Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell?

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Mosca
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2006/12/17 10:49:32 (permalink)

Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell?

I tried to make the subject as descriptive as I could.

Here's what I'm getting to. The quality of frozen packaged entrees from food service companies is getting better and better every year. The economics of running a food service business puts pressure on owners and managers to make decisions as to what they serve.

As a customer, sometimes it's easy to tell. If I'm in a diner and chicken Kiev or some other labor intensive offering is on the menu, I'm fairly certain that there is no 19 year old in the back pounding chicken breasts flat. And I'd be pretty sure that things like open faced chicken or roast beef sandwiches would be purchased frozen and reheated. And saltiness can be a tipoff. Processed food has that preservative saltiness in the background.

But sometimes it can be tough. I had chicken curry at The Anthracite in Wilkes-Barre, a place where you wouldn't expect chicken curry. Geez. That's something that cooks and freezes well. Except for the carrots; frozen cooked carrots are obvious. But these carrots tasted like regular carrots, cooked. But I've cooked and frozen chicken soup and it's tasted great on reheating. But, economically speaking, how could the owner have chicken curry on the menu with 30 other items and appetizers, from crab cakes to pulled pork to chicken alfredo to stuffed pork tenderloin, and not have any waste? The economics of it, a small place that does a decent business but in a low traffic area would HAVE TO dictate that they use a food service. A very high quality one, sure, but a food service nevertheless.

Feedback, please.


Tom
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    Adjudicator
    Sirloin
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    RE: Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell? 2006/12/17 11:16:21 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Mosca

    I tried to make the subject as descriptive as I could.

    Here's what I'm getting to. The quality of frozen packaged entrees from food service companies is getting better and better every year. The economics of running a food service business puts pressure on owners and managers to make decisions as to what they serve.

    As a customer, sometimes it's easy to tell. If I'm in a diner and chicken Kiev or some other labor intensive offering is on the menu, I'm fairly certain that there is no 19 year old in the back pounding chicken breasts flat. And I'd be pretty sure that things like open faced chicken or roast beef sandwiches would be purchased frozen and reheated. And saltiness can be a tipoff. Processed food has that preservative saltiness in the background.

    But sometimes it can be tough. I had chicken curry at The Anthracite in Wilkes-Barre, a place where you wouldn't expect chicken curry. Geez. That's something that cooks and freezes well. Except for the carrots; frozen cooked carrots are obvious. But these carrots tasted like regular carrots, cooked. But I've cooked and frozen chicken soup and it's tasted great on reheating. But, economically speaking, how could the owner have chicken curry on the menu with 30 other items and appetizers, from crab cakes to pulled pork to chicken alfredo to stuffed pork tenderloin, and not have any waste? The economics of it, a small place that does a decent business but in a low traffic area would HAVE TO dictate that they use a food service. A very high quality one, sure, but a food service nevertheless.

    Feedback, please.


    Tom


    Tom. Value added food service menus are increasing their availability to most all establishments that want the same. The deciding factor is LABOR costs. Most folks are not really that particular when dining out (IMO). However, there are people like you and me and many of the other RF folks who see through this falicy. Your example of Chicken Kiev points this out perfectly. A very simple dish to prepare. Would I want same if I did not make? Absolutely NOT. Chain Restaurants, be the regional or nationwide in general are not going to make from scratch any dish that that can be bought already made. Many otherwise good M&P restaurants are now increasing their menu options by buying stuff that in NO WAY they could prepare on site. There are exceptions to the rule, obviously. I have seen many, many a (non-chain) restaurant go under because of this practice, even though they were once most excellent. Once the quality goes; so do I.
    #2
    Pat T Hat
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    RE: Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell? 2006/12/17 11:55:23 (permalink)
    Your right about the preservatives and (metalic tasting) saltiness. Most places don't use MSG (flavor fresh etc.) as in the past except maybe on a salad bar here and there.

    I can think I can tell on some items if I see a uniformity on orders coming out that doesn't seem natural.
    Sometimes there is what I can only decribe as a plastic like sheen that I think comes from packaging. Especially on pasta, noodle and other dishes with a lot of starch content.

    Your certainly right about commercial precooked entree quality going up. I've even seen stuff coming out of retail that looks decent enough to almost eat.
    #3
    marzsit
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    RE: Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell? 2006/12/17 16:14:46 (permalink)
    my feeling on the subject is that if your customers are already used to recieving the from-scratch product, there is no reason to change to pre-made even if the pre-made stuff is a lot cheaper. this is because your loyal customers, your regulars, don't deserve to be cheated. but i'm a very old-fashioned business type who rarely looks at numbers anyway.. just remember, word-of-mouth can make a business great, it can also kill it in a hurry.
    #4
    kland01s
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    RE: Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell? 2006/12/18 06:19:26 (permalink)
    I agree with marzsit, I had been a loyal customer of a small local place for many years, things changed, the food changed and the prices went up, things weren't "home made" anymore and the owner is now very visible shopping at Sam's Club. I haven't gone there in months and don't plan to ever return.
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    V960
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    RE: Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell? 2006/12/18 14:04:42 (permalink)
    Let's take extremes...Chicken Kiev at Mickie D's? But why not? They can deep fry as well as anyone.

    You either run a restaurant or a refry/unwrap/cut the plastic place. Nothing wrong w/ either.
    #6
    JT1
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    RE: Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell? 2006/12/19 09:20:10 (permalink)
    Why run a restaurant if you don't want to cook????

    Even if you only put out a few dishes, wouldn't you want to be the place with "The best clam chowder in the world?"

    What value do you add to a meal by opening a can and heating it up?
    #7
    David_NYC
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    RE: Fresh or purchased; how can the customer tell? 2006/12/20 23:53:40 (permalink)
    I am not a professional, just a consumer.

    If I go to a restaurant, I expect them to do something for me different than what I can do for myself at home.

    Maybe because I am older, I remember food from the days when most food was prepared from scratch. At a fast food joint or volume feeding operation such as at a stadium or at the beach, I expect everything to be reheat-and-eat. However, if I go to a full service restaurant, my expectations are higher. If I go to a full service restaurant, I may not catch on the first time I order something that it is reheat-and-eat. But, I notice on an almost subliminal level that something is amiss. This may have to do with the survival instinct that humans and animals use to keep from poisoning themselves. On subsequent visits, I will catch on. It may have to do with texture, or saltiness, or freezer burn, or color.

    I notice the Boston Markets restaurants are never mobbed. Sure, they roast fresh chickens in front of your eyes. But what about the rest of the food? I never used to buy anything but chickens from them. But, I wised up to them by accident. I was coming out of a pet foods store next to a Boston Market. Up pulled a SYSCO truck and started unloading cases of refrigerated or frozen meat loaf, ham, vegetables, etc. They used to advertise mashed potatoes made from scratch. They don't anymore. All I can tell you is that I didn't see any sacks of fresh potatoes unloaded from that SYSCO truck.

    #8
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