Quality/profit – where are you going wrong?

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Whether you run a top restaurant or small café, making a profit while ensuring that you give your customers excellent food is a delicate balancing act. Good-quality ingredients cost more, but if you increase your prices, then it will be harder to tempt new customers in. However, using poor-quality ingredients is a false economy. If your food is not good, then customers will quickly drift away. Finding a way to keep the quality high at a price that your customers are happy to pay is the key to building your profits.

Getting the best ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean buying from the most expensive supplier. Shop around with suppliers to find the best prices. Some may be willing to offer a discount if you bulk-buy from them. The costs of many products vary throughout the year. Using seasonal ingredients will allow you to create fresh and innovative dishes at a time when those ingredients taste best and the cost to you is at its lowest. Using PSL to connect you with suppliers can help you find the quality ingredients that your customers love while also saving you money.

It is important to monitor how well the dishes in your establishment are selling and how much profit they are making. If they are not turning around enough profit, then you need to consider why. You may not be selling enough of these dishes, resulting in wastage. Another possibility is that when pricing your dishes, you are not factoring in all costs. Ingredients comprise one element of a dish’s cost, but you also need to consider factors such as the energy and staff time needed to prepare it. You should also consider the extras that you may offer for free to the customers, such as sugar, seasoning and sauces. Over time, these costs can mount up, which reduces your profit if you do not factor them into price of your dishes.

Cheap prices may initially pull in a crowd, but maintaining quality is essential to building up a loyal customer base. Eating in restaurants is about more than just the food, and customers expect to pay for the entire experience. Ensuring that your establishment is clean and attractively decorated will get your business off to a promising start. Polite, attentive staff will make your customers feel special, increasing the quality of their experience. While they could go elsewhere to take advantage of slightly cheaper prices, if they have enjoyed the experience in your establishment, then there is a good chance that they will not.

If your profits are falling because of a lack of customers, then it is time to take a good look at your menu. Diners frequently browse menus online before booking a table, and if yours does not appeal to them, then they will go elsewhere. Making sure that there is a wide variety of good-quality dishes on your menu will increase your popularity. When creating menus, do not forget to have dishes available for those with allergies and intolerances. If you find that creating allergy-compliant menus is a challenge, then PSL’s “What’s in my dish?” service will be beneficial for you.

Sell food at the right price so that you will not need to compromise on the quality. Tasty dishes, a welcoming establishment and a comprehensive menu will help you both draw in and keep your customers.



Plastic containers and bottles in the kitchen – how it will affect you

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Shocking sights of the effect of plastic on marine wildlife in the BBC documentary The Blue Planet and similar images elsewhere have woken the world to the need to do something about the vast amount of plastic used and discarded. Until recently, much of the plastic that Europeans generate went to China, but with China now banning the import of foreign recyclable material, the problem is firmly in the hands of the EU.

The aim of the EU is to ensure that all plastic is reusable or recyclable by 2030. It is making an investment of €350m (about £308m) in research to modernise plastics production and is considering taxes against environmentally harmful behaviour. This has big implications for the food industry, where single-use plastics are common.

For many in the food industry, dealing with plastic can be a daunting prospect, but several minor changes can soon add up to make a significant difference in the amount of single-use plastic used.

People use plastic straws for a matter of minutes before they discard them, but these items take centuries to break down. Choose metal, paper or bamboo straws for a reusable and easily degradable option. Encourage customers to drink their hot beverages from reusable cups by offering a discount if they bring their own. As you will save money by not buying so many disposable cups, this discount will not cost you anything.

Think about products not directly used in food production but still found in kitchens up and down the country. Use a refillable soap dispenser or opt for bar soap rather than using plastic soap dispensers by the sinks on your premises. Also consider the bin liners that you use. These are almost always plastic, although biodegradable alternatives are available. Cling film is trickier to replace. There is a beeswax alternative, or you may find reusable containers that can do the same job to protect your food.

When purchasing items in plastic containers, check the small print to make sure that it is a plastic that you can recycle. You can also encourage your suppliers to reduce the amount of plastic that they use to deliver your products by using, for example, reusable crates. Using reusable plastic containers in the kitchen is not so bad, but as they can often impart a plasticky taste to food, this could be a good time to swap them for stainless steel containers.

PSL will continue to monitor the new guidelines and how they affect both our clients and our suppliers, bringing any further news as it arises. We will also continue to support our clients in a number of other ways, such as cost-saving measures and the creation of allergy-compliant menus using the “What’s in my dish?” service.

The need to tackle plastic is important both for the food industry and the entire world. If people do nothing, then we could end up with more plastic in the sea than fish, and it will find its way into the food chain, affecting the quality of the seafood that we eat.



A buyer’s guide to saving money

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Buying ingredients for menus is a delicate balancing act. Your customers want good-quality dishes, but if prices are too high, then they may be less likely to return. Getting the best ingredients without having to pay a lot for them is tricky for food procurers. Fortunately, there are several ways that you can keep costs low without compromising on quality.

Monitor your menus

Check your menus closely to find items that do not sell well. You can remove these from your offerings without disappointing customers. Buying ingredients for dishes that do not sell will inevitably result in the wastage of both food and money. Concentrate on the dishes that customers prefer, although even for these, it is important not to over-buy perishable ingredients. Using a popular ingredient across several dishes can help reduce waste. By monitoring your menus, you can make a realistic estimate of how much of each ingredient that you need and buy accordingly.

Changing your menus also allows you to adapt them to reflect seasonal produce. Expensive foods can drop in price when they are readily available and taste better. Incorporate these into your dishes so that your customers can enjoy higher-end produce, and you can make a profit from prices that they are happy to pay.

Remember when planning menus to label allergens clearly and cater for special diets. If you are finding this challenging, then PSL’s service “What’s in My Dish?” can help you in creating allergen-compliant menus.

Choose your suppliers

You will want to shop around to make sure that you are not paying too much for ingredients, and PSL can help you find suppliers of quality produce at the best possible prices. However, buying from many different suppliers is not always cost-effective even if they are the cheapest. Some suppliers offer better rates if you buy a large proportion of your ingredients solely from them.

Check the portions

Over-filling plates leads to food wastage and may leave your customers too full to order dessert, so ensure that the amounts that you are serving are realistic. If customers can have unlimited portions of some items, such as bread, then encourage them to ask rather than just giving them too much and having to throw most of it away.

Mixing expensive ingredients with cheaper ones provides a full plate at a lower cost. For example, combine one expensive vegetable with a variety of equally delicious cheaper ones. Meat is a costly ingredient. but cheaper cuts such as chicken thighs and beef brisket are often the most flavourful. Create dishes around these, and your customers will not even notice the cost savings.

You may wish to consider not automatically offering water to your customers, as it is better if they order alcoholic or soft drinks to go with their meals. If you make enough profit on drinks, then this creates less pressure to make a large profit on food.

When using these tips to decrease waste and get the best prices for your ingredients, you can create enticing dishes for your customers without production becoming too expensive.

Streamline your systems

PSL’s online systems save valuable time when it comes to pricing, budgeting, ordering, payments and reports – with everything accessible in one easy to use online portal. Find out more about Dashboards here.


Fairtrade produce

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The Fairtrade label, one of the world’s leading ethical labels, features on many different products. Fairtrade works directly with farmers and small-scale producers in developing countries across the world who would otherwise often be marginalised from trade. While traditional trade deals disadvantage the smallest farmers, Fairtrade ensure that their producers receive fair wages while supporting good working conditions and local sustainability in the developing world.

Businesses in the food trade can easily incorporate Fairtrade products into existing or new menus. While food procurers often look for local suppliers to support local businesses and improve environmental standards, customers love many products that the UK does not produce, and Fairtrade suppliers can obtain many of these. They include spices, bananas, coffees, teas, sugar and wines.

With its commitment to sustainability, many food producers use PSL as part of their drive towards a more ethical menu. The use of Fairtrade products can enhance the responsible nature of menus that combine ingredients sourced fairly from small farmers in the developing world with locally sourced produce. A good example could be an apple pie made with local apples and served with cream from local dairies that also has Fairtrade sugar and a pinch of Fairtrade cinnamon for added flavour.

Hoteliers and restauranteurs are becoming increasingly aware of the need to take ethical and environmental factors into account when sourcing ingredients, but this can generate concerns over extra costs. However, the issue is easy to overcome through the reputational boost that ethical standards can bring. Consumers are also becoming more aware of environmental factors, food standards and the plight of small-scale producers in the developing world and are keen to support the use of Fairtrade produce.

Along with “locally sourced” and “organic” labels, the Fairtrade label proves your commitment to ethical food procurement. The Fairtrade logo is one of the most instantly recognisable ethical labels, and you can use it on your menus to show that, for example, your after-dinner coffees and teas come from Fairtrade producers and your chocolates come from Fairtrade cocoa beans.

Consumers are also often keen to know about the origin of the food that they eat. Many Fairtrade products, including fruit, spices, rice and coffee, need to be fully traceable. Although physical traceability does not work in all sectors, the Fairtrade rules ensure that local farmers are not in any way disadvantaged by this.

Offering information on the ethical nature of ingredients is not the only label guideline that menu creators need to apply. It is also necessary to ensure the clear identification of common allergens. “What’s in My Dish?” is a service that PSL offers to help with the creation of allergen-compliant menus. Suffering from an allergy does not make a consumer any less ethically aware, so Fairtrade ingredients are best to use in dishes.

From the benefits to small farmers and their workers in the developing world to the enhanced reputation of companies that can use the Fairtrade logo, you have plenty of incentives to use Fairtrade products.


What to buy for spring

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With the days getting longer, and warmer weather hopefully soon on its way, it is time for chefs to start thinking about their springtime menus, where the warm, hearty dishes of winter can give way to lighter meals which take full advantage of the produce coming into season. When choosing dishes for spring menus, PSL can help you find good quality ingredients at the best prices.

Over the course of spring, the first fruits and vegetables of the year are at their best. Salads of lettuce, peppers, watercress, and radishes look attractive and will appeal to those who are rediscovering a more active, healthy lifestyle as the weather improves. Vegetarian dishes and accompaniments can be made from spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, and peas, all of which are all readily available at this time of year. Towards the end of spring, you may also be inclined to introduce fresh asparagus, carrots, and artichokes as they start coming into season.

While the weather is still cool, warm puddings are likely to remain popular, but it is also a good idea to increase the number of fruit-based deserts. There are plenty of fruits which are freely available all year round, but during the late spring, add fruits such as apricots, strawberries, and raspberries to your menus as a hint of the summer to come.

Lamb is traditionally served in restaurants throughout the season as is at its best in the springtime. A traditional roast will always be a favourite, but with a wide variety of cuisines proving popular, it can be cooked in wide variety of ways. Springtime is also associated with eggs, and these can easily be incorporated into salads, starters, and vegetarian dishes.

Diners are consistently more health conscious and menus which cater to this will be popular. Gone are the days when menus simply included a token vegetarian dish. Now, a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including plant-based proteins such as pulses, tofu, and quinoa, are necessary to appeal to diners. While alcoholic beverages remain a popular accompaniment, there is a rise in the popularity of alcohol-free drinks. Providing exciting options, which go beyond the usual range of soft drinks, will enhance your food menus, and the warmer, lighter evenings are the perfect time to introduce a selection of mocktails to your drinks menus.

Allergen management is an essential part of menu creation and providing up-to-date allergen information is necessary to comply with the law. With many people requiring or preferring a gluten or lactose free diet, it is necessary to include dishes on your menu which they can enjoy. If this is proving tricky, take advantage of PSL’s ‘What’s in My Dish’ service to enable you to build allergen compliant menus with meals which are delicious for everyone to enjoy this spring.

Championing British produce in foreign markets

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Since the decision to leave the European Union was taken in June 2016, there has been a period of uncertainty for UK industries, including the food and drink industry. Negotiations between the UK and the EU have been ongoing, but it is still not clear what the final deal will be or even if there will be one.

Concerns have been expressed at every level of the food industry. Farmers are worried about a shortage in the workforce as the seasonal migrant workers may be discouraged from coming. PSL has remained committed to helping food procurers to obtain good-quality food at the lowest prices, but as the value of the pound has dropped, prices have risen, and the hospitality industry has faced a dilemma as they try to balance the quality of their menus without increasing prices too much for their customers. There are also concerns about how food standards might change as the UK has to renegotiate trade deals with countries beyond the EU.

However, despite the uncertainties, the food and drink industry is looking to the future and how it can adapt to the post-Brexit situation. With the support of food manufacturers and farmers, the government is planning to boost food exports and is devising a new “gold-standard” that will measure food quality and showcase the excellence of British food exports.

This scheme was unveiled by Environment Secretary Michael Gove at the Oxford Farming Conference. In his speech, he praised the excellence of some of Britain’s regional foods such as Melton Mowbray pork pies, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Devon and Welsh lamb and Cumberland sausage.

He also acknowledged the value of existing food quality schemes such as Red Tractor but pointed out that there is no single, scaled measure for farmers and producers to show their quality across a number of indicators. The plan is to highlight the standards achieved on animal welfare, pollution control, soil health and water quality. He named some products, including Botanist Gin, Belvoir soft drinks, H Foreman & Son’s London-cured smoked salmon and Tyrells crisps, as examples of UK foods that deliver these qualities.

Gove promised to champion British produce, planning to maintain its place in existing markets and to secure new trade deals. He aims to use the new “gold-standard” to showcase the standards of the British produce, emphasising the advantages of the traceability of the ingredients, their distinctive taste and the integrity of production. By emphasising the high standard of the produce, British food and farming could succeed in global markets and become world-leaders in quality.

However the situation develops, PSL will continue to link food procurers with good-quality suppliers and maintain its other services, including “What’s In My Dish”, a service that helps chefs build allergen-compliant menus that meet the new laws. We will also continue to monitor the political developments and will keep you informed on how these will impact on the food and drink industry, as well as being ready to adapt to any changes that the exit from the EU will bring.

PSL predicts: 10 food trends to look out for in 2018

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2018 is fast approaching, and chefs and restauranteurs are no doubt already starting to think of their menus for the coming year. Predicting what customers will want and staying ahead of the curve are both essential for success. Use PSL to procure quality ingredients at the best prices. Here we have compiled a list of what we think will be on menus next year.

Ten upcoming food trends

  1. Diners are becoming more conscious of their gut health, so gut-friendly foods are likely to feature on menus. Fermented or pickled foods will increase in popularity, as will probiotics such as kefir, miso and kimchi, and prebiotics such as garlic and onions.
  1. Poke bowls have not become common yet, but they will soon be everywhere. This Hawaiian dish, which is like sushi in a bowl, is economical, versatile and convenient.
  1. New seasonings can give a whole new taste to dishes. Try timut pepper, a zesty condiment that adds a residual heat to both foods and drinks.
  1. Take buying local to a whole new level by serving foods sourced within walking distance. Consumers are becoming more ethical in their choices and like to know the provenance of everything that they eat. 
  1. Look for alternatives to meat-based proteins, as vegetarianism and veganism will still be popular. Quinoa, tempeh and tofu are all good sources that lend themselves to a wide variety of dishes, but a new meat-free protein called heme, which can add a meaty quality to dishes, may soon be available.
  1. Diners always like to find something new, so be inventive with hybrid dishes by combing two or more types of cuisine.
  1. Embrace flower power with floral treats. As well as looking attractive, floral additions to 2018’s dishes should enhance the flavour of both foods and drinks. Elderflower, lavender and orchid are just some of the flowers that you can add to beverages, salads and desserts. 
  1. Popcorn has long been an enjoyable snack, but expect 2018 to take puffed snacks up a notch. Puffed rice clusters, pasta, seaweed fava chips and popped cassava chips are some of the options to try. 
  1. Ethical eating is a trend that will continue, with free-range, fair-trade and GMO-free produce having prominent labels. Root-to-stem cooking is likely to be popular, with chefs finding inventive and tasty ways to use every part of their produce.
  1. Increasingly, technology will become a part of the dining experience. It can provide diners with details of ingredients or allow them to place their orders. You can even incorporate technology into cooking itself with 3D printers available to create endless possibilities of food shapes.

Dining for all

As in 2017, it will be important next year to ensure that there is food on the menu that caters to different diets, such as lactose-free or gluten-free. You should also be aware of the risks of allergies. “What’s in My Dish?” is a service offered by PSL to help with the new allergy-compliant laws, allowing you to offer a good dining experience for everyone. This is something that will never go out of fashion!



PSL appoints David Kelleher as Director of Commercial Development

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PSL are delighted to have appointed David Kelleher as Director of Commercial Development.

David  joins PSL from Procure4 where he previously held the role of Operations Director and was responsible for the day to day running of the business as well as building senior client relationships. During his 18-year career, Kelleher has worked with many household names in Hospitality, Retail, Healthcare, FMCG & the Public Sector, helping them transform their supply chains and lower costs, adding significant value to their bottom line.

Daniel Wilson, Managing Director of PSL, said: “We are delighted David has joined PSL. The knowledge and experience David brings will significantly enhance PSL’s ability to support even more clients improve their margins”

Kelleher said: “I am extremely excited to be joining PSL at this stage in their journey. They are a well-respected brand with a huge amount of experience and a great pedigree. I’m looking forward to helping the business grow its reach in beverage, non-food and other Indirect areas to bolster its market-leading food offering.”

In his role as Director of Commercial Development, David will be bringing a whole new range of products and services to PSL’s clients which continues to expand its offering and is due to launch its Purchase to Pay system, ‘Beagle’ in the New Year.




The 12 food trends of Christmas

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Christmas traditions are lovely, but serving the same Christmas foods cooked in the same way can become dull and lacking in imagination. To ensure that you get high-quality food at the best prices, look at the services offered by PSL and consider trying 12 new trends to add some more Christmas sparkle to your festivities this year.

1: For an alternative to turkey or ham, try serving pork belly. With a delicious creamy texture, it makes a luxurious meal.

2: Don’t forget the crackling! Served with apple sauce or plum jam, it adds a lavish touch to the meat.

3: Turkey is still popular, so keep it on your menu; but liven it up with a spicy marinade or find unusual stuffing to add an exotic flavour.

4: You traditionally roast turkey in goose fat, but this year why not try something different? Coconut oil is healthier and still gives your turkey that mouth-watering crispy skin.

5: Don’t make your customers choose between different meats when they could have a mixture. A three-bird roast is gaining popularity. Turkey, duck and goose are popular options, but for something unusual, you could include pheasant or pigeon.

6: Even the most diehard traditionalist will often like to try something different in a starter. Octopus is becoming increasingly common on menus. It is a versatile ingredient that makes a light starter, or you can serve it with pasta as a main for those wanting an alternative to meat. Ensure that all your meals comply to the latest allergen laws, and publish fully up to date allergen menus both on your website and within your restaurant through PSL’s Allergen Management service.

7: Pomegranate is a superfood packed with antioxidants, but other qualities make it ideal for a Christmas feast. Its stunning colour makes meals appear even more festive, while its tart sweetness adds a contrasting flavour to both meats and salads.

8: There are lots of other traditional Christmas desserts that you can serve in place of a typical Christmas pudding. A chocolatey yule log is a popular way to end a meal, and cafés can serve stollen as an alternative to Christmas cake or mince pies.

9: Meringue makes a lighter dessert choice, but by adding flavours, you can give them a seasonal twist. For example, try chocolate orange, peppermint chocolate, whisky or even Christmas pudding flavours.

10: Take the Christmas theme into your drinks menu, instantly setting the scene with pre-dinner drinks. You can use mince pie syrup to make a festive cocktail that sums up the essence of Christmas in a glass.

11: For restaurants and cafés where a traditional roast is not in keeping with the ambiance, find new ways to incorporate Christmas. An Italian can serve a Christmas pizza, while an Indian might serve a luxurious turkey curry. Be inventive. Everyone enjoys discovering something new.

12: Many Christmas foods have become traditional for a reason, so keep some festive favourites on the menu throughout December — and don’t forget the crackers!

When planning your menu, don’t forget allergen laws. Use PSL’s What’s in My Dish service if you need any advice on building a compliant Christmas menu so that no one misses out on the festive fun. PSL can also offer help and guidance on recipe costing throughout the season, saving you time and money.



Christmas Countdown – what to buy and when

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Christmas is a busy and critical time for most hospitality businesses with December a key revenue and profit month. As with all food and beverage events careful preparation and planning will ensure delivery, guest satisfaction, efficiency and profitability are all maximised.

Menu planning

A lot of hotels and restaurants have set menus over the Christmas period, which limits the number of different dishes needed to be prepared. However, when creating these menus, remember to take into account different diets. There should be at least one vegetarian option on the menu, and you also need to consider some common intolerances and allergens that may require food to be free from nuts, dairy or gluten. Most importantly make sure all your menus are also accurately costed ,  PSL offers a service that can help with both allergen management and recipe costings.

Sourcing food

Turkey remains a popular item on Christmas menus. In addition to home grown British breeds, much turkey breast is imported to the UK from Italy, Poland and Romania. Although a bird flu outbreak earlier in the year did limit production, suppliers are aiming for normal levels by Christmas. Chicken also provides another white meat alternative at a lower cost point. However, the poor value of Stirling means that prices will be higher. Other meat, including beef, will also increase in price as Christmas draws near. To get the best prices on fresh meat, place orders and lock in prices with your suppliers during October and November.

If you are serving chipolatas or pigs in blankets with the meal, these can be purchased, prepared and frozen before December. This will allow you to take advantage of cheaper prices, as well as taking the pressure off chefs during the busy Christmas period.

From salmon as a starter to lemon sole, monkfish and scallops as a main, fish tends to feature heavily on Christmas menus. Getting fresh wild fish during December is expensive and becomes even trickier as many fishermen take a break between Christmas and New Year. Poor weather can hamper the harvests of both fishermen and fish farms, further reducing availability. It is advisable to place orders for fresh fish well in advance and freeze until needed that way you have total control.

Unless you are using frozen vegetables, these will need to be delivered fresh. Again, forward planning and ordering in early November can enable you to lock in lower prices.

When planning Christmas menus, do not forget to factor in every ingredient, and do not assume that you can easily source it. Butter, for example, is currently in short supply and the situation seems to be worsening. It is a good idea to buy butter now and freeze it to ensure that you have enough. For assistance with obtaining better food pricing, visit PSL

Further top tips for December

  • Arrange for 2/3 deliveries each week and rota additional staff to ensure proper checks can be made, checking weights and claiming credits for any shortages or incorrect specifications. PSL can offer an onsite Operational support service.
  • Always buy turkey net weight and request bones free of charge.
  • Think food miles – only use seasonal UK vegetables e.g. root vegetables.
  • Consider using frozen prepared sprouts to save on labour and food costs, cooked right will deliver the same flavour.
  • When using smoked salmon, order “Banqueting sides” these are generally long cut and all the brown meat is generally removed giving 100% yield.
  • Cut fondant potatoes out of baking potatoes “60’s” 50% cheaper than chateau potatoes.
  • Add dishes from your Christmas menu to your restaurant menu – reduces labour and food wastage.
  • Consider Christmas pudding soufflé with pieces of pudding left over from service and Christmas pudding ice cream.
  • Add some mincemeat to your biscuits and scones for a festive Afternoon Tea.