The Operator of the Year for Menu Development, sponsored by Unox, 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 2019 shortlist includes the following operators:
Led by a business transformation programme called ‘Project Fresca’, the redevelopment of Carluccio’s food proposition has been a key part of the Italian chain’s revival over the past 12 months. With many of its sites undergoing refurbishment, the brand has taken the opportunity to reimagine its market proposition, which has included upgrading the food offer to achieve a more premium menu. A wider variety of fish and steaks have been added to the menu as the company has also seized the opportunity to begin sourcing non-Italian items in a bid to entice new customers and support key culinary trends. An innovative new breakfast menu, coupled with extensive vegetarian, vegan and allergen menus, reaffirms its company mantra of ‘maximum flavour, minimum fuss’.
Caterer CH&Co continues to be a food-focused and customer-centric business and that is epitomised by its dedication to creating varied, nutritious and exciting menus for the 750 clients it serves. Vegetarian dishes are an integrated part of its menus and meat dishes have been reduced by 20% to offer healthier choices. Many of its sites now cultivate some of their own vegetables, herbs and honey, including primary and secondary schools, while 50% of its main ingredients are sourced in the UK to support local farming. At least a quarter of its menu options are now plant-based, with the business also working with celebrated vegan chef Adrian Smith to train and inspire chefs and help them to get the best from ingredients.
A new KitchenCut menu management system has enhanced how Punch’s retail pubs with a food offer produce and maintain allergen information and margin control. It has now introduced a QR code which is featured on each menu and links to live allergen information to give customers the assurances they need, while equipment standardisation has allowed it to make its dish specifications a more complete document. Work has also gone into reducing the amount of gluten-containing ingredients it uses. Punch has opened a state-of-the-art development kitchen and training academy featuring 12 individual cooking stations. This has enabled it to launch each menu to publicans in detail and run ‘Dish Master’ classes to get managers cooking with the new dishes.
Star Pubs & Bars
Star Pubs & Bars has helped its licensees gain a bigger share of the burgeoning family eating out market by launching two dedicated off-the-shelf menus. While most pubs generally have a children’s section within their menus, Star has gone one step further by developing specific menus for four to seven-year-olds and seven to ten-year-olds. The menus, conceived using insight from frozen foods manufacturer Birds Eye, have been made available to Star’s 100 managed Just Add Talent sites and also offered to its 2,800 leased and tenanted licensees. They come complete with activity packs, children’s cutlery and allergen information. Menus are set price and Star has negotiated special discounts with its food supplier so operators know their gross profit.
Bar group The Alchemist is becoming as renowned for its food offer as it is for the spectacular cocktails that have traditionally had customers flocking to its sites. Over the past year, vegan dishes have been added to its restaurants for the first time, with delicacies such as Keralan curry with chickpeas and cauliflower rice and shawarma cauliflower steak demonstrating the ability of its food development team to conceive original but on-trend dishes. Additionally, items such as its Ajinomoto Japanese range of gyozas and vegetable in spinach pastry have proved to be inspired creations, even more so since each sale sees the chain donate the cost of a hot meal for somebody in need through a tie-up with charity Foodinate.
The 2019 FEJ Awards ceremony and gala dinner takes place on Tuesday 4 June, the first evening of the Commercial Kitchen show, at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole.