This March, past FSD of the Month Randy Lait and his team gave the FoodService Director staff a tour of the operations at North Carolina State University. During our visit, Randy shared how data is affecting their menu creation and menu mix. At the university, they’re encouraging chefs to use big data—and not just gut feelings—to inform menu decisions.
Every foodservice operator wants to offer more contemporary items in order to please their customer base and keep chefs challenged and engaged. Many chefs make those decisions based on their own tastes, or what’s exciting them at the moment. But their tastes may not be the same as their customers’, especially when those customers are grade-schoolers or college students or 70-year-old world travelers.
Simply adding something new to the menu—or taking something off—is easy. But as Randy and his team (and many of you) are proving every day, finding that just-right item or mix of items takes work.
Still, change is important, especially in today’s environment. FSD’s sister company Technomic reports that half of younger consumers say their definition of healthy food has changed over the past two years. Most people say they tend to eat healthy (or think about doing so), but very few follow a specific diet; instead, they view “healthy” based on their own definitions, which inevitably vary.
While the work is hard, the rewards of innovation on the menu and in your operation can be great. And in some cases, they can be fun, too! I’m proud to announce that we at FoodService Director have been selected as the exclusive media partner for noncommercial for the James Beard Foundation’s 2017 Blended Burger Project. I’m also excited to tell you that for the first time ever, JBF and the Blended Burger Project are conducting a special competition exclusively for colleges and universities that will kick off on Labor Day.
The C&U segment was an early adopter of the blended burger concept, and the contest is a way for operators to show off their creativity and talent—and earn some recognition in the process.
Peter Romeo, FSD’s own editor-at-large, will be a judge during the final rounds of both the C&U competition and the main Blended Burger Project. But the first-round judges will be customers: Chef participants will menu their burgers during the in-house promotion period, and their own students and guests will vote via the JBF website or social media. The chefs who create the burgers with the most votes will be flown to New York City to cook their creations at the prestigious James Beard House.
This is key because, as you know from the work you do every day, the only opinion that truly matters is that of your guests. And as you prove every day, foodservice directors and the teams that work with them are always willing to combine their talent, creativity and knowledge (including data-based knowledge) to not only come up with something new—but also get it right.