The Operator of the Year for Menu Development, sponsored by Carpigiani, recognises that kitchens aren’t just places for operators to prepare food for customers or guests — they are also a test-bed for devising new menus, product creations and dishes.
This honour will therefore be contested by operators that have enhanced, improved or grown their menus over the past year, recognising the investment that goes into making this happen.
We are delighted to announce that the 2018 shortlist includes the following operators:
Soaring demand for quick and convenient lunches prompted caterer Bartlett Mitchell to develop a brand new sustainable grab-and-go food concept. Its ‘Food to Go’range of sandwiches, wraps, salads, snacks and desserts were developed in-house to provide a fresh and nutritious alternative to high street options, available in bespoke packaging that uses 100% recyclable plastics and cardboard. More than 100 recipes have been created for the range and are now made fresh at its locations each day. The menu includes vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy-free options with identifying icons for consumers. The development process saw the concept trialled at a major client site in Canary Wharf and benchmarked against high street-equivalent products.
Cafe Rouge’s food development team has worked tirelessly to evolve the chain’s food offering, with new versions of its seasonal set menus and a la carte menu championing French provenance and fresh ingredients in the most authentic way. The introduction of new artisan flatbreads, garden salads and poulet burgers provide an array of flavours to delight customers, while the brand has become one of the first major restaurant groups to gain certification from the Marine Stewardship Council. This achievement means the MSC’s iconic Blue Fish label can now be applied to core fish dishes on its menu, serving as an independent endorsement of its sustainability credentials.
Frankie & Benny’s
Frankie & Benny’s 260 branches have become more competitive in the market following a menu restructure that led to a reduction in main course entry prices and its cheapest fixed price menu for six years. The chain has deepened the distinctiveness of its offer by investing in the quality of its ingredients, upgrading its menus to align with its core family audience and introducing new dishes that have proved a hit with customers, such as a revamped hot dog range and a steakhouse salad, which has become its best-selling salad. Last year it created a new kids’ menu as well as an enhanced breakfast menu featuring a broader range of healthy options and tailored kids’ offering.
The luxury retailer and cafe operator has introduced a brand new concept called ‘Ice Cream of the Gods’ following an extensive menu development programme using the latest commercial soft serve ice cream equipment. The offering has already been rolled out to more than 45 stores after it challenged itself to launch something that nobody had ever tasted before and came up with cocoa nib-infused ice desserts. With no incumbent recipes for what it sought to achieve, its development chef started from scratch, crushing roasted cocoa nibs into a fine powder and blending it with ice cream before infusing a mix of Jersey milk and cream to create the thicker, smoother and silkier product it desired.
The Greene King pub brand is renowned for its generous portions and extensive food choice, with its newest menu featuring everything from ‘steak on a pie’ to six spicy curries and a giant ‘quadzilla’ burger stacked with layers of beef and chicken fillets. The chain’s ongoing focus on innovation, while still delivering the value that customers expect of it, saw its food development team put a fresh twist on festive menus last Christmas by encasing a traditional turkey dinner into pastry to create a ‘Christmas Pie’ as well as launching edible ‘glitter’ gravy. On the sweet front, Hungry Horse has introduced a gelato display case front-of-house to promote gelato and increase dessert sales.
The 2018 FEJ Awards ceremony and gala dinner takes place on Tuesday 5 June, the first evening of the Commercial Kitchen show, at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole.