How tech is moving the Czech food industry into the future

Smart Prague chefs are increasingly turning to innovative solutions for cutting costs and food miles.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 02.05.2022 12:00:00 (updated on 07.06.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

When Štěpán Návrat opened PRU58 in 2020 in Prague’s Holešovice district he knew he had his work cut out for him. The chef, whose Benjamin brought the small-table tasting concept to Czechia, wanted to create a menu that relied on the exotic flavors inspired by his time in Southeast Asia but made with ingredients that didn’t leave a carbon footprint in an era when sustainability matters.

Like many other restaurateurs, Návrat was also dealing with the financial fallout from the pandemic closures, opening PRU58 amid post-pandemic uncertainty. Cutting costs in all areas of the business would prove crucial to seeing the project, which serves street food by day and a "local dynamic" menu by night, succeed.

While old-fashioned hard work and determination would lead to the restaurant’s eventual success, Návrat found the solution to cutting both waste and food miles via a new-to-the-Czech-market innovation, an app connecting chefs and suppliers on one intuitive platform.

The Choco platform, a tool designed to simplify placing and receiving orders between chefs and suppliers, allowed him to order from Czech farmers remotely while reducing the risk of wasteful errors when ordering from those suppliers by at least 85 percent.

“It's simple. Exotic flavors can be obtained from domestic ingredients,” says the young chef whose Asian fusion with a European accent substitutes cabbage for banana leaf and fresh fish for saltwater varieties. “The important thing is, you can’t be afraid to combine.”

For chefs like Návrat who grows his own herbs on the roof of PRU58, sustainability isn’t just a buzzword, it’s an ethos that informs everything he does. Given the seasonal nature of his menu, being able to order and chat with a multitude of suppliers via Choco’s intuitive app has helped save time and create efficiency along the supply chain.

It’s also helped keep an important channel of communication open between chef and supplier during these challenging times.

“As far as suppliers go, it's been hard work. We've spent years searching and building relationships. Now our suppliers are friends and the quality of our food is proof of that,” says Návrat.

Czech chefs aren’t alone in their push to simultaneously cut costs and food miles. In a recent survey, Panasonic found that nearly one-hundred percent of U.S. foodservice operators said that the pandemic had intensified their sense of urgency to adopt transformational technology.

Prague Mexican restaurant Las Adelitas is also committed to bringing technology to the table in an effort to benefit customers, the business, and the environment says manager Jan Štěpánek.

“Prior to the pandemic, only about 5 percent of our sales were for delivery, now delivery accounts for 20 percent of sales,” says Štěpánek who quickly developed a new online delivery system in the face of the Covid crisis.

The restaurant continues to allow customers to pay from their tables by phone using an app. Štěpánek says contactless ordering by mobile will soon be available.

In terms of the restaurant’s kitchen operations, Las Adelitas has, like PRU58, implemented the Choco app which it credits with shaving hours off the time it normally takes to order supplies for the business's four full-service restaurants and taqueria.

“I feel like I can be in two places at once because I have all the orders for all of our restaurants in one central place. I can process all of my orders in a single application. It’s a game-changer.”

Štěpánek also knows the importance of shopping locally. The restaurant sources meat, produce, and dairy from Czech suppliers, while the country’s Mexican community supplies some of the chipotle sauces and corn tortillas on Las Adelitas’ authentic menu.

Choco’s different languages ​​and customizable profiles allow the restaurant’s entire kitchen team to not only communicate with suppliers who speak a different language but also to view all orders made by other staffers. In addition, Štěpánek says the app saves time when teaching operations to new hires.

He believes tech innovations are vital to the future of the food industry.

“Thanks to unprecedented inflation and the rising cost of raw materials, prices are going to go up. Cutting costs can keep menu prices manageable for the customer,” he says. “Apps like Choco make it possible to save time and time is money.”

It isn’t just the Czech restaurant industry that’s leaning into the tech sector in an effort to reduce back-office administrative burden while scaling back on unnecessary waste.

Sklizeno, a Czech farmer’s market shop, a pioneer in bringing sustainability to Czech dinner tables, is celebrating 10 years on the market. Founder David Kukla has seen a huge change in what consumers demand – as well as a tremendous increase in suppliers ready to meet that demand.

“Quality food is increasingly sought after by customers and the diversity of production is growing. Of the roughly 1,000 items we sold when we opened the first store, we have expanded the range to today's approximately 3,500 items,” says Kukla.

Sklizeno which has 22 stores from Prague to Zlín sources its fresh food – meat, pastries, cold cuts, and cheeses – from its own chicken and dairy farms as well as a myriad of suppliers throughout the Czech lands. 

Technological advancements crucial to future-proofing the brand include the recent launch of an e-shop, working with delivery platforms, and deploying new systems that help its stores curate a stock of seasonal products.

Sklizeno also uses the Choco app to help eliminate wasteful ordering. “We consider wasting food a sin. Technologies that allow us to predict sales in a significant way help eliminate this,” says Kukla of the app.

Kukla notes that in addition to being able to communicate with suppliers in an online environment (Choco allows businesses to message suppliers via WhatsApp, e-mail, fax, etc.) the app helps reduce fuel consumption and travel time.

Návrat agrees that apps which optimize ordering are critical for helping cut waste. He predicts that the intertwining of technology and gastronomy to shrink costs and environmental impact will be an important next step for the industry.

My whole team has learned to maximize the use of every bit of raw material that comes into our kitchen. It requires thinking and planning, but it's the direction we want to take,” he says.

New technologies like Choco also put an end to long hours spent on paperwork and ordering and let chefs focus on what they do best – sending out memorable meals for appreciative guests.

This article was written in association with Choco free app for restaurants and retail shops. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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