Optimize menus and boost profits with versatile ingredients

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Between navigating dining room closures and the growing demand for off-premise service, operators are now forced to rethink everything from restaurant capacity limits to the menu itself in the wake of the pandemic.

Optimizing the menu, however, can be a double-edged sword: While operators are pivoting to cut excess costs and streamline back-of-house operations, they can’t cut corners on the food quality and service their diners have come to expect.

Simple solutions can spell success when operating amid a variety of challenges, and choosing high-quality, versatile ingredients, such as real California dairy, can make a world of difference.

Multitasking ingredients minimize expenses

Whether to cut costs, to simplify off-premise orders or to reduce food waste while demand is uncertain, many operators have found themselves scaling down their menus. This doesn’t necessitate bidding adieu to variety, however. By choosing ingredients that are as versatile as they are delicious, operators can save time and money while continuing to provide their customers with a favorable array of choices.

California dairy products are the ultimate menu multitaskers. Of course, pantry staples such as butter, milk and cream play an important role, but some California dairy products, can do double—even triple—duty across the menu.

Hispanic-style cheeses from California bring authentic south-of-the-border flavor to a variety of dishes. Products such as queso fresco, Oaxaca, Cotija and Menonita play starring roles in traditional Latin dishes, but they can just as easily enhance everything from pizza, to bistro fare and vegetarian dishes in need of a protein boost—sometimes even at a lower cost than the ingredients they replace. For example, because California Oaxaca melts easily, it’s perfect for pizzas and sandwiches. California Cotija, which crumbles rather than melts, can be used to bring a distinct flavor to salads, soups and beans all across the menu, and California Menonita has a flavor similar to a Gruyere or Gouda with a low melting point, which makes it ideal for grilled cheese sandwiches and cheeseburgers. In these ways, operators who need to spec fewer ingredients can successfully reduce SKUs while maximizing menu options.

Quality counts

When it comes to cheese, quality can supersede quantity. When cooking with California cheeses, operators may find they can use less of the ingredient—therefore reducing costs—while still offering a better flavor profile than a lower quality ingredient used in greater quantity.

Recipe-enhancing, cost-cutting tips, including how higher quality ingredients can increase profits, take front and center in new idea-inspiring foodservice videos created by California Milk Advisory Board.  

The CMAB Cares video series is dedicated to sharing best practices and hones in on the details of finessing restaurant operations to remain profitable amid the current landscape, with topics ranging from managing prime costs, to growing corporate catering, navigating the new normal and creating blends with California cheeses.

The latest addition to the CMAB’s REAL Makers series, which features innovative ideas from independent chefs at trend-forward restaurants, is a “Special Edition” addressing 2020 challenges.  Chef Jen Biesty provides tips for crafting comforting takeout meals and meal kits, including a profitable “California Cheese & Wine Board” that customers can easily assemble at home.  

To learn more about how California dairy can help keep profits high, visit

This post is sponsored by California Milk Advisory Board


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