Call it innovation, call it being ahead on trends. Either way, there are untapped opportunities to grow business, impact sales, and develop as a professional.
What’s next for the astute chef that is looking to build fiscal strength and operational mastery?
Delivery is its own segment
Menu engineering that accounts for the booming delivery segment is emerging. But not all dishes do well when they grow legs; Delicate fried items, for instance, get soggy before they make it home. Some dishes, on the other hand, are marvels of transportation efficiency. More of these items are making their way onto menus because these dishes travel best.
Why? Unless you have been unplugged for the last few years, you can’t help but notice that delivery is big, with over 8% growth in the segment projected for 2019. Third party transportation operators are ubiquitous and those with disposable income - yes, millennials - are all abuzz about good delivery options.
...and Speaking of Delivery
There are food trucks and there are brick and mortar operations. Then there is a hybrid option for the motivated. A delivery-only restaurant caters to diners who don't want to be burdened with having to travel, be social, or bother with parking.
The burgeoning delivery-only segment affords another opportunity for industrious chefs looking beyond the pick-up window.
A ghost restaurant exists only at the other end of a phone call or — more than likely — an app. A ghost restaurant offers delivery of restaurant-quality fare, without the overhead of costly decor, servers, flatware, or tables. Often situated in industrial parks with - much! - lower rent than pedestrian centers, the ghost, or virtual, operation allows chefs to stretch their operational dollars and fortitude without getting deep in the gravy.
Meal prep 2.0
Continuing the thread of transportable food, what about planning ahead? Convenient meals packed for transport, storage, and reheating doesn’t quite mean making a call to Grubhub. Instead, there are operators with programs intent on filling refrigerators with meals only a step away from the table; more of crossbreed of the likes of Snap Kitchen and a delivery platform folded around restaurant quality. Portion controlled, costed, and streamlined for busy diners.
”Fast food and Chinese shouldn't be the only quick food option out there,” said Chef Tim Bolt, co-founder of Full Circle Food. Along with chef-partner Robbie Jester, the upstart offers commitment plans to provide dinners for the occasional fill-in meal or for everyday lunchers needing food crafted around locally sourced ingredients and dietary preferences.
“We were both aware that ‘meal prep’ was becoming very popular but the food never looked very appetizing," said Bolt.
How do two experienced chefs make magic?
“We said to each other that we could easily put out food that was ten times better in our own kitchens, let alone a commercial kitchen with a staff.”
Why the move towards so much movable food?
“The world of convenience is the future in food,” said Bolt. “We see it with everything thing we purchase, [like] groceries and electronics.”
Chef as Entrepreneur
Chefs getting out from behind the kitchen doors used to be a rarity. There were always the one-percenters that had the financial wherewithal to make the leap to ownership. Chefs are making branding sauces, snatching up spots in open-air markets, and branching out from traditional restaurant operations. Evidence? There are resources for entrepreneurial chefs brimming out of incubators to assist with real estate decisions, accounting practices, and even financing.
There are guiding lights like The Restaurant Coach, Foodable’s own Donald Burns, for instance, as well as the emerging Entrepreneurial Chef magazine clearing the way for energized chefs.
To escaping the high dollar real estate, operators are moving into neighborhoods just beyond the confines of the big city, high dollar real estate grip.
As a result, bigger fish in small ponds are making big splashes in neighborhoods that usually wouldn’t see high profile operators. Why blend in with all the high-profile properties in, say, downtown DC, when a quick trip over the Potomac can drop rent while elevating appeal.
Escaping the $30-per-square rent is alluring. But will business follow? Chefs are looking at neighborhoods slightly left of center to make their marks. The migration from Manhattan into Williamsburg, Brooklyn is nothing new. And the trend is spreading. Chefs with the inclination to strike out on their own but lacking big city dollars are creating success in smaller neighborhoods, reaping the benefit of lower cost per square foot while impacting the local scene with their presence.
Opportunities abound for chefs looking to do more in 2019 and beyond. What’s next? There is a lot of things in the industry that are now within the reach of cooks that may not be made of money but are building their careers.