Tight Economic Times: Food Service Cost Containment

By Fitzgerald, Matthew | Corrections Forum, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

Tight Economic Times: Food Service Cost Containment


Fitzgerald, Matthew, Corrections Forum


THE COST OF FOOD is going up, no question about it. As foodservice professionals we are faced with cost pressures every day. Which issue is it today?

Price increases? Fuel surcharge? Product availability? Skilled labor? Dietary requirements? Increase in religious diets?

Any one of these, or others, can cause us to question our career choice. Bring them all together at one time, and we are faced with the new reality of today's economy.

Over the years, we've learned how to adjust to these cost pressures. Take ground beef for example. The correctional food service professional has worked through multiple options to contain or reduce the cost of this versatile protein. We have been moving from pure ground beef, to perhaps an 80/20 mix, to beef blends that might include poultry, soy, hearts and other fillers to reduce costs. The evolution continued to ground turkey or chicken, then into mechanically separated turkey (MST) or mechanically separated chicken (MSC). But not all institutions have been able to transition through these cost saving options. Menu restrictions, population perception, and other facility/kitchen limitations can all affect our ability to implement cost savings.

Fruits and vegetables represent another category that has seen significant cost increases in recent years. The industry is constantly comparing:

* Canned versus frozen

* Fresh versus canned

* Straight versus blend

One area that helps with costsavings is the greater acceptance today for imported products. The quality of these imports has improved significantly, in some cases surpassing domestic product. With the proper representation at the point of packing, imported frozen vegetable blends are a cost effective alternative to domestic product.

Cost-saving trends have impacted other aspects of menu planning. The fluctuating cost of fresh milk has caused many operators to reduce the frequency of cold cereal. Some institutions have tested a weekend 'brunch,' that is, increasing portions for a mid-morning meal, rather than offering the traditional B/L/D. With counts down on weekends, this idea may be worth considering.

Further, transitioning from three hot meals daily to two hots and a cold and even to two colds and a hot may be a viable alternative. Nutritional requirements, population acceptance and facility capabilities all come into play with any of these changes.

Recent Nutritional Scrutinies

Nutritional requirements and healthy dining are not just for schools. …

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