It is said that we are presently living in the Golden Age of Food.
The booming market growth of restaurants and food establishments are continuing to grow and we have the younger generation to thank for it.
Categorically termed as Millenials, the younger generation has majorly influenced the shift in food preferences as well as expectations. They are tech savvy and can quickly look up information online to determine if their demands are being met. This new dining culture is certainly shaping up the dining habits of most people nowadays.
Being in the hospitality industry, your business has to be equipped with the knowledge, sensitivity, sensibility, and adaptability to provide customer satisfaction.
People, in general, now have higher food standards more than ever.
How do you ensure that your food business can meet these standards and expectations?
1. Focus on Nutrition
The most significant and moving factor has been the focus on nutrition. These are the times when you see people getting more and more into fitness and are willing to embrace various forms of activities to achieve that. People are demanding information and transparency from food manufacturers. Seeing that this is a direct relationship to the lifestyle of keeping fit, this demand is also reflected in the food they consume when they eat out. They want to know ingredients, the sources and basically, how the food is being prepared.
Simply put, people are now more aware.
The word healthy has evolved into not just being simply “low fat” or “high-fibre.” Now, the terminologies that exist scream NATURAL, ORGANIC OR SUSTAINABLE.
Since people are now highly aware of their eating habits, you have to take note.
What you can do:
- Empower your diners to make healthy choices by offering nutritional information on your menu. Consult a certified/licensed nutritionist or dietitian in your area so you can have a detailed analysis of your present menu or work alongside them to create an entirely healthy one.
- Incorporate more plant-based dishes on your menu. This means more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (whole wheat bread or brown rice). Get creative beyond the universal garden salad. Create veggie based comfort foods like squash blossom risotto, mashed cauliflower or pizza with wholemeal flour base or spelt base!
- Learn how to design a healthy menu to appeal to the growing demographic of health-conscious diners. Highlight items that contain more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and items that are low fat more than the higher fat and higher caloric meals. Make use of colourful graphics and creative fonts to attract attention to the vegetables and whole grains since people naturally direct their attention towards pasta or burgers. You can rephrase or rename your descriptions of the menu. Make your names laden with adjectives to make it more enticing. Consider placing heavy items in the four corners of the menu since people tend to scan menus as if it were books. Put the healthy food at the tops and bottoms of columns.
- Work on having your kitchen staff trained in creating a healthy menu. A great chef needs to know how to utilise ingredients to decrease food waste while being able to present healthy meals attractively. Make sure that this is a skill that your short term hire chefs also possess. AnyTime Chefs provide you with professional chefs who can meet those expectations.
- Ensure that your front end staff is trained to promote healthy menu items. They should be taught to encourage healthier items when customers ask for suggestions.
- Limit your fried or deep-fried dishes. For the remaining fried dishes that you’d still want to offer, be smart with the type of oil you use. Consider olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed for healthier options.
- And while you’re at it, ensure that the fryer oil is changed frequently to avoid rancidity.
- Use Olive oil instead of vegetable oil in salad dressings.
- Make more things from scratch to prevent using pre-processed packaged items.
2. Food Presentation
“We eat with our eyes first.”
Indeed, a beautifully executed food image will make the viewer’s mouth water and stomach rumble!
The new culture that is happening is that we also eat to experience food as an art. And this has never been more expressed than the habits of diners who are ready to whip their smartphones to take photos of their food before actually tasting them.
But don’t downplay this activity into a simple craze. The rise of the mobile photography platform, Instagram, with its over 80 million users, has made it possible for food photography to boost tourism.
According to Social Media Today, food tourism or gastronomic tourism, is where the primary purpose of your travels is to visit a specific region for its famed food, to attend food fairs and festivals, to seek out producers of food, and to embark on any activity involving food. This makes beautiful food photography crucial because it grabs the attention of travellers with enticing pictures of food.
And there are the rest of social media such as Facebook and Yelp Reviews that can entice people to visit your restaurant based on photos and reviews online.
Knowing this, you’d better make sure that you are serving what is now termed “Instagram Worthy.” It could mean more business for you or the opposite.
It’s all about creating unique experiences that our customers can document on Instagram and social media.
What you can do:
- Have your kitchen team master the basics of standard plating. It seems simple, but the plating is a skill that chefs know but may be overlooked as they are busy or more concerned with the taste of their dishes.
- To create an elegant and otherworldly food presentation, consider doing scaling. It is a technique that carefully layers elements so that it would form a pattern resembling scales.
- Use edible flowers or native Australian plants such as ice plant, finger limes, Samphires, to give an interesting and unexpected source of colour to the dish. Check this article from Southern Living for options and to see if they are available in your area. Most edible flowers do not have distinctive taste that can alter the overall taste of a dish, but they sure make it more intriguing. This is a hit for most vegan customers since it adds a holistic appeal to the food.
- Use edible gold leaf. This will make your dish genuinely decadent. Like the edible flowers, the edible gold leaf does not affect the taste of food. This is an indulgence for sure!
- Consider doing Buddha bowls. These are a favourite of vegans, yogis and health bloggers and is considered the ideal vegan one-bowl dish. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and seasonings are served in bowls. Sometimes lean meat is added for those who prefer it. They are sweet or savoury or both.
3. Food Allergies and Food Intolerance Issues
Food intolerances, unlike food allergies, are not life-threatening. They may share some of the symptoms, but food intolerance cannot produce anaphylaxis. Still, they can cause discomfort.
This is the most challenging because of its complexity in execution. It is difficult to create a system that randomly changes in order to accommodate these concerns. Reasons could include limited resources, small and restricted kitchen spaces and the normally busy flow of the kitchen especially when your diners are placing complicated orders all at the same time. It may also be that the chef is not cooperative and find adjustments a total inconvenience. This is why most restaurants decline substitutions and modifications.
It is difficult but it can be done.
What you can do:
- Create protocols in your kitchen with allergies in mind. Check out the the Food Allergy Bible created by Chef Ming Tsai which you can download from his website. Chef Ming Tsai is an Allergy awareness spokesman since his son has been diagnosed with 7 of the most common allergens. His restaurant Blue Ginger has taken a detailed approach and he has come up with Food Allergy Bible as their protocols for serving diners with food allergies. Have a read to get some ideas on how you can implement them.
- Consider having an interactive allergen menu. Many of the country’s best-known chefs and restaurateurs are open to this. This menu allows your customers to select their restrictions. Gipsee, Inc. the leading maker of Food Allergy software for the restaurant and hospitality industry has introduced its platform here in Australia which enables restaurants to serve their clients with confidence, based on their unique set of dietary restrictions or preferences. For smaller independent restaurants, they also have a mobile app that will allow them to quickly enter their ingredient information and create their own Interactive Allergen Menu.
- Have ready ingredients in your kitchen that are free from lactose, wheat and gluten products, sugar, and corn products.
- If you can, provide special menus for dietary restrictions.
READ MORE ABOUT Managing Food Allergies in Your Next Event
A growing number of diners now are expressing their love for the planet as exemplified by their desire to know where and how their food is sourced. They align themselves with businesses that do earth saving practices and promote sustainability so that the planet is not depleted of all its resources.
What you can do:
- Create a menu using ingredients that are in season. Some restaurants change their menu monthly to serve the freshest possible produce or seafood at its peak. According to Restaurant Insider, restaurants with seasonal menus see 26% more orders. Take note that taking this route requires creativity and flexibility on your chef, but it is well worth the effort.
- Consider partnering with the right and responsible suppliers and operators. Once you have found a suitable supplier, it is good practice for you as the owner to make regular visits to their farms to understand better the ingredients you are sourcing. You need to be just as interested in what you are serving, the same as your consumers who are interested in what they are eating from your restaurant. Anytime Chefs can help you choose the right supplier for your business, simply contact us HERE for more info.
LEARN MORE ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY IN YOUR BUSINESS
- Grow your own produce. If your property has enough space, you can opt to create your own organic kitchen garden for the restaurant. Having your own kitchen garden creates an opportunity for your chef to have a new appreciation for the ingredients in their cooking. From getting the freshest produce to maximizing it to decrease wastage. Know that this will require additional manpower since you need someone to tend to it.
- Buy peak-season produce in bulk since it’s the time when produce is more delicious and inexpensive. To lessen the chances of wastage, find creative ways to use it, such as freezing, drying, and preserving.
- Motivate your staff to be passionate about your cause. This is a difficult task because you may already have a seasoned chef working for several years and may not be likely to adjust his habits, but will do so if he also believes in the overall goal.
This massive shift in customers preference and expectations present both challenges and opportunities for food establishments in general.
The key to achieve this is effective and appropriate training of your kitchen team. From educating them about sourcing and sustainability to nutrition and food presentation.
I just have to say that even though we have to make significant efforts in making each dish presentable, the presentation should never overshadow taste.
You may find that you may not be able to accommodate some of the suggestions above to fit your business at this time, but know that even the complicated ones can be done with planning and teamwork.
Good luck and I hope that this article helped you in reviewing or improving your own system with the overall goal of delivering exceptional guest experience in mind.
Ciao for now,