2009 Menu Development survey
To prepare and serve
Most operators use a variety of methods in preparing food, but convenience is increasingly trumping fresh. Among survey respondents, 91% said they do at least some scratch cooking, and 30% said they do some or all of their preparation using cook-chill methods. But when it comes to using already prepared foods in their operations, 71% said they use some prepared ingredients or meal components, compared with 65% last year, and 62% said they use some prepared entrées, versus 60% last year.
When it comes to scratch cooking, 45% of operators take that right to the customer in the form of display cooking, and 54% of respondents said they plan to increase the frequency of exhibition stations. There is an excellent reason for this: 78% of operators said their customer counts go up by an average of 15% when display cooking is done.
Colleges and universities are where you are most likely to see food prep in front of customers, as 89% of college survey respondents do this, with an average of about 6 stations per institution, and 78% said they offer it every day. Display cookery also is prevalent in B&I, where 80% of respondents offer it; by contrast, only 11% of school foodservice operations offer display cooking, and they do it only once a week.
Local and organic
Local sourcing and the use of organics are still popular elements of the menu development process. Seventy-seven percent of operators buy at least some foods from local sources, compared with 74% last year, while the percentage of operators buying at least some organic products rose markedly, from 32% last year to 40% this year. In both cases, produce is the most likely item on shopping lists. Fifty-eight percent of respondents buy local produce for an average of 45% of their total produce purchases, and 33% buy organic produce for an average of 15% of their total produce buying.
Among other local products, 57% said they buy dairy items (55% last year), and 37% buy meats or seafood from local sources (33% last year). A big purchasing change is in buying local baked goods. Fifty-two percent reported buying these items locally, markedly up from last’s year 38%. On the organic side, 20% (17% last year) buy snacks, 16% (11% last year) buy dairy products and 11% buy meats or seafood.
Finally, the great majority of operators—92%—have eliminated trans fats from the products they use or serve customers. Although that percentage hasn’t changed much, the variety from which trans fats have been removed has grown. Fifty-one percent of operators have removed trans fats from baked goods—35% last year—and 36% have removed them from all purchased prepared foods, versus 25% last year. Eighty-four percent said frying oils and shortening are trans fat-free, compared with 81% last year. Salad oils are trans fat-free in 63% of operations, compared with 58% last year.