How to Gauge if Specification Changes Are Political
To the average customer, “quality” is a vague term, meaning the best food that’s available from 3 Square's Diner, Backyard Burgers or Bono’s Barbecue, or maybe the best for what they are willing to spend. To the restaurant manager, executive chef or professional purchasing agent, quality has a much more precise meaning.
Over the years food product specifications were developed from “ farm to table ” to bring consistency to what we purchase. We can refer to the U.S.D.A Produce Packers Guide, Wenzel’s Menu Maker and the NAPM Meat Buyers Guide as resources to gauge standards of purchase, to define our restaurant concept or meet the financial needs of the food service organization.
In our firm, Ron Bay, and I have learned that we can’t buy “high” or “low” quality products, we must buy the product specification best suited for the recipe or menu application. In other words, we buy the right quality.
We begin the process by considering three relatively simple methods –
The use of brand names market grades, defined for the level of service (ie: QSR, Causal Dining, tablecloth) and by examining the applications and advantages of each.
On the other hand, there are instances when product standards are handed down from the Founder/ Owner/ Sr.Management, which significantly narrows down the purchasing field of choice. Most chain restaurants and hotels blend the technical requirements (cc pork chop MBG 1412A) with the functional suitability of manufacturer brands (Hormel's“Always Tender” or Farmland’s Gold Metal) when writing formal specifications.
However, the problem is developing product standards has always been political. That’s why it is important to gauge when you can safely depart from the historic specification to improve the quality or price of the product being purchased.
Incorporating your ingredient specifications for your award winning pot roast into the kids fresh fruit roll-ups based on politics, will drive your loyal customers to the nearest Kolache vending machine!
However, there are universal standards (specifications) that do span time, from Romulus (753 B.C.) in the Old Roman Empire to Iron Chef in 21st century America…one is the measurement 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide. Since the day’s chariots were first made in Imperial Rome (btw..Italy didn’t have pizza, but they did have a Little Caesar), they controlled the wheel and “hub-to-hub” spacing specification.
Then came the English cart makers using the same tools to make carts (they fit well on the Roman built roads), using the same gauge. They migrated to America to build the covered wagons in Chicago and Kansas City, to the same width of 4 feet, 8.5 inches, then, less than 50 years later, the B&O Railroad in 1764, 13 miles outside of Baltimore, placed the first gravity wagon on tracks; and, you guessed it, the width of American rail was born.
It took a few more years and a lot of great science to develop the booster rocket for Columbia’s first space shuttle flight April 12, 1981; and it too was built to a width of 4 feet, 8.5 inches, so it could be transported by rail to Cape Canaveral, FL.
Now what you don’t know, is this is no “horsetail”; the standard gauge rail was derived from the original Imperial Roman war chariot; the specification written by politicians based on the width of 2 horses rear ends!
So the next time you are handed a product specification from your corporate office, supervisor, or Franchise Company and are wondering, “ What horse’s ass came up with this? ” you are exactly right!
To Higher Profits!
Fred Favole is Founder & President of Strategic Purchasing Services (SPS), a firm specializing in purchasing department outsourcing, product development, advanced spend management & distributor program audits. His contact info: Office 912.634.0030, email: email@example.com. www.strategicpurchasingservices.com
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Posted by Brian Carrick on 5/20/12 at 2:43 AM EST
“The trouble with today’s world is that freedom of choice no longer is an option for most business owners in the United States and the glorious days of American foodservice industry are in many ways behind us due to this problem precisely of government interference and intervention. I remember beginning my career in the late 1960s and apprenticing to become a chef and at the time, the big CHANGE was going from “Prime” Rib to “Choice” Rib because a term that applied to a particular style of serving rib roast was not in sync with the cuts of meat being used. For about a year, it turned our industry upside down as millions of dollars were lost on menu changes and sign changes before the government sort of stepped back and let us do our thing. Now, however, we are threatened by the government in so many ways and undoubtedly as long as faceless governmental organizations are allowed to run rampant, things will continue their downward spiral until America is remade in the socialistic image they’re striving for. We must do something in November to end this mess and then if Governor Romney somehow manages to win against the behemoth he’s facing, we must hold his feet to the fire to allow us to return to sunnier days. Thanks for your excellent article, it touched a chord in more ways than one. Thanks for your post, Chef Brian Carrick, 40+ year foodservice career, worked in California, Hawaii, and Washington State, ACF Member.”