Foodservice prepared entrees: Cold relief in Hell's Kitchen
Maybe restaurant industry traffic and sales are down a little . . . but has it really come to this? Pardon the play on words but American viewers are eating it up as world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay exhibits a sharp tongue and flared temper each week on Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Now in its fourth season, “Hell’s Kitchen” features wannabe restaurateurs who slice and dice their way through each episode, vying for Ramsay’s approval in hopes of winning a life-changing culinary prize. The kitchen gets tougher each week as Ramsay puts on the pressure, demanding absolute perfection.
Foodservice operators could make their lives easier by using more frozen prepared entrees, which can deliver tremendous consistency, quality and food safety - all with no waste and very little prep time.
Foodservice entrée processors - those exhibiting at the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) annual Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show and others - are demonstrating that they can deliver sophisticated products that not only please patrons but make operators’ lives easier.
For those looking for something more upscale, the past year saw Nestlé FoodServices North America, Glendale, Calif., introduce a Stouffer’s Chicken & Pesto Penne, Stouffer’s Ricotta Lasagna and Croustades, homemade, open-faced style breakfast sandwiches. Meanwhile, NRA show exhibitor Carla’s Pasta, South Windsor, Conn., sampled a gourmet Jumbo Round Chunky Lobster Ravioli and Jumbo Round Shrimp Scampi Ravioli at the show in May.
Also targeting the upscale market is Cuisine Solutions, Alexandria, Va. This “sous vide,” cook-in-bag frozen entrée specialist has been busy launching everything from a new grab-and-go gourmet line (“Menu Select”) to new entrée sandwiches, seafood and meat offerings. These include a Chicken Portobello and Gorgonzola Burger, Tamarind BBQ Pork Ribs and a 72-Hour Beef Short Rib.
For those looking for ethnic flavors, Double B Foods, Desoto, Texas, recently launched empanadas, authentic South American pastry pockets, filled with a variety of savory or sweet ingredients; chimichangas filled with popular dessert, breakfast and snack fillings; and a new line of “Sandwich Wraps.”
What else is popular on menus? In a quick review of the industry USA Today noted T.G.I. Friday’s introduced a “Right Portion, Right Price” entrée program with dishes roughly one-third smaller than traditional offerings, selling for one-third the price. Less expensive, smaller portions and calorie-controlled offerings also showed up on menus at Quizno’s sandwich shops and Au Bon Pain bakery cafés, the paper reported.
This January, the Atlanta Journal Constitution profiled the growing foodservice breakfast daypart. The paper cited data from the NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y., which indicate that fast-food breakfast sales have grown every year for the past five years.
Said Don Perry, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A chain, “Breakfast is not our most important part of the day but it is fastest growing. There is a lot of opportunity here.”