Evolution of a product

At Moe’s Southwest Grill, an Atlanta-based regional chain specializing in freshly made, customized burritos, signature ingredients are a big selling point. “We worked with one chicken supplier to develop the right cut size, flavor profile, marination level and packaging,” says Daniel Barash, senior director of operations and product development for Moe’s. “Our customers can choose any protein they want in any of our menu items, but 60 percent choose chicken.” Barash goes through these steps to make sure that the fresh, boneless, marinated chicken breast is consistent in quality and taste.

Check specs at plant. Start at the processing end, examining the chicken to make sure the cut size, flavor profile, color, texture and aroma meet standards. If something is off, Barash suggests working with the supplier’s food scientists to reformulate.

Store the product in-house. Place chicken under the same storage conditions used at your locations to test how it holds up.

Test in store. Using a “small” sample (20 pounds), cook chicken for varying lengths of time in several menu applications; taste for flavor, texture and consistency.

Ramp up operations. Go from 20 pounds to 500 to 1,000 at one store. Does product perform well at that volume?

Add product to inventory . “We contract out 8 million pounds of chicken a year,” Barash reports.

Market report

The latest figures from the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the USDA indicate that the chicken supply will total 35.6 billion pounds in 2007—only a slight decrease from 2006 but the first drop in production since 1973. Since chicken exports are expected to expand to 5.4 billion pounds, it looks like there will be less chicken available for both foodservice and retail. The chicken industry predicts that consumption will go down to 85 pounds per person, blaming the decrease on the increased costs of feed and production. Consequently, prices are expected to remain considerably higher throughout 2007 and into 2008.

Of all the chicken parts, wings are strongest in demand with prices to match, according to Advanced Economic Solutions, an Omaha, Nebraska company that specializes in agricultural markets. Tracking prices from January 2002 to April 2007, wings have reached their highest peak: $1.40 per pound. Breast meat showed seasonal highs of nearly $2 per pound wholesale back in April, but now seems to be leveling off. As long as corn prices don’t soar out of control in the next six months, profit margins should remain acceptable, the company forecasts.

The ERS estimates turkey meat production at 5.8 billion pounds in 2007, up 2.4 percent from the year before. Prices for whole turkeys remained strong through the first quarter of the year, about 4 percent higher compared to the same period in 2006. Although turkey production and supplies are forecast to be slightly higher by yearend, price decreases will be limited by higher prices for all the other proteins—beef, chicken and pork.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

Menu Development
sweet pea ravioli

On any given night at the Wake Robin senior living facility in Shelburne, Vt., residents may find spring sweet pea and mascarpone ravioli with white wine cream sauce or acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and cranberries on the menu. These dishes, along with a new sweet-potato burger topped with cilantro aioli, aren’t just delicious, says Director of Dining Services Kathy King. They’re also completely vegetarian.

The popularity of Meatless Mondays and the growing number of people who call themselves “flexitarians” have impacted menu development in every noncommercial sector. Although...

Managing Your Business
umass amherst food

Restaurateurs in Amherst, Mass., aren’t happy with UMass Dining .

Registered dietitian Dianne Sutherland told local NBC affiliate WWLP News in May that the high quality of food served on campus means students aren’t visiting neighborhood eateries as frequently as those businesses might like.

“Even our vendors who we work with, they get complaints from the restaurants that students are staying on campus,” she said. “They are already paying for the food; why should they [go] off campus to eat?” More than 19,000 Amherst students are on a meal plan—6,000 of whom live off campus...

FSD Resources