Chefs on the Line is a new series from General Mills Foodservice that puts the Chefs of the Mills in real-world scenarios, where they have to think on their feet to solve for problems operators face every day.
In this episode, Chefs Jessie and Ted were faced with a problem that’s all too familiar for operators: back-ordered or out-of-stock ingredients and unreliable deliveries. When their bread delivery didn’t arrive, they had to improvise, and come up with substitutions that still got the job done.
Chefs Jessie and Ted pulled it off using Pillsbury™ Frozen Southern Style Biscuit Dough to stand in for their bakery items that never arrived.
Chef Jessie Kordosky is one of the Chefs of the Mills and has brought her extensive experience in menu-setting, catering, and casual dining to General Mills Foodservice. Jessie is always experimenting in the kitchen, and it’s this mindset that has helped her serve operators in the continually changing foodservice
“Substitutions happen all the time,” said Chef Jessie. “You go out to your delivery truck, to receive a new delivery, and things happen and sometimes an ingredient is out-of-stock or unavailable.”
As operators know all too well, substitution is a constant in the foodservice world. It is part of the ever-changing industry that drives operators, chefs, and staff to push their creativity in their menus and beyond.
All operators know that having a mental library of ingredient substitutions is just part of the job. Even before the pandemic threw a wrench into the supply chain, operators have been using this skill of substitution daily, having to pivot and adjust menus based on what’s available at any given moment.
A growing set of circumstances over the last few years — ranging from a dramatic shift in consumer habits, to workforce shortages, to production and distribution woes — created volatility that rippled out across every touchpoint of the foodservice industry. A 2023 survey put out by the National Restaurant Association revealed that 96% of restaurants in the U.S. had experienced significant supply chain issues in the last six months. Eighty-two percent of these operators have been forced to make changes to their menus as a result of these problems.¹
Supply chain disruption are starting to reach a manageable state since the pandemic, but most operators are still feeling these impacts in their own day-to-day work. It’s never been more important to have versatile and low-prep staples on hand for on-the-fly adaptations that stem from out-of-stock or backordered ingredients and/or unreliable deliveries.
Supply chain issues are being compounded by a shrinking workforce, whose skills and experience require recipes and ingredients that make it easier for them. Job vacancies remain well above pre-pandemic levels, with a whopping 10% of these vacancies affecting the foodservice industry.²
Chef Jessie states “Labor shortages aren’t going away — we're still hearing about them left and right. Operators are struggling to find skilled labor, too. The other problem is, even if they're getting someone to do the work, they may not have the training or the caliber of training that they once had.”
Restaurants and kitchens are having to adapt their recipes from 100% from-scratch, to a hybrid blend of ready-made and scratch-made. The result is a menu that any back-of-house staff can handle, and a consistent, high-quality product that their customers love.
“At General Mills Foodservice, we have a manufacturing process that helps with the consistency, the flexibility, the versatility of these products. I love showing people ways to use these products that may not be normal ways that they would think to use them” says Chef Jessie.
Sometimes, inflation and supply chain issues compound, and the only real solution is to increase pricing based on those costs and scarcity.
“With inflation on food costs, operating costs are going up, and that means operators have to increase their menu prices, as we’ve all seen. But it’s tough — how do they present it in a way where people feel like they are getting the bang for their buck?
I think that's the delicate line of, I need to make sure that we're profitable, yet delivering a value for our customers” says Chef Jessie.
There is little operators can do about supply chain issues, however good leadership and strong employee retention strategies are necessary to keep staff engaged and coming back to work every day. But demand can be unpredictable, and forces beyond any operator’s control can have an impact on what gets plated that night.
The Chefs of the Mills have been where you are, and they know how hard you’re working to keep supporting your business. From expert troubleshooting and recipe inspiration to versatile and reliable products that streamline prep, both the Chefs of the Mills and General Mills Foodservice are there for you when you’re in a bind. We’re your back-of-house partners, and you never have to figure it all out on your own.
Have a challenge for the Chefs of the Mills? Submit your idea here — it may just get featured in the next episode!
1) Restaurant Business Conditions Survey. (2022, December).Key Findings – December 2022. National Restaurant Association
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