When the foodservice industry slowed down in the first half of 2020, Technomic published a framework for restaurant recovery1. The first of its four steps is “Survival,” which means containing the damage to your business by keeping workers safe, focusing on take-out and delivery, and streamlining your menu. Operating with a bare-bones menu made entirely of high-margin and delivery-friendly options is still the best course of action, but restaurants also need to offer exciting dishes that make the dining experience feel special. Using specialty cheese is a great way to keep your menu lean without breaking the bank or skimping out on flavour. Here’s how!
Where do we go from here?
Recently, restaurants have progressed to the next step in their COVID evolution: reopening. The industry is learning how to operate at lower capacities and with increased safety practices, while reinventing their menus to be as sustainable as possible.
Updating your menu is important, because we don’t know what the future holds: building a strong foundation today is the best way to protect your business for months and years to come. Not only that, but customers’ needs have evolved since lockdown began. They are more concerned about safety inside restaurants, and are craving “special” meals on a tighter budget (plus, your budget is probably smaller as well).
The solution: build a flexible, sustainable menu that can be enjoyed in-house, taken to-go, ordered for delivery, or even as do-it-yourself meal kits. Our chef’s suggestion is to take simple, comforting menu items, and elevate them with creative ingredients like cheese that can be used in a variety of dishes.
How can you reinvent classic dishes by adding cheese?
- Stuff your meatballs with melty Fior di Latte cheese. This simple idea is surprisingly decadent and easy to prepare. Upgrade your usual meatball recipe by adding Fior di Latte cheese cubes, which will melt into a mild, smooth, stringy centre. If you’re looking to cut down on prep time, this one’s for you: simply prepare the meatballs in advance, then heat them up before serving. These next-level meatballs can be enjoyed on their own as an appetizer, on top of spaghetti or pizza, or inside a finger-licking sandwich. Get creative!
- Create a savoury crust for your protein dishes. Protein with seasonal vegetables on the side is a classic down-home dish. If you want to add a little something special, Chef Scott suggests using savoury Pacific Rock cheese to create a delicious “upper crust.” Combine diced cheese with ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, fried onions, panko, dried figs, and pumpkin seeds, then use it as a topping on salmon, steak, chicken, or even a salad! This crust is super adaptable, so feel free to use any veggies or crunchy additions you have on hand. For delivery, prep everything and provide instructions for assembly.
- Use seasonal vegetables and minimize waste. Vegetable gratins are one of the tastiest ways to enjoy veggies. Start with a sweet, slightly nutty, melty cheese like Emmental, then gather up any vegetables you have on hand! This “pantry sweeper” of a dish is great with mushrooms, beets, celery, fennel, sweet potatoes, eggplants… the sky’s the limit. Roast the veggies, add the cheese, and you’re done! Serve your gratin in a Croque-Monsieur, as a side dish, or as an add-in for a wide variety of dishes: as a topping for pizza or poutine, a filling inside of a wrap or quesadilla, or even on top of some mac ’n’ cheese.
- Put a new twist on simple, takeout-ready dishes. Shrimp rolls are a perfect take-out dish, and they also have a certain “bistro” feel that turns a simple meal into a special treat. Make your next shrimp roll even more memorable by adding cubed Bleubry cheese to the mix: the result will be a uniquely creamy, salty, decadent combo that can be prepared in minutes!
Expert tip: When you’re using high-quality ingredients (like specialty cheese), waste reduction is key. Our chefs came up with four burger inspirations using Fior di Latte, Pacific Rock, Emmental and Bleubry cheeses. Check it out!
Sometimes, the perfect cheese is all it takes to make the simplest dishes more interesting. Once you’ve found your star ingredients, reuse them in as many recipes as possible to reduce waste and stretch your dollar even further!
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1 Technomic, Covid-19 Impact on Canadian Foodservice, April 2020