Before I talk about converting your existing restaurant hot breakfast menu to a drop-off catering menu, there are a few important points you need to consider. First, let’s trace the life of a popular breakfast order that is most likely served in your restaurant:
- Bacon, Sausage or Ham
- Hash Browned Potatoes
- Toast, English Muffins, etc.
If everything is cooked to order, your cook will throw the bacon on the grill, put down the hash browns, wait a couple of minutes, crack or scramble the eggs, put the toast in the toaster, place the eggs on the grill or in a pan, time everything to be done at the same moment, plate it, garnish it, and get the food out.
Now think about what happens to this delicate food if it is not picked up quickly by waitstaff. The eggs can get cold, the bacon can develop a layer of congealed grease, and the toast can quickly cool. Time is definitely of the essence here.
Even if you have never catered a hot breakfast, you can already see the challenges involved. Most caterers use hotel pans or aluminum pans to hold all of the hot food. While the food in these pans may stay hot for a while during transit, you need a way to keep it hot longer, so some kind of warmer will be to be used to ensure proper food temperature. We’re all familiar with chafers—whether simple wire racks or ornate stainless steel or even silver—but you need to have an idea of what your food is going to look like after it has been delivered to your customer, and after it has possibly sat in the chafer for 30 or more minutes.
Of course some of you may have breakfast buffets where you are continually cooking product and switching out pans. Drop-off works something like this but many times you only have one shot to get it done right. If your restaurant breakfast buffet is looking ugly, you can tell your staff to replace the offending items; if you just dropped off breakfast food for 100 people and left, you’re done and you may be permanently finished if your food doesn’t hold up.
We spent a lot of time perfecting or breakfast catering menus as we searched for the perfect products that would look great, hold up, taste good and make our customers happy.
Initially, we calculated how long a product needed to perform to get us from cooking through eating. This is most always many minutes longer than what you are used to in your restaurant. In a catering atmosphere, a 9:00 a.m. scheduled hot breakfast order time-frame may look like this:
- 7:00 – assemble products
- 7:15 – cook potatoes
- 7:30 - cook bacon
- 7:40 - cook eggs
- 8:00 - pan all food
- 8:15 - order leaves your kitchen
- 8:35 - order arrives at the location
- 8:50 - order is set up
- 9:00 - guests begin to eat
That was two hours from start to serving. The good news is that we spent years perfecting our hot breakfast deliveries and we were able to successfully do 35 separate orders on one of our record days.
Next time I’ll explain exactly how we did it, the problems we faced, and how we began to solve them.