WOOSTER, Ohio -- Buehler Food Markets here has used its brand new cook/chill fresh meals facility to centralize production of popular deli and restaurant menu items.
"This is a really exciting project. We're committed to doing our own recipes and doing them as well as we can," said Garry Stadden, food-service supervisor for Buehler.
"The principals in the company have made a commitment to that. We'll be doing cook/chill in a major way now that's really exciting and cutting edge."
Stadden said company officials hope the facility, which opened in early May, will help Buehler create food products with greater consistency and enhanced safety for the restaurants, delis and meals departments in the 10-store chain.
Company officials also hope the central production facility will allow increased numbers of prepared food items that the company produces for itself.
The company will continue to make some items in-store, but most production will be eventually moved to the cook/chill facility, Stadden said. While Buehler is still developing the cook/chill production program, some items, like pot roasts served in all Buehler's restaurants, are logical candidates for central production.
"All our restaurants use the same pot roast recipe," Stadden said. "But here's a chance for us to do it all in one location -- trim it, bag it and season it -- and the consistency and safety of the food will be the same, it all will come out of one place and we won't be duplicating the same effort in nine different locations."
Equipment used in the facility includes large cooker/coolers and a tumble chiller that allows quick chilling of food from just-cooked temperatures through the room temperature danger zone until below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The cook/chill process keeps harmful bacteria counts low.
Potential uses for the facility include marinating and roasting meats and poultry sealed in Cryovac bags, processing vegetables, baking desserts and making and packing dips and wet salads. The restaurants will still operate with full kitchens and grills, but Buehler can now centrally produce marinades and even marinate all meat and poultry under controlled conditions, Stadden said.
"We are getting more confident and experienced, and trying out preparation of new items one at a time. We were making dips in 10 different locations, and now we can make them all in one."
Items prepared in the facility are shipped out daily in bulk to be sold from the restaurants and delis, or repacked to be stocked on self-service shelves in each store. Eventually, Stadden said, Buehler will begin packing small containers in the facility, bypassing in-store repacking.
Buehler has hired a food-service cook/chill expert, and has added staffers to work in the facility, which will supply the stores.