Manage Inflation with Produce to Keep it Fresh!

Inflation. No one is a fan.  However now that we are emerging from the pandemic, this is our reality.  

Since we can’t get away from rising prices and supply chain bottlenecks, we can look for new approaches that can help manage the impact. Many restaurants are doing this by raising prices, cutting costs, taking items off the menu, and making do with lean crews. We are also going to take a guess that you haven’t considered looking at produce as another way to manage rising supply costs. Gaining a deeper insight into this category can lead to efficiencies, less waste, better quality, as well as how to navigate supplier and distributor relationships.

With all the different levels of providers out there (ie: broadliner, foodservice distributor, produce distributor, buying groups, etc.), it is important to know with whom you are working so you know how close you are to the category experts/source providers. The size of your restaurant may at times determine how close you can work with a source provider with smaller businesses needing the one-stop foodservice distributor and larger restaurant chains able to have procurement teams specialized in each category. However for those working with various foodservice distributors or distributors working in multiple categories, you need your own understanding of a category so you know who to work with and know the particular things that keep produce fresh. To really make a category work for you, you need to be the category expert or know when you are working with one.

We have worked with a client that specialized in another category, but when it came to produce, they were not sure how to improve.  There were quality issues in what they received which put them in the difficult place of having nothing else to offer their customers. What turned their program around was guidance on the ins-and-outs of produce, which can be a tricky category because of its highly perishable nature and product with short shelf-life. 

Does my supplier:

  • Tell me how to store, keep, and rotate produce
  • Advise me on peak availability
  • Tell me appropriate temperature ranges 
  • Is aware of where product is sourced / shipped

Having this deeper understanding will begin to answer questions you may have with how to integrate produce in your menu.  LTO’s are a great way to introduce and test new produce items on a menu as well as introduce price increases. When working with produce however, seasonality can play a big part in your LTO and menu strategy.  There may be better times to source an item because of seasonality, lower market prices, and peak quality and flavor.  Also sometimes it is good to look at your core pantry items and incorporate seasonal produce to have multiple offerings.  Seasonality with LTO’s may drive sales because of their limited availability, creating an annual event customers can look forward to and savor.  Again, these are insights that will help you save money and build sales with your produce.

In this case we have worked with a customer that wanted to add a specialty produce item to their menu.  Many times restaurants have a certain specs for their ingredients and pre-existing shipping lanes that have to be considered, and so adding in the item isn’t always as simple as calling the farmer down the road for a Japanese sweet potato. Working with someone who knew multiple areas of produce with established connections, this customer now had a supplier / provider that matched spec with a distribution plan that complimented theirs.  Additionally, they also learned about seasonality of these produce items the customer was making smart, informed decisions with their menu strategy.

When integrating produce in a menu:

  • Should I take advantage of seasonality for best flavor/price/availability?
  • When is the season for the produce I want to work with?
  • Am I making the most of my pantry items with each seasonal produce item?

Keep it Fresh Webinar

This is only the beginning of looking at ways to manage inflation with produce. In fact, the Fresh Avenue team is partnering with Modern Restaurant Management to continue this discussion with our Keep It Fresh webinar on June 9.  Managing editor Barbara Castiglia will be moderating a discussion with Mark Vaughan and Brian Rooney of Fresh Avenue to talk more in depth on the points discussed here and then open the floor for your questions. 

Mark your calendars!

Thursday, June 9th

2 p.m. EST | 1 p.m. CST | 11 a.m. PST 

Register here!