3 speed-scratch hacks to stretch your food costs

Versatile, low-labor ingredients make menu development easy
Photograph: Shutterstock

When developing a menu, operators often look for ingredients that can be used across different dayparts so the ingredients being ordered aren’t limited to use in just one or two dishes. Using ingredients such as bacon, potatoes, pasta and other versatile foods can also help simplify the number of foods operators have to order, which makes inventory and prep work easier.

But perhaps the biggest benefit of using versatile ingredients is being able to craft innovative, creative and craveable menu items from familiar favorites. For instance, potatoes are perfect at the breakfast table, as well as at lunch and dinner. They’re a crowd pleaser as a side, entree, appetizer and more.

Want to get inspired? Check out these ways to make potatoes work all day long.

Inspired appetizers

Whether offered as french fries or potato skins, potatoes are a popular appetizer that can be tinkered with, topped and customized for each diner who orders them. But operators can go beyond these two dishes to offer even more potato goodness perfect for shared plates—that is, if diners don’t want to keep things all to themselves.

According to Technomic’s 2019 Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report, 40% of consumers say they purchase an appetizer on all or most visits to foodservice locations, and 65% say a key purchase driver for appetizers is whether it satisfies a craving. When operators develop appetizers, craveability should be top of mind.

Idahoan Foods’ Tater Tumblers make it easy to create craveable options. Simply combine them with ingredients such as cheese, crab meat, bacon and more, then scoop and fry. Add a dipping sauce—such as barbecue sauce, remoulade, marinara or aioli—and the appetizer is complete.

Elevated sides

When dining out, the sides are just as important as the entrees for most consumers. Operators might be tempted to stick to the basics—such as a side salad, steamed veggies and french fries—but by offering elevated sides such as mashed potatoes or loaded mashed potatoes, operators can enjoy a boost in check averages with upcharges for premium sides. What’s more, fresh-dried potato products, such as mashed potatoes or potato slices from Idahoan Foods, streamline prep and cut down on the labor needed to get these sides onto plates.

Indulgent entrees

Potatoes are a great side and appetizer, but they can also be used as a component of an entree. And with fresh-dried potato products, operators can offer indulgent, complex entrees without adding more labor to the back-of-house team. For instance, mashed potatoes are the perfect base for red wine-braised short ribs at dinner, and using fresh-dried mashed potatoes means there’s no time spent boiling, mashing and seasoning. Meanwhile, at breakfast, hash browns, potato slices or Tater Tumblers can be used as the base in a skillet and served with eggs, a breakfast protein and other toppings such as cheese, chopped vegetables and more. When it comes to the busy breakfast rush, cutting down on labor anywhere possible can ease the stress on kitchen staff, and fresh-dried potatoes are the perfect solution.

For operators looking for ways to cut down on labor without sacrificing great taste and craveable menu items, using speed-scratch potatoes from Idahoan Foods is ideal. Learn more about Idahoan Foods’ potato products at

This post is sponsored by Idahoan Foods


Exclusive Content


Podcast transcript: Virtual Dining Brands co-founder Robbie Earl

A Deeper Dive: What is the future of digital-only concepts? Earl discusses their work to ensure quality and why focusing on restaurant delivery works.


In the fast-casual sector, Chipotle laps Panera Bread

The Bottom Line: The two fast-casual restaurant pioneers have diverged over the past five years, as the burrito chain has thrived while Panera hit a wall. Here's why.


How Chick-fil-A's shift on antibiotic-free chicken signals an industry evolution

Chick-fil-A was a No Antibiotics Ever brand, but now its standards are more in line with KFC and others. Will consumers understand the nuanced difference?