Every restaurant wants to deliver that homemade, from-scratch taste. But scratch meals take time, and if there’s one thing a restaurant is short on, it’s time. Speed scratch cooking can help you deliver that homemade flavor without overburdening your staff or busting your budget.

Speed scratch simply means using ready-made, or convenience, products and adding fresh ingredients to round out the meal. They allow you to make food from scratch without the time and labor involved. It also allows you to add a unique touch to dishes quickly and easily.

kitchen efficiency

It’s not a new or unique concept, but if you’ve yet to adopt the practice of using prepared items in your kitchen, it may be time to start. There are many advantages to speed-scratch cooking, and even high-end restaurants incorporate these items into their menus.

Here are six reasons to take advantage of speed-scratch items in your restaurant.

1. Saves Time

One of the most obvious and greatest advantages of using convenience foods is improved kitchen efficiency. Time is money, and the restaurant industry knows that fact all too well.

How much time does your staff spend on prepping ingredients? The speed-scratch concept can help double their output and free up time for more important things. Some speed-scratch items, like flavor concentrates, also give that slow-cooked taste in half the time or add more depth to a meal.

Small restaurant operators can use prepared items to offer more complex dishes without the time-intensive labor it requires.

While prepared items can save you time, it’s important not to go overboard. Remember, the concept of speed-scratch cooking is to enhance ready-made products. If you’re microwaving or reheating frozen, prepared meals, customers will probably notice. So, use these items only when appropriate, and use the opportunity to put your own spin on the dish.

2. Adds Value

Prepared condiments, sauces and dressings can add signature flavor and value to your meals. They’re especially useful in transforming ordinary dishes, like burgers and sandwiches, into memorable meals.

Try adding roasted garlic flavor concentrate to mayonnaise for an artisan aioli, or blend tomato pesto flavor concentrate into a vinaigrette to add a subtle umami note.

These simple touches add value to a dish, and help you create those unique, signature meals that customers crave. The perceived value of these ingredients will allow you to charge more for these menu items, which can offset the cost of the products.

You can often find unique flavor concentrates and other prepared items difficult to create from scratch in your own kitchen. Speed scratch products will allow you to provide unique dishes that would have been very difficult or impossible to create by hand.

make food from scratch

3. Saves on Labor

Speed-scratch items allow operators to create custom meals without the added labor. Add seeds and seasonings to ready-to-bake rolls, or finish ready-made produce with your own combination of herbs and spices.

Imagine the time and labor it would take to bake bread from scratch. Why spend all of those resources when you can accomplish the same homemade taste with ready-bake rolls?

With time- and labor-intensive foods, like bread and certain sauces, it makes sense to choose a prepared product. This is especially true if these items aren’t a part of your core menu. For example, the free bread served before meals can be ready-to-bake or prepared. Customers aren’t paying for the item, and they probably didn’t come to your restaurant for the bread. It won’t make or break their experience, but they will appreciate having something to snack on before their meal arrives.

Some convenience items do come at a higher cost, and although you’ll save on labor, you’ll need to consider whether the labor savings outweigh the additional cost.

To make this comparison, you’ll need to consider how much time it will take to produce the item from scratch using in-house ingredients and labor. Break it down to determine the cost per ounce, pound or whichever metric makes sense. Compare that cost to the cost of the prepared item.

4. Versatile

Prepared items can be extremely versatile. A table-ready roasted chicken can be served as an entrée, but that same chicken can be shredded for sandwiches or tossed with pasta. Versatile ingredients are an asset to any restaurant kitchen.

When speed-scratch foods can be used in different ways across the menu, you save even more in food costs and labor. This same rule can be applied to condiments, dressings, sauces and flavor concentrates. Using these items across different dishes will add flavor, complexity and a “signature taste.”

scratch meals

5. Consistency

If you want to develop a loyal customer base, you have to deliver meals that are consistently delicious. If your chicken is moist and tender one day and dry the next, customers will notice.

Inconsistency can cause you to lose diners, but it can be a challenge to ensure that all dishes taste the same each time it leaves the kitchen. Speed scratch foods can help with this issue by ensuring your flavors are consistent every time.

In many cases, suppliers offer consistency in both flavor and reliability. It's not always easy to find that same level of consistency with fresh food suppliers.

6. Adds Quality

Some restaurant operators are apprehensive about using prepared or speed scratch items because they’re afraid it will diminish the quality of their food. However, there are many suppliers that offer the highest-quality products that will only enhance the flavor of your dishes.

Of course, high-quality prepared items will come at a higher price. But in many cases, the labor, time and food savings make it worth the cost, particularly if you can add a unique flavor to the dish.

There are many benefits to incorporating speed scratch items into your menu. Most importantly, you’ll save time, but you’ll also save on labor while adding quality, consistency and value to your food. Be picky about the prepared items. Choosing high-quality products will ensure that your dishes meet the standards customers expect.