COVID-19 has laid bare the interconnected nature of our industry, and shown just how foodservice is the glue that helps bind our communities together. It has also presented new opportunities and accelerated trends. The top suppliers and operators are adapting to meet the changes head on.
ChefConnexion.com connected with Philman George, corporate chef for High Liner Foods, for some insights on some of the ways they’ve responded. And he shared some valuable tips for operators, too.
Question: What are some of the lessons and learnings from COVID-19 the last few months?
Answer: The global pandemic exposed our entire foodservice ecosystem. We now understand with vivid clarity just how much we are all connected as the ripple effect of restaurants closing was felt throughout the entire supply chain.
We’ve also learned just how valuable restaurants are to our economy, providing millions of entry level and skilled trade work opportunities. Dollars and cents aside, our foodservice industry is an important ingredient in the glue that helps bind and hold our communities together.
Question: Let’s look at trends. What in particular is hot – before COVID and now? And has the pandemic had any impact on what is trending?
Answer: Before COVID, there was a keen focus on alternative proteins, locally sourced foods and sustainable business practices, to name a few. The pandemic has accelerated some of these trends.
As we shifted from visiting restaurants to staying home and cooking more, retailers did a fantastic job of stocking and promoting local harvests. As customers return to restaurants, they expect to see these practices elevated. Successful operations will examine their business practices and discover new opportunities to create a hyper local culture.
Zero-waste cooking is a sustainable business practice that has risen to the top recently. This involves streamlining menus to reduce complexity while finding clever and creative ways to maximize each ingredient to increase efficiency and maximize profits.
Question: How about sustainability?
Answer: There are many factors that contribute to seafood sustainability. Quotas and harvest methods are normally at the top of the list. What often gets missed is the vital role that frozen seafood plays in sustaining our environment. Frozen sustainable seafood travels through the supply chain with a low carbon footprint as it does not rely on airfreight. It’s also preserved, which greatly reduces the likelihood that it will spoil or go to waste before it reaches the plate.
Question: How can operators do a better job incorporating fish and seafood on their menus?
Answer: Recent surveys have revealed that as customers return to restaurants, they will be craving seafood, and Canadians love shrimp. Operators love it as well, as it can be the star of a dish or combined with other proteins to increase the value perception. Its versatility and popularity make it a must-have item.
Lunch menus need to be executed fast, and seafood cooks extremely fast. Look to your lunch menu as a perfect place to incorporate more seafood. No matter what quality sustainable seafood options you choose for your establishment, ensure that it is leveraged on your menu in as many places as possible.
Question: What are some good seafood proteins that operators can use for takeout?
Answer: It’s hard to just isolate the protein when looking for good takeout options. How the seafood is prepared and how it’s packaged are important factors. For example, using a battered or breaded seafood option can help retain the natural moisture of the seafood, but if not packaged correctly the coating will become soggy.
It’s good practice to test your takeout dishes by packaging them up and eating them between 30 and 45 minutes later.
Question: Any tips on how to execute great takeout?
Answer: Fish and chips is the original takeout food that has been around for more than a century. Recently our culinary team across Canada ordered takeout fish and chips from various restaurants and evaluated each for crispness and overall eating experience. The experiences that were outstanding followed two simple practices:
They had vented containers – essential as they allow steam escape and help the batter stay crisp. But not all vented containers are created equal. For example, containers that only have vents on the lid limit ability to stack multiple boxes on top of one another. Consult with a packaging expert to find the right solutions.
Secondly, battered fish that is packaged separately from the fries always provides a better eating experience.
About the Author
A writer, photographer and broadcaster for 30+ years, Lawrence Herzog is an experienced and accomplished communications professional with a specialty in foodservice and tourism. He was editor of Flavours magazine and contributing editor of Your Foodservice Manager magazine.