• Reduce food waste: With cross-utilization, you have the opportunity to use an ingredient in its entirety. For example, vegetable peels and chicken bones can become broth, instead of garbage. While you can’t always use everything, you’d be surprised at what can be used. By utilizing each and every part of your ingredients, you’ll have less to throw away. 

  • Restaurant cost savings:  By using each ingredient in several different ways, you’re essentially extracting more value from your inventory. This means you’ll lower food costs, and increase profitability. By using tools such as an inventory management system, you can track ingredient quantities, monitor expiration dates, and manage ingredient usage overall. 

  • Keep things organized: Everyone who works in a restaurant knows the premium put on available storage. Cross-utilizing ingredients mean fewer half-used ingredients taking up space, and perhaps fewer ingredients overall, giving your team more room to work with.

  • It lets you get creative: The expression “necessity is the mother of invention” applies to cross-utilization in your kitchen. In finding efficiencies, cross-utilization gives cooks a unique challenge, spurring outside-the-box thinking that can produce new ways of cooking, and new favorite recipes.

Cross-Utilization: What to Do

Dig into your current storeroom and menu, and get creative.

  • Think through flavour profiles: Think about the taste notes for each item, considering its sweetness, acidity, bitterness, saltiness, umami, and spiciness; ask yourself which ingredients complement it.

  • Do cultural research: Understand how different cultures and cuisines use this ingredient, leveraging their methods to unlock new ways of using this flavor that you may have never considered.   

  • Learn new techniques: Try to adopt new methods that you either don’t normally use or don’t use for this specific ingredient. If it’s usually poached, perhaps it can be fried? Consider its texture, water content, and if its characteristics change when heated. Then, see what techniques might be worth testing.

  • Know your audience: Does a new cross-utilized dish fit into what your customers expect from your restaurant? You can always ask—regulars are a great help when it comes to menu validation

  • Cross-utilize what sells: Follow the money. If certain ingredients or flavors are more favored by your customers, consider cross-utilizing them in other dishes. Perhaps use the ingredients or sauces on another part of your menu, in a different category. Or try expanding the offerings with different variations of these bestsellers.  

  • Gather your staff: Create a culture of collaboration, setting aside specific times to brainstorm cross-utilization opportunities with your staff. Treat these sessions like creative problem-solving, encouraging them to find exciting new ways to cross-utilize what you have.

  • Run specials: You don’t need to add items to your permanent menu just yet. Instead, run daily or weekly specials to use up any leftover ingredients. Continually evaluate the performance of cross-utilized dishes, letting these results influence future menu considerations.

Cross-Utilization: What Not to Do

While cross-utilization is an essential practice for running a restaurant, it’s easy to go overboard. Here are some checks to make sure you don’t lose perspective.

  • Don’t force it: If the end result yields something your clientele won’t enjoy, then it’s not worth the money saved.

  • Don’t fall prey to “menu creep”: Don’t inundate your menu with cross-utilized dishes, as this can make it challenging to navigate for both your customers and your kitchen staff by adding more and more dishes to the menu, just because you can. Stay true to your concept.

  • Don’t ignore dietary restrictions or allergens: Don’t let the temptation to cross-utilize allow you to forget dietary restrictions and allergy considerations. At the end of the day, saving money shouldn’t alienate your customers.