Here comes summer and, once pandemic numbers are under control and dining opens up widely, it will be time to get your grill on. Customers are raring to get back to outdoor dining, and nothing entices more than the smells wafting from a BBQ grill.
This year’s BBQ hot trends include flat plate grilling, high-end buns, layering, non-meat (plant-based innovations) grilling, and sauces and spices that take old favourites and present them in new and exciting ways.
There’s nothing like cooking over live fire to really ignite the taste buds. If you have that option at your operation, you’ll be able to bring out the flavour in any number of grill dishes — from vegetarian to meat and fish.
Burgers are here to stay, even with more Canadians choosing plant-based options.
Nearly four in 10 Canadians eat at least one burger a week, and men eat even more burgers than women, according to data from Weston Bakeries, which studies burger-lovers’ habits.
Here’s what really turns on burger lovers looking for a premium burger experience:
The patty (63%)
The bun (21%)
Condiments and cheese (3% each)
For many Canadians, a burger is naked without cheese. Not surprisingly, cheddar is the cheese champion at 47%, followed by mozzarella at 35%, Swiss at 33%, and Monterey Jack at 25%. Sliced is chosen by 63% and shredded by 17%.
Meat-topped burgers are trending… and going beyond bacon. Beef burgers are getting piled high with pulled pork, ham and beef brisket for a really meaty experience. They’re marketed as an indulgent, and ultra-savoury meat-on-meat combination.
Most Canadians like it simple and classic when it comes to buns, however new and exciting formulations are adding abundant new bun-opportunities. Here’s what Canadians traditionally look for:
Sesame seed buns (31%)
Cheese buns (22%)
Garlic bread buns (19%)
Onion buns (18%)
Whole wheat and multigrain buns (16% each)
Innovation is certainly coming to buns. According to Technomic, which collects data from the Top 500 restaurant chains, the fastest growing buns are potato buns, sesame seed buns, and brioche. Even ciabatta buns are beginning to have their moment on the grill.
Beef still reigns as burger king followed by chicken, fish and turkey. Eight out of 10 prefer a grilled beef patty. But new grill contenders are ready to take their place. Think seafood skewers and grilled fish.
Salt and pepper remain the most popular burger seasonings, however garlic salt, Worcestershire, peppercorn, and Cajun flavours are all gaining in popularity.
Diners love barbecue, and that’s helping to propel burnt, charred and toasted flavours, Technomic reports. Smoky flavours are no longer limited to just meats and cheese but are also being paired with contrasting flavours such as sweet and spicy to add complexity. The espelette pepper, originating from the Basque region of France, helps deliver that smoky, sweet and mildly hot flavour that makes plancha-grilled food an exciting new trend.
The fastest growing condiments are chipotle aioli, garlic mayonnaise, honey, marmalade and jam, especially savoury flavours like bacon jam and pepper marmalade.
We're all curious about how others spend their days. We may wonder, "What does my doctor do when she's not seeing patients?" or "What does the person who serves me food do when they're not serving me?" For those of you who want to know what exactly an AZ delivery driver does with their day, we sat down with one of our very own drivers, Johan Enns.
Johan Enns is part of the amazing team of Flanagan's AZ delivery drivers, who help make sure food and supplies reaches restaurants and foodservice operations safely. With five years under his belt, he's no stranger to the ins and outs of the job. In a typical day, he can make between 10 and 16 deliveries, which takes him about 10-12 hours.
When asked what he likes about the job, Johan admits that he enjoys being out there on his own, and is happy to help out when needed. "Once you're out there and have gotten into the swing of things," he says, "it's easy to do one call at a time."
Enns also likes the amount of hours he works: 52-58 hours a week. “You get to go home and do things outside,” he said, noting that during the summer he has a boat so he likes to go fishing and hang out with friends on weekends.
“A lot of places know me and it’s nice after 5 years, you know how they want their product and how they want their products to come in and put away.” He goes out of his way to put product on shelves for their workers that may be difficult for others to put away and he has often been rewarded with lunch each time for his help.
He enjoys getting to know the people who work at his customers. Johan makes sure to be friendly, professional, and courteous when interacting with these people because it makes his job easier when they recognize him as someone who cares about their business as much as they do themselves.
When it comes to choosing oils for your kitchen, the key to increasing revenue and taste is quality and convenience, says Jeff Poulo, national sales director for Saporito Foods.
The company is a leading supplier of high quality canola, corn, sunflower and vegetable oils, imported olive and blended oils, shortenings, margarines and zero trans-fat high-performance frying oils to retail, foodservice and export markets.
“Quality and convenience are the most important factors to consider when choosing an oil to use and cook with. Whether you are cooking at home for your family, or you’re a chef in a busy restaurant cooking hundreds of meals, you want an easy to use, great tasting, high-quality oil,” says Poulo.
When it comes to High-Performance (HP) oils, Poulo says his company’s oils come at a slightly higher price point but provide better performance, which translates into better value. Specifically, HP oils last longer in the fryer, reducing cost per use and have less oil retention in food and less flavour transfer from one item to another.
Operators should be aware that olive oil has been affected by crop disease and production losses over the past two seasons, significantly reducing supply and causing a substantial increase in price. This has “led to an influx of poor quality, expensive, misrepresented products,” says Poulo. He advises operators to ask their suppliers how this has impacted their products.
Saporito Foods has a stringent quality control protocol in place with its European vendors to ensure the highest quality olive oil is delivered each and every time.
Here are some tips to help you get the best value and flavour from your oil:
There are a variety of choices in the marketplace, ranging from regular salad cooking oils and specially-handled oils to high-performance frying oils. This can make it difficult and confusing when trying to choose an oil, so price becomes the deciding factor. But the lowest priced oil may not be the best choice for your application or the most cost-effective solution.
With deep frying you may have a choice between one 16L container of oil at $20 and another type of oil priced at $18 — a 10 per cent savings. But, depending on the brand, quality and application, this may only be a perceived savings before the kitchen actually consumes the oil.
As a simple example, if the pricier oil is a higher quality product, and lasts four days in the fryer instead of three (as the lower-priced oil may), then there’s an immediate and identifiable savings of 25 per cent on a $20 outlay, dramatically reducing cost per use.
Also, if the higher-priced oil has even as little as two per cent better oil retention level (the amount of oil that remains in the food) that’s a savings of $0.40 per 16L.
One extra day in the fryer, or 25 per cent better performance on a $20 item = a $5 savings per 16L.
Two per cent less consumption due to better oil retention on a $20.00 item = $0.40 savings per 16L.
The lower-priced oil can actually end up costing much more than initially anticipated.
The lower-priced oil can cost your kitchen $24 per 16L ($18+$5+$0.40) rather than $20.
These are potentially sobering numbers for any restaurant operator and shows why outcome versus output of initial cash should be considered when making any purchasing decision for your kitchen, particularly when it comes to oils.
Written by Suzanne Boles.
Once a necessity during the tumultuous year the foodservice industry has faced, now smaller streamlined menus are here to stay. And with good reason. Trimming and slimming down your menu adds well deserved money back to your bottom line, benefiting both you and your customers.
Long before COVID-19, if you remember back that far, Technomic had already acknowledged simplification of menus. Their Canada’s Shrinking Menus 2018 report noted that restaurant operators had been gradually cutting back on their menus since 2013.
Technomic reported that operators were being strategic about how and where to spend their money while dealing with the labour issues in the Canadian workforce.
Their Post-Pandemic Playbook continues the same macrotrend, stating labour issues already felt in foodservice pre-pandemic could be worse as former employees find other opportunities.
They also predict that many operators will likely focus on menu items that are revenue and profitability drivers, post-crisis.
Simplifying the menu makes good business sense: assisting cost control, reducing labour costs and keeping customers happy.
Smaller menus naturally use fewer ingredients. A tighter food inventory provides operators with many cost-control options without hurting menu quality. In fact, menu quality will naturally improve.
James Keppy, corporate chef for Maple Leaf Foods, is busy helping operators streamline menus and promoting value-added ingredients to help chefs in their kitchens.
“Operators need to do a few things well. No one can afford to have their menu be a book anymore,” says Keppy.
“Inventory items need to be reduced so that they can be controlled and better utilized in multiple applications across the menu. This inventory reduction affords little to no waste.”
Technomic’s State of the Canadian Menu 2021 report agrees and suggests operators adapt products to various dayparts, mealparts, menu categories and ordering options. They state that menu streamlining will be a necessity for operators amid and after the pandemic, sticking around as a long-term trend. Multiple applications increase efficiency on several fronts, from labour to storage to spending.
Fewer ingredients mean you will be ordering larger quantities of your staples, allowing for bulk purchases and economies of scale.
The time it takes to manage inventory decreases from counting to reordering. With a tighter handle on inventory, food waste is also significantly reduced.
Consumers continue to look for customization when ordering. A smaller menu can still accommodate these requests. Operators can rethink well-performing ingredients and use them strategically in their offerings. But that also means eliminating poorly performing ingredients.
Keppy agrees. “If there are inventory items present that are costly but show low sales on the menu mix, they are a drain on your resources in both money and storage.
“Menu items and their ingredients that travel well are important. Maple Leaf Pulled Pork and Beef can be customized by individual operators with their seasonings and sauce and will keep their heat for delivery. These products can be used for sandwiches, build your own tacos, and for mac and cheese topping.”
Relying on menu fundamentals is key, according to Technomic’s State of the Canadian Menu 2021 report. Operators scaled back their menus to focus on core items. Smaller SKU counts helped operators reduce operational complexity by streamlining their menus, reducing waste and staffing needs, and increasing speed of service.
“Smaller menus factor in labour. This could lead to the elimination or doubling up of stations in the kitchen,” says Keppy.
With fewer items on the menu, it is faster to train new employees — front of house and back of house. Wait staff will have more comprehensive menu knowledge and can effectively upsell and educate customers. Kitchen staff can quickly become experts on recipes, leading to faster service and higher quality dishes.
Additional benefits of having fewer moving parts, people and ingredients are increased efficiency and minimal mistakes — everybody wins in this scenario.
Everyone wants to be happy. Smaller menus help your customers get there. It is easier for your customers to understand who you are and what makes you awesome if they aren’t getting lost in your menu.
Visually, the menu will be more appealing in print and online. The physical menu will have white space and room to move, taking advantage of menu psychology theories. Plus, the digital menu will be simpler to scroll.
“Keep the menu easy to read and therefore easier to make a menu choice… especially if your customers are reading and ordering from a phone,” says Keppy.
Smaller menus increase the perception of quality over quantity and don’t overwhelm indecisive guests.
As ticket times decrease, customers get their orders faster, and that makes them ecstatic.
“Do what you are good at and what you are known for while still offering items that appeal to the general groups of meat eaters, vegetarian and vegans, healthy eaters and indulgent consumers. If you are a chicken place, offer fried, grilled and a plant-based version,” says Keppy.
He also reminds us that “no matter what you offer, always consider the quality and appearance on the plate as well as in the takeout container.”
Shrinking your menu is all about dollars and cents, and just makes good sense. Your operation will be stronger, more focused and even better than before. Your customers will thank you, and so will your bank account.
Written by Cheri Thompson
Could catering help restaurants bolster their bottom line? The question may seem counterintuitive since catering, like other areas of foodservice, has been hard-hit by the pandemic. But restaurateurs who have weathered pandemic restrictions and public hesitancy about dining out may be considering whether or not to add a catering operation.
Glenn Whitehead, owner of Plant Matter Kitchen and Plant Matter Café in London, Ontario, says, “Adding any possible revenue stream is probably just good common sense, to be honest. […] If you own a business right now and you’re open, then offering whatever you can is certainly something that I would strongly suggest.”
Jeff Dover, principal at fsSTRATEGY Inc., a foodservice and hospitality industry consultancy, adds, “The pro is that catering is more profitable than the restaurant business. Some of the fixed costs that impact the profitability of restaurants are known. You know how many orders, of what, and at what time. It also makes use of kitchens and kitchen labour that are idle or have excess capacity during COVID.”
On the con side, he points out that pandemic gathering limits affect the size of events, decreasing demand for catering. And many businesses that used to have staff meals catered now have those staff working remotely for the foreseeable future. No staff = no office catering.
Which has a better future: event (e.g., weddings) or office catering? The answer depends on whether you’re looking at the short term or beyond.
Dover says he’d choose event catering because these contracts “are typically larger and can involve alcohol-generating additional revenues.” He also notes the pent-up demand for event catering.
Public health restrictions, however, continue to restrict catering demand for such events. Whitehead is well aware of the pandemic’s impact on this part of his business. He catered hundreds of events before COVID-19 took hold, but that business dried up once restrictions hit. “Basically, we haven’t done a thing in a year,” he says.
Many variables influence when a hundred or more people will be able to get together again, Whitehead says. He doesn’t anticipate catering large events of any kind before mid- to late-2022. However, he does see opportunity in catering office lunches, especially in office towers where there are multiple businesses open with non-skeletal staffing.
Adding a catering operation requires fresh thinking about what catering means and how to plan carefully, especially as the third wave of the pandemic is making its presence felt in Canada.
Whitehead says, “Looking for other [revenue] streams is a critical piece to try to get enough sales to cover things and keep moving forward.”
Rather than the traditional weddings and conferences, foodservice operators looking to get into catering need to consider smaller-scale approaches that can generate revenues in the short term. In addition to the office lunch trade, options include catering meals for small gatherings at people’s homes and meal kits, both of which have become more popular during the pandemic.
Technomic, Inc., which provides insights to the foodservice industry, reports that for the second quarter of 2020 in Canada “45% of younger consumers, including Gen Zers and millennials, are buying more meal kits now from restaurants compared to before the pandemic.”
Whitehead says that with people being more cautious but also bored of cooking, restaurants can offer them more variety through items like meal plans and seasonal kits. “It’s a little bit less catering and more meal kits, but I would put it under that same category.”
He has always offered a meal plan service, with clients who come twice a week to pick up several days’ worth of assembled meals. “They don’t have to do anything but heat them up,” he says, “so that’s certainly an option that I think will continue to grow.”
Operators exploring adding a catering operation should think about the following considerations.
Written by Marlene Cornelis.