Chefs and foodservice operators are being advised to use more seasonal ingredients in their menus over the coming months as food inflation and rising British meat prices in the wake of the horsemeat scandal look set to squeeze margins further.
That's the message from buying specialist Lynx Purchasing, whose latest Market Report forecasts predictions for operators by studying the latest inflation figures and price information from its suppliers.
“Chefs will have to do more than pay lip service to seasonality”, warned Lynx Purchasing managing director John Pinder.
“Phrases such as ‘in season’ and ‘locally sourced’ are increasingly used on menus, but the reality is that the dishes themselves don’t change very much from season to season, and so pubs, hotels and restaurants aren’t getting the benefits of featuring products when they’re at their cheapest.”
Lynx Purchasing said while the price of British beef was set to rise further as consumers sought more assurance about provenance, other ingredients such as British lamb and flat fish species like Dover sole and brill were proving to be better value.
“Lamb is the best value it has been for two years, and should definitely be revisited for menu options," he said.
“Cheaper imports have pushed down lamb prices, so British farmers will also be hoping to see benefits from renewed demand for home-produced meat. For the time being, the best way that caterers can support British farmers is to serve British lamb while it’s good value.”
The report also found that potatoes, carrots and parsnips will remain in short supply for the spring due to poor harvests at the end of 2012 and recommended that chefs keep a close eye on supplier prices.
Pinder said: “It’s more important than ever to monitor price lists and delivery notes. Many operators don’t check the prices they’re being charged for staple items. Our advice is to query price rises, and be ready to substitute alternative products – or switch suppliers."
Meanwhile, pub groups Mitchells & Butlers and Marston's and contract caterer Sodexo were among the big winners at the Menu Innovation Network's fifth Menu Innovation and Development Awards (MIDAS) last week.
The three companies picked up two awards each with winners picked by a panel of judges and mystery diners and, along with winners of other categories, will attend a five day research and insight tour of Chicago in May.
The Menu Innovation Network, a group of menu development managers and group executive chefs, was set up five years ago for group operators to share ideas and discuss issues with their peers working in the same and different sectors of the market.
MIDAS 2013 WINNERS
- Branded Pub Restaurant - Kirk D’Angelo, Ember Pub & Dining (Mitchells & Butlers)
- Breakfast - Jayne Spreadborough, Intercontinental Hotels
- Casual Dining - Toby Hill, Browns (Mitchells & Butlers)
- City Bar Dining - Simon Blunt, Slug & Lettuce (Stonegate Pub Company)
- Coffee / Sandwich Shop - Faith MacArthur EAT
- Dessert - Ruth Powell, Marston’s Inns & Taverns
- Fairtrade - Katie Howard, Eat Fair (Compass Group)
- Instore Restaurant - Duncan Watson ASDA
- Kids – Simon Xavier, Frankie & Benny’s (The Restaurant Group)
- Mediterranean Casual Dining - Maurice Maffeo, Strada (Tragus Group)
- Neighbourhood Pub - Judith Sinclair-Smith, Marston’s Inns & Taverns
- New Pub/Restaurant Concept - Tim Marchant, Beefeater (Whitbread)
- New Workplace Concept - Stephen Holder, Knead Street (Sodexo)
- Premium Pub Dining - Mike Jeffery, Premium Rural Inns (Greene King)
- Premium Staff Dining - Mark Parfait, Siemens (Sodexo)
- Town & City Pub - Jameson Robinson, JD Wetherspoon
- Travel & Leisure - Stephen Waterman, Virgin Active
- Value Pub Restaurant - Zoe Hayward, Fayre & Square (Spriti Pub Company)
- Workplace Catering Solution - Jon Siswick, Pop Up Menu (Eurest)