Center of the Plate Blog

Industry Musings

Archive for December, 2011


Some Culinary Trends for 2012

As the year winds down culinary buffs and foodies have their eyes on the future of food in 2012. The New Year has a few culinary predictions by international food and restaurant consultants that will delight diner’s taste buds and liven up restaurant menus. Let AGAR assist your restaurant in ushering in 2012 with tasty new trends to draw in customers looking to add a little flavor to their resolutions. As you know, we have years of experience providing a whole host of products and solutions to create the best possible menu for you and your customers.  Below are a few predicted trends I have seen recently that will add a little pizzazz to any establishment’s offerings.

A new twist on bread: With the rising popularity of gluten-free bakery items, many are rethinking traditional bread baskets as well as conventionally structured sandwiches. We’re seeing a number of new bread items for use in any type of establishment and we’re seeing new styles of pizza dough that include flavored dough we recently launched at some of our recent food shows.

Gourmet comfort food: Tough economic times have caused diners to gravitate toward conventional comfort foods like nourishing meat loaf, delectable roast chicken and the time-honored cheeseburger. Chefs are transforming predictable dishes by infusing them with a little gourmet variety and invention. Classic roast chicken is being replaced by fried, flavor-boosted renditions. Spicy tastes and crispy textures derived from Latino and Korean cultures have become the most popular choices with chicken. Grilled cheese is the new cheese burger with creative variations on this old-time classic. Artisan cheeses make for a gourmet interpretation of a childhood favorite that can be savored as an adult. Meatloaf has a new form and has been converted into bite size meatballs to be enjoyed as an appetizer or entrée.

Global gastronomy: Multi-ethnic flavors are adding new dimension to many menus creating a multi-sensory dining experience. Clashing flavors in dishes like tacos stuffed with octopus and feta cheese or a chipotle pork chop sandwich with burnt sugar glaze create a geographical blending of tastes. This trend features sandwiches at the center of the topsy-turvy trend where nearly everything goes.  This craze has recently surfaced with experiments in ice cream where many are crossing traditional sweet flavors with savory tastes like bacon, lobster and spices.

Let AGAR provide the foundation for incredible dishes that will kick-off a delightful New Year in any restaurant. Offering diners a few trendy choices will delight their passion for something different to start an exciting year.

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Customers Still Craving Beef

Kick the New Year off right with new cuts of meat!

bullpenOver the past few years, the challenging economy has driven down consumer interest in many products and luxury items – except meat. In fact, global interest and consumption in expensive cuts of meat is up around different parts of the world and exports of beef and pork are setting a fierce pace that is edging toward setting new records this year. Although most around the world are cutting back and eliminating luxury items, there still seems to be room in the budget for sizeable steaks and thick pork chops. Americans are accustomed to meat in their diet each day and look to enjoy a delicious cut of meat whether they are dining in or grabbing a bite at their favorite restaurant.

You might remember that AGAR launched an exclusive line of meats and poultry called our Bullpen Brand which features portion cut meats, marinated meats and poultry products. AGAR is the exclusive distributor of these products and ensures each is cut to rigid specifications. Each serving is top quality and designed to help chefs with time constraints and reducing waste. They are ideal for portion control and satisfy a customer’s craving for a sumptuous serving of meat.   

If you are concerned with controlling labor costs, Bullpen can help you do that.  

Consumers around the world are sinking their teeth into choice cuts of meat at home and when they dine out. A shaky economy has not staved off appetites for some everyday luxuries. Adding a few dishes on your menu featuring a juicy cut of meat can draw in diners looking to enjoy a delightful and satisfying meal.

If you want to learn more about the products under the Bullpen Brand, give us a call and speak to one of our specialists.

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Building Gluten-Free Into Your Restaurant

Gluten-free/food allergy conscious meals have become the hot menu trend with the demand for gluten-free foods and beverages growing exponentially over the past several years. I used the word “trend” but it’s a necessity for many. The requests for gluten-free meals are coming from those wheat allergies (celiac disease) and also those watching their waistlines. In order to attract customers in search of gluten-free dishes, restaurants are working to adjust menus accordingly. This is not easy as gluten is in a huge variety of foods ranging from breads to ketchup to ice cream.

Luckily there are resources dedicated to information on celiac disease along with incredible gluten-free recipes ranging from appetizers to main dishes to cocktails. The options focus on texture and taste and not the absence of gluten. There are countless ways to design flavorful dishes and get creative without gluten.

With many years of experience in the food industry, AGAR has seen trends and popular diets come and go. We have worked with those in the industry to adjust their menus while also providing the freshest and most economical ingredients which create the best dishes possible. A few ways we have seen and helped restaurants successfully embrace the demand for gluten-free items in their establishments are as follows:

  • Create a separate menu with a variety of gluten-free dishes.
  • When guests have an allergy or are gluten-intolerant, the server or chef personally discusses gluten-free menu items.
  • Avoid cross contamination, for example: when creating a special dish like gluten-free pizza be sure to avoid flour contamination and other ingredients.
  • Educate your staff about gluten and other food allergies. Knowledge will make chefs and servers much more tolerant and patient in accommodating special requests.
  • Remember the mission to serve. Although it can be difficult to meet unique needs, remember the mission of the service industry is to serve. Satisfying a guests needs with a smile will increase customer loyalty.

AGAR’s recipe for success consists of an unwavering commitment to increasing our customer’s competitive edge through menu innovation and a desire to differentiate your business from others in the industry. We can work with your establishment to provide creative options, menu ideas based on market trends and conditions along with the best quality products to meet your unique culinary needs.

Book a visit in our Test Kitchen and have us work to develop a Gluten-free menu for you.

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How to Build More Business During the Holidays

We are getting close to the holidays. In fact, we are pretty much in the thick of it. Many customers come to us and ask: How do I build more business during the holidays? That includes now through New Year ’s Day. Well it might depend on where you are located such as a busy shopping mall but people are in the mood to eat out and they are shopping. A few things to consider:

Promote yourself: Make sure you are using every available means to get the word out. Social media is not the end all, be all, but if you do it right and promote specials and others unique things going on at your establishment, you will no doubt build a following and build your business. There are many great restaurants doing incredible things with social media so give it a shot.

Promote take out: maybe your customers don’t want to sit down and just need a little help around their kitchen table. Create side dishes to go, promote that you have them and create specials for families on the go. Maybe mom just wants to swing by and grab some side dishes before the family goes out shopping for gifts. Give them what they need!

Prepared desserts: This wholesale food distributor launched a whole host of new prepared desserts at our recent food shows. Some of these are incredible. Take a look at your desert menu and give us a call for some last minute ideas.

Whatever you do, don’t lay back and wait for business. It’s out there and it’s a great time to show off what you have during the holidays. Karen and I shot a quick video in the Test Kitchen and talked about a few great ideas for how to build holiday business;

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MYOB The Radio Show Interview

I spent some time recently on the MYOB The Radio Show talking with our good friends Jeffrey Davis and Rick Brutti about AGAR in general and how the cost of food is affecting our customers, the independent restaurant owner. With several factors both national and internationally, the cost of food is continuing a steady increase.

We also talk about the demand for meats which has caused the price of these products to go up as well and several other factors that are causing operators in the foodservice industry to change course a little and take on new ways of doing business.

In short, we talked about the ins and outs of the food business and gave the listeners a little bit of a behind the scenes look into life at AGAR. If you missed it, you can click on the link below to hear our discussion. I think it’s worth five minutes of your time.

Take a listen;

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