At Qualifirst, one of the major challenges we face is that we are recognized as having great ingredients to make food taste better for special occasions, but few see the need to actually make food taste better day-to-day. The assumption is no one can tell the difference, and as long as no one complains, it’s good enough.
Organisations that are owned or funded by the government, which includes schools and colleges, are often required to choose a lowest bidder when selecting suppliers and supplies. This rule applies to most cooking schools, since they too are financially supported in whole or in part by public funds.
Low-bid olive oil
The problem with the “lowest bid process,” is that you might not be getting what you think you are getting. When you use a bid process to buy “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” through the lowest bidder, the product you receive might not actually even be an olive oil. There is a great deal of fraud in the market, as this article shows.
The same principle applies to balsamic vinegar. The lowest cost balsamic vinegar is not even close to the taste of a good balsamic vinegar.
Aside from the obvious deception being placed on the buying public, this false practice also means that students who have learned to cook in a culinary school probably have not learned how to use quality food products.
Premium olive oil, a great vinegar, a mono-floral honey, a single estate chocolate – these are just some of the kitchen ingredients that make a profound difference to the taste of food, and which consequently attract customers to one establishment over another. When people don’t experience quality food, they lose touch with the fact that they exist at all, which means mediocre food becomes the norm.
The Quality ingredients that do not win bids are necessary to make great food
In January of 2013 we hosted a demonstration of Michel Cluizel Chocolate, with pastry chef and master chocolatier Olivier Potier. The culinary student who was working as Olivier’s assistant was still new to the gourmet foods business, and as such still considered the red velvet cupcake to be a culinary masterpiece. After two days with Chef Potier, however, the student realised how much more there was to great food, and he came to appreciate why quality ingredients, including those that are not supplied to culinary schools, are so necessary.
The economics of quality
One of our customers is a chocolatier who uses our premium chocolate exclusively. He does pay more for the chocolate, but he also pays less in rent because people come to him. He is always busy, even in the summer, and he has customers all over the country. Not only is he following his passion, he is much more profitable than his competitors are.
Putting a voice to quality
Our challenge is to change the public perception of our company from one that supplies only special occasions to one that sells everyday products. We sell the everyday products that are essential for serving great food.
We have to tell our story with a louder voice. The fact is customers do come back when the salad tastes better. Customers will pay more for a real dessert. Restaurants do not save money by cutting costs, but they can lose money by having empty seats, and by not having a line-up.
The conversation should never be about price, because when you put quality ingredients in, you yield higher profits.
The discussion should be about the fact that great food transforms establishments into a destination people will travel out of their way to visit.