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Chefs cook up ways to enhance quality, keep costs down

Chefs cook up ways to enhance quality, keep costs down

Bringing diners in the door is difficult enough during good economic times. But as the recession prompts accountants to scream for fat-cutting measures, chefs are feeling more heat to shrink costs without sacrificing the quality that attracts customers. Or to put it crudely: It’s still the food, stupid.

In response, chefs are analyzing everything—from purchasing practices to composting food scraps—and finding ways to still delight customers even as they seize opportunities to save.

In the following report, Nation’s Restaurant News outlines several of the strategies chefs are using to please both those who count the beans and those who eat them.

For instance, some food buyers say that lower commodity costs have helped them not only maintain food quality, but also increase it with no harm to the bottom line. Other chefs are adding more menu options, especially in multiple portion sizes, which take little extra effort. And smaller portions at lower prices can prompt penny-pinching diners to try new items or return more frequently for their favorites.

Back in the kitchen, new types of equipment help cooks achieve extremes. Low- and slow-cooking methods that can extend the cooking process for days turn less expensive cuts of meat into gourmet fare. On the opposite end of the spectrum, speedy searing ovens are a boon for those serving diners on the go.

One benefit of the tough financial times is that many consumers are drinking more. So busy bartenders these days are stirring up alluring brews that often hearken to the past for inspiration, making classic quaffs the rage. In other beverage trends, inexpensive spirits, such as bourbon, have moved to the front bar, and, according to one beverage expert, new-fangled martinis have fallen seriously out of fashion. It’s time to move the ‘tinis—as in “Tempting Tropicaltini”—off the cocktail list.

Doggie bags are the new high-style accessory for departing diners, even at swanky joints, so operators are revamping their packaging and rethinking leftovers as a marketing tool that extends the dining-out experience into private homes.

In the restaurant, staff meals are being upgraded both to keep workers from moving to the competition and to keep lower-income employees from possibly going hungry. As always, scraps make ideal ingredients in dishes for the staff and ensure that nothing goes to waste.

Environmental consciousness also is becoming mainstream as chefs try to give back to the land from which their ingredients come. Some chefs are even replacing their Dumpsters with machines that turn food scraps into plant fertilizer.

Read on to learn more about the cost savings and business opportunities some culinary experts are finding when put to the fire.

TAGS: News
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