How to Create the New Scratch Kitchen

According to a recent Restaurant Success report, future food trends for 2020 will include local sourcing, fresh produce, healthy eating, and an emphasis on authentic items. Diners, it seems, are flocking to the comfort of kitchens that serve a variety of delicious food, so long as it doesn’t feel heavily processed. However, as Thrillist explains, “…the rise of the Golden Age “scratch kitchen” (in which everything is made in-house), long a point of pride for fine-dining kitchens, isn’t usually financially realistic in the more casual kitchens.” While many chefs may work to bake their own bread or cure their own meats in-house, the fact is scratch kitchens are expensive, labor intensive, and not often worth the financial expenditure.

At Consolidated Concepts, we focus on ensuring restauranteurs cost-savings opportunities that excite your front of house while saving you labor costs in your back of house. So how do you keep that scratch kitchen feeling without spending excess time on labor? Here are a few ways to keep the focus on the food and the money towards your bottom line.

1. Create versatile, convenient, and profitable appetizers

Potatoes have long been one of the more versatile items in any kitchen, but the time and labor cost to prepare them for your various dishes can be lengthy and expensive. From washing to peeling to baking to mashing and so on, potato preparation can be a costly process. Increase your margins by switching to this appetizer mix. With a product that is both fully customizeable and easy to prepare, you can improve your turnaround time and provide your customers with a product that tastes fresh and handmade, while adding your restaurants’ own signature ingredients to give the dish your own personal flair.

Click the link below to learn more about how Idahoan Tater Tumblers can increase your bottom line.

Learn more about Idahoan Tater Tumblers

2. Make your very own dipping sauce

Who doesn’t drool over a great aioli or house made dressing? From dips to sauces, many restaurants find customers clamoring back to have their one-of-a-kind house-made sauces. In reality, we know that a true scratch sauce comes with a lot of labor, kitchen space, and room for emulsification error.  Now, what if you could have the same great flavor and save yourself the stress and time consumption from behind the scenes? Save yourself the time, headache on labor and start with something great. Unilever mayo can do magic as your base- just add in your own signature spices give your own restaurants dipping flare!

Watch this video of how one of our clients recently utilized Hellmann’s mayo as the base for 8 inventive custom dressings.

Learn more about our Unilever Food Solutions program

3. Add your own spice

Nothing says delicious like a unique sauce or seasoning added into one of your signature dishes. With Knorr® Intense Flavors liquid seasoning, you can elevate any dish on your menu.   These products, that are foodservice exclusive, can save you time, labor, and ingredient costs by providing a ready-to-use bottle of flavor that will add a bold dimension to any meal.

Check out the link below to learn more and get a free sample on us.

Learn More Knorr Intense Flavors program

The Five Biggest Growth Challenges That All Restaurant Operators Face

Whether your organization is growing from 1 to 2 locations, 10 to 20 locations or 50 to 500 locations, you are in transition and there are many factors involved in whether you will be successful with this growth. Many elements of your growth will create an emotional high of which there is nothing like it, but caution, there are many bumps in the road with growth of which some you will see, recognize and react to quickly and some that you will miss or not be prepared for.

The future of your organization depends on the pillars you have set up. The pillars may grow taller as you grow, but keeping them strong without crumbling is the challenge. Below are the five biggest growth challenges that you may face.

Capital and Financial Stability

In order to grow your brand, you have come up with one or many ways of raising the money you will need. This may include self-funding, independent investors, banks, private equity or a combination. You have big plans for your growth. Is this plan realistic and have you raised enough money to support it? In a perfect world, you would be dealing with a cookie cutter budget to work with. This would mean having AAA real estate with the exact same square footage costing you the same dollar per square foot with construction and other new store opening costs being the same for each location and all projections running on time. You would have no trouble hiring or training, your guests would line up from day one and your sales projections would be right where you had expected from the beginning and stayed that way forever. Unfortunately, projecting growth does not work like that and you have to plan for those twists and turns along the way. What you can’t be is under-capitalized as this will create pressures that affect the whole organization.

Financial stability of the company can’t be compromised by being under-capitalized with your growth. The restaurant locations that you have open must be able to be managed properly with no cutting of corners including vendors being paid on time. Your restaurants must continue to look sharp. One of the biggest growth issues is declining sales from existing locations simply because they are not being maintained properly and in general, because eyes are so much on the future that the present is not being focused on properly.

Real Estate/Site Selection

This appears obvious, but are you under pressure to grow at a pace that may not be realistic? This may cause you to choose locations that do not fit your standard for demographics, size prototype, dollar per square foot, landlord buildout support, construction costs (union vs non union), labor availability and cost of labor and so much more. You also have to factor in the added cost to your operations when you spread out to multiple markets.

One bad location will need four good ones to make up the needed bottom line.  It is critical to have a real estate specialist on staff or work with an external restaurant real estate company. In either case, they need to know the markets extremely well and be under the microscope to find you the standard that you have come up with. They need to have the connections with the landlords and development companies and understand all the parameters of what will provide you with successful restaurants. Every location will not be perfect. You will have some that exceed expectations and some that will fall a bit short, but the key is to avoid choosing the wrong markets and the wrong sites. Make sure you have a qualified real estate professional working on your behalf.

Infrastructure/Internal vs External Support

Growth requires the right people pushing the buttons. Along the way, no matter what the size of your company, there will be people wearing multiple hats. You need hybrids in every organization, but as you grow, you need specialists who have areas of expertise that will be critical to your success. As you grow, things become more complicated. You may have been a distributors dream in the original market that you started in and your buying power as a small regional chain may have been good. You may have been negotiating your own deals and developing the menu items that made you a success.

You may have picked your own real estate and was actively involved in each new store opening. Now you have to make some big decisions. Do you hire internally or do you bring in short term or long term specialists to make sure that you have the knowledge and expertise to make sure stay on the path to success. Typically it is best to do a combination of both. The crucial part of this is to be prepared. You need to continue to have a plan on the stages of when you need to add this support.

Systems and Consistency

Preparing for growth usually starts with the three areas above. You may have the money, locations and even the people to make it happen, but are you ready? Yes, you love your brand and you believe it is better than everyone else. You can’t wait to get it into different markets and confirm this, but are the systems in place to protect your brand? Without over the top detail, your brand will begin to look different from place to place. You have put your stamp on the design and layout of the locations. Now you have to do it from the restaurant set-up, training and operations. The team involved in the hiring and training of your restaurants staff will create the culture of your new restaurants. Yes, there needs to be clear training materials that are very visual in what the specifications of products are, how they should be prepped, how they should be served, how to store products and clean the restaurant, but you can’t put passion on a piece of paper. There are a lot of options for labor in today’s market.  Without good people who believe in your brand and who will execute your message, without you there, inconsistency will begin and your brand will slowly erode.

You need to put in checks and balances with continual corporate training and systems, but avoid cookie cutter openings when it comes to culture. You also must make it clear as to where there is no flexibility and where there is flexibility and what that means. Some things such as your proprietary products must be at every restaurant and your distributors must have them available even for your first location in a market, but it is not realistic to expect every ingredient to be the exact at every location. For instance, you may have a spec of a 14-18 ct Applewood smoked bacon from Smithfield for your locations, but in a new city where you are opening your first location, the distributor does not stock Smithfield for this item, but has two others with same spec. You should be cutting multiple products in advance and approving alternates. Once you build up volume, you can move to the original manufacturer.  Every location you open must feel like it is the only one. The focus needs to be on your standards so your guests can be wowed. By creating the systems and standards early, this can be accomplished.

Balancing Emotion in your decision making

From a company’s first location to their 500th, restaurant brands all feel that their food, beverages, design, layout, menu and concept in general are the best and needs tweaking, but no real change. Restauranteurs have passion and are artists in their own way. Early success tells them that their critics (their customers) love them and will always love them. At the beginning, the founder and creator was in the restaurants a lot and spent time with their guests. They watched the quality of the food, they made sure the restaurants were clean and they could count on many relationships they created with vendors and their staff. As you grow, you begin to count on others to follow your lead and execute much of what you used to do. The food, service and cleanliness are assumed to be as great as ever and you assume that your customers will come to you forever. Is it possible that they love your burgers and come for that, but never liked your fries? Do you have fish n chips that are a big seller and you are using cod because you like cod, but your guest does not even know? You also will assume that your vendors and other outside relationships are the best and that your pricing on items is better than anyone else.

The first thing that should be clear is that your vendors and anyone else that you count on your business will always look out for themselves first and then you. There are things that you do not know that may not be as transparent as you think. If you feel a deal is too good to be true and so much better than others much larger than your organization, it is most likely not. As you grow, there are very important decisions that need to be made that allow you to keep your organization consistent, but growth may not allow you to do some of the things that you have always done in one region. Key initiatives such as local, organic, scratch, cut fresh must be maintained but not on everything. You need to be concerned about availability, labor, food safety, guest credit and so much more. Do you really need to make fresh guacamole in a restaurant that is primarily Italian? Do you really need beautiful hot house tomatoes for chopping and placing in your salsa? Does your guest really need for your burgers to be ground in each location and do they notice the difference? There are so many questions like this to be pondered as you grow. Ask lots of questions and stand by certain things and create alternate plans where you can. Make the decisions at your convenience as opposed to when you are forced to…..

There is nothing better than taking a brand and growing it. Understanding the challenges early in the process and doing the heavy lifting at the right time will make the chances of your success far greater.

6 Ways to Cut Costs in Your Restaurant

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Restaurants are known for their razor-thin profit margins. That notion holds particularly true among affordable fast-casual and quick-service concepts. Add on pressures like rising real estate costs, unpredictable food prices, and minimum-wage hikes across the country, and operators are left with even less of a financial safety net.

In this climate, every penny counts. And restaurateurs are continually re-examining every part of the business, including their ingredients, labor schedules, and food packaging in order to maximize return. To help, we asked experts and operators to identify ways restaurants can maintain fiscal discipline and trim costs without sacrificing quality.

1. Rethink ingredients

Consumers are more health-conscious than ever. They want to know where their food comes from, and they’re flocking to scratch-cooked, health-forward, and farm-to-table offerings.

Those trends can add new layers of complexity to a restaurant’s bottom line, says Vince Purves, President of Consolidated Concepts.

Scratch ingredients may come with a lower upfront price tag, but the manpower required to break them down in-house can add up quickly. For that reason, Purves is a proponent of pre-portioned, processed foods, which he says can cut down costly staff time while still maintaining high-quality standards.

Take the chicken breast, for example. An operator might want to tout that its birds are broken down in-house. But a prepared chicken breast from a processor cuts down trimming waste, frees up staff time, and can ensure product consistency that is otherwise difficult to replicate across multiple units.

“Are you getting credit for trimming a random chicken breast?” Purves says. “Does the customer really know, and do they care?”

The same logic holds true for produce options like pre-diced onions or shredded carrots, he says. In some cases, it may even be advantageous to add multiple SKUs of similar products—a pre-sliced chicken breast for salads and a whole breast for sandwiches, for instance. Such options may cost a few pennies more on invoices but could save labor dollars by eliminating on-the-clock work.

Purves says technological advancements have improved the quality of frozen and pro-

cessed ingredients in recent years. A processed chicken breast, for instance, might come marinated in an all-natural solution of water and sea salt that tastes just as good or better than a raw piece of meat prepared on site.

“That provides very low waste and significantly reduces labor,” he says. “It provides a consistent product, too.”

Purves says the key is understanding the relationship between supplies coming in and the associated labor costs needed to transform them into meals for customers. Many restaurants aren’t there yet, but Purves believes it’s an easy sell once operators realize the potential labor savings.

“If you can reduce enough of the processes—the actual back-of-house processes, where you can eliminate one person—that gets their attention,” he says. “But there are so many other benefits of getting something that’s produced to some extent from a third-party manufacturer: that consistency of product, better yield, the fact that there’s probably more cost stability associated with it.”

2. Watch every penny—constantly

Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to save money.

That’s what 105-unit Capriotti’s did with a system-wide upgrade of its POS system. The addition of NCR Back Office has integrated inventory management, recipes, and sales data with store schedules and labor costs.

Capriotti’s chief development officer David Bloom says everything about the restaurant business has grown more complicated in recent years. Complex labor regulations and innovations like third-party delivery require deep financial analysis. An old-school reliance on instinct won’t cut it, Bloom says.

“I’d say a lot of restaurateurs actually don’t take the time and energy to keep updated financial reports,” he says. “You’d be amazed at how many restaurateurs just look at their bank account versus actually running a financial statement and diving into it. That used to work. But, unfortunately, it just doesn’t work anymore.”

Capriotti’s software creates an ideal labor schedule using manager parameters and provides regular updates of overages and actual time clocked. It also keeps watch on overtime issues and tracks part-time employees who approach 30 hours per week—the federal threshold for requiring employee health insurance. The system is also vigilant about tracking food costs, overages, and waste for the sandwich concept.

“I can tell you not just your food cost is high, but specifically I can say which meats or cheeses are high,” Bloom says. “I can say my turkey sandwiches are high, I must be putting too much meat on the turkey sandwich. So you can be very, very specific in finding problems.”

Combined across the system, the store-level data can pinpoint problems with individual operations. Sometimes, fixes are as simple as ensuring franchisees leverage the chain’s existing national contracts with suppliers, rather than purchasing product from local, more expensive providers.

Bloom says franchisees often lack the time or expertise to analyze their financial data in-house. That’s why corporate invested in the system itself and performs regular, in-depth financial reviews of franchisee operations. Bloom says the franchisor performs this service at no cost to operators.

“We don’t make any extra money doing that. Our royalty is completely based on the topline,” he says. “They certainly understand the time we’re investing with them to improve their bottom line is strictly for them. Now, the argument could be made that in the long run it helps us because healthy franchisees are growing franchisees.”

3. Focus on saving, not just cutting

Mike Charvat, senior vice president of operations at Grill Concepts Inc., says the third-party operator of hotel restaurants has labored to think more holistically about its store budgets.

“Instead of cost cutting, we’re looking at cost savings generally and better spending,” he says. “It’s really getting ahead with a plan. At the end of the month, it’s really too late to do anything about it.”

Grill Concepts operates full-service restaurants and the quick serve In Short Order Daily Grill in the lobby of the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. Charvat says the company’s fiscal approach doesn’t differ between its full-service and quick-service concepts. Both segments of the industry require disciplined inventory management and long-term planning.

“The margins are generally the same,” he says, “but it’s different food price and check averages.”

With its unique operation inside hotels, the company’s restaurants receive one key forecasting tool that most other operators don’t have the luxury of using: hotel occupancy numbers that can help predict traffic. That makes scheduling and inventory management much more precise.

Much of the cost-control strategy for Grill Concepts relies on separating short-term expenses from the long-term financial health of operations. For example, the company is heavily focusing on manager recruitment and retention with hopes that more emphasis there will pay off in the long run.

“If we can reduce turnover by 25 percent, that’s a huge savings,” Charvat says. “We cut down on recruiting expenses and ads.”

Some brands might choose to trim training programs to save cash. But Charvat views such moves as shortsighted. Grill Concepts is re-examining perks and benefits packages in an effort to create long-term stability in its management ranks.

“People are always fighting over people in this business. It’s really wanting to retain them and wanting them to not talk to other [employers],” he says. “We think it’s going to lead to better retention and higher morale. We want to be the employer of choice in the restaurant business. There’s so much competition out there.”

4. Design on a budget

Restaurants have many tools at their disposal to trim costs and adjust budgets. But when it comes to real estate, operators have limited flexibility.

Miguel Vicens, a creative director at Coevál Studio, a Dallas branding and design firm specializing in restaurants, says the strength of today’s real estate market means restaurateurs have to pony up for the space and locations they desire.

“Landlords and property owners these days don’t have to settle for anything,” he says. “So I don’t think there’s a ton of negotiation.”

But operators do have budgetary leeway when it comes to all the finishes that go into transforming an empty box into a restaurant. Vicens says there are many ways to achieve a high-design look without spending a fortune.

For example, instead of using reclaimed wood for a counter or bar top, the company has found that hardwood floors can achieve a similar effe ct at a fraction of the cost.

Some restaurateurs may be drawn to the modern, institutional aesthetic of shiny metals and subway tiles that have grown to dominate the fast-casual space. But Vicens says that look is tired. And even operators on tight budgets can create a distinct space.

“You do save some money leaving spaces as bare as possible,” he says. “But the problem is you fall into that trend. Does it look like a trendy coffee shop or does it look like an actual restaurant?”

When budgets get lean, operators should cut from the restrooms first, Vicens says. Tile costs vary widely and are an easy downgrade to realize savings. And when shopping for locations, it’s always cheaper to find a space that previously housed a restaurant because of the existing kitchen equipment and electrical and plumbing fixtures.

For multiunit operators, Vicens recommends maintaining consistency of finishes. But he says operators should seek to define each location with one unique piece of artwork. Coevál Studio likes using vinyl or mosaic to build a signature piece that will prove Instagram-worthy to diners.

“You can have 20 units and they all have a different Instagram moment or Instagram wall,” he says. “They describe where you are.”

5. Watch what goes in the dumpster

One of the easiest ways to identify fiscal waste is to examine the physical waste.

Dumpsters offer a glimpse into a restaurant’s spending patterns. And they’re frequent culprits in overspending.

“You normally wouldn’t think about it,” says Geoff Aardsma, vice president of client service for Enevo, which provides waste, recycling, and analytics services. “All you’re seeing is that small bill, but it really touches almost every part of a restaurant’s operation.”

Aardsma points out that trash trucks cause parking lot wear and tear and can interrupt drivers looking to get in and out during a lunch rush. Scheduling too many pickups is akin to over-ordering produce. And scheduling too few means on-the-clock workers have to go out back and deal with the headache of overflowing garbage.

Enevo deploys dumpster sensors to monitor waste generation and pickup schedules. The company says it can save restaurants as much as 15 percent by managing waste pickup. Aside from outsourcing waste removal services, Aardsma says, restaurants should explore recycling opportunities to reduce the cost of cardboard and other materials going to landfills. Enovo has also worked with some suppliers to switch to reusable crates that cut back staff time and keep empty boxes out of the dumpster.

“In the quick-service space, it’s really about supply chain management and the packaging of materials being delivered to the restaurant,” he says. “There’s kind of a hidden cost of supply chain, and that’s the waste that occurs from packaging of supplies sent to you.”

6. Don’t go overboard

Andrew Gruel likes to call himself “the garbage man.”

“I go into the garbage cans,” says the founder and CEO of Slapfish. “And I’m serious. It’s really that simple. You find patterns.”

Scouring through the garbage of his fast-casual seafood concept, Gruel has found tangible savings. When he finds too many french fries in the trash, he knows the kitchen is over-preparing. Finding 3-inch-long scraps of carrot, he knows the prep cooks are wasting valuable produce.

While he sweats the details, Gruel says his fanaticism goes only so far; he is careful not to make cost-cutting changes that affect quality.

For instance, he’s worried about the skyrocketing price of avocados. Slapfish serves a house-made guacamole on some of its sandwiches. A cheaper, pressed avocado product is available, but Gruel says customers would notice an obvious departure like that.

“I look at what effect that has overall on the brand,” he says. “Let’s say we do it, serve 1,000 a week, and save a nickel on each one; it’s just not worth it.”

Instead, he’s made other changes that customers hardly notice. Some even add to the charm.

Packaging is intentionally barebones. Fish and chips are wrapped in newspaper, and to-go orders are packaged in brown paper bags, an aesthetic that Gruel calls an homage to the simple packaging served at Five Guys.

The same goes for the design, which is dominated by inexpensive choices like simple concrete floors and timeless subway tile. Menus are written on chalkboards and butcher paper, rather than pricey digital menuboards.

“I don’t need an interior designer to come in and tell me about some centerpiece,” Gruel says. “We want people to come in and not expect much from the design and think, ‘Wow, I’m impressed by the food. I wasn’t expecting that.’”

With marketing, the company relies mainly on free or cheap social media marketing to lure diners in. And Gruel has built a menu that is intentionally malleable. Instead of Mahi tacos, the menu calls for fish tacos, allowing the restaurant to swap out different types of fish as market prices fluctuate.

“It has to be built into the design of the food menu,” Gruel says. “We call it ‘Choose the dish, not the fish.’ People come to us for our over-the-top fish sandwich, not our Mahi sandwich.”

Romaine outbreak alert – November 2018

Brought to you by our partners at Fresh Concepts


Outbreak Alert – Romaine Lettuce

Update – 11/28/2018 12:25pm PST

The FDA has narrowed down the potential affected growing regions to the following counties:

Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Ventura

Romaine harvested from locations outside of the California regions identified by the traceback investigation does not appear to be related to the current outbreak.

There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine lettuce that is certain to have been harvested from areas outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. For example, romaine lettuce harvested from areas that include, but are not limited to the desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, and Mexico, does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Additionally, there is no evidence hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine is related to the current outbreak.

During this new stage of the investigation, it is vital that consumers and retailers have an easy way to identify romaine lettuce by both harvest date and harvest location. Labeling with this information on each bag of romaine or signage in stores where labels are not an option would easily differentiate for consumers romaine from unaffected growing regions.


Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.

If romaine lettuce does have this labeling information, we advise avoiding any product from the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. Romaine lettuce from outside those regions need not be avoided.

Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these sources.

Update – 11/26/2018 4:00pm PST


Based on discussions with major producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date. Romaine lettuce entering the market can also be labeled as being hydroponically or greenhouse grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.

If consumers, retailers, and food service facilities are unable to identify that romaine lettuce products are not affected – which means determining that the products were grown outside the California regions that appear to be implicated in the current outbreak investigation — we urge that these products not be purchased, or if purchased, be discarded or returned to the place of purchase.

Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these sources.  

The FDA has urged growers, processors, distributors and retailers to:

  • clearly and prominently label all individually packaged romaine products to identify growing region and harvest date for romaine; and
  • clearly and prominently label at the point of sale the growing region when it is not possible for romaine lettuce suppliers to label the package (e.g. individual unwrapped whole heads of romaine lettuce available in retail stores).

What we learned at the Fresh Concepts Account Executive Conference

At Consolidated Concepts, we know that whether our clients are health-conscious fast-casual chains or highly-focused burger concepts, food safety is always paramount. Choosing the right vendors and distributors for your meat, dairy, and produce is integral to keeping your restaurant safe from inevitable food recalls and outbreaks. In relation to food safety and produce, Consolidated Concepts chooses to partner with Fresh Concepts. Fresh Concepts is a produce management program with trusted relationships throughout the produce supply chain that negotiates the best produce options for operators. Their close relationships with grower-shippers, integrity-focused business practices, consistent distributor vetting, and innovative tracking systems and technology make them a strong partner for our clients.

Consolidated Concepts recently took a few clients out to Salinas, California for what Fresh Concepts calls, the Account Executive Conference. The annual conference gives Consolidated Concepts and our clients a chance to meet grower-shippers, walk the fields, explore new farming technology, and test innovative products. The Fresh Concepts team meets with growers year-round to examine contracts, conduct food safety audits, attend food shows, and host training sessions, but the Account Executive Conference goes beyond offering operators the chance to experience the full value of Fresh Concepts partnership. “With each visit, our appreciation for those responsible in producing our country’s fruits and vegetables grows. Everyone we bring to the fields has a new perspective the next time they order a salad, it’s a refreshing and humbling experience,” says Chris Rheault Director of Operations at Fresh Concepts.

Mark Cimino, Senior Vice President of Client Relations at Consolidated Concepts, who attended the conference this year, noted, “I was just amazed at the level of sanitation and safety that they practice. I think if people who are buying that product knew what goes into washing their produce they would certainly feel comfortable continuing to purchase from these growers.” Some of the other topics discussed during the conference were the advancements in harvesting technology, the safety measures and technology put in place for the laborers, and what the current political climate and economic climate is doing for laborers and growers in general.

The industry is facing many labor challenges due to a reduction in workforce and rising costs. Rob Mater, an account executive in the casino sector at Fresh Concepts noted that “The amount of work it takes to get a head of Iceberg or Romaine to your local grocer for .99 to 1.29 is astounding.” Growers are creating programs to retain quality workers, including affordable housing and profit sharing in some cases.

Fresh Concepts continues to improve their produce procurement program by having a genuine care and concern for their clients, that esteems client interests better than their own, and puts all their guiding principles into practice.

5 potential money siphons hiding in your QSR’s MDA

Most operators who have scaled up to multiple locations have found the benefit of pursuing a Master Distribution Agreement, or MDA, with their main broadline or grocery distributor. This vital contract offers operators the opportunity to lock in pricing terms on their order guide items, and avoid drastic swings in costs and terms from their primary distributors. [Read More] via QSR


Scoring big with QSR customers this pro football season

With week No. 1 of the current professional football season in the rearview mirror, QSR operators must have an action plan for capturing American football fans’ hearts and pockets in the months ahead. After all, football is this nation’s sport, with the vast majority of respondents (37 percent) in a December 2017 Gallup poll saying they preferred football over any other pro sport, including basketball (preferred by just 11 percent) and baseball (preferred by 9 percent ). [READ MORE] via QSR


Blanket Contracts: Why it’s good to be under the blanket

When it comes to efficiently running your food service operation, more operators are joining Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs).  GPOs and consultants offer various types of services and sources that help boost the bottom lines of their members. Some of these services support day to day operations while other services help impact cost savings. GPO services can include:

  • fully outsourced supply chain management
  • individual project-based services like location scouting or specific sourcing
  • custom contract negotiations for individually spec’d items
  • Master Distribution Agreement (MDA) negotiation
  • product recommendations and vetting

Among all of these services, however is one that can be incredibly beneficial, and easily attainable for operators: Blanket Manufacturer Contracts.

What is a Blanket Contract?

Blanket Manufacturer Contracts are valuable volume-based contracts that GPOs negotiate with manufacturers and service providers. GPOs like Consolidated Concepts have thousands of members. The large combined volume of the GPO’s membership appeals to food and supplies manufacturers who offer exclusive pricing and contract terms to GPO members. Members of the GPO get hundreds of contracts made available to them instantly, including broadline grocery products, produce, paper products and even chemicals. These volume-based contracts can mean major savings for the operator. Savings take three basic forms: deviations off invoice pricing, manufacturer rebates (paid monthly, quarterly or annually), or service discounts.

Despite the natural appeal of blanket contracts, some food service operators are still hesitant when it comes to using a GPO to assume these contract benefits. After all, is it not possible to get the same contracts if operators just negotiate for themselves? As a decade-old GPO we’ve seen the hurdles and hardships that the DIY method can create for operators. First of all, negotiating and tracking direct manufacturer contracts costs major time (or consulting fees) for the operator and require a level of contract expertise in order to ensure operators aren’t snared into loopholes and skewed pricing. Secondly, contracts can also often prove restrictive. Operators may be bound by the terms of the contract and may have to meet minimums, agree to exclusivity clauses, or have limited choices when it comes to product selection.

How do operators take advantage of blanket contracts?

If an operator is already a member of a GPO, taking advantage of blanket contracts is a natural next step after joining. As a member or client of a GPO an operator should aim to get on as many of that GPO’s contracts as possible in order to reap the full benefits of GPO membership. Being a good user of blanket contracts requires the right perspective from the operator side. For example, if an operator has 20 loaded deviations and is on 20 contracts. In order to maximize their cost savings year over year on these contracts, a good goal may be to try and explore 10 more contract opportunities per year or to increase their contract utilization by 50% per year.

New contract opportunities are often easy to identify and join if an operator asks the right questions. One way to find about new contracts from a GPO is to request an invoice or usage analysis from the GPO’s analytics or account management teams. Break the contracts into categories and inquire about the best fits in each category: food, non-food, and indirect spend. Or, ask in a business review, “ What new contracts are available and what are some popular contracts that I’m not currently taking advantage of?” By staying in the loop on the new or existing contracts the GPO has access to, operators may be able to find deviations and rebates on items they’re already purchasing or looking to source.

How do you choose the right GPO for the best blanket contracts?

While many GPOs offer blanket contracts, finding the right GPO for a restaurant operation is integral. Select a GPO that has a core competency that includes blanket contracts. A great GPO will provide business reviews, compliance reviews, and savings analyses. Additionally, a GPO with the latest software and technology will be able to use that technology to identify contract opportunities for their clients, audit contract pricing, and recommend contract renewal and contract management strategies.

A good GPO will never pose a threat to a restaurant’s existing procurement team.  Rather, the GPO should offer extra contracts on top of the existing direct contracts that a CFO, VP of Supply Chain, or Procurement Director has already negotiated on their own. Blanket contracts help in-house staff be more effective at their jobs and are perfect for items for which they don’t have quite as much buying power. Take, for example, beverage napkins: an item that every operator buys in high-volume but is rarely considered a ‘core item. With a blanket contract, operators can utilize the GPO’s more aggressive volume-based pricing without going through the hassle of negotiating directly with manufacturers.

Want to know more about what makes a GPO right for you? Learn more about Consolidated Concepts here.

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