An eight-year-old division of Purchasing, Center of the Plate refers to the proteins restaurants serve every day. From beef, pork and chicken to duck and seafood, this highly commoditized and specialized area of Jordano’s is working overtime to ensure your orders make it on time, every time.

Center of the Plate Buyer and Specialist, Larry Fiscalini, built the department to provide detailed expertise and management of the items restaurants need and what Jordano’s could provide.

Ordering Speed

Of the thousands of products Jordano’s has in stock, a significant number of those products make up the Center of the Plate which means a lot of logistical work for the department’s two-man crew of Jerry Richards and Fiscalini (pictured).

Today those orders, once at the mercy of a manual key in process, are automated, fast and accurate. Previously, if a restaurant wanted 25 18-ounce rib eye steaks, Fiscalini says it would take 3-4 days for the order to be delivered. But reengineering the department’s ordering systems and product tracking changed things in a big way.

Today, restaurants barely have to wait for product, and closing the timing gap is what Jordano’s calls success.

“This is a huge advantage,” says Fiscalini. “We turned the cut-off times in to one day. A customer can get us their order by 10 a.m. and have it delivered the next day with their regular order. Over the last six years, we’ve been able to pull beef, pork, poultry, and seafood product into that standard cut-off time.”

Additionally, custom cuts and custom quantities are never a problem with Jordano’s. Restaurants that need 132 chickens can easily purchase the exact quantity rather than being a slave to 10-pound boxes. The benefit is that restaurants can more efficiently manage food inventory and reduce costly food waste. Fiscalini punctuates that managing inventory will become increasingly important in the coming months.

Market Mess

When you’re purchasing meat and seafood, you are naturally a market watchman. And this season, Fiscalini warns, is all about watching the futures markets.

Thanks in part to a Midwest drought, corn feeding the biofuels industry and a reduction in meat processors nationwide, Fiscalini is bracing for a tumultuous year.

“It starts with corn,” he says. “This is the main staple to the finishing stages of many of these animals’ diets. With corn bushel prices dramatically rising due to last summer’s drought, ranchers and farmers are going to pay a premium to finish those animals.”

At the speculation of those spiking commodity prices in July and early August, ranchers and farmers ran their animals to market early, leaving the United States with the lowest inventory of animals since 1952.

“We’re in real trouble. There is less corn available,” Fiscalini says, reminiscing on the seafood markets in the last year where accessibility to mahi was simply not an option. “The item just went away. This year we saw that with tuna and when it becomes available, the price doubles.”

Menu Management

But there is a way, he says, to survive the wave of this market and that is with specials. Fiscalini advises restaurants to maintain staples on the menu, but look to other protein items to run as specials.

“Generally, when markets go up, it is not on all cuts at the same time. For example, during the holiday season, beef tenderloins and rib eyes reach their annual highs as demand peaks. This is a great opportunity to look to other cuts under less pressure like beef osso bucco or short ribs to maintain the seasonal trend, but with a less volatile item. This will allow you to offer new items to your clients and maintain your establishment’s margins.”