When it feels like the choice to be made is between saving people’s jobs or saving our family's lives, consumers are at a loss to know how to help.
Turning meals into convenient takeout is one option, and, as consumers, we should consider the best and safest way to support these restaurants through the current crisis. Order your meal through reputable delivery services or from the establishment directly.
Another option is for restaurants to diversify and turn it into a packaged meal that can be picked up from a retailer, and reheated. Or, take a look at your most popular dishes and see if there’s one component, such as a sauce, a herb blend, a jam or a curry paste, that can be packaged for retail sale so that customers can be reminded of your restaurant every time they use it.
When re-purposing restaurant food for a different market, there are some things that both makers and eaters need to be aware of. As much as you LOVE that Big-Name Restaurant Chicken Curry dish, it was made by skilled chefs that have amazing palates and was designed to be cooked and eaten in the same space - as fresh and sizzling as possible.
On the flip side, a store-bought chicken curry was designed to sit on a retail shelf and be re-heated at home. It has gone through many processes - cooked, cooled, portioned, packed, labelled, delivered. That recipe has also been altered to take that long journey into consideration and come out the other side safe, compliant and as tasty as the original.
As a result, the food regulations that apply are different depending on whether the food is consumed on-premises, versus buying from a retail store. They exist to ensure your safety!
For packaged food products, the regulations require that there are processes to be followed when creating a packaged product. Skipping steps in the process could have unintended consequences such as: exposing consumers to additional health risks from undeclared allergens or food safety in processing and delivery. Consider also the risk to the restaurant's hard-earned reputation and the potential for regulatory fines for non-compliance. It’s worth taking a little time to get it right now, resulting in a product to be proud of and established in the market once we are in recovery.
A checklist of some things you’ll need:
- A recipe that works in a packet - taste, test, repeat and refine
- A compliant kitchen - an easy ask if you already have a café or restaurant
- Packaging - appropriate to the product, the retail outlet and to achieve the optimum life on a shelf
- Laboratory testing for shelf life and allergens - equired by law, in most cases, with some exceptions
- Labelling advice and guidance - check out the Food Standards ANZ website and get in touch with a Food Technologist
- A great Brand - to attract attention from new customers, and have your existing customers recognise you on a shelf
Note: don’t forget to notify your local Council Health Officer that your operations have changed. They will need to be aware so you can keep trading without risking non-compliance.
Putting it together for consumers, cooks and your food business
As consumers, consider the best and safest way to support these restaurants through the current crisis. Order your meal through reputable delivery services or from the establishment directly. The food regulations that apply are different to buying from a retail store, and exist to ensure your safety.
To the creative cooks in our favourite local restaurants, we look forward to continued access to your delicious food in our own homes, and to coming back to your venues when this threat has passed.
Finally, if you think you have something that would remind us of your unique and delicious dishes which can be sold from a retail shelf, get in touch with people that can help you get it there. Who knows, a short-term challenge might turn into a long-term solution!
Author: Jane Del Rosso. Jane is the founder and owner of Australia's first kitchen incubator, My Other Kitchen, and the sister brand, The Business of Food consultancy. The Business of Food specialises in gathering a team of experts to help you bring your packaged products to life.
Jane left her career in project management and followed her passion into the kitchens of Melbourne in pursuit of a real food culture. Jane set up the first Australian kitchen incubator in 2008 and concentrated on providing compliant space to make new food products, making it possible for every new food business owner to explore ideas and increase the chances of seeing their food products on a retail shelf.
Morphing into The Business of Food in 2017, Jane's vision is to change the notoriously low success rate of small business in the food industry by minimising the risky start of a food business creating product for a retail shelf.
Enquiries to: Jane Del Rosso
W: The Business of Food