Old Roots, New Branches
For all the high-tech advances that have recently entered our industry --computerized equipment controls, multiple cooking methodologies, internet-based menu information – we are also seeing an equally significant counter-trend, one that is taking restaurateuring and foodservice management back to its roots. House-made signature items, hyper-local food production and organic agriculture all symbolize a return to the practices upon which the hospitality industry was founded. And perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of these new and old movements is that they are being combined in ways that most completely satisfy customers’ current dining expectations.
With restaurants and foodservices more dependent on high volume than ever before, there is an essential need for greater efficiency and productivity in the back of the house. That’s where high tech comes in, with equipment such as rapid-cook ovens, reduced-energy fryers and roll-in-combis working to speed meal production and allow more meals to be created with lowered costs in less space and with fewer employees. And, at the same time, it’s what these types of kitchen equipment and staff are making that evokes the origins of foodservice. Artisanal, organic and locally produced meal ingredients are showing up on increasing numbers of commercial and noncommercial menus, reflecting diners’ growing desire for fresh, environmentally friendly and wholesome foods.
There will always be operations where scratch menus will be financially or logistically impossible to produce. But for the majority of foodservice and restaurant operators, the old-new trends represent a welcome opportunity to respond to consumer expectations while streamlining operating practices and costs. Given the murky U.S. economic conditions, it takes courage for operators to purchase marginally more expensive fresh foods and state-of-the-art kitchen equipment. Justifying such investments means clearly communicating to customers what a foodservice or restaurant stands for, and using traditional and web-based marketing strategies to spread the message that the best foods and most efficient equipment are being used to create dining experiences consumers are craving. It is a rare moment in the business cycle when emerging and traditional trends coincide. But now they have, and savvy operators will be quick to take advantage of the convergence.