Christmas countdown – what to buy and when

by PSL - your food solutions partner

Christmas is a busy and critical time for most hospitality businesses with December a key revenue and profit month. As with all food and beverage events careful preparation and planning will ensure delivery, guest satisfaction, efficiency and profitability are all maximised.

Menu planning

A lot of hotels and restaurants have set menus over the Christmas period, which limits the number of different dishes needed to be prepared. However, when creating these menus, remember to take into account different diets. There should be at least one vegetarian option on the menu, and you also need to consider some common intolerances and allergens that may require food to be free from nuts, dairy or gluten. Most importantly make sure all your menus are also accurately costed ,  PSL offers a service that can help with both allergen management and recipe costings.

Sourcing food

Turkey remains a popular item on Christmas menus. In addition to home grown British breeds, much turkey breast is imported to the UK from Italy, Poland and Romania. Although a bird flu outbreak earlier in the year did limit production, suppliers are aiming for normal levels by Christmas. Chicken also provides another white meat alternative at a lower cost point. However, the poor value of Stirling means that prices will be higher. Other meat, including beef, will also increase in price as Christmas draws near. To get the best prices on fresh meat, place orders and lock in prices with your suppliers during October and November.

If you are serving chipolatas or pigs in blankets with the meal, these can be purchased, prepared and frozen before December. This will allow you to take advantage of cheaper prices, as well as taking the pressure off chefs during the busy Christmas period.

From salmon as a starter to lemon sole, monkfish and scallops as a main, fish tends to feature heavily on Christmas menus. Getting fresh wild fish during December is expensive and becomes even trickier as many fishermen take a break between Christmas and New Year. Poor weather can hamper the harvests of both fishermen and fish farms, further reducing availability. It is advisable to place orders for fresh fish well in advance and freeze until needed that way you have total control.

Unless you are using frozen vegetables, these will need to be delivered fresh. Again, forward planning and ordering in early November can enable you to lock in lower prices.

When planning Christmas menus, do not forget to factor in every ingredient, and do not assume that you can easily source it. Butter, for example, is currently in short supply and the situation seems to be worsening. It is a good idea to buy butter now and freeze it to ensure that you have enough. For assistance with obtaining better food pricing, visit PSL

Further top tips for December

  • Arrange for 2/3 deliveries each week and rota additional staff to ensure proper checks can be made, checking weights and claiming credits for any shortages or incorrect specifications. PSL can offer an onsite Operational support service.
  • Always buy turkey net weight and request bones free of charge.
  • Think food miles – only use seasonal UK vegetables e.g. root vegetables.
  • Consider using frozen prepared sprouts to save on labour and food costs, cooked right will deliver the same flavour.
  • When using smoked salmon, order “Banqueting sides” these are generally long cut and all the brown meat is generally removed giving 100% yield.
  • Cut fondant potatoes out of baking potatoes “60’s” 50% cheaper than chateau potatoes.
  • Add dishes from your Christmas menu to your restaurant menu – reduces labour and food wastage.
  • Consider Christmas pudding soufflé with pieces of pudding left over from service and Christmas pudding ice cream.
  • Add some mincemeat to your biscuits and scones for a festive Afternoon Tea.
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