How To Implement a Charcuterie Program in Your Restaurant

Charcuterie is a food trend that has proven to have longevity. Whether you already have a charcuterie program, or are considering adding one, Maines can help you take advantage of this burgeoning menu essential. Learn the benefits of a charcuterie program and then get professional insight into how to implement one. This includes advice from our trusted partners at Atalanta who have been importing high-quality cured meats and artisan cheeses since 1945.

Why Start a Charcuterie Program?

What’s old is new again. Customers are looking for a dining experience with a story. Charcuterie can accomplish this better than any other dish. Use the rich history and story of each item on your board to draw in customers seeking more than just a full stomach.
Boost check averages. The story behind the artisan and distinct ingredients on a charcuterie board gives it a high perceived value, boosting profitability. Quality and quantity will always be important to customers but the interest the meal provokes matters too.
Save in the back-of-the-house. Common charcuterie ingredients can easily be cross-utilized throughout your menu, which can help you maximize your inventory. For example, an item like prosciutto instead of pancetta is stunning on a charcuterie board, but it’s also great in a sandwich or atop a salad.
Stay on the cutting edge. It’s always good to keep your menu updated and on-trend. Adding charcuterie is a simple way to freshen your restaurant and tap into a new market of customers seeking trendier customizable and/or shareable plates (especially younger generations like Millennials).che1
Start with the Staff
The first and most vital part of your charcuterie program is getting your staff involved. Help them understand why each product is unique. Make sure they are prepared to talk to customers about the preparation methods, flavor profiles, appropriate wine and beer pairings for each item and of course, the product’s story. A passionate and informed serving team can make all the difference in whether your program is successful.
Purveyors of artisan charcuterie products like Atalanta can help you communicate to your staff the time-honored traditions that go into making every item. Your Maines Sales Rep can also set up a tasting so the staff will be able to accurately describe the flavors, textures and story of the meats and cheeses on your board.
Many charcuterie items have an extraordinary history that can be used to upsell the products to customers.
Consumers are interested in the story behind the food they eat and having staff that can relay these messages enhances the overall dining experience. Atalanta can provide vivid descriptions on all of their products and your team should be equipped with this type of information to easily answer customer questions and sell the uniqueness of each item. Below is a good example of the history behind Collier’s Welsh Cheddar.

The Collier’s Storyche2

The idea for the Collier’s cheese brand was sparked by Wales’s proud industrial heritage. The founder’s grandfather was a miner, and cheese was an important part of their diet. It was nutritious, tasty, simple to pack and had no waste. It was the ideal food to sustain miners as they worked below ground for many hours at a time.

Collier’s only produces cheese in one creamery in Wales, which has a particular milk field that surrounds it. This might sound silly, but the relaxed cows make for better quality milk. Collier’s is made with pasteurized cow’s milk from local farms in the beautiful Welsh mountains of Denbighshire using a traditional, closely guarded recipe. While the cheese is aging, it is closely monitored by just three expert graders to guarantee the texture and taste of the final product.

 

From the day the cheese is made to the day the cheese is consumed, it continues to develop flavor. Collier’s Powerful Welsh Cheddar delivers an astonishing taste sensation. This uniquely powerful cheese produces a fine balance of savory and sweet, without the sharpness that most strong Cheddars have. The cheese contains “crunchy bits” which are actually calcium lactate grains that develop during maturation and are evidence of the cheese’s high quality.

 Next Up: Merchandising

After your staff becomes knowledgeable, which is your most important sales tool, it’s time to think about the best way to present your plates. Accouterments, portion sizes, cross-utilization, and wine and beer pairings will all assist in your merchandising goals.
Accouterments
Artisan meats and cheeses are great, but so are pickled, roasted or fermented vegetables, interesting mustards, butters, jellies and sweet components like dried fruits. You’ll also want to round out your platter with dried bread, crackers or breadsticks. Try thinking outside the box when it comes to protein and add an on-trend seafood variety. Or, keep your plate all vegetables to cater to those looking for healthier options. Finally, the key to your presentation is the board. Many top restaurants go rustic, using tableware such as wood blocks that help emphasize artisan ingredients. For a cleaner, white tablecloth look, try plating on stark white porcelain that will best highlight the product’s colors, textures and flavors.
 presentation ideas
Portioning
Portioning ahead of service can be critical to the success of a charcuterie platter.Most portioning mistakes and inconsistencies tend to happen when it’s done at the time of service. Portioning ahead of time, such as carefully laying out each platter’s ingredients on a sheet tray with an easy to lift cover (like a clean inverted 2-inch plastic food container) makes plating charcuterie a breeze. By doing this, you can avoid long waits for servers, causing them to not be as motivated to sell.
Charcuterie is also not only for restaurants; it works great for a buffet or larger events where portioning will differ slightly. Catering businesses can offer a choose your-own type of charcuterie display, or they can serve ready-made platters with the chef’s selection of meats and cheese. Prepared platters or a display of meats and cheeses may put your culinary management skills to the test but they can add a beautiful touch to your buffet. Charcuterie served on a large scale showcases your knowledge and skills in an edible masterpiece and offers the same marketing opportunity for a story as a platter served at a restaurant.

Cross-Utilization

Charcuterie is interchangeable anywhere a salty, fatty piece of pork, beef or duck is used (like bacon!) and almost always lends additional value. The most obvious way is in sandwiches, not just sliced meat but pâtés as well. Try including the acidic components of the charcuterie program, like pickled vegetables, into these sandwiches. Pasta dishes are another great place to enable cross-utilization. Toss in sausage, bacon, cubed salami, or muscle meats like prosciutto. If you’re really looking to maximize your inventory, you can use the end pieces like hocks and additional fat and skin of charcuterie pieces to flavor stock, stew, or broth. Be sure to add this charcuterie-enhanced detail to dish descriptions because it’s all about the story – your charcuterie message can be carried across your menu to assist with merchandising in other areas.
Wine & Beer Pairing
snacks on woodWhen it comes to pairing charcuterie with wines, a general rule of thumb is that the defined style or type will be a good indicator of what will enhance the flavor, e.g., Italian meat pairs well with regional Italian wine. What not to do: immediately think that medium or full-bodied reds are the way to go. These have a lot of alcohol, so when combined with the high-salt items, the combination will displease customer palates. Look for wines that can be chilled and are high in acid. Sparkling will also be a good choice because the effervescence will cut some of that richness and fat. Think whites, roses, bubbly, and maybe even a little sweet wine to balance out the meats on the plate.
And, don’t forget the beer! The wide availability and flavors of craft beer will make the most of your charcuterie plate. Try a saison – a pale ale with a highly carbonated, fruity, spicy flavor that plays well with meat that has gamey tones or pair a porter with ashy and roasted notes with similar flavors in smoked meats. No matter what beverage you’re pairing with your board, alcoholic or not, be sure your servers are up to date on the best selections. Maines can provide the necessary resources to define appropriate pairings.