The Foodservice Recovery: How Value-Added Can Make a Difference

Innovation has always been essential for success in the foodservice industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has proved that principle once again. In unprecedented ways, the foodservice community has had to adapt to survive. In 2021, the industry is starting to recover, and innovation will be needed once again. 

At Gills Onions, we support our customers by offering value-added products that save them time and money. If you haven’t incorporated value-added produce into your line-up, now is the time. It’s an out-of-the-box — or in our case, out-of-the-bag — solution that can buoy up your business. And, our vegetables taste pretty amazing, too. 

The Challenges Facing Foodservice Recovery

As restaurants begin to reopen for indoor dining, it’s quickly becoming obvious that this isn’t a return to “normal.” Nothing is truly like what it was before quarantines and shutdowns. Take sanitation for example. Kitchens have always had high standards for cleanliness, but protecting food from germs and contamination has never been more important. 

Another new challenge is labor. The foodservice industry is starving, with retailers trying everything they can to attract interested prospective hires. One manager even recently offered to pay individuals $50 for simply coming in for a job interview. No one responded. Many businesses can’t offer pay that is competitive enough to beat out the combination of federal stimulus benefits and regular unemployment checks. And, with minimum wage and other employee cost increases, labor is becoming even more costly. 

Value-Added Products Can Solve These Challenges

Though the landscape can feel bleak, value-added products are a solution that you may not have considered. In a world where nothing has been consistent, these products can be the consistent force that helps stabilize a business. Here’s how:

  • Price. The cost of value-added products doesn’t change based on season or demand. Consistent pricing allows owners and chefs to plan budgets far in advance. 
  • Quality. At Gills Onions, we guarantee that our products offer consistent quality and yield. You always know exactly what you are going to get. One third of a sack of bulk onions is waste. That means you’re not really getting 50 pounds of usable onions. With value-added products, you know exactly how much usable product you’ll be receiving every time. 
  • Cleanliness. Bulk onions can bring harmful bacteria into your kitchen. Value-added products arrive cleaned, prepped, and ready to use. 
  • Labor. Speaking of arriving ready-to-use, value-added products save time and money by eliminating the labor needed to prep onions for use. Employees can dedicate their time to other essential tasks. 
  • Safety. Value-added products keep employees safe by reducing the risk of knife injuries. 

Use Gills Onions as a Resource

Our decades supporting the foodservice industry put us in a unique position to offer support and assistance at this unique time. We know your pain points, and we want to help you reach your full potential. We hope to be a resource to sales teams as they go out and sell produce, and a resource for producing the amazing value-added products that serve owners and chefs across the United States and Canada. 

Together, we can recover, and we will get back to what we all do best — bringing amazing food to the world. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Cloud Kitchens: An Innovative Take on Foodservice

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 17% of US restaurants have closed their doors. In straight numbers, that translates to over 110,000 dining rooms that used to be filled with hungry customers. Since our onions used to be on the plates that now sit empty, we intimately understand the challenges restaurants are facing. 

With the industry in free fall, restaurant owners and chefs have been forced to adapt to survive. For some, cloud kitchens have been the answer. Let’s take a deeper look.

What Is a Cloud Kitchen?

Cloud kitchens, or ghost kitchens as some prefer to call them, allow restaurants and food brands to prepare meals for delivery and take out without a permanent brick and mortar space. These stripped-down versions of commercial kitchens are straight food preparation space — no dine-in option. But, they have everything needed to craft beautiful dishes with commercial kitchen equipment, dishwashers, and cold storage. Caterers have used these spaces for years to prepare meals for offsite events. 

Before the pandemic, about 15% of operators reported using a cloud kitchen, but by May of 2020, 51% of operators had turned to cloud kitchens to prepare some or all of their delivery orders. Other operators moved solely to cloud kitchens paired with take-out and delivery services to meet growing demands amidst lockdowns and quarantines. 

Food delivery apps have made delivery accessible and easy for everyone, with delivery sales growing 300% faster than dine-in over the last five years. That growth has only accelerated since COVID-19 arrived. 

The Cloud Kitchen Business Model

So, how exactly does a cloud kitchen work? Operators rent kitchen space from a landlord who owns kitchen facilities. These spaces are most common in densely populated urban areas. With kitchen space rented (for cheaper than the overhead of a restaurant space), brands get onto a food delivery app and start filling orders. The orders are picked up and sent out from the cloud kitchen space instead of a restaurant. 

Cloud kitchens have been used to launch new food brands for less. By having purely virtual interactions with customers, operators save on the cost of equipment, the cost of space, and the cost of labor. Existing brands have also used cloud kitchens to meet demand or expand their delivery range. 

But it’s not all easy money and success with cloud kitchens. Competition in delivery apps is growing. The perks of a storefront are free advertising and food traffic, sales boosts you don’t get when your restaurant is virtual. Chefs are also restricted by delivery area. A typical delivery radius is 3 to 5 miles from the kitchen, so you may be able to find kitchen space for cheap, but are there customers around? And let’s not forget that there is only so much kitchen space up for grabs.

Still, many brands have found cloud kitchens are the key to their success in a post-COVID market. 

Effects of Cloud Kitchens on the Ag Industry 

What challenges restaurants challenges the farmers who supply them. If there’s no one to eat food, the food doesn’t leave the field. At Gills Onions, many of our products are designed specifically with the food industry in mind. Items like our Whole Peeled Onions, Sliced Onions, and Slivered Onions are prepared and packaged to make chefs’ work easier and safer. When restaurants close their doors, agriculture hurts, too. 

Cloud kitchens are one innovative solution that the restaurant industry is using to bounce back, and they benefit those of us in agriculture just as much as those in food service. Cloud kitchens also present a unique opportunity for brands to partner with local farmers and source fresh produce from their own areas. 

Time will tell how the cloud kitchen concept develops and grows, but one thing is for sure: restaurants are here to stay, and we’ll be there to make sure they have all the onions they need. 

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department. 

Gills Onions Can Help Restaurants Cut Costs and Combat COVID-19

COVID-19 has rocked the restaurant industry, with losses expected up to $240 billion by the end of 2020. At the height of quarantines and shutdowns, the average restaurant was forced to lay off 91% of their hourly workforce and 70% of salaried employees

Now, restaurants are facing the daunting challenge of reopening. There is an increased need to reduce labor and overall costs to compensate for capacity caps and slow returning customers. All restaurants — small, medium, and large — are rethinking their strategy, especially in the kitchen. 

An Increased Need for Value-Added 

Labor has always been a costly part of hospitality, but during and after the COVID-19 crisis, the cost of labor has become — and will continue to be — even more complicated. Staff need to be re-hired and re-trained for new standards of safety. And, with many businesses serving smaller numbers of customers and having a limited menu, staff is likely to remain small. 

Even with a properly trained staff that is in compliance with new health and safety standards, restaurant owners need to make sure that customers feel safe. Currently, only 62% of consumers believe that cooking food kills coronavirus, even though the CDC has confirmed that the virus does not spread through food. Reports show that 15% of customers are most concerned about returning to restaurants because of staff preparing or handling food. 

Value-added products reduce labor needs and minimize handling and exposure. 

For example, it typically takes 90 minutes for an employee to whole peel and dice a 50 lb sack of onions that will result in approximately 30 to 35 lbs of usable onions. That’s 90 minutes that onions are handled and exposed. 

As a value-added alternative, Gills Diced Onions limit the “touch factor” by arriving to the kitchen perfectly diced, perfectly clean, and ready to use. Each 5 lb bag offers 19 cups of diced onions that cost nothing in labor and can immediately be scooped or poured into recipes with little or no touch from employees. 

How Much Will You Save?

Buying a value-added product means that restaurant owners and chefs can more accurately plan for kitchen costs. The price of sack onions can fluctuate based on season and demand, while value-added products cost the same price year-round. 

At Gills Onions, onions are our specialty. If you heavily use onions in your kitchen, the savings can be tremendous. 

Many chefs choose to streamline their labor by selecting one cut and size of onions, putting all the onion product needed for every recipe in their kitchen into one bag. You’ll also save on storage space. Our bags of ready-to-use onions reduce the amount of excess packaging and boxes in your fridge. 

Use our Product Calculator to see how much you could save in labor and overall costs by switching to diced onions.

Our Team Is Here to Support You 

Even before the pandemic, Gills Onions has been committed to setting the standard in food safety. Our priority is protecting the integrity of our product through each step of processing and shipment so your kitchen can stay clean and continue to serve your customers.  

Our value-added products can cut costs and reduce needed labor as you rebuild. Together, we can face the challenges ahead and emerge stronger on the other side. We’re here to help, and we can’t wait to partner with you. 

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department.

5 Food Safety Tips for Your Commercial Kitchen

Americans love to eat. It’s part of our daily routines and celebrations, and it’s a way to relax and unwind after a long day. 

Unfortunately, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 48 million Americans get sick from a foodborne illness each year. That means that 1 in 6 Americans order a special treat from a commercial kitchen and go home with a doggy bag of disease-causing contaminates. Not the night out you were looking for, right?

But there are simple steps you can take to increase commercial kitchen safety, keep your customers and employees safe, and give you peace of mind. 

1. Wear Gloves and Wash Hands Frequently 

While these steps may seem obvious, they are key to preventing cross-contamination in your kitchen. Remember, even the tiniest amount of bacteria can make a person sick. Provide a dedicated employee hand washing station near the entrance to your kitchen. Require all employees to wash their hands with soap and running water for a minimum of 20 seconds before touching anything else in the kitchen. 

Once their hands are washed, employees should wear kitchen gloves anytime they are interacting with food. But, gloves can give employees a false sense of safety. Remind them that gloves must be changed frequently, especially when switching between foods like raw meat, poultry, and prepared food ready to leave the kitchen. 

2. Wash Fruits and Vegetables

Even fresh fruits and vegetables that are peeled or skinned before use need to be washed. Otherwise, you risk spreading germs from the outside of the produce to the inside portions that people will consume. 

Designate a colander solely for washing fruits and vegetables. It shouldn’t be used for any other foods like raw meats or pastas. Run fruits and vegetables under cool running water and scrub well. You can also use an FDA-approved fruit and vegetable rinse for an extra-thorough cleaning. 

3. Be Mindful of Food Storage Temperatures

Separate cold food storage areas should be used for raw meats, produce, and other prepared foods like sauces or dips. Fresh cut vegetables need to be properly stored away in cold storage and never left out at room temperature. 

Foods of any kind should never be stored on the floor, and it is helpful to have thermometers to measure temperature in both freezers and refrigerators. 

4. Don’t Mess with Shelf Life 

Never use old or expired food. If it looks like you shouldn’t use it, don’t. It’s always better to throw out an unused product in foodservice than to risk making someone sick. Clearly label foods to keep track of when items arrive in your kitchen. 

5. Use Gills Onions 

Gills Onions is committed to setting the standard in food safety. Our priority is protecting the integrity of our product through each step of processing and shipment. Here are a few ways our process and our product can help you increase the safety of your kitchen.  

Bulk onions can contain 100 to 1000 times more bacteria, yeasts, and molds than Gills Whole Peeled Onions. Once these contaminants enter your kitchen, it becomes very difficult to get them out. Instead, you can eliminate these germs before they arrive by investing in a fresh, value-added product. 

Industry standard practices hard vacuum pack fresh cut products, but this method creates ideal conditions for lactic acid bacterial growth, spoiling the product faster and delivering a sour, fermented smell. 

At Gills Onions, we’ve found a better, safer, and cleaner way. We gently pillow pack our onions, leaving some oxygen present in the bag. This prevents water accumulation and the growth of unwanted microorganisms. 

And, our onions offer the longest shelf life in the industry. 

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department