Is it possible to make everything in your kitchen from scratch? Yes, of course it’s possible, but does it make sense for your kitchen? The term housemade on your menu requires extra time, hands, money and equipment…are you ready for that? We like to tell you as your restaurant consultant, with that same wish in mind – start slow, we know you’re anxious. We know the competition down the street is making their own hamburger buns as well as making their own ketchup and even pickling their own cucumbers. We know that the restaurant on the other end of the street has an in-house bakery baking fresh pies and cakes every day and churning their own ice cream. We also know that the competition gets even stiffer. Restaurants are now making their own booze, raising their own chickens and (what seems like) milling their own flour in house. It’s like we’re all back at the farm where #10 cans never existed.
You want to do your part but you also want to make a profit. What can you do to move towards the “made in-house” movement? We want to start with items that the guest might not notice right away on the menu, but they will certainly taste once their food lands on the table. Best of all, these items won’t break your bank.
1 – Mayonnaise Save your shelf space and make your own mayonnaise. You have all of the ingredients already and it takes very little skill to make large batches. Homemade mayonnaise provides a base for a good amount of your now “housemade” sauces and dressings. Sure you have to separate those eggs, but it will make a big difference when your guest asks for a side of mayonnaise and you bring them a ramekin of smooth, yellow-tinted homemade mayo compared to a scoop of white goo from that big plastic jar.
2 – Salad Dressings Now that you have homemade mayonnaise, you have homemade dressings. You can use that base for your creamy dressings and for your vinaigrettes; you should have the other ingredients in house. Foodies can spot a bottled dressing from miles away. Oil, vinegar, citrus, herbs…these items should all be in your walk-in already for easy production.
3 – Butter If you are going through cases of butter weekly, clearly you don’t want to churn it all in house. Depending on the size of your establishment, churning just a few pounds per shift for particular dishes can bring that plate to the next level. Finishing a steak with a dollop of fresh, homemade butter is much more elegant than a square cut out of that one-pound block. Think of using this butter for finishing plates and sauces, and again, as guest side requests.
4 – Pancake Mix If you want to think big, attempt one meal at a time. Stop bringing in the pre-made pancake mix and mix the flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk yourself. Bring in fresh bread (if you don’t have the capacity to bake yourself) for French toast and breakfast plates. Elevate your breakfast and bring the standard to that meal first. Soon you’ll see that you can manage this idea and bring it further.
5 – Pasta This one might be tough for some your larger restaurants, but can be feasible for a smaller menu. I know that you have flour, eggs and water – so you have the ability to make your own pasta. Diners are eating much lighter these days and often menus aren’t showcasing a large number of pasta dishes anyways. A small restaurant can survive with an electric tabletop pasta machine that can produce beautiful noodles and sheets for seasonal raviolis. If there is one item that guests appreciate being made in house, it is going to be pasta. When done correctly, it will bring them through your doors time and time again.
Before deciding which items to bring in house, again consider the resources needed. Does your chef know how to make these items? More importantly do they know how to train and have the materials and equipment to properly train? Pick your item and let us know. We want to help you get that enticing word on your menu – housemade. We’ll find the right trainers if you need it, source the right equipment and bring your kitchen to a new level.
Ariel Worbler – Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting