Should You Consider Pre-Prepared Produce to Save Time, Increase Safety, and Reduce Waste?

Posted by Patrick Maness +


Made from scratch. To many, these three words are the hallmark of quality food and the basis of what makes a great restaurant. Homemade salad dressings, freshly baked bread, whatever it is, if it’s made from scratch or made on site, it makes guests feel like they’re having a more authentic dining experience. It gets people talking.

A restauranteur knows that success depends on balancing exceptional food and the overall dining experience with the financial realities of managing a restaurant. While it would be great to make everything in house, many claim buying pre-prepared produce and other foods helps reduce costs by freeing up staff time. However, this comes at a cost of quality. So what is the best way to balance this? How can a restaurant owner improve their productivity while keeping customers coming back?

Pre-prepared is the new norm

It’s a fact that much of the ingredients used in kitchens today has already been cut and packaged at far off distribution centers. Chicken comes pre-breaded and pre-cooked, ribs are already smoked and half the items sent out to customers was prepared weeks before.

The obvious reasons both chains and independently owned restaurants purchase prepared food is to save money and time. But the other major consideration is safety. Though vegetable storage and fruit storage and prep stations in most restaurants are very sanitary, in many cases, pre-preparing food in a central kitchen is safer than inspecting it at each location.

A solution and a compromise

In many cases, it’s safer to have produce and other foods prepared and inspected at a central location. However, this can negatively affect the quality of food you serve and your guest’s perception.

A compromise to this dilemma can be reached through featuring certain ingredients, sides or dishes that are prepared in house, while still largely relying on pre-prepared food. Chipotle provides a great example of using such a combination, with tomatoes, tortillas and other key ingredients being prepared at a central location, and preparing their meats, guacamole and other components in house.

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