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Oct 18, 2010 09:46 AM

How is the food prepared at chain restaurants?

Just curious about how chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesday, Chili's, Appleby's,etc prepare their food? Do they use sous vide or prepare from scratch(which I doubt)? Thanks!

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  1. The majority is reconstituted frozen food. For example, at Olive Garden the only food item to be prepared fresh is pasta. The sauces and everything else are frozen.

    1. When I worked at a chain (years ago though), we received our main menu items, basically fish, both fresh and frozen. The fresh fish was Fedexed in from Boston on a daily basis. The shrimp, flounder and whatnot arrived frozen, which is common even in better restaurants, but after slacking out was prepared exactly the same as fresh. Burgers and steak, yes cooked from frozen, but this was a seafood joint. Produce delivered fresh daily from a local purveyor. But of course frozen fries and onion rings. The baked potatoes and salad were prepared on premises, although nowadays I think the salad mixes are popular. They served a biscuit that was made from a boxed mix, with numerous add ins. Even delis rarely scratch bake their baked goods, just bake on premises which is what they did.

      The three ways food was cooked were: fried, grilled, and baked/ broiled. A separate cook for each station. The only thing microwaved was the pasta, which was cooked al dente ahead of time (that morning) and bagged for quick reheating. Once the day's fish was slacked, you would then bread a certain amount that was headed for the fryer, or leave it plain for the oven or grill. It was sauced just before and during cooking. Shrimp, thaw, peel and then bread, or put on a skewer, boil and so on. It's scratch cooking, really, as much as most, although due to volume some steps had to be taken a few hours ahead of mealtimes.

      I never eat at chains much since then, but not because I think the food is prepared in an unusual manner. Just sort of boring I guess.

      1 Reply
      1. re: coll

        I think I should mention I'm talking about Red Lobster, back when they were owned by General Mills. So that no one thinks I'm talking about Legal Seafood.

      2. "Sous vide" refers to a specific cooking method which is distinct from reheating pouches of food, which is what I believe you meant.

        1. I have worked at 2 chain restaurants, Friendly's and currently California Pizza Kitchen.

          At Friendly's, every single thing is frozen. Their menu is a lot more specific than some of the chains that you mention, because it's considered more of a sandwich and ice cream place, than a place with entrees that can be cooked; although they do have both. Sandwiches are made to order, usually in a super sloppy way, all with frozen ingredients except for the lettuce and tomato. And mayo. The chicken and steaks for entrees are all frozen as well, and then thawed and cooked to order. The best bet there is actually the tuna salad sandwich, usually, because it is made fresh every day.

          California Pizza Kitchen actually makes a large amount of their food in-house. Most of the salad dressings are made every morning, several of the sauces. All veggies and meats like the bacon and carne asada are prepped in house as well. The prep guys get there at like 6 am, when we open at 11:30. Several things are frozen though that I wouldn't have thought would be, like our hummus. Which I would think would be easy to make in house, but oh well.

          1. I worked as a server at Applebee's while I was in college a few years ago. Most everything was frozen.