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Four Things That Future Proof Culinary Operations and Why

October 11, 2022

Finally, after what feels like an eternity of economic pressures, the tide has started to turn for food service operators.

According to Datassential’s One Table Report*, 51% of operators now say that their sales have surpassed pre-pandemic levels. More sales mean putting more culinary professionals back into their routines.

Meanwhile, full-service menus replacing limited offerings and employees heading back to the office indicate that institutional and other non-commercial establishments –  such as campuses or office buildings – can spin their kitchens back up to full capacity.

While all of this does sound like great news for the passionate culinarian, there are still three major challenges influencing the way culinary professionals serve our communities:

  1. Inflation
  2. Labor shortages
  3. Supply chain disruptions

These challenges may not be apparent when looking at foodservice sales and traffic data. However, they do combine to create a potentially lethal impact on profitability and, ultimately, the lifestyle of those who serve our food away from home.

Even more so this year, some operators are reporting that margins have dropped by more than 30% since 2019. So, even though sales are up, the cost to fulfill those sales – not to mention the labor needed to get meals to the service window or out the door – has become much more expensive.

This is not to say that everything is all doom and gloom. It turns out foodservice operations and culinary professionals have struggled with these three challenges since the beginning of time.

These classic touchstones make up the physical and mental rigors of being a culinary professional, pre- AND post-pandemic. Typical scenarios include morning delivery of essential items from a distributor (which show up missing two cases of olive oil ordered the night before). Or, perhaps the dishwasher inexplicably fails to come in. Wait, did the walk-in freezer just go down?

So how is it that foodservice operations have survived these trials and tribulations over the last Millenia? How do noble service professionals march through the gauntlet of food delivery disruptions, ailing equipment, and a revolving door of kitchen staff – all while keeping their business future-proof?

They have command over four key components of their business:

  1. Menus & Planning
  2. Inventory & Purchasing
  3. Production & Service
  4. Technology & Overhead

When these four components are under control, the other outside influences that can wreak havoc on a culinary operation become much more manageable or even hardly noticeable. How is this possible? Let’s break them down.

Menus & Planning — Culinary and planning teams are using operating systems that allow them to pull real-time data from their vendors, calculate food costs in seconds, and find smart ways to improve the profitability of their menus. They do this ahead of time, and those with sophisticated operating systems can do it on the fly as well.

Inventory & Purchasing — Those with true command of their inventory and purchasing can do so within the same system in real-time. Production managers know exactly how many meals need to be made and instantly communicate exactly what needs to be bought - exactly when they need it. The most efficient of these have installed automated solutions to get orders into their food/non-food vendors without so much as a phone call or email.

Production & Service — With the other two systems in place, menus have already been planned, the food order is automatically submitted, and inventory is handled with the click of a button. Now, the fastest and most efficient kitchens can take advantage of that same data that was just used above to spit out prep lists with fully tabulated prep quantities broken down by station or contributor.

Technology & Overhead — Did we mention that all of this is done in one simple solution? While many operations have some semblance of a culinary operating system – such as a shared drive with spreadsheets or word docs, or maybe even advanced accounting software – the most well-oiled operations take advantage of a singular platform to improve the efficiency of their kitchens and, ultimately, keep costs down.

The most successful operations, those that are truly future-proof, have realized that they have data – recipe data, purchasing data, inventory data, and more – that can be harnessed in these four key ways to fuel a hyper-efficient, profitable operation.  

Curious to learn more? Check out our other most recent blog HERE

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Here's how modern food brands can future-proof their culinary operations and why it’s crucial for the viability of their kitchen.

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