Lee Tynan, Food Development Director at Creative Foods
Since the return of indoor dining on May 17th our experience is that operators have been firmly focused on their core menus, most of which are built around dishes that are simple to prep, easy to serve, and very familiar to consumers – think of items such as beef/chicken burgers, and fish and chips. And, of course, they have concentrated on combining operational efficiency with effective social distancing for staff, both front and back of house, as well as for consumers naturally.
From a supplier perspective the most important thing for our customers right now is product availability. Many have simplified their menu and need to be sure that they can get the core items they require because they don’t have any alternatives. So, as a business we are focused on managing our production schedule in order to ensure that we are able to satisfy those needs. As we make the move back to the new normal the challenge caterers face will be refreshing their menu whilst not driving complexity. With this in mind the focus of our business, and our team of development chefs in particular, is on helping them to achieve this whilst keeping their menus on trend and without over complicating the products we develop. Our goal is to supply products that can feature right across their menus, instead of developing specific dishes that have no ability to ‘cross pollinate’.
Many operators re-opened in April with simplified “garden” menus which were then tweaked once customers were able to eat indoors again. Most have continued to operate with this hybrid “garden” menu rather than complicating things by adding too much in the way of innovation. Due to the current restrictions it is proving difficult for caterers to plan, especially with the changeable weather, uncertainty over bookings and the dreaded “no shows”. As things move on through the summer, I would expect to see menu changes start to occur, especially as we move into the dark-nights menus – which will hopefully follow a period of stability.
Fitting in with the trend towards simple, traditional favourites our Harvest Farm branded chicken products – including nuggets, fillets, and our bite size Pop-In chicken pieces have performed strongly in the month since the restrictions on indoor dining were relaxed. The great thing about these products for the operator is that they sit perfectly on both on-site AND home delivery/takeaway menus, an approach that many of them have been keen to embrace throughout the pandemic.
Creative Foods has tested and validated its range to ensure that its products will work for businesses and that it can continue to supply its customers even if they are forced to close. In case of any future lockdown, we will continue to offer products with an extended shelf life wherever possible in order to reduce the operator’s waste. In addition, our development team will ensure that the products we develop, and launch, are trend relevant in order to help caterers become more profitable and increase their footfall in the months ahead.
To find out more visit www.creativefoods.co.uk/brands-and-products.