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Webinar Takeaways: The Power of Tech in Foodservice

Navigating the complexities of any kitchen is a constant juggling act, and staying organized becomes incredibly challenging in the inherently unstable kitchen environment. For far too long, the foodservice industry has been plagued by a lack of effective tools to handle the vast amounts of food data. A culinary operating system (COS) enables chefs to spend less time paper-pushing and more time crafting delicious food. 

Join Galley’s marketing leader Jason Gunn and culinary veteran Chef Nate Keller for an informative discussion about the power of embracing food service technology. 

Want to watch the full webinar? You can see it here: The Power of Tech in Foodservice.

Meet Chef Nate Keller

Nate Keller is a California native with over 30 years of experience in the culinary industry. His love for culinary arts led him to explore cooking as a hobby throughout his youth, and after graduating high school, he decided to forgo traditional education and instead explored the U.S. restaurant scene.

His culinary journey eventually led him to the Culinary Institute of America. Following his 1999 graduation from the Institute, he worked in small fine-dining restaurants and even briefly cooked in Europe before settling in the Bay Area.

In 2001, Nate was offered a position on Google's corporate food service team. There he realized the power of a platform to influence more people through quality food:

“What I learned very quickly was when you're cooking at small restaurants, you can influence the amount of people that you can serve on any given day, but in these larger corporate environments, you actually have a chance to influence a lot of people at once and make a big difference if you have the platform to do it.”

Throughout his time in corporate dining, Nate challenged the norm of traditional corporate dining being boring cafeteria food. Nate found satisfaction in transforming the perception of corporate cafeteria food and innovating within an industry that had seen little change for a long time:

“Even to this day, the stigma holds over corporate cafeteria food that you’ll go in and stand in line for a burger. The shift we've seen is that people are taking a lot of responsibility and curiosity over innovation in what they're doing.”
“We were thinking, ‘How can we make this cooler?’ “How can we work with more local forums?’ ‘How can we expand what we're serving to please a larger variety of people?’ ‘What do the vegetarian option and vegan options look like?’ ‘How will we communicate allergens and ingredients to our customers?’”

Nate now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and three daughters. He’s currently on the customer success team at Galley.the Director of Corporate Foodservice and Hospitality for Comcast and serves on the advisory board for Galley.

Key Webinar Takeaways

Jason and Nate delve into the intricacies of kitchens, mainly in corporate dining settings, and the real power of digitizing your recipes to better manage and organize your food data.

We encourage you to watch the webinar to hear the entire conversation, but if you’re looking for a high-level overview, we summarized the highlights below.

1. Managing food operations in corporate dining settings is very different than at a small restaurant.  

A smaller restaurant setting allows chefs to efficiently manage the menu planning process, building the menu around the products they receive in each order. Nate noticed chefs at smaller restaurants could rely on their knowledge of the kitchen and food orders to manage inventory effectively:

“One of the things I've found is that people in the restaurant industry can hold an amazing amount of information in their heads at any given time. Chefs at small restaurants will know exactly what's in their walk-in, exactly where it is, and how long it's been there.”

Menu planning on a small scale can be challenging because ingredient availability changes daily. With such frequent changes, it takes a lot of work to keep track of everything and determine what needs to be ordered. Nate remembers using spreadsheets to plan and scale recipes, which was tedious and time-consuming.

However, Nate realized that in a larger corporate dining facility with multiple menus and more people to serve (sometimes around 1,000 people served daily), the menu-planning process became far more complicated:

“The level of complexity goes up exponentially with each menu item you're going to serve on a given day. In a normal corporate dining facility, you could be serving 300 different recipes in a day, and the ability to communicate that to all of your customers accurately becomes incredibly difficult.”

Factors such as allergies, ingredient substitutions, and proper labeling add to this challenge.

When working as an executive chef in a corporate environment, Nate found that the amount of information became too overwhelming to keep track of in his head. He started spending less time in the kitchen doing what he loved and more time in the office manually scaling recipes. 

The culinary industry isn’t known for being tech-heavy, often using paper scraps or stained recipe books to manage menu planning. However, when any ingredient or recipe changes occur, there’s a risk of these paper records getting lost or crucial information being overlooked as it passes through multiple hands.

2. Staying organized is critical to success and profitability.

Nate admits that corporate dining didn’t use traditional recipes to plan their menus. Instead, he saw their orders as a shell of a recipe — all that was missing was a procedure and yield:

“The entire workflow of an entire restaurant can cook back to a single recipe: You have a recipe, it goes on the menu, you make your order, your order comes in, you receive it, you use that order guide basically as a template for your prep list, and then you just spread out that information [to create your recipe].”

By capturing all of this information, like orders and prep lists, and adding it to a database, chefs can create a scaled recipe that can be manipulated and used in the future to save time and energy.

However, chefs need interconnected food data and systems to make recipe planning more efficient, especially in a corporate kitchen. To ensure profitability, chefs must learn to keep up with constant changes, including ingredient subbing and costing changes.

Prices change daily for certain ingredients, so how are you keeping your costs up-to-date? How do you really know what your menu costs? And while chefs can enter invoices manually, Nate reminds us that this takes chefs away from their core responsibility of making delicious food. 

Nate says he found managing this data and instability challenging for his Bay Area food delivery company, Sprig. Even with careful planning and forecasting, events like sports games or weather changes could significantly affect their order volume. Updating orders and prep lists was a constant manual task, despite using interconnected tools like Google Docs, which were unstable and prone to breaking.

Adding this information about any ingredient changes or recipe modifications that was once held on paper scraps or disconnected spreadsheets to a culinary operating system, like Galley, makes the data easier to utilize:

“You feel so much more at peace when you know that your information is real and accurate, and you can make those real business decisions at that point based on that information. I think the real power is giving you the information so that you can make the best decisions for your business.”

Nate encourages chefs to run their businesses more sustainably, profitably, and responsibly, utilizing the wealth of available food data.

3. The foodservice industry lacks competent tools to track and manage food data.

We’ve seen abundant customer-facing food service technology and innovation, such as point-of-sale (POS) systems and self-serve ordering kiosks. However, Nate says that these innovations have often overlooked the specific needs of chefs and kitchen operations:

“These are customer-facing, they're money-makers, but people didn't think about inventory systems that are easy to use or the recipe databases that can connect to your inventory system or your ERP system or maybe even directly with your purveyors.”

While at Google, Nate was always searching for an off-the-shelf solution to help chefs better manage their food data. While these platforms existed, they were all clunky and challenging to learn and use.

Faced with the limitations of available tools, many chefs and organizations considered building their own internal tech solutions. However, Nate's experience at Google taught him that relying on volunteers for this technology development may hinder long-term growth:

“You have this system that potentially will be holding you back at that point because your program is growing, but you're not getting the resources to continually update and innovate and push that forward so that you can continue to push yourself forward. So do you want to go back and continually push that product forward, or do you want something that you can use that works, that you have a team of people, a full company of people, that will be there for support?”

The emergence of food delivery services, like Sprig, highlighted the gap in current offerings and the need for more comprehensive technology in the food industry.

Nate remembers talking to Benji, a Sprig engineer, about the challenges of maintaining accurate allergen information on their platform. They also realized the lack of automation to update nutritional and allergen information in real time, making it difficult to ensure that everything was always up-to-date.

These conversations between Benji (now co-founder and CEO of Galley) and Nate highlighted the need for more tools built by and for chefs who wanted to spend their time in the kitchen, not on a computer.

While at Sprig, Benji created version one of Galley, which aimed to minimize the long working hours and administrative tasks that often hindered chefs’ productivity and work-life balance. Nate explains this was the first solution built for culinarians rather than customers:

“A lot of the systems that I've seen in the past and a lot of the new food tech that comes out is built by people that don't really understand the industry. We make it a very big effort to make sure that Galley is channeling the voice of the people who are actually going to use it.”

Galley demonstrated that a culinary platform could be both visually appealing and user-friendly. Benji and the team designed the platform with its end users (chefs) in mind, resulting in greater efficiency and a smoother user interface.

4. A culinary operating system (COS) can revolutionize the menu-planning process.

Galley’s customer feedback loop is critical to the platform's success. We’re always looking for ways to improve Galley and ensure culinarians use only the best and most effective solutions for their specific industry needs. Through customer feedback, we’ve learned that using a culinary OS explicitly built for and by chefs has many benefits. 

In particular, Galley’s onboarding process involves close collaboration with Nate and other customer success team culinarians with deep industry experience. They learn as much as possible about your business, inputting your recipes into the Galley system. Nate’s goal is to make you the best you can be, and helping chefs do that is what he enjoys most about his role at Galley.

Galley implementation can take 60 to 180 days, depending on the complexity of your operations and data accessibility. Our teams work meticulously to ensure accurate and clean data and provide thorough training.

Nate explains that many of Galley’s customers have noticed a significant return on investment from digitizing their food data through Galley:

“We have the ability to have automated food costs. Every time you open that recipe, you can see the up-to-date costs; every time you put that recipe on a menu in the system, you can see what that overall menu will cost at the volumes you're going to produce it. You see your margins immediately.” 

Some operators have even pulled things off their menus because they didn’t realize how expensive those items were compared to what they were charging.

Galley also gives time back to chefs — users likened a culinary OS to a secondary sous chef that saved them around eight hours a week. With the ability to handle multiple menus and the accompanying changes, Galley streamlines the process of updating ingredient and recipe details, ensuring accurate costing for efficient menu management.

One of Nate’s favorite Galley features is the production workflow, which increases efficiency by minimizing the effort required to scale recipes:

“You have the ability to say ‘Here's my menu’ and ‘Here's how many people I think I'm going to serve,’ hit a button and automatically scale all your recipes, orders, and prep guides. That kind of work took me hours per week in the past, and now it's literally done in a click of a button.”

By automating manual administrative tasks, Galley enables chefs to devote more time to the kitchen, where they can focus on culinary creativity and enhance overall food quality.

Nate says that some of Galley’s larger users have observed a rise in the actual quality of their food since their chefs have more time to dedicate to it. He says that chefs are at their best when they’re creative, happy, and doing things they actually want to do:

“It's a compounding effect down the line — when you're able to put all of your efforts and love into what you actually want to do, you're going to do a better job, and you're going to have better food, and it's going to be a better outcome for everyone.”

Flexibility, integrability, and centralization are vital factors in Galley's design philosophy, enabling seamless integration with other systems and fostering effective communication within the food industry to reduce waste.

The industry is constantly evolving, and Galley strives to proactively drive change alongside consumers and chefs. By providing a robust and intuitive culinary operating system, Galley empowers chefs to focus on their craft, encourages proactive decision-making, and contributes to a more efficient and sustainable future for the food industry.

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