Creating—and maintaining—a profitable menu is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for a full-service restaurant operator. It is critical to develop a selection of offerings that appeals to a wide variety of guests, caters to the preferences of a loyal base, and also helps drive new traffic. Oftentimes, it can be helpful to add new or specialty menu items in order to engage customers and provide upselling opportunities.
“It’s a balancing act,” says Elissa Garling, head of marketing at Thomas Foods International, the U.S. supplier for Royal Dutch Veal. “Labor costs are increasing while the value you get in return is diminishing. You need to find ingredients and products that make your menu stand out from the competition. You must be creative and not a copycat.”
When developing new offerings, operators should always think about the highest margin items—including alcohol, pasta, pizza, eggs, soup, and less popular protein cuts such as veal. According to Garling, unique items that have a cost unfamiliar to most customers can be a great opportunity to menu dishes with high profitability.
“For example, if the menu features veal, guests will assume a premium price, regardless of what the operator might have paid,” she says. “Cuts like the loin chop can provide additional value and produce a strong return, especially when menued in high-spike items like rice, noodle, and grain bowls where protein is a supporting ingredient.”
Menuing veal is an effective way to add higher margin dishes to a restaurant’s food program. It can be implemented across menu sections, from small plates and appetizers like veal salami or a side of meatballs to full-fledged entrees like veal scallopini or breaded cutlets—made from the top round and served alongside Merlot-roasted mushrooms and pan-seared zucchini.
Like all animal proteins, veal cuts range from what’s common to what’s under-utilized. As many restaurants focus on menuing more veal rib chops and tenderloins, there’s a lot of high-margin opportunity for chefs to create dishes around loin chops or boneless loins, for example.
“The goal for producers and chefs alike is to utilize the whole animal whenever possible,” says Dominick Zirilli, chef and veal sales manager for Thomas Foods International USA.
There’s also a lot of potential for veal to be incorporated into plates highlighting the global foods trend: Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African dishes can bring out very different flavors in the meat and help drive traffic among younger consumers in particular.
“Restaurateurs who menu veal are having great success reintroducing an amazing product,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to upsell customers and set yourself apart from the competition.”