2008 Menu Development Survey: The state of the plate 2008

Ethnic menu items continue to gain popularity among noncommercial foodservice operators.

Among the other areas that can impact menu development:

Staffing and training
Nearly 40% of all operators employ an executive chef, with B&I (82%) and universities (67%) most likely to have an executive chef on staff, and long-term care (15%) and schools (4%) least likely. Overall, 22% of operators have sous chefs, 11% have a culinary director, and 6% have a chef de cuisine and/or pastry chef.

When it comes to training, 80% of operators send staff to conferences and trade shows. Other training methods include in-house seminars and workshops (66%), off-site training at schools or institutes (31%), bringing culinary professionals to the institution or company (25%) and on-line training (25%).

Cooking methods
Overall, 92% of operators surveyed use scratch cooking, with virtually all college operators employing scratch preparation. School districts are least likely to use scratch cooking, with only 81% saying they cook from scratch. Almost 65% of operators use some prepared ingredients or meal components, and 60% use prepared entrées. Slightly more than 31% of all operators use cook-chill preparation for some items.

Display cooking is growing in popularity, with 48% of operators using display cooking in their facilities. The use of exhibition or demo cooking has grown in the last year by double digits in every market segment. For example, 76% of B&I operators do display cooking, compared with 63% last year. The other markets include universities at 95% (65% last year), hospitals at 39% (21% last year), nursing homes at 27% (9%) and schools at 12% (4%). Of those operators who offer display cooking, 51% do it daily, while one quarter of operators offer it once a week. And 49% of operators say they expect the frequency of exhibition cooking to increase in the year to come, because it’s good business: 75% of operators say customer counts increase whenever they offer display cooking.

The take-away factor
There is an increased demand from customers for take-away foods. On average, 20% of food purchased in noncommercial cafeterias and retail operations is consumed away from the point of purchase, versus 15% last year. By market sector, portable foods account for 30% of hospital business, 29% of B&I business, 17% of college business, 12% of long-term care business and 10% of school business. And 25% of operators believe take-out will increase in the coming year; the expectations are highest in universities (41%) and hospitals (39%).

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