3 ways to run a quality kitchen
“Quality” is a top industry buzzword that resonates with consumers from all demographics. For operators, promoting quality throughout restaurant operations—whether in the type of equipment and technology used or in food sourcing, preparation and serving practices—will help earn them a superior reputation and reap rewards by driving traffic.
But why does quality matter so much to today’s consumer? Eight out of 10 consumers say that quality is important in creating a good value at foodservice locations, according to Technomic’s Value & Pricing Consumer Trend Report.
To make sure that food quality is high, operators must not only use fresh, premium ingredients but also prepare the food in safe ways. The upside is that consumers are willing to pay more for quality at restaurants—which consumers often associate with premium, natural or clean ingredients. Four out of 10 consumers agree they’re more likely to purchase and willing to pay more for foods that are clean, and 43% say the same about foods that are natural, according to Technomic’s Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.
Here are a few surefire ways to elevate the food they’re serving and promote quality.
Source local and sustainable ingredients
Partnering with suppliers that emphasize local and sustainable ingredients is a key strategy for enhancing a menu’s value proposition. According to the Healthy Eating study, 70% of consumers say they are more likely to buy foods and beverages that are local, and 57% say they’re more likely to buy those items if they’re sustainable.
Both local and responsibly sourced ingredients resonate with consumers who appreciate eco-friendly practices, and these items also help build loyalty with brands that offer these types of foods. Operators can use quality sourcing practices to build brand trust and repeat visits from satisfied customers.
Pay attention to off-premise
There’s little worse when dining out than getting food that’s the wrong temperature. This can be a challenge even when customers are dining in, but it’s critical for takeout and delivery.
According to Technomic’s Takeout & Off-Premise Dining Consumer Trend Report, 58% of diners wait until they reach their destination to eat food they purchased as carryout/pickup, while only 11% say they eat the food immediately. With that in mind, it’s essential to use the tools necessary for ensuring your customers’ food is still in tip-top shape when they sit down to tuck into it.
It takes consumers an average of 13 minutes to reach their destination, so this can mean serving cold items in shallow containers to retain coolness or hot foods in insulated takeout containers. Many restaurants also use rethermalizing or induction warmers. These warmers keep soup hot until it’s ready to be served, and are great for back-of-house use, as well as at buffets and self-service stations.
Chef Nate Weir, director of culinary operations at Modern Market, a health-focused chain with locations in Texas and Colorado, understands these challenges.
“We intentionally keep the pack size of our soups small, so our teams are only holding a small amount hot at a time, and we utilize rethermalizing units so more soup can be rapidly reheated and held as a backup,” he says. “It’s very important for our management teams to know that serving amazing tasting food is a priority.”
Focus on freshness
Freshness is a vague concept to consider—after all, no business owner would knowingly serve food that isn’t fresh. But for as ambiguous as freshness may seem, it is also a critical menu attribute.
That’s because consumers react positively to callouts of freshness on menus—according to the Healthy Eating study, 81% of consumers think that food or beverages described as “fresh” are slightly or much more healthy, while 82% think food described as “fresh” is slightly or much more tasty. Since health and taste are both tied to quality perceptions, highlighting fresh ingredients and preparations on menus can go a long way with enhancing brand appeal.
Menuing foods such as crisp produce, oven-baked breads, organic meats and poultry, fresh-caught seafood and hot soups, especially during cold seasons, are all great additions to menus that focus on freshness. Consumers reported that they would like to see more seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables at restaurants, rather than canned or frozen.