How catering teams demonstrated agility and creativity when it came to food service delivery during the pandemic was truly commendable. However, the ongoing staffing crisis being felt so acutely across the industry leaves many teams struggling to find enough chefs and expertise able to make low-cost, flexible innovative adaptations to menus. This is a real problem as, now more than ever, the ability to adapt both processes and menus are essential.
It’s not new news to anyone that food inflation is a reality. The cost of food has undeniably increased and continues to do so. Only when the Producer Input and Output prices soften and become lower than CPI will food inflation start to reduce.
We were recently asked if there is a particular food group that is becoming so cost ineffective that many catering teams are deciding not to put it on menus anymore. Our response was that it is evident that price surges are meaning that even staple meat products such as minced beef are rising significantly. Some caterers are completely removing beef from their menus as a result of both this and a rising awareness of beef’s carbon impact
Whilst cuts of meat like chicken and pork remain on the menu, they are being served less often. Switches are being made to plant-based recipes, with the benefits being cost, health and environmental. Plant-based alternatives are often a cheaper option than meat and they have a longer shelf life. The latter helps with food waste reduction, vital to ensure food spend is efficient.
Product availability may be causing concerns for catering teams needing to manage allergens and special diets. And there is a concern that chefs will be forced to reduce or change fresh quality ingredients, impacting variety and choice in menus.
It is vital that caterers have information about which products are stable and which are volatile when it comes to price movement. Having a greater proportion of stable products making up menus will make it easier to manage and predict the impact of rising prices. Typically, stable productss are negotiated annually (e.g. solid pack apples). Whereas volatile products fluctuate more frequently (e.g. butter, bacon etc). However, even for stable products, now may be the time to ensure you have them in stock, before further price rises or product shortages. Especially if your menu is to become even more dependent on them.
There will also be products and categories where price decreases are negotiated by allmanhall, even during these times of high food inflation and fluctuations. For example, we have just successfully completed negotiations with our fish and seafood supplier for lower prices. This is being communicated to our clients and can help guide their menu planning at a point when other prices are on the rise.
Whilst caterers continue to face cascading challenges, expert support has never been so important. There is a harsh spotlight on caterers who don’t have good procurement practices in place. Without these practices, the impact of chefs working tirelessly to cost recipes, source the most cost-effective ingredients, manage portion and waste control, is diluted.