Foodservice distributor US Foods debuted a number of seafood dishes as part of its “Fall 2022 Scoop” lineup, which includes 22 labor-saving products designed to increase menu profitability.
The Rosemont, Illinois, U.S.A.-based broadliner’s new products include Harbor Banks Hard Cider Battered Wild Alaska Pollock, Harbor Banks Tempura Sushi, Harbor Banks Mini Crab Cakes, and Gluten-Free Crispy Battered Shrimp, and US Foods is also reintroducing its Smoked Norwegian Trout.
“The US Foods exclusive brand seafood items developed for Fall Scoop make it easier for operators to discover new seafood products that are on-trend, versatile and pre-prepped, and help deliver profit-building menu opportunities and back-of-house cost savings,” US Foods Vice Product of Product Development and Innovation Stacey Kinkaid told SeafoodSource.
Rising labor costs, increased food costs, and diner satisfaction are the top three concerns on restaurant operators’ minds right now, according to Kinkaid.
“[The Fall Scoop] highlights labor-saving products that offer upsell, swap and add-on opportunities,” Kinkaid said. “We want to help increase an operator’s menu profitability and retain and attract diners.”
The company’s Harbor Banks Hard Cider Battered Wild Alaska Pollock was designed “with the economic aspects of pollock in mind and labor savings benefits for the operator, given its pre-battered,” Kinkaid said. The Marine Stewardship Council-certified product is part of US Foods’ Serve Good responsible sourcing program, he said.
“We also saw an opportunity for operators to leverage the hard cider taste attributes as an upsell opportunity for a unique take on a fish fry,” he said.
US Foods designed the new Harbor Banks Gluten-Free Crispy Battered Shrimp to support restaurant operators as they aim to provide simple swaps on the menu for diners who may have special dietary needs. Shrimp is the most-popular seafood item on restaurant menus, with a 64 percent menu penetration, according to Datassential, but gluten-free options for battered shrimp are limited, Kinkaid said.
“It obviously offers labor savings in that it is pre-battered for the operator and it’s also very versatile, so operators can menu it as a swap for a variety of menu offerings,” Kinkaid said.
The Gluten-Free Shrimp is also part of US Foods’ Serve Good Program and is Best Aquaculture Practices-certified.
Another new item, Harbor Banks Tempura Sushi, enables restaurant operators to “easily menu what is traditionally a very hard item to make back-of-house, by pre-prepping the item beforehand,” Kinkaid said.
“We believe a menu item like this battered sushi role is versatile enough to menu as an appetizer, a center-of-plate offering, or even as a premium topper on an Asian-style bowl, helping to boost menu profits,” he said.
The MSC-certified Tempura Sushi is part of US Foods’ Serve Good program.
The new Harbor Banks Mini Crab Cakes also allow for “simple upsells on the menu to increase profits,” Kinkaid said.
“And again, versatility is key: the cakes can be easily added to the menu as an appetizer, stuffing, topping for a salad or add on to an entrée like steak for surf and turf,” he said.
The crab cakes are a part of US Foods’ Progress Check program, which recognizes seafood vendors that have made significant progress toward meeting the distributor’s Serve Good program sustainability standards.
Kinkaid declined to name specific suppliers for its seafood items for “competitive reasons.”
According to Kinkaid, some operators are removing higher-priced items from the menu that are not as popular, due to higher operating costs. Others are “adding swaps to attract diners and upsell – for example, items that meet certain dietary restrictions like the gluten-free shrimp,” Kinkaid said.
“In some cases, we have operators adding new seafood items to freshen up the menu, but they’re choosing products that are more versatile across the menu and also easier to handle back-of-house, so pre-prepped for ease,” she added.
US Foods also recently announced the expansion of its distribution center in Marrero, Louisiana, U.S.A., tripling its size so it can now house a full assortment of broadline items. The facility was expanded to include a full-service demonstration kitchen and training center to support culinary innovation, as well as an interactive technology center. US Foods obtained the facility through its 2017 acquisition of Marrero-based F. Christiana and began the expansion of the distribution center in 2019.
“This is an important milestone for our growing Louisiana team as we continue to partner with local foodservice operators who support our vibrant and thriving New Orleans community,” US Foods Market Vice President Dan Hildreth said in a press release. “We value our role in helping our local restaurants ‘Make It’ with our differentiated and expanded resources and services and look forward to serving additional markets with our growing service footprint.”
Earlier this year, US Foods launched an aggressive growth plan with its Chef’store foodservice-focused retail concept, reaching 85 locations across the U.S.