Christmas comes early in foodservice. For suppliers to the catering industry, like Brakes, it comes even earlier.
As the Christmas dinners of 2007 were being eaten the Brakes team were already hard at work looking for what could be improved on or new ideas for 2008.
With a few exceptions, such as the seasonal vegetables, the Brakes Christmas range is available from late August and most of the range is frozen to minimise wastage for those who want to stock up early. It also gives the caterers a chance to trial some of the products and see which ones their customers approve of well before the festive season begins in earnest.
Making life easier for the caterer is a key goal, and one of the ways Brakes aims to do this is by picking up on the consumer interest in provenance.
In its brochure Brakes specifies such items as Shropshire Blue Quince Tart, the fact that its Salmon is Scottish salmon and its Nut Loaf contains Brue valley mature farmhouse Somerset cheddar cheese.
“It’s information that we can give the caterer so they know more about the food,” says Sally Sturley, product knowledge manager at Brakes. “Consumers care more about provenance and where their food is coming from now. It helps our caterers to have this information so they can use it on their menus if they choose to.”
Another way Brakes aims to help busy caterers is to provide meals that can go straight on the plate. Rather than carving a turkey, which Brakes also provides, caterers have the option of choosing a portioned product. The Turkey Tournedos with Duck Stuffing is wrapped in bacon with no strings to cut off aiming to provide an easy meal, which only needs the addition of vegetables. This helps reduce wastage and ensures even distribution across the plates which is important when serving a large group all eating the same thing.
Brakes is also focusing on vegetarian customers again this year with the addition of Nut Loaf, while keeping the vegetarian lines it introduced last year. Vegetarian options are seen as important because customers may not want to eat three or four turkey dinners over the festive period, and may opt for the vegetarian choice, and vegetarians may get the deciding vote on where to book for the Christmas party.
Brakes also provides extras to the food, such as festive napkins and crackers. New this year is the Versailles Range in cream, gold and black. As well as the crackers, three-ply napkins and tete-a-tete placemat it features sacchettos. The sacchettos are folded napkins that can sit beside the plates to tidy away knife, fork and spoon, then be shaken out as napkins during the meal.
Since the smoking ban there has been a rise in the number of pubs and restaurants moving into the coffee shop trend and offering coffee and cakes. Focusing on an area it felt was lacking, Brakes has developed cakes which can be served for an afternoon tea or as a dessert. Sturley says: “We have many desserts, but felt we didn’t really have any cakes. The Rich Fruit Nut Cake and the Pistachio, Fig Plum Frangipane Tart are traditional themed cakes that are perfect served cold as an afternoon tea cake or hot with ice cream as a dessert.”