Gourmet burgers, Thai and Mexican cuisine are among the foods listed on the recent Horizons ‘Ones to Watch’ update, which identifies the fastest-growing new and emerging foodservice brands. It’s a fascinating picture of the dominant trends in our industry, most notably the continuing move towards more specialisation in food and drink offers.
Specialists such as Burger & Lobster, hotdog-and-champagne restaurant Bubbledogs, and burger bar Byron, who offer a limited menu but to a very high standard, have attracted praise from food writers and food lovers, as well as interest from potential investors and imitators who can spot a trend.
For chefs who specialise in a particular food style, the advantages are clear: they become masters at cooking steaks, or chicken, or whatever their speciality is. Training their kitchen team is simplified and, because they’re buying a larger volume of a limited number of food items, they develop buying ‘muscle’ that they might not have if they were splitting their purchases across a wider range of products.
However, there are of course challenges for chefs who pursue very specialist food offers. Firstly, they are vulnerable to changes in consumers’ food and drink preferences. A menu built on a ‘now’ foodstuff like pulled pork is clearly going to struggle once that ingredient’s appeal starts to wane.
They are also vulnerable to rises in the costs of the foods that dominate their menus. Operators with a wide menu are usually able to make substitutions and other tweaks to maintain their GP if prices go up, but if your menu comprises solely burgers and steaks, then any shortage in beef supply could leave you with limited options.
Nonetheless, specialisation is at the heart of some very successful food offers and we are interested to see how the trend develops in the coming years.
Mexican food, highlighted on the Ones to Watch list, grew by 146% over the past three years. It’s a sector that we at Lynx have seen grow at first-hand through our work with Benito’s Hat, the Mexican casual dining brand which opened its first outlet seven years ago. Now up to seven sites, they have remained true to their original vision to provide simple, authentic, freshly-prepared Mexican dishes, enabling them to expand without any compromise of food quality.
For these foodservice entrepreneurs – all those in the Horizons survey currently operate between five and 20 sites – one of the biggest challenges is maintaining consistency of their food offer as they expand. They can usually manage the transition from one to two or three sites, but further growth puts severe strain on their ability to control the quality of their product and maintain their margins.
That’s where Lynx can help, and it’s why we’re being approached by a growing number of smaller operators who see the benefits of working with us. Peach Pub Company and Benito’s Hat are two of the companies we have worked with from their early days and continue to help today.
For them, and for other businesses with growth plans, we become effectively their purchasing manager, researching and negotiating the prices they pay for food. At Lynx, we work closely with suppliers to ensure that we know exactly what’s happening on availability and prices across a range of product areas, meaning that we can help our customers produce menus that not only appeal to diners, but also deliver a healthy profit.
Doing purchasing properly and building relationships with suppliers is time-consuming and in a small company, it often falls to the head chef – meaning they then have less time to focus on developing new dishes, or supervising and training their kitchen teams. It’s hard work developing and expanding a foodservice business, but Lynx can make the purchasing part a whole lot easier.
We have also developed our free GP Calculator App, endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, which helps chefs to monitor margins, particularly specials, using their smartphone or tablet in a busy kitchen. You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play, using the links below:
For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play