Case study: Labor-Saving Ingredients Aid Innovation


The constraints of today’s labor environment can put a freeze on innovation, as the need for consistency and speed of service can outweigh creativity and differentiation. To unlock that puzzle, today’s high-volume chefs are increasingly turning to products that deliver on consistency and easy execution.  The challenge is front and center at Orlando, Fla.-based Margaritaville Hospitality, founded by the legendary Jimmy Buffett. The array of 35 Margaritaville brands include the flagship Margaritaville, LandShark Bar & Grill, JWB Grill, 5 o’Clock Somewhere, new elevated beach bar Lah De Dah, Air Margaritaville (airport locations), along with vacation clubs, hotels & resorts, and casinos.

Chef Tom Kempsey, Director of Culinary Operations for Margaritaville Hospitality, notes that there’s a constant need for products that deliver consistency and easy execution. That’s why Kempsey is adding new pasta dishes to his lineup, thanks to its evergreen appeal with dining consumers and its ability to carry a myriad of flavor profiles.

“Operationally, particularly with the volume, we didn’t think our cooks could do it consistently well. We’ve had so much inconsistency with labor skill sets and cooking when it comes to our pasta dishes,” Kempsey said. “But we identified that there’s real opportunity for pasta on our menus. The challenge we needed to overcome was making sure we could deliver a consistently great end product. We knew the payoff would be worth it.”

Having looked at fresh pasta as a possible solution, Kempsey and his team were surprised to find they liked a frozen option. “We were almost there. Then Barilla Frozen Pasta came along,” he says. “It’s a game changer. We don’t need to hold a pot of water on the stove all-day long. My top reason for switching to Barilla Frozen is consistency in a challenged labor market. We now have confidence that we can roll out new—or updated—pasta dishes. Our odds of successful execution every dish, every time moved from 75% to 99%.”

Barilla for Professionals first brought Barilla Frozen® to the foodservice market in 2022, offering an innovative line of pre-cooked, frozen pasta. The company’s goal behind the launch is to solve for the labor crunch by cutting out the prep steps to par-cook, drain, chill and store dry pasta for service, while also improving consistency and cutting down on waste.

For Kempsey, Barilla Frozen is a solution that fuels innovation. The long-standing Margarita Pasta has undergone a few modern updates, making it more flavor-forward while keeping consistency in check thanks to the new frozen pasta option. “We switched out the traditional penne to the Barilla Frozen Cellentani. We make a lime-cilantro butter sauce in house, add roasted vegetables, garlic and vegetable stock, then finish with chive ‘grass’ and Grana Padano cheese,” he said. “It’s a great update that helps us stay fresh.”

“Since we’ve switched to Barilla Frozen, wherever we have pasta—from our restaurants to hotel banquets – our chefs are reporting that the end product is much better than what we were putting out before,” he said.

From microwaves to impingers, catering to ghost kitchens, Barilla Frozen is line-ready. Thanks to high-quality semolina and rigorous testing of the production process, Barilla Frozen can flex between to-order service or be held for 30 minutes or longer. Operators can now source from a line of four short and three new long cuts: cellentani, elbows, penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, linguine and fettucine.

For information on Barilla Frozen Pasta and to request samples, visit:

This post is sponsored by Barilla


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