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“The main trend is Russian cuisine”

Ilya Serov, General Director of Food-Master Managing Company LLC, told RBC + why restaurants with borsch, pork chop and mashed potatoes will never go out of fashion in Russia.

– Incomes of the population in Russia are not growing, but people are used to going to cafes and eating outside the house. How, in your opinion, is the catering being rebuilt?

– This issue has been relevant since the beginning of the 2014 crisis. As soon as something happens – with oil, the dollar, sanctions, people have to tighten their belts. Cost reduction primarily covers optional purchases: new equipment, clothing.

toys. Consumers began to save money on cafes. However, as shown by the results of a survey conducted by RBC Market Research at the end of May 2018, people do not stop going to catering: they cut their expenses by ordering fewer food and drinks, or choosing cheaper establishments.

Middle-segment establishments suffer more than others during the crisis. Gourmet restaurants are also closing down. Democratic concepts remain successful, promotions and special offers are becoming increasingly important. The word “available” is the most important word right now.

These are two different consumption planets. What I said about accessibility is true primarily for the regions. For example, our network “Vilka-Lozhka” has a unique combo offer: a lunch consisting of salad, soup, main course, with a drink and bread – for 129 rubles. The average check at Vilka-Lozhka is 220 rubles. At the same time, people really eat in a restaurant, comfortably sitting on soft sofas.

– In Moscow, there is an increase in demand for healthy food, even when it comes to fast food. Do you see this in the regions?

– Menu “Forks-Spoons” – a priori healthy food. We represent classic Russian-Soviet cuisine. Hits like Olivier and cabbage salad, soup is a must – borscht, hodgepodge, second hot dishes in a classic performance. All this is recommended for use as a complete food for every day.

Such food is definitely healthier than any fast food or street food. We have a lot of students who are given money by their parents to go to the “Fork-Spoon” and eat right. And many children from schools closest to restaurants come running to us for lunch. Unlike many fast food outlets, we have normal healthy food without flavor enhancers or preservatives.

– You said about the difference between Moscow and the regions. Are there differences in consumer preferences between different regions?

– They are insignificant. Throughout Mother Russia, people eat the same thing. They say that they need a wide assortment, but in fact they take borscht, chicken or cutlet and mashed potatoes. And we are ready to eat familiar foods every day in different combinations.

 For a chain under a single brand, stability and reproducibility of quality are important. How do you deal with the problem?

– Indeed, people want, under the familiar guise of global networks in any part of the world, to get what they love, what they are used to. Our assortment, despite the outward simplicity of the concept, is much more difficult to manufacture than standard burgers.

We achieve consistent quality of homemade food thanks to the fact that the production is centralized. We have several accredited manufacturers of restaurant products. These factories prepare two thirds of the assortment of each “Fork-Spoon”. Since, so to speak, all the cabbage soup is cooked in one place, we have the same technological structure as the leading international chains.

Kitchen factories use Cook & Chill and Cook & Freeze technologies. Cook & Chill is the preparation of ready-to-eat meals that have been blast chilled to + 3 ° C. In this form, dishes can be stored for up to 48 hours; they are supplied to all restaurants of the chain within a radius of 300-400 km. With the Cook & Freeze technology, ready-made food is blast-frozen to –18 ° С. The shelf life of products is increased to 1–3 months, they can be delivered over long distances while maintaining all the flavoring properties.

These are original developments of our technologists. Everything is under strict control, from the procurement of raw materials to transportation: every day a car with ready-made culinary products is sent to the restaurant. There is no need to keep expensive highly qualified chefs at the points of sale – the products need only be properly mixed, boiled, portioned and laid out for distribution. Therefore, the staff costs of our restaurants are minimal. And there is practically no kitchen space there, respectively, and the rent is less than that of enterprises with a full cooking cycle. All this provides our establishments with a good economy.

– One of the main modern trends in public catering is speed, and for us this is the main KPI of management. The “Fork-Spoon” concept is for dining, we earn our main money from 12:00 to 16:00. The guest is served at the distribution in no more than five minutes, even during rush hour. On average, it turns out even 3.5-4 minutes. This is very important, because if in the evening you can sit at the table, then at lunchtime everyone has a limit of time.

Another trend is that today two out of three Russians surveyed by RBC Market Research choose Russian cuisine. Therefore, we do not particularly amuse ourselves with adding something Japanese or Chinese to our format. Every day we have more than a hundred types of dishes on our menu – salads, soups, snacks, drinks, main courses with side dishes, and all this is mostly national cuisine. Nevertheless, they recently introduced, for example, pasta, because it has ceased to be something special Italian, it has turned into a worldwide dish.

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