A few years back, I worked for an Italian casual-dining chain. Placing a product into our supply chain was akin to touting your book on Oprah … a veritable gold rush in the 21st century!

A vendor came to us with an array of spectacular frozen desserts. The Italian flavor profiles were relevant and amazing; so amazing that our senior VP of marketing was ready to fast-track the project. Ready, until the salesman confessed the desserts must be made in-house, at which point the senior VP abruptly left the room and the rest of us soon followed. Had the vendor done their homework, they would have known that showing us desserts from scratch was a waste of time. It was an embarrassing and expensive lesson learned.

On the flip side, when I was VP of culinary for Wolfgang Puck, Niman Ranch came to me with a proposal for partnering on a meat program. They knew I considered my rotisserie and pizza ovens my competitive advantage, and they took the time to understand my food cost to menu pricing ratio. They brought in a bunch of cuts that cooked well in both ovens and that I could sell at a profit. I eventually cross-utilized six cuts into 28 menu items … and a dynamic vendor-chef relationship hatched. The lesson here is, Niman did its homework on my equipment and made the sale.

I know it sounds like common sense, but do your homework on the equipment a restaurant has before approaching them as a prospective account. At Wolfgang, I used to buy a fully cooked roast beef from my broadliner” because I didn’t have a better choice. Niman showed me a clod heart as an alternative. The roasts were consistently seven-to-nine pounds and didn’t need to be trimmed. We applied our own seasoning and roasted them to medium rare in our rotisserie. After yield loss, the roasted clods cost less than the broadliner’s product, and there was no comparison in quality. In addition to perfect cooking, the rotisserie showed our guests that we roasted the beef in-house … it was a home run.

Doing your homework makes you more prepared and confident when you go into a new account and helps you offer new solutions to your regular accounts. Homework might not always result in a gold rush, but it will almost certainly bolster your revenue.

Cuts and Equipment

By now, you know from my monthly columns that I’m a fan of making lists. Lists keep us organized and help create a history of tasks that can be modified and used repeatedly for different customers. Here are a few tips for specific cuts relevant to specific equipment to help your chef customers differentiate themselves from the competition:

    * Cuts of beef and pork that are typically braised or roasted work great in the rotisserie. Suggest menuing a bone-in pork loin cut for rotisserie pork chops at dinner, and slicing leftover loin paper-thin as a rotisserie pork sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch. This is a zero-waste strategy that allows serving a higher quality of meat at lunch than they normally could.

    * Marinated top sirloin baseball steaks seared on cast-iron skillets, then roasted to temperature in an oven, especially a wood-fired pizza oven, are delicious.

    * Flat-top grills are essentially the same as Japanese teppans. Thinly sliced chuck roll menued as shabu shabu-style with teppan grilled crispy garlic and asparagus.

    * Think beyond St. Louis ribs, and suggest other long and slow braising cuts to be finished on the char grill. Some char grills allow wood chips and herbs to be added to the heat elements for an added smoky dimension.

    * As a rule, chefs appreciate vendors that go the extra mile, so suggest innovative ways to cook vegetables and grains together with meat. Even if they don’t take your suggestions, they’ll appreciate your interest in their business.