Sponsored by Nestle Prepared Foods Company
Restaurant customers want it all: high-quality food served quickly, sold affordably and, increasingly, delivered to their door. But in a time when skilled kitchen labor is in short supply, and cooks’ wages and turnover are rising, the challenge to meet consumer demand and merchandise food profitably is monumental.
One possible solution to such operational challenges is the use of ready-to-heat menu options. Items such as Stouffer’s Chicken Pot Pies that are assembled, ready for baking and simple to serve present a labor-saving incentive for operators. Even better, customers get wholesome and flavorful dishes they recognize, crave and buy repeatedly.
Convenience is essential
Consumers aren’t the only ones who love convenience items; chefs appreciate them as well. Delivered frozen to restaurants, pot pies provide convenience on multiple benefits to busy kitchen staffs:
- Prep for frozen pot pies includes only safe thawing under refrigeration.
- Bake, hold and serve properties allow for rapid plating during peak periods.
- Plate presentation and value perception are easily enhanced with an optional side dish.
- Easy inventory management and extended shelf life allow chefs to plan menus without concerns over product availability.
The convenience of pot pies also benefits restaurant customers:
- That they hold well once heated ensures rapid service for time-crunched lunch diners.
- Hot-hold grab-and-go items become an option to drive impulse purchases.
- Great holding properties make them ideal for piping-hot delivery and takeout temperatures.
- Single-serving meals are simple to eat and clean-up.
Labor savings and peace of mind
Industry analysts see no retreat in the rising tide of labor costs, especially in professional kitchens where hourly rates are the highest. According to the accounting firm BDO, in 2016 and 2017, increased labor costs shaved restaurant industry profits by 1.5 percent. It’s safe to assume, therefore, that simplifying food preparation will become increasingly essential in kitchens.
Scratch-made pot pies provide a great example of how costly labor can be eliminated with a quality frozen menu solution. To prepare them in house, fresh pastry dough must be blended, proofed, sheeted and formed within pie tins. Vegetables and proteins are then blanched, cooled and diced, followed by the creation of a thickened stock for the filling. Next, the whole must then be portioned and assembled according to weight, content and nutritional specs. Each step of the process requires skilled labor, as well as cooks who are knowledgeable in safe food-handling techniques.
But with frozen, ready-to-heat Stouffer’s Chicken Pot Pies, all of those steps are eliminated. Pies need only be thawed to refrigerator temperature, baked 45 to 50 minutes and served immediately or held for up to four hours.
The consistency gained with ready-to-heat pot pies ensure food-cost goals are met, and that all nutritional data is correct with every portion. Customers also benefit by knowing that they will get the same delicious item each time they order it.
Meals on wheels made easy
Restaurant customers are increasingly consuming meals off-premise. A July 2018 Gallup poll found that 84 percent of U.S. adults order food for either delivery or takeout at least a few times each month. Gallup also predicts that home delivery could become a $100 billion share of the overall foodservice marketplace.
Whether relaxing over a meal with the family or working late at the office to meet a deadline, consumers want satisfying meals prepared by restaurants. The boom in third-party food delivery services has helped restaurants meet this demand, and transactions for food consumed away from restaurants have risen accordingly.
Since not all menu items hold well in transit from the restaurant kitchen to the delivery customer's door, chefs should choose items whose temperature and texture remain intact throughout the entire process. Pot pies do exactly that with flaky crusts that keep the filling hot from the first forkful to the last. Those same properties make them ideal for carryout orders as well.
If your kitchen is struggling with high labor costs and complicated food preparation, consider a ready-to-heat alternative like Stouffer’s Chicken Pot Pies Not only will customers love them, but their consistency and simplicity will also be an appreciated addition to your kitchen.