Sponsored by Nestle Stouffer's
As real estate and labor costs continue their upward spiral, having an efficient kitchen has become a high priority for many operators. One way to address both challenges is building a menu around a more curated selection of labor-saving ingredients.
Restaurants that pare down SKUs see a number of benefits. Arguably the biggest is inventory simplification — fewer items to track means less time monitoring and ordering. It also improves operational efficiency by reducing the chances of running out of a key but little-used product that has fallen off the radar. What’s more, having less product sitting — especially perishable product — reduces the chance of spoilage and, accordingly, has the potential to improve margins.
Relying on recipe-ready ingredients provides undeniable advantages on the labor side as well. The ability to produce a speed-scratch menu by customizing prepared foods with signature tweaks eases some of the pressure to find highly skilled cooks. In addition, ingredients that have been thoroughly kitchen tested provide consistent taste and texture, and hold better than versions made from scratch. They not only save steps in the kitchen, but they also reduce the potential for waste or less-than-ideal results.
Identifying the right products
The trick is identifying products that will provide a solid and versatile foundation for a menu. Ideally, that means ingredients that can satisfy consumer tastes, can be plugged into multiple recipes, complement a variety of flavor profiles and work across dayparts.
Prepared soups, sauce bases, salad dressings, frozen pastries, par-baked breads and other items meet some of those needs. Prepared macaroni and cheese is a prime example of a product that checks all the boxes, and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese from Stouffer’s does more than that.
Stouffer’s White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese combines tender, al dente cavatappi with melty, creamy, aged White New York sharp Cheddar cheese sauce. The result is scratch-made quality with heat-and-serve ease.
Simple mac and cheese is already a favorite comfort food for many consumers; Stouffer’s White Cheddar version raises the stakes on this classic. Made with premium ingredients, it is free from preservatives, artificial flavors and artificial colors. Those attributes elevate its appeal for patrons who value menu transparency and the 73 percent of consumers who say they favor traditional foods with a twist, according to research firm Datassential.
Easy to customize
White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese can easily stand on its own as an entrée or side, but it can make an even stronger impact as a versatile and flavorful base for customization:
• The creamy pasta marries well with seafood, in recipes like toasted bay scallops or lobster mac and cheese — a version flavored with mezcal and topped with a butter-poached lobster tali — or mac and crab cakes. The combination lowers the average food cost while still delivering an indulgent dish.
• Creamy White Cheddar Mac & Cheese lends an over-the-top air to trending street foods — whether it’s Mexican street corn-inspired mac and cheese, burnt ends mac and cheese poutine, pulled pork mac or Nashville hot chicken mac sliders.
• Layered into grilled and deli sandwiches, mixed with aggressive flavors like Cajun and hot wings, or stuffed into seasonal produce like winter squash, mac and cheese boosts the textural and flavor complexity of familiar dishes.
Multiple daypart appeal
Meanwhile, the growth of all-day breakfast, weekend brunch, snacking and shared bites all provide opportunities to cash in on the popularity of mac and cheese.
• For breakfast, consider chicken and waffles with a twist: a batter made from White Cheddar Mac & Cheese is blended with eggs and baked in a waffle maker, served with jam, fried chicken, sriracha honey-butter, chives and maple syrup. A decadent breakfast-on-the-go sandwich with mac and cheese, bacon, avocado and an egg piled high on a toasted everything bagel satisfies the heartiest appetites.
• The sky’s the limit when it comes to lunch or dinner entrées and side that are built around or incorporate mac and cheese — sandwiches, stuffed vegetables such as squash and baked potatoes, or a simply prepared individual casserole topped with signature proteins, roasted vegetables, fresh herbs or luxury garnishes like truffle oil.
• Snackers and groups enjoying shared bites over drinks will savor items like grilled flatbreads slathered with White Cheddar Mac & Cheese and topped with custom ingredients. Guests also might try flavorful stuffed buns and sliders, or mac bites combining mac and cheese with other flavors in bite-sized balls that have been battered and fried.
Replacing scratch made with a premium-quality prepared version that works this hard across menu categories and dayparts — without requiring special skills, a long list of ingredients or concerns about waste — is a timely choice in today’s high-cost environment.