How many times have you considered upgrading your dining program to serve fresh meals made from scratch and thought, “How can I afford it?” The reality is that you can afford it, and here’s why.
The Fresh Food Continuum
There are two concepts that are critical to understanding fresh food programs in contract foodservice. The first is what we refer to as the Fresh Food Continuum. If you think about how food is prepared – even in your own kitchen at home – you have a number of different decision points. Let’s take something commonplace, like lasagna, for example. You can go to your local grocery store and purchase a frozen lasagna, bring it home, pop it in the oven and serve a hot lasagna. You can also go that same grocery store and purchase the noodles, the sauce, the cheese, meat, etc. Again, you pop it in the oven and serve a hot lasagna. Depending on your skill and use of spices, you are likely to be more satisfied with the outcome because you have the ability to adjust the recipe to suit your preference.
Now let’s look at a third scenario. Go to that same grocery store and buy the ingredients to make the lasagna noodles and to make your own sauce from scratch. You still purchase the cheese and the meat. But now, you have essentially made the lasagna from scratch. You have full control over the recipe and can make subtle adjustments to account for preferences. Maybe you are concerned about blood pressure and want to eliminate salt from your diet. You also have the ability to skip added sugar or sweeteners that are found in many pre-made sauces. Having made the lasagna from scratch, you have full control over that. Because you’ve purchased all the ingredients, you know there are no preservatives or artificial flavors anywhere in the meal, and it’s perfectly seasoned to your preference.
From this example you can see that the answer to whether or not a meal is “fresh” isn’t yes or no. Instead, it lies along a continuum – the Fresh Food Continuum.
Each step to the right along the horizontal axis improves the nutritional content, flavor, texture and appeal of the food. Each step along the vertical axis increases the level of skill required by the staff preparing the meals. And each step along that Fresh Food Continuum increases the influence of your dining program on your customers’ satisfaction, health and wellness. At the same time, you have begun to leverage your dining program to influence your organization’s strategic objectives.
A Fresh Food Program is Affordable
Organizations are often surprised to find out that a “fresh” approach to dining doesn’t have to be more expensive. The reality is that processing and manufacturing add costs to ingredients. For example, in a Unidine kitchen, cuttings from fresh, whole produce are used to flavor stocks that are made in-house – not purchased – for use in soups, sauces and other applications. The cost of purchasing pre-cut, frozen or processed ingredients is usually – and sometimes significantly – more than the cost of purchasing fresh, whole ingredients. And Unidine’s ability to leverage the purchasing power of our entire portfolio of clients compounds that savings. We find that with the proper training and support, existing staffing levels are usually sufficient to handle the additional preparation at no additional cost.
A Fresh Perspective
As you consider where you want to be along that Fresh Food continuum, and the economic factors that contribute to making a fresh from scratch program affordable, it should give you a fresh perspective on your dining program. If you want to learn more, download a Fresh Food Toolkit for Corporate, Hospitals or Senior Living. These toolkits will help you to assess your current dining program and move towards better program that meets your organization’s strategic goals.
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