Tag: produce management

cost reduction

5 Steps In 5 Months to 5 % Savings

Pre-pandemic, restaurants were doing well! Products were available, prices are stable, and employers had the power. Then an unexpected punch to the gut happened when the supply chain took a major hit due to shortages and price increases.

What if we said there were things you can do today in order to keep costs low and improve your margins? That means that in a world where everything was all about marketing, sales, butts-in-seats, new locations…. is now all about cost reduction, streamlining efficiency and driving margin.

The biggest and brightest minds in the industry are shifting their focus from top-line revenue to margins and profitability.

Here are 5 steps that you can begin taking today to reduce your prime and operating expenses by 5% in the next 5 months putting you on the right path to profitability:

Integrate Technology


Are you calling your distributors every day to check on stock levels of your most pressing inventory? Many operators are finding out about substitutions only after the products have already been delivered to their restaurants. This does not work when you have been using the same ingredients since the day you opened your restaurant. By leveraging technology such as InsideTrack, you gain visibility into product sourcing and substitutions so you can prepare for menu changes ahead of time – instead of last minute.

What about carrying out core responsibilities in your restaurant such as auditing and price verification? That takes time and resources that not everyone has these days. Your in-house system of taking multiple spreadsheets and comparing them against each line item is no longer a very efficient way to audit. That manual process is too long and can lead to overlooked overcharges – which cost you money at the end of the day. By embracing technology in both your front and back of house, you can streamline operational tasks and reduce spend all at the same time.

Think About Outsourcing


Today, restaurant operators are having to do more with less and are being forced to outsource certain functions of their business such as Marketing, Legal, HR, Payroll, or Accounting.  So, why not outsource supply chain management and purchasing? This does not mean your current supply chain team is replaced. Instead, by partnering with supply chain experts you expand your resource pool and supplement your current staff. Most operators would love to add to their supply chain staff but the added cost to do so is too much, leaving them scrambling to manage the supply chain chaos on their own.

When you work with a supply chain management partner like Consolidated Concepts, Sundell and Associates, or even Restaurant Partners Procurement, you don’t have to pay for training, salary, insurance, and time off.  This is a popular option for many emerging and national chains, Private Equity firms, and even Publicly Traded restaurants.

Produce Management

produce management

Most operators don’t have the bandwidth, volume, or category expertise to efficiently manage their produce programs in-house. By leveraging a third party produce management company, you can reduce your produce spend by 5-10%.  On average, produce spend is about 15% of total food cost, so a 5-10% reduction in produce cost can lead to 100-200 basis points off your total food cost. Produce prices fluctuate throughout the course of a year due to things like seasonality and different growing regions. Yes, it’s true that you can occasionally buy better than the market but locking in contracted prices will protect you from volatility and you’ll ultimately be better off. Produce management companies such as Fresh Concepts or Produce Alliance will not only help you maintain, but improve your pricing, quality, food safety and traceability.

Operational Efficiency

operational efficiency

There are many changes you can make, both big and small, within your operation that can help you cut costs without making it so obvious to your customers. Take trash liners for example. If they are too big for your trash cans, you are wasting money on buying bigger bags without maximizing the full value out of each liner. By buying liners that are the correct fit, you can save on costs and extract the full value of each trash bag. What about your TV’s? Are all your TV’s running at the same time – even the ones where no customers are being seated? What a waste of power and electricity. Turn unused TV’s off and save on your electrical bill. Don’t forget about your kitchen burners. If you aren’t making food right away, they don’t have to be turned on as soon as your staff is clocking in. All that is doing is heating your restaurant up, forcing the AC to kick on – using unnecessary energy.

Making changes to your utility usage such as turning of lighting and electronics in unused sections of your restaurant, buying the correct size trash bags, using energy saving light bulbs are all small changes you can make cut costs.



GPO’s sometimes have a bad rap. They can cost an operator money and sometimes require you to switch products and change distributors. But not all GPO’s are the same. GPOs are widely used in the Healthcare and Hospitality space and the adoption rate for restaurants has dramatically increase over the past few years. Finding the right GPO partner for your restaurant brand can reduce costs and broadliner purchases by 50-150 basis points or more, depending on how contracted you are. Work with a GPO partner that is distributor and manufacturer neutral – one that will not require you to switch products or vendors and will honor your contracts. Work with a GPO partner that you can call on when you are looking for new product suggestions or reporting and analytics on existing purchases.

If you implement any of these suggestions, you will reduce cost and improve your margins.  It’s just a matter of how much. At Consolidated Concepts, we can help you tackle each of these steps, reach your business goals, reduce your costs, and streamline your operations. Become a member today for FREE and start making smarter business decisions.


The New and Unusual Produce Trending in 2020

Did you notice the fast pace with which food and beverage trends came and went in 2019? The rise and fall of consumer’s preferences and desires seemed to wane as quickly as a tropical afternoon rain shower that drenches an island one minute, only to bring intense sunshine the next. Blink, and you might miss it.

Avocado and kale may find some tough competition in the next decade with curious guests turning to unique and unusual produce. Let’s take a look at a few that are definitely not found at the corner grocery store.


Tyrant Farms describes celtuce as “the coolest veggie you’ve never heard of.” As the name implies, it’s a little like a celery-lettuce combo. The big, massive leaves, which are not it’s culinary prized possession, gives way to a thick, crunchy, juicy stem that Asians and others in the Mediterranean region have known about for over a thousand years.

The stem, after pealing the fibrous outer skin, is great raw or in stir fries, maintaining its crispy juiciness even after cooking!

According to the Forager Chef, Michel Bras, a world famous French chef, and his son, Sebastien, serve it at their 3-star Michelin restaurant, Bras. Of course, as their menu is an ongoing work of art, Celtuce may be a thing of yesteryear by the time you get to France and indulge in some of the region’s finest culinary creations. If you’re in search of this off-the-beaten path wonder, it’s best to look in your local Asian market. At least until we Americans catch on to its tasty offerings.


This hardy green, also referred to as Japanese mustard spinach, is actually not a spinach but a member of the Brassica family, home to cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage as well as mustards. Asians use it for its tender leaves as well as the flowering stems. As the name implies, it is native to Japan where it is used in salads and stir-fries.

This health trend is high in vitamin C, calcium, beta carotene, and sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to fight against cancer cells. Chef Tetsuo Takenaka, Kyoto’s leading specialist in the school of traditional Japanese kaiseki ryori, a cuisine that uses fresh ingredients distinctive to each season, recommends combining this green with fresh shitake mushrooms and dashi.


I know, this edible wonder does not seem like it belongs on the up-and-coming list. But what is new for 2020 is the “superfood” aspect of mushrooms and that it fits in well with the plant-based alternative to meats. This nutrient dense, versatile meat-alternative can be found in main dishes as well as small plates in all its remarkable forms including Shitake, Maitake, and Chanterelle. The first two started out in Asia before finding their way to the U.S. They are high in several immune-boosting, anti-cancer compounds including polysaccharides and terpenoids.

Chanterelles are native to many parts of the world, including the forests of Wisconsin in the summer months. Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, set in a park pavilion overlooking Lake Michigan, offers a Chanterelle Mushroom wine-pairing dinner that includes oysters in curry with chanterelles and slow-cooked American wagyu brisket with chanterelles and shallot. This mushroom, with a distinctive mild peppery flavor, is full of vitamins and minerals including a high concentration of B vitamins, a fair share of Vitamin D—a vitamin hard to find in food—and iron.

According to USA Today, searches for nutrient-packed mushrooms has increased by 46 percent on Pinterest, a social media site with more than 250 million users. But, wait, even more astonishing is that mushroom coffee has seen a 471 percent year-on-year spike in searches. Amazing. If you’re considering getting in on this dynamic trend, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with mushrooms such as chaga, lion’s mane, reishi, and cordyceps, medicinal mushrooms that have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine.It looks like more and more health-conscious consumers will be trading in their morning latte for a mug of Lion’s Mane & Chaga.

Butterfly Pea Flower

Just when you thought edible flowers were entering the downside of their climb to fame, this beautiful, vibrant blue flower enters the scene. This, however, is not just any flower—it is the chameleon of the plant kingdom, changing colors when mixed with an acidic food. It is also rich in antioxidants, making it not only Instagram worthy, but a strong contender for those drawn to health-conscious cuisine. Butterfly pea flowers offer little in the way of taste but make up for it in their natural food and drink coloring properties. The tea has a mild woody taste, a little like green tea. Indigo tea, made from its petals, is a staple in Thailand.


Beans have been a staple around the world for thousands and thousands of years, an estimated 9.000 years, to be exact. So, what’s new about something so old? Knorr and World Wildlife Fund put together a report on the Future 50 Foods—foods that are healthier for both people and the planet.In addition to foods that fall into the algae and cacti categories, superfood beans made the list and include black turtle, bambara, and marama—a bean that, when roasted, is said to taste like cashews—Yum.

We definitely recommend checking out the Future 50 Foods report which offers a wealth of information about unique foods from around the world that are sure to be growing in popularity as the rise of the health conscious consumer continues to redefine the restaurant landscape.

Know Your Produce

Whether you opt for the curious and new or for the old-time favorites, it’s important to keep abreast of the market and what is happening to produce on a world scale.

Consolidated Concept’s Freshly Picked Market Report offers weekly reports that focus on updated pricing in the meat, poultry, beef, and seafood industries as well as produce, dairy, and grains. I was surprised to see in their Freshly Picked, December 19 report that pricing on chicken wings for the coming year may run below the elevated 2019 prices. Good news for those restaurants that are building their Superbowl menu!

This report is a great resource to have at your fingertips and one that will serve you well if followed on a weekly basis.

If you’re looking to redefine your menu in the coming year, Consolidated Concepts can also help you develop your menu and connect you with the local and national sources to help you succeed.


Is a Produce Management program right for you?

Whether your restaurant is a vegetarian’s delight, or you’re known for your oversized onion rings, knowing that you’re going to receive consistent pricing and quality from your produce vendors is key. A proper produce management program will ensure consistency in product, contracted pricing, food safety optimization and more.

Companies like Fresh Concepts elevate their relationships with local growers and shippers to bring you a premier managed produce program. Part of this management process is giving you peace of mind in your produce partner relationships. Fresh Concepts does that with their recordkeeping. They store a record of contact information and certificates of insurance for distributors and shippers, plus third party audit information. By keeping a tab on this information, they can easily manage next steps when food safety concerns arise, ensure traceability, and keep suppliers accountable on implementing best practices and their certificates. They also conduct second-party audits for certain distributors and shippers with high-risk items to make sure all brand standards are maintained.

Another important feature of a produce management program is their process of dealing with food safety risks. Fresh Concepts focuses on a three-prong approach to food safety management: second party audits of facilities to prevent food safety risks, a formalized process when outbreaks or recalls do occur, and a perfected communication alert system and process for getting you replacement product if needed. The foodservice industry is often filled with food safety risks and working with Fresh Concepts is one way to ensure you are properly protected against possible outbreaks and informed against recalls and other issues. They also focus on ensuring restaurant operators are informed of food safety precautions they can take in their operations. During the recent government shutdown, Javier Martinez, Food Safety Manager at Fresh Concepts, reiterated, “The actions taken at the operator level — in the walk-in refrigerator, in the kitchen, at washing stations — make up the critical “last mile” in the food safety chain. Following proper techniques for washing and prepping food at the restaurant level can help to ensure the highest levels of food safety. “ (source)

Romaine Lettuce Recall in 2018 forced many operators to assess their Food Safety alert systems.

A produce management program can also be very beneficial in the irregularity of pricing in the produce market. Programs like Fresh Concepts work with shippers, growers, and suppliers to ensure you get contracted pricing that consists of set highs and lows that often protect you from the volatility of the industry while offering you savings. For example, throughout 2018 there were multiple romaine lettuce recalls that not only caused public panic, but affected the pricing on romaine lettuce and its other leafy counterparts. Fresh Concepts was able to give its customers an alert to price changes, an update on the outbreak within two hours of its notice, and a list of producers who they could order from that could offer the correct item to their specs. Andy Rosenbloom of Buyers Edge Platform says, “The produce market can experience crazy price fluctuations throughout the year for a whole variety of reasons: seasonality, weather, demand, or even politics.  Having a produce management partner in place ensures that your prices maintain stability, quality and safety.” Having this level of insight and accountability from your produce management partner is imperative to running your operations efficiently.

Interested in learning more about Produce Management programs we partner with? Visit us here and let’s chat.


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.