2009 Menu Development survey

Thai is “hot,” Mediterranean is popular and local sourcing is the way to go, say the respondents of FSD's 2009 Menu Development Survery.

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.

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