Q. Unfortunately it’s just too hard to make mashed potatoes from scratch anymore; with the labor costs at our unit and the high volume. Mashed potatoes are a popular side dish so we sell a lot of it. Do you have any suggestions on keeping this a signature item? We probably will go with a pre-made garlic or white cheddar mashed.
A. You raised several issues. First of all, know that you are giving up something when you switch from making Idaho® potatoes from scratch to a convenience product. Recently, we did an ideation at a chain and compared “store bought” to homemade mashed potatoes and I have to tell you the mouth feel and density was easy for an “expert” like me to tell the difference, but so could all of the chefs in the room. However, when reality sets in and you are trying to do large quantities without a lot of labor, convenience is a good and viable solution. Your choices are dry (or dehydrated), frozen, or refrigerated. Each has a different cost profile so be sure to compare. Typically dry is the least expensive per pound of finished product (after all you are adding the liquids and not paying to have shipped) and refrigerated is a little more than frozen. Real progress has been made with dry Idaho® potatoes for mashed, some even re-constitute with lumps for added texture, so don’t dismiss it as a choice. Use taste panels of staff and customers to get their reading too.
Below is a list of chains that do white cheddar mashed potatoes, so you are not alone. How can you make yours different? Can you spec a specific brand of cheese or fold in a grated cheese after warming up the potatoes? Can you do something to make it a signature item such as adding in Tillamook sharp cheddar and chorizo? Think about the options and try them out before switching over. Best of success with the change and be sure to always use Idaho® potatoes.