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Foodservice labor crunch: opportunity for value-added produce?

restaurant employee staff shortage popmenu
A survey by Popshelf suggests restaurants traffic has returned, but the majority of operators say they don’t have the staff to keep up.

We come across surveys and studies from restaurant operators about the labor crunch regularly. In the latest from Popmenu, restaurant operators say they’re seeing traffic counts and demand comparable to pre-pandemic levels, but staffing remains an issue.

Fifty-one percent of operators said they do not have enough staff to support on-premise dining. It seems that every industry is suffering similar issues. Airlines are a noteworthy example showing massive cancellations and delays due in part to lack of staff.

But, unlike airlines, foodservice has been able to adapt rapidly, and continues to find opportunities to automate, shift to off-premise dining, and identify efficiencies in the supply chain.

Is it time to take another look at value-added produce?

We’re about a month away from the International Fresh Produce Association’s Foodservice Show in Monterey, CA. I expect the value-added products marketed to operators to be more prominent than ever.

Operators are looking for any way to relieve pain points in the kitchen and optimize precious labor hours.

We all know it takes a lot of time to chop those veggies. Just one example: Gill’s Onions estimates it takes 90 minutes for an employee to work a 50-pound sack of onions in to approximately 35 pounds of usable diced onions. They also provide a labor calculator to see how much operators can save by using pre-cut onions.

This isn’t a new solution. Fresh-cut has been around for decades.

But it has been improving for decades, as well. Before you start shopping for robotic line cooks, maybe it’s time for a second look at avocado halves, mango cheeks, or ready-made mirepoix.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.