It is a remarkable feat, when given due consideration, how the food we enjoy at restaurants, hotels and other service locations gets to our plates. We are in a time and place when enjoying fresh food has never been more convenient or consistent.
Restaurants, especially chains, depend on an internet of partners to deliver consistent food quality to its patrons. Partners like Edmonton-based Kitchen Partners Limited, whose dedication to quality, fresh and custom food solutions for the food services industry has made it one of the most high-sought after businesses in the restaurant industry.
In operation since 1982, large clients (take Boston Pizza and Sobeys for two examples) rely on Kitchen Partners for consistent quality food made specifically for their operation with a specialty in custom sauce, soup, and frozen entrée production for its national chain restaurant clients.
“By custom, we mean everything that Kitchen Partners makes is proprietary to that particular customer. We have no proprietary brands. We use fresh vegetables and ingredients prepared to our to our clients’ specification,” says Kitchen Partners’ Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mike Calverley.
Speaking with Calverley, it is very evident the amount of passion that goes into whatever Kitchen Partners does. With a top down managerial restructuring in 2006, the company has a invigorated focus on being North America’s leader in heart of the house solutions.
“There is a tangible passion here and again it’s a combination of bringing new ideas to our customers, really listening to what they want and ultimately what their guests want,” says Calverley. “We do that in a very home style way, keeping in mind the ultimate in food safety.”
Fresh produce is just one singular distinction among many for Kitchen Partners, who distributes products coast to coast every week to clients. Calverley says his team’s ability to understand clients’ needs has taken the company to the top.
“We are really a solutions provider,” he says. “Listening to our customers has given us a great deal of opportunities.
“Most of the companies we work with have corporate or executive chefs in their organization. So when the chef has a recipe in mind, it’s our job to understand how it is going to be used in the restaurant, expected volume, how is it held on the line, and work with their equipment. By having a deeper understanding of their requirements, we are able to deliver a fantastic product.
“A lot of restaurants are looking at consistency — that’s what they need store to store. And to do that, they turn to us to help them deliver,” says Calverley, citing a team of over 90 people in the quality assurance department to deliver products consistently and with the highest food safety.
Over 60 per cent of what Kitchen Partners sell ships fresh (not frozen) across the country. “We are able to do this,” says Calverley, “because we understand our process, the natural properties of the products we are making (low pH products have a longer shelf life, like chili or spaghetti sauce), and the total supply chain from production to consumption. All of this means we deliver the same extremely high quality food every week.”
Kitchen Partners has listened to its customers, and found that restaurant guests want clean ingredient declarations. “That is what the chef wants because that is ultimately what consumers want. Not things you cannot pronounce. Polysorbate 60 does not sound that appetizing and we don’t use things like that.”
A proud member of the Alberta Food Processors Association, Kitchen Partners now has close to 100 products it produces for its customers.
“One of the things we believe in is a partnership approach, not only with our customers, but also with our vendor community. Whether that is ingredient suppliers or service providers — we really do take an open honest and partnership approach. We believe it so much we put it in the name.”