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How to create quality menus despite skill shortages

To start the year, I’ve had many conversations with customers to discuss the challenges that they face and there is a definite theme that continues to come up time after time: skill shortages.

This has been broadly discussed in the media as hospitality slowly began recovering from the pandemic in 2021, and sadly it looks like it’ll be a challenge that continues throughout 2022.

I’m sure you’ve all had moments where you’ve had to flex and adapt over the last few months/years but it is really difficult to get it right.

This is why we’ve put together some guidance on what you can consider to help with skill shortages.

 

Streamline your menu where possible

Gone are the days where you could have huge lists of dishes available on your menu. You may think choice is the best option, but actually, many consumers would disagree.

Having punchier menus are easier to read on digital menus as it reduces how much you have to scroll and it also means that customers aren’t totally overwhelmed by so much choice.

It also makes things so much easier for your chef team if they have fewer dishes to manage when you’re struggling for resource and skill.

That doesn’t mean you lose all creativity on your menu though. If anything, the specials board has never been so important. Not only does it allow you to keep fresh and new options available for customers, but it also allows you to be more creative and adaptable if you are faced with supply issues on certain products.

If you lean into provenance messaging and freshness here, you’re onto a winner with driving the quality of your menu.

I personally think the biggest win from reducing your menu is that it allows you to focus on elements of your menu that you can make a name for yourself with. This is great for creating word of mouth promotion organically and it can also provide an opportunity to charge more of a premium on those stand-out dishes.

 

Reduce your waste by turning to your freezer

Talking about streamlining your menu brings me onto my next point: reducing waste. By reducing your menu, you reduce the risk of more preparation/stock you have to hold and potentially lose.

To further minimise the waste of products, could you utilise your freezer more?

Batch cooking and freezing allows for really quick solutions out the freezer to be done by low skill members of your team, for example.

If you choose to prioritise your freezer, think about what defrosts the quickest so you don’t have too much stock defrosting at the same time and so you can quickly defrost meals during a busy service.

For example, frozen mac and cheese, which is a solid mass, may take too long to cook in a busy service, but a frozen prime burger is designed to cook quickly so that might be ideal to have ready to go in your freezer.

Another key product to consider putting into your freezer is frozen vegetables. There tends to be a negative perception on frozen veg but there really shouldn’t. Often they are cut and prepared which saves you prep-time, plus it allows you to only use what you need so you aren’t risking wasting anything.

Our Food Development Chef, Damon Corey and I recently demonstrated how to get the most out of frozen veg in a live cooking webinar in the Bidfood Kitchen called “on the spot swaps for flexible menus”, showing how you can create quality dishes from it.

 

Watch a short snippet of it here:

 

Adapt your menu with easy to assemble recipes

Now is also a good time to review your recipes and search for ways of simplifying the process without damaging the quality.

One of the hardest habits to change is adapting a formula that has always worked for your menu favourites – but there are often small subtle changes that you can do that will make a huge difference in your profitability and quality.

This doesn’t mean you have to make all your dishes basic at all, but it does mean you can focus on the more complex dishes whilst junior members of the team simply put together quick fix dishes.

We’ve actually put together a list of quality recipes that are simple and can be done in 30 minutes or less, perfect for this.

With such a strain on resources these days, products like ready to use sauces, pastes and rubs have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, meaning you can have consistency, flexibility and quality every time when you use them.

They also allow you to make subtle touches to your menu that lean on trends . For example, if you’re looking to increase your GP on something like a side of halloumi fries, you could simply mix a harissa sauce with a ready to use tomato sauce to create a premium smoky tomato sauce that leans on trendy North-African flavours.

 

Unfortunately, there is no straight forward answer to this challenge as it is set to continue on through 2022. However, we have put together a new hub of support called Unlock Your Menu that focusses on the core challenges our industry faces.

The hub provides plenty of ideas, chef tips, recipes and insight to make use of as we navigate this tricky period of time together.

We’ve definitely gone past the point of saying “happy New Year” in every conversation but, since it is my first blog of the year, happy New Year all and I wish you all the best for 2022!

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