Chicken: The School Night Menu Item

Chicken: The School Night Menu Item

It’s okay, you can admit it here. It’s finally that time of year when the kids go back to school, and with that first classroom bell, parents get a little respite from all-day, non-stop chaos management! But even as sports, after-school programs, and homework ramp up to full speed, stress isn’t quite in the rearview mirror. The one thing we’re forgetting here is the ravenous hunger and jam-packed calendar that back-to-school schedules bring to the dinner table. Weeknight practice, events and games, art shows, student competitions—enough plates in the air to wreck even the most Type-A caregiver’s attempt at a wholesome meal.

And unfortunately, dinner, in the eyes of the average family, is just one more thing to worry about this time of year. Yet studies show great benefits from eating together as a family at least five nights each week, revealing that families who dine together tend to be less picky eaters, make healthier lifestyle choices, and are overall happier than those who do not. So how can we make dinner a little less fuss and a little more fun?

You knew we’d recommend chicken, right?

There are a few reasons we find chicken to be the superior protein for busy families this time of year. Ease and versatility, price, flavor, and, of course, popularity with younger children all play their parts harmoniously. The incredible variety of pre-cooked, pre-seasoned, and pre-portioned options make your family dinner plans a little easier. Chicken can be a quick and tasty option as an addition to a salad, served alongside rice pilaf and veggies, or sautéed with peppers and onions in a quick fajita. With pre-seasoned varieties, home cooks can cut down on prep and marinating time because, let’s be honest, you had every intention of seasoning up those gorgeous chicken thighs last night, but at 6 p.m. today, pizza feels like the easier option. The wide variety of ready-to-cook poultry options means you can always throw together a meal for your family without buying rubs and sauces and planning a complex menu ahead of time. Fully-cooked, heat-and-serve options offer an even faster shortcut for school-night time-savers. From sous-vide to flash-frozen, with entrees running the gamut from fully-cooked chicken breasts to dinner sausage to heat-and-serve wings, most retailers have ample options to give you variety throughout the week.

Chicken remains America’s favorite protein by a wide margin for both in-home and out-of-home consumption. Savvy restaurant and food service operators are realizing how practical and cost-effective it is to add pre-seasoned or pre-cooked poultry options for guests. Less kitchen prep for your dinner rush team, better product consistency, and quicker turn times all translate to better guest experiences. Convenience and speed—that’s the name of the game for back-to-school diners. Are your drive-through or counter lines able to keep up? Are you able to turn fast-casual tables sooner, in order to get families in and out for maximum guest capacity? Look to pre-cooked lines for a time-saving, menu-helping hand.
For the operator, time is literally money, so even at today’s prices, pre-cooked wings are a major cost and time saver in the back of the house—as well as making for happy guests in the dining room. With labor shortages still happening across the country, food service speed and quality are suffering—pre-cooked, pre-seasoned options can help resolve quality issues plaguing short-staffed kitchens. When operators serve the same flavorful, visually appealing chicken wing time after time, a more loyal customer base is sure to follow.
Even the big chains know one fact: diners connect with good service and good food more than a brand name alone. Why? A tale as old as time: A new restaurant opens, it’s a huge success, and then either labor shortages or quality inconsistency or both occur. At some point, reputation begins to suffer as guests share bad experiences. It’s hard to recover lost customers and get new ones in the pipeline in an age of ever-present social media and bad online reviews. Smart operators avoid this altogether by setting menus and staff up for success with quality products that can be replicated by rookies and line-cook vets alike. Easy-prep, pre-cooked, and pre-seasoned products allow cooks and staff to focus on the assembly details and presentation, since the main course consistency is assured. 

So, what’s the back-to-school recipe for stress-free success? Forget the apron and go right past those old-school prep steps that nobody gives you credit for anyway! Add pre-cooked, pre-seasoned, and ready-to-serve to your culinary vocabulary and skip some time in the kitchen.

Check out our Snackbytes for easy and delicious ways to add chicken to your weeknight menu!