As operators battle rising costs on multiple fronts, here’s a menu item that can help control costs.

During a year when so many things have been out of an operator’s control—labor costs, the supply chain, and COVID outbreaks to name a few—one of the ways that operators have responded is by focusing on controllable costs and expenses that can help their restaurants turn a profit. 

One of the focal points in the quest to offset rising labor and inventory costs has been designing cost-conscious menus. For some brands, that has meant streamlining menus in order to have to buy fewer ingredients. 

Other brands have turned to menu items that are easy to serve and have a long shelf life—those are two of the reasons several of the top 50 quick-service restaurants in the industry feature Musselman’s Apple Sauce on their menus, says Todd Michael, senior director of foodservice at Knouse Foods, the parent company of Musselman’s and a grower-owned co-op that uses American-grown apples in its products. 

For example, fresh fruit may be preferred by some consumers, but it also leads to food waste. Some large brands have reported to Knouse Foods that over 50 percent of their fresh fruit was routinely thrown away. 

“The supply chain has made some fruits really costly,” Michael says. “On top of that, managing the shelf life of fresh fruit can be a headache and a lot of it is wasted. On the other hand, Musselman’s Apple Sauce is a delicious, healthy, and shelf-stable option with basically zero food waste.” 

There’s the added bonus that Knouse Foods is a grower-owned cooperative made up of family farmers, which means operators and consumers alike can trust that all of the apples making up the apple sauce are high quality and sourced with care, says Kevin Blacker, marketing director at Knouse Foods. 

“That’s something we take a lot of pride in,” Blacker says. “Here’s a high quality, cost efficient product that is sourced from our family farms. It really speaks to that ongoing desire for locally grown foods in restaurants.” 

There are other benefits offered by Musselman’s Apple Sauce that make it right for the moment, too, especially as an alternative to fresh fruit or other sides. Whereas fresh fruit is touched by multiple people from the time it is picked, shipped, placed in a store display, scanned, and eaten, Musselman’s Apple Sauce is sealed in a variety of formats at a Knouse Foods production facility and remains untouched until it is consumed by the end user. Available in a cup, pouch, or multi-serve #10 cans, this makes it an ideal menu item in a world where the pandemic has driven food safety concerns to new heights. 

Additionally, there is a renewed emphasis on items with a health halo, with Datassential reporting that, by mid-2021, 58 percent of consumers were “bored with comfort food.” Apple sauce presents a perfect opportunity for operators to give consumers the option to sub in an option that’s healthier than something like french fries. 

“Customers love our product because it’s delicious and a healthy alternative to other sides,” Michael says. “Operators love it because customers love it, and because it’s a shelf stable, quality product. It’s not going to ruin their food costs, and it’s one less thing to worry about when managing inventory and thinking about expiration dates.” 

For more, visit the Knouse Foodservice website

By Charlie Pogacar

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