School Food Is An Excellent Way To Affect Children’s Nutrition Habits

By Matleena Autio

As school starts again here in Finland, also starts the conversation about school food – tasty or not and why. What is more, in school kitchens you can often hear deliberation about shared recipes. Why recipes should be shared and used jointly in the company? Why professional cooks can´t prepare food just relying on their own taste? So, this is about the matter of taste, after all.

When food is prepared and eaten by countless numbers of people, we can´t and shouldn´t rely on one customer’s or cook’s “taste of the day”. For example, the National School Lunch Program requires that school food meets certain nutritional criteria, and it also should be suitable for as many as possible. As I worked in the school kitchen, I noticed that surprisingly often the dishes that were yummies for some, were pet peeves for others. So, I wonder if the dishes we regard a bit dull are also those that only a few people leave uneaten, although they are not anyone´s favorites.

Let´s take care of our hearts and of our customers hearts

Amount of sodium and saturated fat are criteria for the Heart-Check mark of the American Heart Association, and that is for a good reason. Most of us like food that is a bit salty and made with real butter. However, it is well known, that sodium and saturated fat are injurious for heart health and the amount of those should be kept to a minimum in ordinary dining.

Sense of taste gets used to varying amounts of sodium surprisingly fast and tasting minor changes in the amount of salt in food is not easy even for the experienced cook. Every one of us have our own taste preferences and too salty for one may be bland for someone else. The same with sugar. Standardized recipes help to ensure that the served food meets the required nutritional criteria and tastes the same despite the cook of the shift. Salt and sugar are also easy to increase on the plate when more flavor is needed for some reason.

Childhood habits often remain to adulthood

To affect on children´s nutrition habits is crucially important, for according to studies nutrition habits adopted in childhood often remain until adulthood. School food is an excellent way to affect children´s nutrition habits, as school feeding catches up almost every child and youngster. What is more, many of us still remember the yummies and pet peeves of our school years. So, it is not insignificant what dishes we serve on the school lunch and how do we do that.

As a parent, I appreciate Finnish school food meeting nutrition recommendations. I don´t have to feel guilty about feasting with kids on holidays or weekends, as I know that ordinary dining is on a healthy base. Ordinary food doesn´t have to be gourmet, or every day a holiday. When the basis of the ordinary dining is in order, feasting on holidays is not a problem but just part of the balanced diet.

JAMIX helps you to follow the nutritional recommendations

Nutrition recommendations are designed for professionals to help individuals consume a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet. The function of nutrition recommendations is to inform the development of food and nutrition policies and programs at the public level. There are daily nutritional goals for macro nutrients and minerals, as well as guidelines for how to support healthy eating patterns in different demographic groups. Nutrition recommendations are not meant to be actualized on an everyday basis, but on a week or a menu level. Nutritional goals for different age-sex groups – for example from The Dietary Guidelines for Americans – can be integrated in the JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System and it is easy to compare the nutrient supply of the menus to those recommendations.

In Finland, we are proud of our safe and nutritious school food, a program that is one of the first ones in the world, and we want to lead it also into the future. In the beginning of the new school year, kitchens surely test new recipes but there are those old favorites on the menus too. JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System is here to assist cooks to ensure that both new and old recipes meet the nutritional goals.  Let´s taste new flavors daringly and appreciate the traditional dishes of our cuisines, as well.

More information on Dietary Guidelines in the U.S.:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.

menu online - JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System

Publish And Share Your Menu Online Directly From Your Kitchen System

Having your menu online saves time for the kitchen staff, and it saves costs related to the printing materials. Reduction in printing materials reduces their environmental impact, as well. In addition, an e menu or a mobile menu is always available to your customer regardless of place or time.

Nowadays customers are searching for restaurant menus online in order to see the offering already before going to the restaurant. Customers are also ever more interested in food related issues. They want more information about ingredients and health benefits with regards the food they are eating. Interest in local food and traceability is growing, as well. In addition, more and more people need to find out extremely detailed ingredient information as allergies caused by food have been increasing rapidly.

Sharing your menu online is quick and easy with a system

Posting a menu in, for example, your restaurant’s website is of course possible just with word processing skills, but you can handle it with notably less effort with the help of a system. JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System is a comprehensive system for professional kitchens, where you can manage all the essential information and functions of the kitchen. Menu planning is one of the key features in the system, and it is seamlessly linked to the recipes and the ingredients that are in use in the kitchen. The same menu, that has been created in the system for managing the kitchen’s internal operations and production, can be published with a couple clicks in a customer friendly format in selected digital channels.

Publish your menu to several digital channels at one go

menu online - JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence SystemIn addition to your own website you can easily share the e menu into digital info screens at point-of-sale, for example. The info screens can as well be tablet sized, for example near the entrance of the restaurant, or they can be large screens in lobby areas.

JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System creates a QR code on the menu’s web address, as well. You can utilize the QR code for example in printed marketing materials. Once your customer scans the code with his/her smartphone, the web page including the menu will automatically open in the smartphone’s web browser.

In addition to the previously mentioned, you can publish your menu from the JAMIX System into the unique JAMIX MENU mobile application, which is available for free download in the app stores (at the moment available in Europe, only). In the mobile application you can browse through menus of all restaurants who have published their menu into it. The customers can make a list of their own favorite restaurants in the application, as well.

Detailed information included in the e menu

The e menu you have published from JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System automatically includes also the sales prices for the menu items, as well as diet information, ingredients list including allergens, and nutrition facts. So, in addition to the menu items, the JAMIX online menu provides a lot of information to your customers.

CO2 calculator - carbon footprint of food - JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence SystemThese days consumers are ever more interested in the environmental effects of food. The unique CO2 Calculator in the JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System automatically calculates the carbon footprint of food. You can choose to publish the CO2 values together with the menu for your customers, as well.

Collect customer feedback related to your menu

customer feedback survey - JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence SystemYou can also collect customer feedback related to your menus with the JAMIX MENU application. You can create the survey and decide on which topics you want to get feedback on. Activating the customer feedback survey in the JAMIX System is again quick and easy. You just have to link the survey to the menu that will be published and the system takes care of the rest. Your survey will be shown to your customers together with the e menu, and the feedback from your customers will be automatically saved into the system, where you will have versatile reporting options related to it.

Design of the online menu according to your brand

menu online - JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence SystemThe core purpose of the menu is communication, but most often it is a marketing tool, as well. For this reason the appearance of the menu is not meaningless. The JAMIX MENU application enables you to edit the appearance of the published menu according to your visual guidelines. You can, for example, add your own logo into the online menu or edit the color theme and fonts on the menu.

In addition, you can also add pictures that have been saved into the recipes in the JAMIX System into the online menu. This way you can choose to illustrate the menu with, for example tempting pictures of the menu items.

One system supports your kitchen operation all the way through

In addition to e menu JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System includes all the essential features needed for running a food service operation:

cost control kitchen software - JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System

Kitchen Management Software Provides Tools For Cost Control

Cost control is one notable benefit you get from using a kitchen management software system. Costs are linked to several functions in the commercial kitchen. Orders, menu planning and inventory – they all play their own role in kitchen cost control.

By Matleena Autio

The Covid 19 pandemic has definitely had an impact on all of us, one way or another. In the turn of the year few of us could guess, that a new type of corona virus identified in China would have an impact on the whole world in this scale. At the moment the tightest restrictions are being removed in Europe and it seems possible that the restaurants will be opened step by step in the beginning of summer. Even if most of the societal functions slowed down or stopped completely due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, many public food service operations have been functioning almost as before despite the restrictions. Food is being prepared and served ongoingly in hospitals and different types of service facilities. Large amount of schools have also maintained food services in some form.

Benefits of kitchen management software?

Luckily the pandemic has had only little effect on my own life. The biggest challenges seem to have been related to scheduling and serving food – despite the fact, that I have got a decade of working experience in commercial kitchens. When you have to arrange food twice a day into the same table, which during this state of emergency has also been working as my office desk, I have many times missed the routines that are familiar from working life. Often that essential ingredient needed for preparing a certain meal has been missing from my pantry. Or some item has expired, even if I thought that I just bought it a few days earlier. Money and time is wasted – I know, that in the commercial kitchen setting this type of activity would not be appreciated.

”JAMIX is like a multi-tasking employee” is a quote from Certified Master Chef Ron DeSantis – in my case maybe a colleague, whom I’ve been missing. With JAMIX it is easy to plan your menus so, that you won’t be accidentally serving soup on five meals in a row (as happened to me). The system also helps you in ordering the right amount of ingredients at the right time – so that you don’t have to replace a part of the wheat flour with corn flour (this has happened to me, as well). Oh, I also managed to ruin one pot of soup, because of slipping too much salt in it. If I had followed a standardized recipe and measured my seasoning, this would not have happened.

With the Food Bank functionality in the JAMIX system you can take food that has been prepared earlier into consideration when planning production. In its part, it helps in minimizing food waste. I missed this function for communicating to my youngsters, that the casserole I made the day earlier was really meant for being heated and consumed.

Kitchen software helps in cost control and saves time

Even if, little by little, life starts to get back to normal, many things have changed. And in many aspects the work is just beginning. Economical effects of the pandemic are extensive and we need new innovations. Luckily, ”old buddies” can help a lot, as well. Kitchen management software system helps in cost control in many ways. You can minimize food waste when you make orders based on the portion sizes and portion amounts, that you have planned on your menu – as well as based on the real inventory balance versus gut feeling.

In addition, the post-production function helps you in serving your customers food they prefer. It also enables you to predict the real sales or consumption of different menu items. For example, mac and cheese might be more popular among students compared to baked beans. This is worth taking into consideration when setting the portion sizes. You don’t have to start planning special diet foods each morning from the scratch, as the kitchen system provides you the information regarding special diets: For which special diets the menu items of the day are suitable, and what special diet foods still need to be prepared. In addition to costs, a notable amount of time is saved, which generates cost savings, as well.

We at JAMIX are ready to help, when it is time to roll your sleeves again. Let us find together, how the system can help your business in the best way. Together we are more.

Do you know, if your customers are satisfied?

Collecting customer feedback and especially reacting on it is an excellent marketing tool which is worth to be utilized in the foodservice business.

By Salla Arffman, Trainer

collecting customer feedback

How many times have you skipped a restaurant after hearing that the food they serve is not that excellent, the portions are too small, or the customer service poor? There you have it. They say that all publicity is good publicity, but in foodservice business it can be difficult to get rid of bad reputation and it can have a significant effect on your customer count.

As you know, If you’ve had a good experience you mention it to a few others, but bad experiences are spread much further as you talk about them at workplace and with friends. But how to get this information to the service provider?

How often do you give negative feedback directly to the service provider? Surely there are exceptions, but I personally belong to that group who actually lie straightforwardly to the waiter when asked ”How is your meal?”, even if half of the plate would be left untouched. And I don’t believe I’m the only one doing this.

Why should you collect customer feedback?

If the customers are coming in in a steady pace and you receive negative feedback a couple of times per month, then do you need to collect customer feedback separately? Yes, you do!

By collecting customer feedback systematically you will know about individual failures but also about successes. When giving feedback is made easy for the customer, they will be more likely to give positive feedback, as well. If the feedback process is complicated you are prone to getting feedback only from the customers who have had an especially bad experience.

A customer feedback survey enables you to emphasize the issues that are important to your business. If the aim is to develop the menu, you can ask in your survey what types of food the customers would like to see on the menu. If again you are aiming to improve customer satisfaction, you can ask questions on that issue particularly.

Collecting customer feedback and especially reacting on it is an excellent marketing tool which is worth to be utilized. The customers appreciate if their opinions are taken into consideration and these stories are told forward at the coffee breaks, as well.

5 rules for collecting customer feedback

  1. Make giving customer feedback as easy as possible for your customers. For many of us it is difficult to give negative feedback face-to-face, so you should be able to give feedback in writing and anonymously. The time has passed by the carton feedback boxes and many businesses are moving on to electronic customer feedback applications. You can give feedback through applications designed for this purpose for example with your smartphone, and the service provider will easily get reports on the feedback for analysis.
  2. Keep the survey simple, design the questions carefully and ask the right questions. How many of us has left a customer feedback survey unfinished because there have been too many questions? How many of us has been annoyed because the survey has not been consistent and it has included several questions meaning the same thing? You need to design the questions so, that the customers will find it easy to give answers and that they won’t enable ambiguous answers. Always ask one thing at a time. A good rule of thumb is not to ask about things on which you are not going to do anything or on which you cannot do anything.
  3. Engage your customers into answering the survey. The survey is not of much use, if only 2 % of your customers answer to it. The more you get feedback and the more versatile your survey is, the more useful it is. In many feedback surveys the customers are lured into answering with the help of a small prize, for example a sweepstake. On the other hand, if the customer feedback survey is marketed in the right way (for example: ”Suggest a new plate for the menu, 5 of the most popular ones will be added to the menu”) you shouldn’t be lacking answers.
  4. Make the survey visually good looking. Do not forget that customer feedback surveys are one of the most visual parts of customer communication and for this reason the survey should be in line with the visual appearance of the organization. If the questionnaire is dull and old-fashioned, this is what you will be communicating of your business, as well.
  5. React on the feedback as promptly as possible. What could be more annoying than getting a lame answer saying ”we’re sorry” to a feedback given over a month ago. You need to analyze the feedback and answer promptly to those who have left their contact information, and use the information for developing your operation. Always aim at turning a customer’s negative experience into a positive one by using a refund, for example. Promote the actions you have taken based on the feedback, for example bring it up on the menu if some plate has been included after a customer request.

JAMIX MENU Customer Feedback Service

Collecting customer feedback with Jamix Kitchen Intelligence SystemJAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System includes an additional feature for collecting customer feedback. The feedback is linked to the menus in JAMIX MENU service so the customer’s feedback is targeted at a specific menu in in the program. The customer can give feedback on a whole meal (for example ”Really friendly customer service at lunch time!”) or a part of meal (”Macaroni and cheese was especially good today!”). The customers can give feedback with their own smartphones, for example.

You can design and create as many questions as you need to have. Question type options include stars, smileys and text. The customers can add pictures on the feedback, as well. Reports on feedback can be found in JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System.

Contact us for more information on JAMIX MENU Customer Feedback Service: [email protected]

Food trend forecasts provide inspiration for menu development

“Food trend forecasts that are published every year are great ways to rediscover ingredients and find inspiration for menu development.” This is one of the topics in the following newsletter by Certified Master Chef Ron DeSantis.

Food Is Just the Beginning™
by Ron DeSantis

Volume 2 Issue 1
January 2019

CulinaryNXT
200 Totoket Rd
Branford, CT 06405
203-415-9190

www.culinarynxt.com

Come On, Already!

We live in a service economy. Does that really mean I should tip the person that just took my sandwich order?

After placing my order at a sandwich shop the screen was turned to me and the question on the screen was how much I wanted to tip the cashier. Honestly, with Danny Meyer in my mind, I thought, just charge me more and give the cashier a better paycheck. Then, how much should one tip the order-taker? I’m really interested in how others handle counter-service tipping.

Cheers!

Master Chef Insights

2019 Outlook

We’re already 20 years into the 21st Century! Food changes, or so it seems, but does it really? Here’s looking in the rearview mirror at trends over the past 20 years:

  • Bacon
  • Comfort food
  • Sliders
  • Food trucks
  • Farm-to-Table/local/organic
  • Fried chicken
  • Cupcakes
  • Plant forward
  • Under utilized
  • Pulses/quinoa/hummus
  • Kale
  • Eggs

This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are the trends that consistently showed up during numerous searches. Here’s a low-risk prediction: most of these foods will be around for many years to come. What is interesting to me is that the trends are familiar foods and concepts/movements. They are things that are easily understood and can be, for the most part, embraced. They are all good foods (the definition of “healthy” TBD) and good concepts.

The great thing about being a chef is that good food never changes. You know good food as soon as you see it. The trend forecasts that are published every year are great ways to rediscover ingredients and find inspiration for menu development. Trend forecasts help chefs and managers gauge how on-trend their menus are and make adjustments where necessary.

What’s my 2019 outlook? First, good food will always win over the “hot trend”. Second, inspired by the selfless work of Chef Jose Andres (Nobel Peace Prize nominee!), the culinary community will become engaged in global topics and how food plays a role in solving them (9 billion people by 2050!). And lastly, there will be plant-forward backlash. People understand they need to eat more fruits and veggies (and they will), but they’re getting tired of constantly being told about it.

2018 Vintage

CulinaryNXT’s 2018 highlights –

The GOAT of sandwiches (declared by Good Morning NFL hosts on national TV) created for Super Bowl 52 made from 52 unique ingredients. Minnesota Vikings Tight End Adam Thielen confirmed its tastiness.

Host of a podcast series with chefs, charcuterie maker, food scientist, and more chefs.

Guest chef at a location I’m not permitted to talk about and had a short conversation with VP Mike Pence.

Held a culinary demo and tasting at Hope Lodge in New Orleans for cancer patients.

I was sold at auctions this year totaling $50,000 to charities.

Innovations TV with Ed Begley Jr interview for expertise on technology in foodservice.

2019 Food Trends insights provided for Menu & The Flavor magazine.

Lunch at 11,000-foot hike in Colorado Rockies.

Visited the PEZ factory!

Culinary & more…

Culinary Tip

Roasting Vegetables. Some of the most delicious things on a plate are roasted vegetables. How to get that natural sweet, charred flavor? Start by putting the roasting pan in the oven and preheat it. Use high temperature (400-425F), veggies have lots of water. Cut or select vegetables so they are consistent in size. SEASON them! Salt and pepper of course, but try seeds – fennel, cumin, caraway, mustard – experiment. Once the veggies hit the pan, put it back in the oven and leave it alone! At least for 15 minutes, let the heat recover and start the browning. Stir infrequently. Test the veggies for doneness by eating some. If they are how you like them, serve immediately, they will cool down fast.

Ingredient of the Month

Oysters. I thought I’d start with oysters because I just had some of the freshest, plumpest oysters during the holidays from Copps Island Oysters

www.coppsislandoysters.com

Oysters are one of nature’s great foods that needs no or very little enhancing. My friend Chef Franco Camacho www.shellandbones.com just served oysters with brunoise apples, yuzu sorbet, and caviar….just enough to make you want more. And I have to add fried oysters as a favorite. Just get them fresh.

Cancer Nutrition Consortium

In a recent email from CNC was a link to a recent study completed by cancer and nutrition experts. The study addresses “…how cancer treatment influences the dietary behaviors and food preferences of older adult cancer patients and explore associations between these dietary changes and common cancer symptoms.” Here is the link www.cancernutrition.org The work of the amazing people in CNC and the world-class cancer researchers is life-changing. I’m honored to be part of CNC. If you’d like more information about CNC, check the website or let me know.

Happy New Year

Please accept my sincerest wishes for a happy, healthy, and successful 2019.

CulinaryNXT is a food service advisory practice drawing on Ron DeSantis’ 30 years of experience in all facets of the food industry. Ron is one of only 68 Certified Master Chefs worldwide and has advised organizations of all sizes and types. His strengths include culinary innovation, menu and recipe development, culinary assessment, bottom-line results, and communication skills that allow him to implement solutions  effectively.

CulinaryNXT’s base is in New Haven, but its reach is truly global. CulinaryNXT’s relationships extend to numerous countries around the world in a client and alliance network that has been built over many years. These relationships provide both global support and local knowledge.

Reducing Food Waste will save you money and make your environmental footprint smaller

Kitchen management system helps restaurants and other food service operations in reducing food waste with versatile and comprehensive functionalities.

by Tuulia Heiskanen, Trainer

Reducing food waste with Jamix Kitchen Intelligence System

Food is thrown away every day in households, restaurants and the industry as well as already at the producers. You probably throw away large quantities of food yearly yourself, without even noticing it. Most of this food waste is a result of both unmade plans, but also of not following the plans that have been made. When you cook food in advance for more than one day, as you often do, you might end up eating something else the next day just out of an impulse. After a while, the ready made meals or untouched out-of-date packs are on their way from the fridge into the garbage bin. So there is a place for improvement.

I looked at some statistics on food waste and on the impact it has. Here are some figures:

  • One third of all food produced is lost or wasted (Source: FAO)
  • 150.000 tons of food is wasted each day in the United States (Source: The Guardian)
  • Households are responsible for almost half of the food wasted, but restaurants and other food service operations build up a notable 25 % share, as well (Source: Statista). Food waste could be avoided by better forecasting, or by preparing and storing food in another way.
  • Food that is produced for nothing puts a load both on the economy and the environment. Environmental effects are huge: the carbon footprint related to food waste is almost as big as the road transport emissions globally (Source: FAO).

Food waste is something that we most probably cannot get rid of completely, but it is clear that there is a need to reduce it.

 

New goals and legislation planned for reducing food waste

Fortunately the excessive amounts of food waste have been noticed in the past couple of years. The UN Sustainable Development Goals include cutting down food waste in half on the retail and consumer levels by the year 2030, as well as significantly reducing food waste within the whole production-distribution chain. Reaching the goals requires functional tools for continuous monitoring and reducing of food waste. Reaching the goal set by the UN, that is cutting down the food waste in half in a decade’s time, requires involvement from each food producer, business, retail store, restaurant and consumer.

Legislation needs to support the reduction of food waste. In France there is a legislation that forbids tossing food in retail stores and restaurants. Legislation really should be revised: The other day I heard from the radio that a part of food goes to waste already at the producers. This is caused almost solely by too strict quality standards for products: If the appearance of an item is not according to the standard, it doesn’t qualify to be sold in a store and it gets thrown away.

In addition to legislation, you need to educate people both at home and at work places, and provide tips and tools for reducing food waste. In Finland the Consumer’s Union has taken a grip on this and the national Food Waste Week is being arranged yearly in September. The campaign aims at encouraging everybody in reducing food waste and at the same time increasing the appreciation of food by providing information and practical tips. The campaign welcomes businesses and organizations as partners, and JAMIX has also been participating the Food Waste Week for several years now.

 

Restaurant management system helps in reducing food waste

As mentioned before, the lack of planning or the lack of systematic practises cause a major part of food waste. This applies both to households and to restaurants or other food service operations. Just implementing a kitchen management system with basic functionalities often already results in reduced food waste. But you can also maximize the benefits of the system with regards food waste by exploring it more extensively, and utilizing all the functionalities provided.

JAMIX KITCHEN MANAGEMENT system provides a great menu planning tool along with procurement management, which together aim at the best possible match between the amount of prepared food and the sales or consumption. The amount of diners and the portion sizes are easy to plan on the menu, and the system will automatically calculate the right amounts for recipes to be produced. The system creates a shopping list based on the menu, so you will have the exact need for ingredients for producing the meals on the menu. When you compare the list to the existing inventory, you will avoid ordering excessive amounts of ingredients which could end up in wastage.

In JAMIX software, you can also register the sales and wastage on the menu. This enables you to check the figures next time you are producing the same recipe, how much was produced for a certain amount of diners, how much was consumed and how much was left over. This makes updating of portion sizes on the menu easier. You can even let the system update the portion sizes automatically based on the sales and wastage registered in it.

In addition to well executed menu planning, the inventory management functionalities in restaurant management systems and separate HACCP systems support food waste management. Inventory balance monitoring and inventory-take are useful tools in preventing out-of-date items from ending up in wastage, and by setting par levels for items you can prevent excessive ordering.

Customer feedback is another good tool for preventing food waste. Through collecting feedback either with a restaurant management system or otherwise, by listening to it and taking it into consideration in menu planning you can both increase your sales and prevent food waste.

By not producing food for nothing, or by not having out-of-date items to be tossed away, has an impact on the environment as well as on the costs for a kitchen. Ingredients are the biggest individual cost for a kitchen in addition to labour costs, and by forecasting the amount of food to be produced as precisely as possible and by monitoring the wastage you will quickly gain savings. The reduction of food waste might be pushed by legislation in the years to come, so it is worth while to start giving it a thought already now.

Kitchen manager – when is the last time you updated your menu?

Menu planning is one of the essential jobs in food service operations as the menu defines both the customer offering and the internal processes.

by Salla Arffman, Trainer

”Well planned is half done” is a valid statement concerning menus, as well, and I dare to say that this is something everyone has noticed also in your kitchen at home. How nice it is to come home after a hard day at work, and know beforehand the answer to the following question: What are we going to have today?

In the professional kitchen the menu is one of the most critical elements of the operations. The menu defines the items and services offered to the customers, it provides the framework for the following weeks, days and shifts to come, and partly even specifies the tasks for the kitchen staff. For this reason, the menus need to be planned carefully and the impact of the menu evaluated in a broad perspective.

The basis for menu planning should come from the business idea of the organization, as well as from customer needs and expectations, and available resources. The objectives for different types of professional kitchens are different from each other and the quantities of food prepared vary from batches as much as thousands of pounds, down to single dishes, and this has to be taken into consideration also when planning the menu.

We know that when you have planned your menus successfully you can save time and money, and it has a huge impact on customer satisfaction, but it also has effect on the company image and on the employees’ well-being. The menu is one of the management tools, it leads the organization into the right direction and defines the need for staff. Menu plans are not successful if the equipment capacity and the human resources are continuously overloaded.

So you need to plan your menu carefully, but it also needs to be dynamic in this ever changing world. The availability of ingredients varies, new items keep popping up all the time and the food trends change. This is why you can actually never stop planning, and a good menu is flexible, as well.

The basis for menu planning in restaurants and institutional kitchens

The menus of restaurants and institutional kitchens differ from each other, so the focus needs to be different in different types of professional kitchens.

In a restaurant the business idea pretty much determines the content of the menu, and you can communicate the company values with the menu. The amount of customers might vary substantially and in addition to lunch you often serve dinner and à la carte dishes, for which the ingredient costs and cooking methods might be completely different. When the food is prepared in the same space, and often even by the same people, you need to aim at building your menu so that the ingredients, the equipment capacity and the human resources can be utilized efficiently. When choosing a restaurant, the customer makes his/her decision specifically based on the menu, and this is why the menu should be appealing and interesting to the customer.

In an institutional kitchen the basis for menu planning comes from the nutritional guidelines, the amount of diners and the ingredient costs. Menus are often rotating, and it will be easier to predict both the need for ingredients and the work schedule for the coming weeks, and to make sure that the same dishes are not recurring on the menu too often. If the customer base for the institutional kitchen is wide (ranging from toddlers to seniors), you need to plan the menu so that it can be utilized broadly to different customer groups. Equipment capacity and human resources have a big impact especially when planning the menu for an institutional kitchen, and new production methods enable utilizing the resources more efficiently. Gone are the days, when in an institutional kitchen you prepared lunch in the morning and the kitchen was empty for the rest of the day.

Whether we are talking about a restaurant or an institutional kitchen, when planning the menu, you should pay attention to the availability of ingredients, seasonal items, sustainability, food safety and of course the customer expectations and the company policies.

You can never be sure which dish will be a success, and even if a dish was popular in the summer time, it might stay untouched in the winter time. Furthermore, the customers appreciate variation as much as they appreciate stability, so the menu planning remains to be constant balancing between these two.

Restaurant management systems as a part of menu planning

Planning your menus with software systems is what you do today. Customers demand for more information on the nutritional aspects of food, allergens and ingredients, and the software systems enable providing this information quickly and effortlessly. Already building a week’s menu without a software system is exhausting, if you want to provide the customer with any other information than the name of the dish.

A restaurant management system enables you to:

Time will tell, how software systems evolve and what kind of impact it will have on menu planning in the future. You will be able to provide more information related to the meals and maybe artificial intelligence will revolutionize the whole functionality, and the software will suggest changes to the menu based on customer feedback, wastage, availability of ingredients and nutritional guidelines. While waiting for this to happen, deciding on the dishes to be served is still the task of the menu planner.

JAMIX Kitchen System Ensures the Quality of Food and Saves Time

Aleksia is a public utility providing foodservices for over 40.000 people in the Finnish community of Nurmijärvi. Aleksia’s services include daily meals for children in pre-schools and elementary schools, for employees of the community and for senior citizens at care facilities. In addition, Aleksia provides catering services for meetings and events.

– JAMIX streamlines restaurant operations by assisting us in preparing right amounts of food and odering right things at the right time, tells Teija Määttä who is the Food Production Advisor at Aleksia Food and Cleaning Services.

”Good and tasty food of high quality”

– We have 12 commissary kitchens, and in total there are 50 sites where food is served and consumed. We prepare 14.000 meals per day. Each kitchen used to have their own recipes and own ingredients, so the quality of food probably varied. Now we are able to produce food of uniform quality and everyone is aware of the ingredients a certain meal contains, explains Teija Määttä.

The program provides time savings while taking care of critical calculations

– It would be impossible to manage this number of kitchens and sites without a kitchen management software. The program saves time as it calculates order quantities for us. You don’t need to gather any paper sheets or notes and calculate what and how much needs to be ordered, summarizes Teija Määttä the benefits of the system.

Menu in a mobile application

– Thanks to the free JAMIX MENU mobile application our customers can browse the menus of schools and kindergartens on their smart phones. In addition to the menu content, ingredients and nutritional values are available in the application. Our kitchens that serve meals utilize the mobile application, as well – it works as a tool for them as it contains the latest and correct information about the food, says Määttä.