The days of having a massive inventory are no more.

The model for versatility, back-of-house savings, and inventory streamlining is here to stay. The pandemic has reset or recalibrated every segment of the foodservice industry, from fine dining on down. It has changed the restaurant’s way of working, how you organize your menu, and how you organize the back of the house. That’s across the board: smaller menus, more rotational LTOs, and incorporating seasonality.

From fine dining to casual dining, it’s critical to bring creative, delicious, and cost-effective solutions to the guest. We all feel the pressure of rising costs and the need to streamline our menus. It’s a lot to balance, and we keep this in mind when creating new items. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice flavor. Here’s how to elevate your menu with minimal effort using the ingredients you already have, focusing on an underutilized, underdog dish: soup.

Bringing Creativity to Product Versatility

A great thing about soup is how we can dig in and get creative. A big part of what we do for restaurant operators is offer up ideas on how to best use soup as another part of your menu in other applications, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Soup can be used on menus in myriad ways.

One example is to take a soup, such as a Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda, and use it as a dip for fried items like mozzarella sticks or cheese bread bites. That same Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda can be used as a sauce on a flatbread or a pizza, or as a pasta sauce. So that’s three different parts of the menu with just one SKU. 

My job, and any chef’s job, is to provide this versatility without the guest seeing it. There are lots of ways to do this, whether it’s how you build the item or finesse the wording on the menu. For example, I just incorporated Baja Style Chicken Enchilada soup into three versions of dip: a queso fundido, a seven-layer dip, and a traditional queso. Our goal is to give you multiple options, and it’s possible to do that when starting with a flavorful base. 

Tapping Into Trends

Staying up on trends is another thing chefs must do to keep their menu fresh and relevant. Using soup as a base or sauce will allow you to tap into multiple trends simultaneously. Soups inspired by Mexican, Italian, or Asian cuisines, for example, can provide a versatile foundation for creating dishes like enchiladas, tacos, and other globally inspired delights. This innovative approach satisfies the desire for diverse flavors.

I recently developed a Thai Walking Nacho using a Thai Green Curry Soup as the base and adding kettle chips, chicken, red chile, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. This item has those Thai flavors and relates to the trends of global comfort and nostalgia. 

We use that same soup to give on-trend chicken wings a global twist. Grilling the wings after marinating them in a Thai Green Curry Soup gives them a great depth of flavor, and it hits that comfort food trend, which is perfect for bar and grill restaurants.

Another pro tip: Consider using tomato soup as a tomato sauce. That eliminates the need to open cans, pull out the garlic, herbs, and oil, etc. Instead, you’ll have a consistent base every single time, while streamlining your inventory, food costs, and back-of-house complexity. 

Focusing on Simplicity of Execution

Our culinary team’s goal is to help restaurant operators streamline their back of the house, including execution simplicity, labor savings, skill factor involved with labor, and inventory. We only make recipe ideas that hit each one of those bullet points, because that’s how we’re adding value. When we develop recipes, we follow the 5-5-30 rule: five ingredients, five procedural steps, and 30 minutes to make that recipe for 12 to 24 servings.

Chef Gerald Drummond is the Executive Chef for Campbell’s Foodservice. He has more than 35 years of experience in the foodservice industry. His expertise includes overseeing operations, facilitating new product launches, leading culinary teams, and developing menus for a variety of esteemed establishments throughout the United States and in Mexico. He uses techniques and inspiration from his culinary background in Italian, Mediterranean, French, Latin, and Asian cuisines to infuse unique flavor into the amazing work he does every day at Campbell’s Foodservice.

Expert Takes, Feature, Menu Innovations