Menu Planning Logistics

Our customers come from many industries. If you’re regularly planning menus for large groups of people, Wholesum could be just what you’re looking for, whether you’re an outfitter, a caterer, an educator, or another professional in charge of providing meals. We’ll take some time over the next few months to look a bit further into these industries, and how Wholesum is helping customers in these fields plan menus, navigate dietary restrictions, scale meals track costs, develop accurate shopping lists and so much more. This May, let’s start with outfitters!

We’re excited to feed people delicious meals that enhance their outdoor experience, but – in most cases – we have other things to take care of, too.  For many outfitters though, it can be a real headache. There is a surprising amount of complexity that can go into planning a menu for a trip: group size, trip duration, ingredient quantities and – increasingly – dietary restrictions. Here’s how Erik Weiseth of Orange Torpedo Trips put it: “For years we did all of our menu planning in Excel spreadsheets.

Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve learned to reduce the brain pain over the years:

  • When planning meals for groups, whether in the back or front country, make sure you consider how you’ll be storing food at night and what your refrigeration/ice situation is – health and safety are key.
  • Meal options that are a “build your own” can be a great way to accommodate the varying needs while simplifying planning and giving clients more autonomy in food selection (e.g. sandwich bar, taco bar, or oatmeal bar.)
  • Remember, appetite size can vary! Metabolic rate skyrockets in cold temperature, so make sure to plan for large appetites if you are expecting chilly conditions. Age, weight, gender, and level of activity can also cause real fluctuations in the amount of food you may need to pack.
  • Keep in mind what device(s) you’ll be cooking with, the length of your trip, how you’ll be carrying your weight (raft, backpack, canoe + portage, van, etc.), and your level of exertion. These aspects of your trip will dictate what kind of food (fresh, frozen, dehydrated, etc.) you should bring, how light it must be, how many calories you and your fellow campers should consume, and how you’ll want to pack those meals.
  • Take stock of who you’ll be traveling with, including their age, level of fitness, and dietary restrictions, as these facets may also influence portion size and alternative ingredients.
  • Have fun! Pack something special, something sweet, and/or something spicy. It’s a fantastic surprise to have steak the first night or chocolate after a long twelfth day! Every meal is a little bit better when eaten under the stars.

Finally, make sure you are using the appropriate technology for your operations to streamline planning. If you have a small-scale operation or staff that generally steer clear of computers, pen and paper may be your best bet. Spreadsheets can also be a great option if you are using “ration” or “pantry” style planning, but is usually insufficient for preset menu planning (The book NOLS Cookery is a great resource for ration-based ideas and calculations.)

Three years ago, when we had exhausted all other technology options for menu-based planning, we started developing Wholesum Food Calculator (www.whlsum.com) to help others streamline food planning. Wholesum is the only menu planning tool designed specifically for large groups and/or multi-day trips. It’s a cloud-based platform, and has a suite of functions available based on feedback we’ve received from users including substitutions for dietary restrictions, easy scaling, and detailed shopping and packing list options.

In Erik’s words, “Wholesum has changed everything. Last year, I said numerous times, starting my Wholesum account was the most important thing I did. Now I can adjust for dietary restrictions or different kinds of groups on the fly with ease, we are more efficient in our buying which has greatly reduced waste, and our guides are supported with easy-to-use menus adjusted for their specific trip and group. Happier clients, happier guides, saving
a ton of money, and less work for me!  Basically, it is an all-around win.  For how much staff time, my time, and food expense we are saving this is the easiest and best money saving thing you can do this year.”

Leveraging technology has also changed the game for Gina Randono, co-owner of Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures. “Wholesum Food Calculator is a powerful tool for our business. We were able to hire a full-time food shopper with no previous experience and she was able to immediately start using the software with no guesswork on the shopping lists. We have more flexibility with menu planning, which has enhanced our guests’ culinary experience. Setting up the recipes, creating the meal plans, and exporting the shopping lists were very intuitive and efficient.”

At the end of the day, we hope that – like us – some of these tips and tools can help make menu planning easier and more enjoyable for years to come!