2005 Menu Development Survey: Dishing it out

Many of the largest organizations in foodservice have revamped, overhauled or otherwise upgraded their menus in recent years.

Not just line cooks: The survey also delves into the area of staffing, in an attempt to gauge the level of expertise that exists in today’s non-commercial kitchens, and pinpoint what efforts are in place to train the culinary staff on an ongoing basis.

More than a quarter of all operations have an executive chef on staff, but that rises to more than half in higher education. In fact, higher education outpaces all segments in specialized staff such as sous chef and pastry chef, and is far ahead in placing someone in a culinary training capacity.

That type of training includes conferences and trade shows as the No.1 method, with a substantial amount of in-house training, and to a significant extent, sending staff for more extensive training than what they can receive at conferences, followed by visits to the operation from guest chefs or other experts. Also making a substantial showing is the staging of cooking competitions as a way to hone staff members’ culinary skills.

Scratching the surface: Another element of the survey looks at cooking methods non-commercial operators use in production. Most (92%) use scratch-cooking, a strong majority make use of prepared entrees (69%) or components (65%)in meal assembly, and about a third are involved with cook-chill.

The survey asked readers to rank a handful of methods or practices in terms of their productivity benefits. Nearly two-thirds of operators gave use of prepared products the highest scores, compared to other things that enhance productivity like online monitoring systems (43%), automated inventory (28%) and e-commerce (27%).

Many operators belong to larger organizations like school districts, hospital networks or other consortiums, so the survey took a quick look at central production activities. Results show that 30% of operators oversee a centralized food processing/meal preparation facility, and they support an average of seven sites.

In this area, the market’s getting a lot of industry support with respect to equipment and systems that allow a school district, for example, to downsize the amount of ovens, kettles and other items at each feeding site, and transform those sites into facilities that primarily retherm meals produced at the central facility.

School districts doing this are often able to use up the extra capacities of these central facilities on weekends or during the summer, to launch catering services or pick up other business in the local community.

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