It may come as a surprise to know that huge numbers of restaurants buy in vast quantities of food from catering companies.
It may come as an even bigger surprise to know that they can still call these products ‘home made’, as long as they have done some sort of preparation in-house.
However, it is important not to be too down on catering companies – many of them provide healthy, carefully ingredients which save many hours and many pounds for restaurants – but it’s the volume and variety of pre-prepared ingredients bought in by restaurants up and down the country that is often not understood.
What Do Restaurants Buy From Catering Companies?
The most common product to be bought in is chipped potatoes. Although some restaurants and fast food places have their own ‘chippers’ – an electric machine that you just throw your unpeeled potatoes into and they come out peeled and cut into chips – many buy in large bags of frozen chips, just like people do at the supermarket, although on a larger scale. While many of these are good quality – simply chipped potatoes – the cheaper options can be made with low grade potatoes, coated in sugar and with all sorts of oils added.
Pastries, breads and cakes are also commonly brought in by restaurants. If you think about how strangely similar a lot of muffins, rolls and croissants are in most chain coffee shops and family restaurants, you will appreciate just how common this is.
Desserts are a popular product to buy from catering companies too as they reduce kitchen costs dramatically. Restaurants no longer need to employ a pastry chef and, as the products arrive frozen, there is very little skill involved in preparation. This is why you will often see the waitresses taking desserts out of a glass fridge display – they have simply been taken out of the fridge to defrost and all that needs to be done is take a ready-sliced portion and put it on a plate – perhaps with a squirt of spray cream if you’re really lucky.
What You Probably Didn’t KnowKnowing that the Black Forest gateau or bagels arrived pre-prepared may not be an issue for you, but what would you think if you were told that the ‘home made soup’ that you just paid $5.50 for was actually just heated up in the kitchen? It is becoming increasingly popular for pubs and restaurants to buy in ready made stocks, soups and base sauces, so all they need to do is perhaps add a dash of cream or a twist of pepper and, abracadabra, it’s home made!!
Although this may not really matter if you’ve gone out for a burger with the family to a chain restaurant and you’re given a little pot of barbeque sauce to dip your chips, if you’re in a restaurant that claims to be running a skilled kitchen, it can feel like a bit of rip off.
The fact is it’s terribly common for food and food products to be bought in from catering companies. While many of them offer great quality products using only natural ingredients, if you ask for an omelette and they can’t accommodate you, you’ll know they probably don’t do any actually cooking in the kitchen.