Independent restaurants and food chains are increasingly looking to their equipment providers and third-party suppliers to provide help in critical areas such as operational efficiency and sustainability, minimizing food waste, energy consumption and cost.
But they are also demanding support in other areas too, such as innovating new menu items, maintaining food quality and enhancing the customer experience, according to one industry expert.
Tim Murphy, product specialist, at foodservice equipment manufacturer Alto-Shaam said that in a crowded market, restaurants either move with the times or face an uncertain future.
“Independent and chain restaurant operators need to meet their customers’ demands against a background of increasing costs and reducing margins,” Murphy says. “While almost three quarters of operators [72 percent] recognize the need to focus on sustainable practices, they also understand that they need support in achieving their sustainability targets, and this is where manufacturers can help.”
One of the ways in which manufacturers are supporting restaurant operators is by identifying opportunities to reduce costs. This includes not only reducing food waste (39 percent of independent restaurants say that food waste is having the greatest impact on business) but also providing them with the tools to monitor and measure the volumes of waste created. It includes advice on portion control, how best to re-use ‘ugly’ produce, and in best-practice cooking and holding methods to ensure consistently high-quality food that doesn’t spoil, dry out, or otherwise need to be thrown away.
Another important area of advice is in tackling operational costs: “Labor, and specifically the cost and availability of labor, remains an enormous challenge,” Murphy said. “According to Technomic, 82 percent of independent restaurant operators said that finding and retaining skilled labor is their biggest ongoing operational challenge. Turnover can cost a restaurant as much as $2,000 per employee. The challenge is exacerbated by the rising minimum wage coupled with an increasingly demanding customer base wanting an ever-more diverse menu.”
This trend is driving even greater innovation in kitchen equipment design and control, with solutions that are intuitive to operate.