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When protein prices are up, think sides

Q:

I’ve heard that the price of beef is going to remain high until 2015 because last year’s drought forced a reduction in herds. The same thing seems to be happening with pork and chicken costs per pound and even shrimp is in a down cycle for availability.  While I don't want to scare customers away with higher entree prices or visually smaller cuts of meat on the plate, what can I do to reduce my costs?

A:

One solution is to reduce the protein ounces and add a small portion side dish for no extra charge. This can work very well as the guest still feels full. Seasons 52 has done reasonable size portions of protein to promote healthy eating choices while limiting calories and enhancing flavor. So has Cheesecake Factory, and in my experience, ordering a smaller portion of the wonderful Miso Salmon is just as satisfying. Now if only I could get them to serve it with mashed potatoes instead of rice…

If you use potatoes as your side, small side dish portions of scalloped or au gratin work well in this scenario as does a reduced-size mashed potato. Using russets as a comparison, reds and yellows may be double the cost per ounce, and fingerlings up to four times the cost. If your budget can handle it, a spoonful of roasted fingerlings can be easy to portion out and looks great on the plate.

Another solution is to move the side to the center of the plate, whether it be pasta, rice, or my favorite—the Idaho potato. A baked potato entree can be the perfect solution for a lunch selection instead of trying to sell a smaller portion of meat than offered at dinnertime or a reduced protein portion that makes the guest grumble.

Find several recipe examples from the Idaho Potato Commission below.