you don’t have to DIY EVERYTHING

In Concept & Design, Practices for Thought

out1If your operations goes through 3,000 eggs a day, you can get them delivered to you beaten or boiled and peeled in vacuum packs. That’s what Marina Bay Sands, Singapore does. Just one of the ways it works to cut down labour and
time in its various kitchens around the resort that caters to customers 24/7. Although doing by hand is not hard but 3,000 takes time which the Executive Chef can deploy staff to more skill-oriented tasks. The problem of manpower, space constraints, increasing costs are not going away anytime soon and as we come to another end of the year; businesses would evaluate their cost management and think of ways to be more effective with it. Hence, let’s look at the area of outsourcing, generally defined as contracting a particular task, role or process to a third party over a period of time who is then responsible for its success.

Even big companies do it. Referencing Anthony Alan Foods Ltd, the supplying company for Weight Watchers brand of lower-calorie baker y products sold at supermarkets – while
needing a bigger production facility, it also realised that its core competency to be in food technology, product development and marketing. Said Matt Carr; “star ting a food production facility is incredibly expensive and complex. Outsourcing would allow us to concentrate on our core skills and give us the flexibility to introduce new products quickly as well as react swiftly to customer demands. These are major competitive advantages”.

Mega Foods”. National Geographic Channel

out2The business of outsourcing has grown from the days of offering peeled onions, garlic and vegetables. Now companies can customise the kind of cuts of vegetables your kitchen requires to even helping you produce a secret recipe in large quantities. Although many owners feel that daily jobs are easily done by hand, it still requires labour. If you can train a staff to do more complex jobs, why keep him/her on the level of mincing, peeling or cutting?

Sometimes chefs are averse to using cooked items from other places or powdered preparations as they feel it lacks authenticity but what if these outsourcing engagements can free up the team’s time to create other exciting items or perfect their signature dishes?

If an establishment selling mid-range priced food wants to offer budget set lunches like a spagetthi, soup and drink for $15++ because its regular menu is more suited for a leisurely meal, preparing a set meal from scratch might stretch the cost. In comes the pre-cooked sauces and soups that can be reheated and customised with condiments that you wish. These can come packed in portions that you require which ensures less wastage and cross contamination plus it is easy for any newbie to handle. If you think that a diner will recognise the item you outsourced because 10 other places buy from the same supplier; a respondent from a survey said “I guess, unless we have savvy tastebuds, we’re not going to be able to tell whether we have had the same beef rendang at more than one place. Honestly, unless I ate it the day before, I’m not sure that I could tell the difference.

In the competitive world of food business, the pie is often not enough to feed ever y player. As many as there are people dreaming of owning their place, there are also as many who may not be versed in culinary arts and/or business management; often leading to misplaced priorities one of which is trying to do everything on their own. On hindsight, it looks like a cost efficiency method because ever y task is done in-house but in the long run, usually the cost (labour, utilities, time, lack of skill) ends up higher compared to getting someone else to do it. We speak to various suppliers on how you can incorporate their products or ser vices into your business to make your operations more efficient and productive in the right places.

“Pick your battles”, says Soh Chung-Ky, Director of Bangi Development Corporation that owns Hotel Bangi-Putrajaya and Bangi Golf Resort. He says that people are not likely to travel all the way to the hotel to have a Western dessert, for example, simply because that isn’t its core focus. Therefore, save your time for your best works. Known for its Asian cuisine, it is a popular venue for banquet functions. With a kitchen that mirrors an equipment geek’s fantasy and through precise calculations alongside research & development, it is no sweat for them to serve 2,000 diners in a single event. With such organised SOPs in place, it was only a matter of time to offer solutions to independent food outlets. Chung-Ky says that many chefs are pressured to continue maintaining quality of food in spite of the rise of food costs, logistics, labour and utility. Many business owners resist raising prices as it tends to be sensitive for customers and the end measure is usually shrinking portions or removing elements from a dish; but in the long run, it is unlikely to be sustainable.

BGR Meal-Pro offers “Traditional Malay”dishes which are vacuum-packed and ready to serve by reheating the entire bag in hot water. At the recent FoodHotelMalaysia exhibition, the crowd had the opportunity to sample a Malaysian favourite of ‘beef rendang’. It is a laborious dish to prepare as many condiments and spices are required, time to cook the paste followed by slow cooking the beef till tender. Maybe this is not your signature dish but you’d still want to add a variety to your menu. With the fraction of a cost required to prepare it on your own, chefs can continue doing what they’re good at. Buying pre-cooked food does not mean it is a fixed solution either; you can ser ve the dish however you want to; by adding garnish or pairing it with white rice, bread or any other unique takes. Same goes with the versatile ‘sambal’ that is a neccessity in Malaysia’s national dish of ‘nasi lemak’ – it is one item that you can add any protein items to and there you have it, a full range of ‘nasi lemak’ options at various prices!


The reality of food business is many owners aren’t directly involved in day-to-day operations and do not come from culinary backgrounds. This would be a way to ensure that food is always consistent and relieve some of the stress of having to hire many chefs as all you need to do is teach the crew to prepare and plate. You could have plans to expand your business and cook on a higher volume and would like to sell your own menu. Chung-Ky says that BGR Meal-Pro can also be an interim solution whilst you are experimenting on how to use the technology in equipment to improve operation efficiency. “After 6 months, you can get rid of us or if you want to continue utilising our product, we can provide you the training to do so”, he said. Pre-cooked items
also help in reducing wastage because they are prepared and stored to the highest safety standards. Using the cookchill technology, accurate temperatures are calibrated to prevent deterioration caused by microorganisms, enzymic and chemical reactions. Portioned in reasonable sized packs, operators don’t have to keep an entire pot in the refrigerator and risk excess wastage.

bgrFor more information on BGR Meal-Pro,
call +6012 3835436or e-mail

“In the next few years, ever ything will be outsourced”, says Dato’ Frankie Cheah, Managing Director of GreenMaster. Although many business owners think that cutting vegetables is easily done in-house; he offered a perspective where an outlet is within a mall – if you can minimise space by removing the area for cutting, won’t you be able to make more room for tables and generate more profits? Also, cutting is a skill and depending who cuts it, the time needed and yield will definitely vary so you’re not guaranteed a consistent food cost. For example, if you buy raw broccoli for RM12/kg, your costs increase when you account for labour, time to cut and water for washing. As most establishments don’t use the stem, it is considered wastage. What if you could buy it readily prepared for RM8/kg?

Vegetables come vacuum packed to prolong its shelf life while peeled potatoes come packed in water to prevent oxidation. With a range of tools, GreenMaster is able to customise any type of cuts a customer requires and pack them according to desired weight. Prices will vary but it helps for smaller businesses to control wastage. While frozen vegetables are popular in the West, it still faces some level of resistance here, says Dato’ Frankie as many think frozen means not fresh though it is actually the same. By quickly blanching and then shocking the vegetables in an ice bath; the colours and nutrients are locked in. To increase GreenMaster’s range of prepared vegetables, he begun investing in machines that were able to process vegetables in big batches and work with local farmers to grow the items that are highly demanded by the local F&B business.

The Minimum Order Requirement (MOQ) actually depends on the deliver y to location. GreenMaster typically works with establishments running central kitchens and would not be an issue to deliver there but to send products to each of its branches will not be a logistically sound move for the company. Aside vegetables, you can also purchase cooking sauces, jams and even peeled hard boiled eggs from Greenmaster.



Star ting as a business-to-consumer model in providing high end fruits 15 years ago, FRESHdirect operated a physical shop as well as ran deliveries of the fruits to its discerning customers in Singapore. From fruits, customers started to request for vegetables and about the same time, a chain brand which started out with 3 outlets in the country approached them to supply the fresh goods. And so FRESHdirect grew alongside the brand which now has more than 100 outlets on the island. “We were lucky”, said founder, Desmond Lee of its 15-year long sustainability.

When the labour crunch hit the foodservice industry, they saw an opportunity. Where “everyone wants to be a chef but nobody wants to be a cook”and do jobs that are deemed menial such as washing and cutting vegetables. This led to the establishment of Kitchenomics; a vegetable processing outfit. Labour savings aside, wastage is eliminated as the production line’s ability to process about 1-2 tonnes of vegetables a day assures maximum yield and inevitably passes cost control benefits to customers. So, if your kitchen is cooking for 2000 pax in a day, it makes absolute sense to commission a supplier to process all the vegetables you would need.

Customers can enjoy customised services; from requesting a full range of cuts to specific items, for example, fine dining chefs who do not want to peel potatoes. As preservation of produce is vital, Desmond says that technological advancements like ozone greatly helps to reduce contamination and keep food fresh longer as opposed to chlorine. Improper handling tends to happen with inexperienced staff or staff who lack to pay attention to safety procedures. All Kitchenomics products are HACCP certified and must come with a production and expiry date. The company also does regular inspections and testings on their own accord to ensure peace of mind for its customers. Kitchenomics also provides popular ready-made soups that are frozen in ice blocks for keeping and it can also work on mass producing special recipe sauces and soups. In continuing the business of being an outsourcing solution, FRESHdirectis now embarking on a bread and cakes line aiming to offer more options to business owners especially those who are keen on running a small outfit.

Many of us would not mind sweet treat after a meal and cakes are welcomed with your favourite coffee or tea. Le Cordon Bleu graduates, Chef Alina Hew and Chef Joanne Yeong founded Cake Crisis Central (C3) upon observing the lack of cakes in cafes around Kuala Lumpur. With their motto of “We Bake, You Sell”, businesses are able to add on cakes, cookies, macarons and muffins to their menu. Operating without a retainer basis means customers have the flexibility to only purchase cakes when they need to, with the minimal order of 3 whole cakes per order and a cash-on-delivery terms of payment.

Currently delivering within Klang Valley in its cold truck, Chef Alina notes that handling of these delicate items are of great importance. For example, a durian cake must be placed on its own in the truck as its strong smell would be absorbed by other cakes. From the truck to the store, the team also makes sure customers are guided on how to store the cakes. Service providers should not assume that customers or the staff know what to do as C3 has received feedback of the cakes being compromised; only to find out that it was improperly kept in a freezer, not a chiller! Cakes can generally keep up to 4 days when covered in a container at the end of business day to prevent dryness and from absorbing refrigeration smell. Meanwhile, macarons can be displayed in the chiller for 3 days and also must be covered in a container for storage and the cookies have a shelf life of 10 days in an environment of 24-26°C. C3’s products do not have an identifying trait so that businesses who buy from them have the freedom to dress the cakes up and present it in a unique way to diners.

sweet2Chef Joanne, the winner of Luzerne Pastry Chef of the Year at World Gourmet Summit 2015 showed us around the production kitchen and tells us that it can produce up to 50 cakes daily, on a menu that comprises classics with a modern twist and staples every cafe should have alongside some seasonal specialties. In expanding their business, Chef Alina said that they have star ted another kitchen that develops pasta sauces, soups and even roast chicken for establishments that want to serve simple meals in quick time.

So while you may receive certain items from suppliers, you could also star t consider being a supplier your self. By that, we mean to bring some signature items out of the restaurant so that it reaches a wider market. For example, items like a paste, sauce, condiment that people can easily add to their meals at home when they feel like a taste of your restaurant. Some people might only make them as a hobby, only when they have time to be sold to friends or at bazaars but for the purpose of volume and consistency, it makes sense to engage a production kitchen.

Reasons being:
• Health regulations to meet if you intend to sell it commercially. Dedicated production kitchens are usually certified by the respective country’s / district Food Safety body and should possess the necessary certifications to produce food for the masses.
• Not having to expand your kitchen to accomodate the production and such kitchens purchase ingredients and even packaging supplies in huge amounts which in turn potentially lowers your cost.
• Their experience in large volume cooking is possibly helpful in tweaking your recipe. It is not as simple as tripling every ingredient in the making of 10 to 1000 bottles of your special item. Some kitchens also carry out recipe research & development for a product idea which doesn’t have a specific recipe.
• The manufacturer can potentially expand your network by introducing you to other distributors.

Running a food business is not all about cooking. As an owner; honestly, how much time do you have to oversee the supply and deliver y of produce, cooking consistency and schedule of production (if any), service standards, payroll, staffing, compliance to regulations, customer feedback, cleanliness, promotional activities and many other items?

kitchen3Let’s talk about sanitation. It is undoubtedly crucial because a dirty outlet puts people off not to mention it becomes a breeding ground for a host of health issues. Many owners think that cleaning up a kitchen is just like how you’d clean up after cooking at home but it does not work like this in the real world. You hired a chef, wait staff or a manager, not a cleaner. Imagine expecting them to clean up at the end of a long service even though you could pay them more but would they have the energy to do a thorough job? Perhaps you think that task distribution can work in completing the cleaning works but the fact is they are still working the same amount of hours and will then lose focus in their primary job. This ends up with you probably paying over time for them to complete all their duties. With staff turnover on high levels, re-training new ones to follow the cleaning procedure is probably another task you don’t require. While the front of-house can be tasked with cleaning of tables but when it comes to the whole premise, particularly the kitchen, some technical know-how is needed. Companies specialising in cleaning
most likely trained their staff to understand the kind of cleaning a facility would need; be it a commercial kitchen, manufacturing facility or shopping mall. They would know the difference between cleaning products and which are the best to use for particular areas as well as the correct cleaning methods; for example, how to get rid of grease effectively or how to safely clean cooking vessels according to the type of material.

foodpandaAnother aspect of restaurant management you can outsource is marketing strategies by hiring creative agencies to manage your portfolio. Depending on your needs, the agency can simply be an executing arm to design and print your promotional materials and/or hired to manage social media if you feel that your ideas work but you do not have the time and resources to see them through. Or if budget permits, you can have the agency responsible to think up new advertising ideas on a determined frequency especially during festive occasions. On a more micro or day-to-day promotional methods, there are independent service providers you can work with to provide added value to customers.

For example, food delivery services that has expanded from only fast food to providing diners items they’d travel to a restaurant to eat. This service has catapulted the foodpanda company to visibility in more than 40 countries across 5 continents within 3 years since its establishment. More than 45,000 restaurants worldwide are finding it beneficial to increase its revenue by having a dedicated delivery service to give its food a wider reach. You won’t have to worry about hiring a despatch person to standby and only do one job or risk him/her not showing up without a back-up. Signing up with foodpanda gets you added exposure as the company will include your establishment whenever relevant to its marketing theme, in its website, social media, printed material and the occasional discounts to customers (this is on foodpanda’s own accord and does not affect the restaurateur’s returns). What you pay foodpanda is a percentage of commission based on the amount of orders you received each month via its platform.

tableappAnother service that is gaining ground is mobile apps for reservations. The increase usage of smartphones nowadays has taken the traditional phone calls pretty much out of the picture. Busy diners can make instant
reservations anytime of the day and receive exclusive promotions and updates on restaurants, menus, special events celebrated by restaurants around town, selected reviews, price range and ambience to help them plan their dining trail. This application is known by different names in various countries and in Malaysia and Thailand, restaurants can work with TABLEAPP. One of its key features is the integration whereby visitors to your restaurant’s Facebook page can make a reservation directly without having to open up the TABLEAPP application to do so. It also partners other sites to increase your presence as potential customers can discover and book a place at your restaurant through other food review portals or blogs.

Eileen Chanyou don’t have to DIY EVERYTHING