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Together With Chefs

Interview With Chef Toni Elkhouri

Cedar’s Cafe, Melbourne, Florida

Interview With Chef toni Elkhouri

Photo via jamesbeard.org

We had the pleasure to connect with Chef Toni Elkhouri on IG Live and hear how her restaurant, Cedar’s Cafe, is adapting their business in Melbourne, Florida. Toni shares some tricks and tips on reconfiguring a menu for meal kits and how she is working with other chefs across her county to collaborate. Thank you, Toni, for sharing your ideas with us!

Here are a few of Toni’s tips:

  • Think of your restaurant as an extension of the grocery store. See what’s sold out at the store, and use that as a guide for adding new items to your menu

Toni unexpectedly saw pre-cooked jasmine rice become a top selling item, partially because boil-in-bag rice was in short supply at local stores. Take notice of what is lacking in the market.

  • Offer dressings, sauces and items by the pound which customers can use as building blocks in their own at-home cooking.

Toni offers deli-style selections on a rotating weekly basis to make it easier for her customers to combine staples into more than one meal.

  • Create meal kits with versatile components to cater to individual preferences and dietary restrictions within one household.

Cedar’s Café introduced Power Bowl Kits, incorporating rice, protein, veggies, nuts, beans and sauces which could all be combined, or utilized separately. One customer used leftover chicken to make fajitas for an additional meal.

  • Work with chefs in your community to divide and conquer by defining a niche (i.e. large family-size meals, breakfast) and catering especially to that focus.

By staying in communication, Brevard County chefs worked together in a response which allowed each establishment to excel at what they do best and refer business back and forth.

  • Hire chefs with restaurants that have closed to assist with your prep.

Toni has hired a local chef to regularly bake her pita bread using their own facility which has temporarily closed.

  • Use direct-to-consumer offerings from suppliers as an opportunity to educate and introduce customers, allowing them to appreciate the quality and price of products used in the restaurant (adding value!).

Toni incorporates local greens from Springer Farms for all her salads. These greens are more expensive than traditional greens, but also fresher and more flavorful. She has packaged Springer Farms greens into salad kits she now has available without markup.

Watch the full interview for even more inspiration and actionable ideas.

Connect With Us @corto_olive for even more industry tips and stay tuned for another installment of our #TogetherWithChefs series!