2017 trend: Making more with less

ingredients sheet

Food costs overwhelmingly influence what goes on noncommercial menus, according to our survey. For 49% of respondents, the price of ingredients always impacts menu choices;
32% say it often is a factor. But Chefs’ Council members are skilled at controlling costs without diminishing perceived value. Here’s how they’ll deliver the biggest bang for the buck. 

Vegetable tart Provencal

vegetable tart

"Vegetable tart Provencal is a small piece of puff pastry with slices of zucchini, a few grape tomatoes and some caramelized onion. Even at our low price point of $4 we’re at well under 20% food cost, but the perceived value is very high because its ‘fancy’ factor is high. Plus, it gives the impression of being both healthy and indulgent.”

—Eric Eisenberg
Swedish Health Services

Pork shoulder

pork chili verde

“We cook whole pork shoulders to use in several applications. I am experimenting with braised pork chili verde, which can be shredded for taco filling or diced for a stew with rice and beans.”

—Eli Huff
Salt Food Group


lentils bowl

“Legumes are great on the wallet, and we can introduce them into our menu in a variety of options with delicious success.”

—Cameron clegg
Parkhurst Dining

Grain bowls

thrive 360 avo farro bowl

“We’re buying less beef and adding grain bowls. They offer a personalized dish with interesting flavor profiles, and can fit the needs of vegan, halal and gluten-sensitive students.

—Bill Claypool
Vanderbilt University

Rice and beans

rice beans bowl

“Rice and beans have always delivered high flavor, protein, variety and value. Also good ol’ grilled cheese and tomato soup combos never fail to satisfy and sell.”

—Tracey MacRae
University of Washington

Beef tenderloin tail

beef tenderloin

“Beef tenderloin tail is as tender as a filet, since it comes from the same piece, but offers much better value.”

—Nicola Torres
The Garlands of Barrington

Build-your-own stations

moes ingredients line closeup

“More build-your-own stations for students. They get to pick exactly what they want so it reduces waste.”

—Callie Fowler
Union Public Schools

Reduced portion sizes

small portion filet mignon

“Reducing portion sizes on high-cost items.”

—Carrie Anderson
University of Illinois at

Roast chicken

roasted chicken

“The USDA commodity roast chicken is a lower-cost item that can be menued in multiple ways—jerk chicken, barbecue chicken, baked chicken, etc. Because it resembles chicken that students get at restaurants, they are more likely to participate on the days it is menued.”

—Kevin Frank
Detroit Public Schools

Beef brisket

beef brisket sliced

“Beef brisket. It’s simple and cost-effective, saving on labor and the food budget.”

—Gregory Gefroh
University of North Dakota


sushi chopsticks hand

“Sushi. I think the market and margins have already been set, so our students are accustomed to the price range.”

—William Brizzolara
North Carolina State University

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