The pandemic has dragged on long enough that operators would be forgiven for forgetting that the ongoing labor crisis isn’t exactly a new problem. According to Black Box Intelligence, only 13 percent of quick-service restaurants were fully staffed at the start of 2020. But the labor challenges have certainly gotten considerably more bleak, with the industry now down an additional 1.5 million workers, according to the National Restaurant Association.
And yet, demand for trendy fare is at an all-time high, with quick-service restaurants reporting massive year-over-year revenue growth across the industry. That means chefs and operators are being challenged to execute consistent, delicious dishes like never before, with a historic lack of help.
That’s where Justin Gorup, corporate chef at Haliburton International Foods, and his team can help: By creating custom-made solutions fit for any type of operation without sacrificing on innovation and excitement.
“With the labor shortage right now, chefs are looking to save a little here, and a little there,” Gorup says. “One thing we’ve seen a huge uptick in is brands reaching out to us to do product matching—they want us to create a side, or a sauce, or a dressing and be able to do it at scale. We can take your recipe and reformulate it to do it at a higher volume, so it's giving you back hours and hours of prep each day.”
Known for its pickled vegetables, sides, and sauces, one area where Haliburton shines is in helping brands create authentic, elevated Asian dishes. Gorup sees this broad category as a place where he can help brands can get an edge right now without adding a ton of operational complexity by capitalizing on America’s love of Asian cuisines, whether that means an established fare like Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Korean. There are other up-and-coming options for operators to play around with, too, Gorup says, like Filipino food, or regionally specific cuisines like Sichuan. Though a very broad category, Group identifies a few common elements these cuisines often share, including fermented vegetables, plant-based proteins, or vinegars that help elevate dishes.
“I think one of the reasons chefs are gravitating toward these cuisines is because they have these pungent, diverse flavors with a texture that diners are not always used to,” Gorup says. “Chefs are wanting to know how to incorporate these into their dishes to create that excitement.”
One of the Asian-inspired ingredients Gorup likes to play around with is kimchi, which according to Datassential grew 25 percent on menus between 2016 and the end of 2020. Gorup recently created a Kimchi Rice dish that features Haliburton’s Ready-To-Eat Fire-Roasted Brown Mushrooms, zucchini and peppers, as well as Spicy Kimchi Style Sauce with a fried egg on top.
A second dish Gorup recently created was a Pork Cutlet, featuring Haliburton’s Ready-To-Eat Fire-Roasted Chinese Cabbage & Mushrooms, with a Savory Miso Sauce, and Tonkatsu-style Sauce. Both are examples of familiar dishes that Group and his team have helped elevate and put a unique, trendy twist on, something they take great pride in creating for their quick-service clients.
“A lot of companies have their catalog, and they slap it down and say, ‘This is what we do, take your pick and we’ll ship it out,’” Gorup says. “We take a different approach, where we ask you what you need, what you want to accomplish. It’s a process and a journey we go through with you. A good day for us is when we take an idea that maybe was jotted down on a napkin and turn that into a full run being distributed for your brand nationwide.”
For more on adding Haliburton’s custom solutions, visit the Haliburton website.