Back-of-House Trends: What We Learned Writing Our January/February Issue
Our upcoming January/February magazine is back-of-house themed (kitchens, equipment, storage, staffing, purchasing, receiving, and more) to coincide with the biennial NAFEM Show in Orlando, February 7-9 (we’ll be there from start to finish—hope to see you there).
While the back of house is hidden from guests, it’s familiar territory for F&B professionals using it daily for menu production and supplies. While writing our stories, we got a glimpse of some of the strategies, tricks, and trials that happen there, and here’s some of what we learned, in no particular order:
More Valuable Labor: On the subject of labor-saving kitchen technology and the ongoing staffing crisis in foodservice, one expert we interviewed said, "Technology can help make that labor more valuable because it frees them up from doing something routine and channels their effort into something that adds more value back into the foodservice operation. It provides growth potential for those employees in a way that wouldn’t have been captured before. It’s not science fiction; this technology will continue to enhance and evolve successful foodservice operations."
Deceptive Deliveries: One hotel told us about a seafood vendor that hid small weights inside of fish so less actual product was delivered while the price-per-pound stayed the same. The storeroom supervisor at the time never checked orders thoroughly, and this went on for years before the current team took over and discovered the deception. “Drivers know when nobody’s paying attention, so it’s very important to show them you’re scrutinizing the orders coming in. The drivers report back to their companies about who is inspecting deliveries,” says a purchasing pro at the hotel.
Garbage Can-meras: Speaking of not paying attention, on the subject of employee theft—particularly for F&B—one hotel said they had to install a camera overlooking the dumpster outside their dock because, “stuff was going into the dumpster, then coming out later when people left for the night.”
Baking History: An historic hotel we visited has a fully-functioning, 90+ year old “Ferris wheel” oven the size of a wall built into the foundation of the property, with five rotating decks that bake dozens of pies, breads, and other tasty treats daily. It’s been rebuilt four times since the 1980s, but is the ultimate workhorse. “It has the most even heat of any oven we have in the kitchen. I can’t imagine the hotel without it,” says the property’s pastry chef. The oven generates so much heat that a closet next to it is used to keep chocolate melted.
Crate Expectations: One purchasing director told us he used to work at a brand-new retirement home where no expense was spared, except in his storeroom. “All the shelving in the storeroom was plastic milk crates wired together. I couldn’t get the owner to buy proper shelving until the health department came and wrote us up for the milk crates. Then I got the shelving I needed.”
Expensive Expats: For a hiring story we wrote about a Caribbean resort, we learned the cost of importing an expat can range from $5,000 to $10,000 just to move them to the island, get their work permit completed, and find housing. Then another six to eight weeks of becoming acclimated to the island culture and their new job at the resort. The hotel is doubling-down on hiring and training locals as a result.
About Face: One hotel chain recently revamped their signature omelet stations at dozens of properties, which were embedded along the back wall of the breakfast area with a flattop griddle and an overhead hood, with the cook’s back to the guest. The new omelet stations were moved away from the wall so the cook can face the customer, and downdraft ventilation technology kept costs in check. “The new stations saved thousands of dollars because we didn’t have to move and reinstall the hood system on the front end,” says the brand’s VP of F&B.
Pizza Passion: The executive chef at one casino is such a devotee of pizza that the hotel has multiple wood-fired ovens at three different restaurants (with pizza on each menu, naturally), plus two ornately tiled, mobile dome wood-fired ovens for outdoor events, to let him indulge his passion property-wide. "Pizza is my favorite food, hands down," he says. "I think we’re good [for pizza ovens] right now. Management had an intervention with us, so we’re done for a little while."