepared components. For savory pasta dishes, umami-rich tomato soup or even vegetable juice such as V8 can be reduced and then doctored up to meet the desired flavor profile.

Signature sauces can also be made by taking a prepared sauce, such as alfredo sauce, and blending in another ingredient to boost its craveability. For instance, blending roasted garlic, roasted red peppers or spinach into alfredo sauce can make a brand-new sauce that can be used to develop dishes that are signature to a restaurant location or chain.

Elevate entrees

When prepared foods are used in menu items, it creates some additional flexibility, both with budget and with creativity, for the rest of a restaurant’s offerings. For example, using prepared pizza dough instead of making it from scratch means that kitchen staff can spend more time prepping fresh toppings, and they can also spend time crafting fresh, tasty side salads to go with the pizza entree.

Similarly, if a soup or ready-made broth can be used in a dish—for poaching proteins or as the liquid in risotto—then cooks have more time to think about creative flavor combinations that can be offered.

Speed-scratch also allows for labor to be used to create unique dishes that can be sold for a higher profit while still offering crowd-pleasers on the menu. Ready-made taco fillings, chili, soup, marinated proteins and more can all be used to put together cohesive meals that customers love, while still allowing chefs to flex creative muscle.

Ready-made broths can be upgraded by adding in spices, herbs and other toppings such as noodles, protein and veggies, to create ethnically-inspired soups. For instance, taking a beef stock and simmering it with Vietnamese spices and herbs to make a speed-scratch bowl of pho can save a lot of time in comparison to making the whole dish from scratch.

Use prepared foods as ingredients

Prepared foods used as ingredients can also save a lot of time in the kitchen. Soup is an especially great option for this type of approach, because it can boost the flavor of just about anything it’s added to. For example, using tomato soup as a base for making an Indian-inspired butter chicken entree can help operators offer on-trend ethnic dishes in a fraction of the time.

Likewise, using creamy soups as the base of comfort food creations, like mac and cheese, can save money not only on the labor, but also on ingredients, since cream is often a higher-ingredient.

Offering speed-scratch dishes is a great way for operators to save money on labor and food costs as well as time during food prep. Speed scratch menu items can include everything from signature sauces to upgraded entrees and can take pressure off kitchen staff when doing daily prep work. For operators looking for ways to maximize food and labor costs, speed-scratch is the way to go.

This post is sponsored by Campbell's Foodservice

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