What will the new year look like? It’s impossible to say, but there are still ways to prepare.
2020 forever changed the world, and with it, the restaurant industry. But 2021 brought its own set of challenges—early pandemic woes, like store closures and a lack of foot traffic, gave way to massive headaches stemming from the labor crisis.
There is a litany of statistics that illustrate how dire the labor situation has gotten, but consider that in January 2021 the National Restaurant Association reported that 8 percent of operators named labor their number one concern. By July, that number had climbed to 57 percent.
“Foodservice operators have been dealing with labor issues for a while now, but the pandemic has made the labor situation even more challenging,” says Jessie Kordosky, a member of Chefs of the Mills, a team of culinary thought leaders handpicked by General Mills Foodservice to help provide insights to industry chefs and operators. “I’ve seen establishments shorten operating hours, reduce their menus and inventories, and let their customers know wait times will be longer. It’s a challenging time, so each operation is getting creative to find what works for them and their staff.”
Here’s a closer look at how Kordosky and her team at General Mills Foodservice are helping operators navigate labor shortages, as well as two other points of emphasis that Kordosky says should continue to be on every chef and operator’s radar entering 2022.
Find Labor Solutions
Menu simplification—these two words have been thrown around a lot as the way operators can solve their two biggest challenges: labor shortages and the supply chain. But simplifying menus is easier said than done, as it brings with it the challenge of keeping things exciting enough to pique the interest of diners.
“One way our team tries to ease some of the back-of-house burden is demonstrating how to use easy prep, low-labor products like ready-to-bake items when possible,” Kordosky says. “I would encourage any operator to find those shortcuts that will save time yet still yield the quality and great taste diners have come to expect.”
A few General Mills Foodservice options that Kordosky highlights include Pillsbury™ Biscuit Dough Pucks, Pie Dough Rounds, Freezer-to-Oven (FTO) Cinnamon Rolls, and Thaw-and-Serve Brownies—all of these items help ease operational burden and simplify menus while still attracting diners.
Follow Seasonal Trends
One great way for chefs to ensure they are attracting the interest of modern diners is by staying on top of seasonal trends. Thinking seasonally is the way some of the most exciting and anticipated LTOs and menu items are created. So how does Kordosky recommend staying on top of seasonal trends?
“Social media is a great way to see what’s going on locally and globally,” Kordosky says. “And watching what your favorite chefs are putting on their menus by following them on social media or dining at their restaurants is the key to staying on top of the industry’s pulse from season to season while also supporting your favorite foodservice colleagues.”
Partner with Experts
While social media can help with things like new menu items and seasonal LTOs, another way to gain valuable insights on the ever-evolving world of foodservice is to check in with vendors.
“Not only can most manufacturers and distributors help show you how to make the most of your inventory of products, but they also can help troubleshoot any product issues specific to your unique foodservice setting,” Kordosky says. “Be sure to check out their websites, follow them on social media, and sign up for their newsletters.”
Other vendors offer expertise and thought leadership that goes above and beyond. Kordosky encourages chefs and operators to look for industry partners who can help leverage swaths of consumer data to help build menus, promotions, and marketing campaigns that will meet diners where they are and make restaurants more profitable as a result.
“Our team at Chefs of the Mills works hard to understand our customers and create lasting partnerships,” Kordosky says. “We want all of our customers to succeed. Each of us has had our own unique journey in the foodservice industry so we empathize with our customers since we’ve walked in their shoes. We listen to their struggles and pain points while learning about their operation’s set-up so we can customize recipes and identify products that will work for them and are relevant to their needs—in 2022 and beyond.”
For more on Chefs of the Mills, visit the General Mills Foodservice website.