Build a culture of positive customer experiences
Do you have a culture of customer service? It’s not something you can achieve in a one-day training seminar. Justin McGurgin, who has spent 30 years in hospitality and currently runs Zealifi, a company that coaches operators about how to build a culture that provides positive, memorable experiences for guests, spends most of his time working with leaders, not staff. In a podcast on Profitable Hospitality, he said staff are simply a reflection of the leadership they’re getting (or not getting). One-off training seminars are little more than a band-aid fix, motivating your team only as long as your trainer is in the building. So what does McGurgin suggest instead? In year-long training modules he conducts with operators, McGurgin typically spends the full 12 months with the organization’s leaders – junior team members join in for just five months across that time frame. When working with leaders, he focuses on engagement and empowerment. Do you build connections with your team by saying hello when they walk in the door? Scheduling one-on-one meetings with them in addition to group meetings? Acknowledging their accomplishments with a personal note and in group meetings, emails or texts? When something goes wrong, have you empowered staff to handle it, instead of having them come to you for guidance when a customer complains? When you can answer “yes” to those questions, you have the makings of a strong culture. That has important benefits: You’ll be able to attract more stars to your team (and have a better chance of enticing them to stay), you’ll have a team that won’t tolerate weak links (so you won’t be the only one managing quality control) and you’ll have more time to focus on firing up the creativity at the top of your organization, so you can ensure you continue to bring customers through the door.
Where to innovate first? Try your back office.
“Today’s delights are tomorrow’s expectations,” according to the Culinary Institute of America’s Tim Ryan, who spoke at the recent Restaurant Leadership Conference. It’s true of your food, service and technology. If you’re unsure of where to innovate across your operation, automating your back office is a good place to begin, according to Alister & Paine, a magazine for company executives. As the nucleus of your operation, running it smoothly can help you manage your scale and achieve goals with less effort. If you’re comfortably paying vendors by check, for example, the number of checks you need to write each month can escalate quickly (and become a chore) when you invest in marketing, increase your customer volume or hire additional employees. Electronic payments can help you accomplish more tasks more quickly and with less effort. Vendors are increasingly expecting shorter payment terms, so providing payment with the click of a mouse can help you keep valued suppliers and stay a step ahead of competitors. And if your competitors are automating their back office, it will quickly become compulsory – not just nice to have. That said, what works for your competition won’t necessarily work for you. FSR Magazine recommends you audit your operation to identify process improvements you can make to enhance any automation you introduce. That could mean synching different processes or software programs, identifying ways to ensure all invoices are processed correctly, or using a special barcode on invoices if it helps you save money on each invoice. Consider outsourcing your accounts payable if you find your back-office work is taking attention away from providing great food and service. When outsourcing gives you access to a dedicated customer management team that handles your invoices and vendor requests, for example, it can help you gain some visibility and control over your finances while freeing up time for focusing on other parts of your operation.
What’s the next kale?
What is it about kale that made it skyrocket in popularity and become consumers’ favorite superfood? According to Nielsen data, frozen breakfast entrees featuring kale experienced a whopping 391 percent growth in sales between 2016 and 2017. David Sax, who wrote The Tastemakers, said it comes down to three traits: versatility, availability and cultural significance. As Food Dive reports, kale can be eaten raw or cooked, has a long growing season in a range of climates and has become a symbol of health, which in combination made it a must-have on menus and consumers’ dinner tables. The ubiquity of food images and experiences on social media can help foodservice operators predict the next foods and beverages poised for a big break. Food industry analysts say drinking vinegars could be the next big thing to go mainstream. While they’re appearing on menus as kombucha or alcoholic mixers, there’s plenty of room for them to grow.
It is really organic? Buyer beware.
Food labels can mean the difference between winning new customers and losing the ones you have. A recent Washington Post report detailed the story of a 36 million-pound shipment of soybeans that originated in the Ukraine, passed through Turkey, was fumigated with pesticide like regular soybeans, priced like regular soybeans, then labeled “USDA organic” and increased significantly in price upon arrival in the U.S. That shipment, along with two other grain shipments that passed through Turkey and subsequently sparked questions about organic labeling, demonstrate weakness in current U.S. standards determining what commodities are organic. (Approximately half of organic commodities, including corn, soybeans and coffee, come from outside the U.S.) The Post report says although organic food imports from Turkey, China and other countries have invited increased scrutiny, gauging the level of fraud in imported organics is difficult because organic companies have little incentive to announce their suspicions about suppliers.
Swap out the sugar
The message is finally taking hold around the globe: Cut the sugar. Food Quality & Safety reports that sugar sales may grow at their slowest pace this year and next as consumption drops in developed countries. Many such countries have proposed or implemented taxes on sweetened beverages, have banned vending machines in schools and introduced warning labels on high-sugar foods, among other measures. The analyst group Platts Kingsman forecasts sugar consumption to increase just 1 percent, half of the annual growth it has experienced in the past decade. While some countries are accommodating consumers’ cravings for sweet foods by using sugar stand-ins like high-fructose corn syrup, many foodservice operations are reformulating products to decrease the amount of sweeteners overall. Now is the time to consider creative ways to bring sweetness (but not added sugar) to your menu.
Facebook brings (some) restaurants one step closer to customers
Soon, it may not be sufficient to simply have a restaurant page on Facebook – your neighborhood restaurants might be accessible directly from Facebook users’ homepages. Facebook recently made it possible to order food directly from its app menu on the main login page. It allows users to find a restaurant list, review the menu, include a tip and pay for the meal without having to navigate away from their Facebook page. The Next Web reports that on the app menu on the left-hand side of the Facebook home page, a new hamburger icon links to local restaurants that deliver (it currently includes just restaurants using Delivery.com or Slice). While the functionality isn’t universally available yet, look for it to expand and give some restaurants first dibs on hungry customers.
What makes for a professional-looking post? Here’s a cheat sheet.
Social media is a must for any foodservice operation – unfortunately, having a professional presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram or other networks requires you to meet different standards for the photos and logos you post. To help, Louise Myers Visual Social Media, which advises companies about using graphics, photos and other images effectively on social media, provided a cheat sheet to help you navigate the requirements of various sites and the recent updates that could alter what you can post. Visit http://louisem.com/2852/social-media-cheat-sheet-sizes for a handy chart you can reference when posting images to a variety of networks.
Protect against pests this summer
As the weather warms, pests will be all the more tempted to frequent your restaurant, potentially spreading bacteria and damaging your property. (JP Pest Services says rodents harbor and spread more than 2000 human pathogens and termites cause $5 billion in property damage each year.) You can help deter unwelcome guests by taking action inside and outside of your facility. Chris Del Rossi, founder of Food and Drug and the Bug integrated pest management company, spoke at the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Quality Assurance Executive Study Group meeting and recommended operators focus on sanitation, structure and storage to prevent pest infestations. Any cracks or crevices between equipment can house pests, so use equipment with lockable wheels and flexible gas and electric lines to help ensure you can clean hard-to-reach places. When storing food, avoid placing anything on the floor or against walls. Installing wire shelves that keep food off of the floor and inches from walls can help you avoid an infestation. Dispose of food waste in trash bags and take it to a dumpster promptly. Make sure your dumpster isn’t dirty, has a lid and isn’t within easy access of your doors or windows. Consider pests when landscaping as well: Ensure plants around your premises don’t touch the ground or the walls of your property and surround your foundation with a strip of gravel, which can deter pests far better than bark mulch. Check the exterior of your property to make sure your pipes, roof, walls and tiles are crack-free and well-sealed.
Ease your restaurant's labor pains
Labor challenges are enough to keep any restaurant operator awake at night, from the rising minimum wage to the struggle for talent in a high-turnover industry. In a recent Toast survey, 46 percent of restaurant operators said their top challenge was hiring, training and retaining staff. So how do you cope? Restaurant Hospitality suggests you consider a range of actions. To help address the pay disparity between front- and back-of-house workers, you could charge administrative fees (say 2-3 percent of the final bill) or raise menu prices to fund a pay increase for those not included in tip pools. That can help ensure that on a busy night, everyone reaps the benefits; just be transparent with guests about what you're trying to achieve with new charges. Consider opening your books to your team -- training everyone from your dishwashers to your cooks about the financials of your business -- and sharing in the profits to encourage everyone to think and behave like an owner of the business. That can also help you identify and limit practices that waste money and time, from unprofitable menu items to an excess in staff. Some operators continue to experiment with service charges or sales commissions, adding a 20 percent surcharge to checks and not expecting tips (though still accepting them) on top of it, or just eliminating tipping altogether by including a hospitality fee if you feel your clientele will pay the increased menu prices to support it.
Who's in charge of social media?
Social media marketing represents a growing percentage of most restaurants' promotional campaigns. But is your social media best kept in the hands of a tech-savvy team member or is it time to hire a firm to manage it for you? Social Media Restaurant says for the majority of operators out there, the answer to that question should be "both." Consider hiring a consultant with industry expertise who can develop a campaign for you that includes the vehicles that make sense based on your brand, goals and clientele. (If you're part of a restaurant group, your consultant can help you ensure you use a consistent voice across locations as well.) Once you have a creative strategy in
place with clear objectives and tasks built into it, someone in-house who knows your customers well should spend some time each day making updates and accomplishing set tasks.
Prevent summertime Salmonella
The warmer months are prime time for the spread of Salmonella, which causes about 1 million foodborne illnesses each year in the United States. It's often found in foods including chicken, vegetables, eggs, fruit, sprouts, beef and pork. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends you remember four key actions to prevent Salmonella. Remember to properly Clean (wash hands, utensils and food contact surfaces, though not the poultry, meat and eggs themselves), Separate (set the meat, poultry and seafood apart in the refrigerator and use different cutting boards for those items), Cook (ensure foods are cooked to the appropriate temperature and stay at 145 degrees or above after cooking) and Chill (store foods at 40 degrees or colder in general, and refrigerate or freeze perishables and prepared foods within two hours, or within one hour if the room/outdoor temperature is 90 degrees or higher).
Don't let it go to waste
After labor costs, food costs are the top expenditure for restaurant operators, according to POS Sector. Those costs should range from 28 percent of sales (typical of casual restaurants) to 33 percent at fine-dining restaurants, according to the Wall Street Journal. If they're not, review your menu to ensure your top-selling items are also the most profitable. Chef Klime Kovaceski, who opened the Miami restaurant Crust in 2015 and posted sales of more than $1 million and a pre-tax profit of more than $200,000 for 2016, keeps a close eye on food waste. He recommends using minimal ingredients to keep costs down and reduce the incidence of spoilage -- risotto is a common item on his menu, for example, but herbs and spices lend wide variety to it. He also insists employees show him spoilage before throwing away food so they can determine what went wrong, and enforcing strict standards with suppliers to ensure he always receives fresh product.
Marketing with meaning
Investment in social media marketing is projected to increase by 90 percent in the next five years, according to Salesforce.com. Regardless of your budget size, you’re wise to allocate some resources to it. But how? The CMO Survey, which collects and distributes the opinions of top marketers, suggests that your marketing budget should comprise 5-15 percent of your revenue. Of that, 10-50 percent should be used for digital marketing, to include SEO, pay-per-click, social media and content marketing. The types of social media that marketers use vary widely but the most popular outlets right now are social networking on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, blogging (or microblogging on Twitter), and sharing video and pictures on sites like YouTube or Instagram. Video, according to the marketers surveyed, is the medium ripe for expansion in the months ahead.
Give tours of your restaurant (before guests even walk through the door)
Posting your menu online is customary. Posting a Google 360-degree virtual tour of your restaurant is less common – but it’s a great way to bring guests to you. Before consumers read your reviews on Yelp on TripAdvisor, they’re searching for you on Google. When you post a virtual tour, you get the chance to impact consumers’ first impressions of you. Social Media Restaurant says the tours appear in Google searches and on Google maps and you can also include them in your digital marketing. (Facebook just introduced a feature that allows you to post a panoramic shot of your restaurant on your business page, for example.) During a recent Restaurant Week in New York City, 55 percent of participating restaurants offered a “Business View” virtual tour – and consistently, diners booked tables at those restaurants more frequently.
Know the right tools to manage food fraud
About 10 percent of the food supply is impacted by food fraud, Food Safety Tech reports. Chances are, many of the foods you serve and use in recipes every day, including coffee, olive oil, orange juice and fish, are among the most vulnerable in the food supply, notes Shield Safety Group. But many food companies aren’t prepared to manage the problem. In a recent Food Safety Tech report, the senior manager of food safety & defense, QRC at the Hershey Company and the manager of food safety & quality assurance at GMA discussed the best tools available to monitor food fraud – consider them when talking with your suppliers about how they are managing and mitigating risks. The USP Food Fraud Database 2.0, for one, contains thousands of fraud records, can be searched by ingredient and offers some automated analytics tools. EMAlert is a predictive model that analyses the vulnerability of ingredients based on weight, which makes it a good platform for sourcing commodities. SSAFE Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment provides a strong starting point for companies looking to assess their risk by ingredient, product, brand, facility, country or company, and it can be used across the supply chain. The World Factbook of Food contains more than 130 foods and 75 country profiles, which draw from a range of sources to help assess risk. Finally, the Food Adulteration Incidents Registry contains more than 550 incidents of food fraud, providing access to open data records that can support food risk assessments.
Bad reviews? Take the reins
What restaurant operator doesn’t love a great review? A Harvard University study found that an extra star in your online reviews can generate 5 to 9 percent more sales. But in a Foodable report, restaurant coach Donald Burns recommends you consider some facts to keep things in perspective. First off, a whopping 20 percent of reviews are fake, added by unethical businesses that want to improve their ratings, albeit falsely, and take the competition down a peg. (Take heart that sites like Review Skeptic are helping to uncover the fakes, so false reviews may be a declining problem.) Before you take a negative (or even a positive) review to heart, consider whether it’s accurate. If a negative one holds true, use it to improve. Make sure you have established clear standards and core values that your team lives and breathes, and that you’re taking steps every day to train and develop them. Are there trouble spots on your menu? Does your customer service need polish? Remember that your response to a negative review can build or bust your credibility with readers. If a review is negative, apologize without making excuses and, within 24 hours, ask for a chance to win them back. Before posting a response, compose a draft in a different application and ask a trusted person to read it to ensure it comes off professionally. If it doesn’t, you’ll have a bigger problem on your hands when your words are shared around the Internet within minutes of your response.
Protect against poultry risk
If you host young children in your restaurant, pay special attention to food safety: Kids under age four are five times more likely than adults to contract bacterial infections from food, according to the Centers for Disease Control. FightBAC.org recommends you pay close attention to chicken, often a go-to option for children’s menus, though a risky one: A recent report from the CDC linked chicken to 23 foodborne illness outbreaks and said it was the food category responsible for the second-largest number of foodborne illnesses. A single drop of raw poultry juice can contain enough Campylobacter to cause illness. Remember to emphasize proper food handling in your kitchen – handwashing before and after handling poultry, storing it on a low shelf to prevent cross-contamination, thawing it at or below 40˚F instead of washing it (that can spread bacteria around the kitchen), and cooking it to 165˚F to kill harmful bacteria.
Experience the halo effect
You don’t have to have a fat marketing budget to make a big splash on social media. Look at Halo Top ice cream, a small business that now competes with giants in the category, thanks in part to its online marketing strategy. Food Dive reports that the company claims it has never paid for a social media post and only recently began paying for any brand advertising at all. However, the company’s success in producing packaging, photos and other highly shareable content has resulted in the hashtag #HaloTop being used 100,000 times and the company’s account attracting about 400,000 followers. The company sold nearly 17 million pints of its high-protein, low-calorie ice cream last year, boosting sales by 2,500 percent.
More tech, higher sales
Technology is making it increasingly easier for restaurants to upsell consumers. An Associated Press report that assessed the business results of a number of national restaurant brands confirmed that people tend to order more when they order digitally, whether online, on a tablet or via a mobile app. Certainly, a consumer who can readily spend with a credit card instead of cash (which comes with the territory when tech is used for ordering) will spend more anyway – 12 to 18 percent more, according to a Dun & Bradstreet study. However, it also helps that a computer will allow a consumer to browse for a longer amount of time and, while a human taking an order might neglect to promote extra items, a computer will automatically ask a consumer if he wants to add toppings or extras. Ziosk, which makes devices used at Chili’s and Olive Garden, among other brands, says restaurants see more appetizer and dessert orders when using their devices – and there’s usually more coffee tacked on to those orders.
Robots changing the face of restaurant labor
Food industry leaders recently flocked to SXSW for a look at trends on the horizon. One big one, of course, is continued development in automation. According to a Restaurant Business report about SXSW, this included everything from software used to connect restaurants with a pool of qualified workers to fill shifts, to robots that can automate repetitive tasks like dishwashing and burger flipping. The industry also looks to be testing how much human interaction consumers desire. At the event, a robot mounted with a tablet demonstrated the ability to assume the role of server. It allows guests to ask questions and order, delivers meals and accepts payment. While far from being a mainstream addition to restaurants in the short term, these robots (along with a wide range of software applications) are likely to change the management of restaurant tasks in the years ahead as developers find ways to make them affordable.
Get the most from your host
If your restaurant is known for its human touch, have you unleashed the full power of your host? The first person your guests meet at your restaurant can help you set the tone for your brand, promote specials and recruit new members to your loyalty program, Foodable reports. (Perhaps that’s one reason why even low-touch restaurants like Eatsa have a host at the door.) Looking to entice guests with your seafood special? If your host can enthusiastically talk about his experience tasting your food, he can plant a seed of interest that can steer a guest’s attention toward specific items when he opens the menu. A host can also help ensure each guest walking in is a happy guest. Extra long wait? Consider having the host offer those guests a complimentary drink. Having your host check in on tables can help boost your loyalty program too. If he asks how a table is doing and everyone loves their meal, he can ask them to sign up for your loyalty program and perhaps sweeten the deal with a free dessert or other promotion.
Serve a stellar summer buffet, but hold the bacteria
As the weather warms up, it’s time for picnics and barbecues. Just make sure you aren’t serving up foodborne bacteria on your buffet. Self-service areas in restaurants are easy to contaminate. Guests haven’t received the food safety training your team has and can easily spread germs inadvertently. If you can’t have your team serve food to guests, the National Restaurant Association recommends you take some steps to minimize your risk. Use dispensers that release items one at a time, whether napkins, cups or flatware, and clean the dispensers regularly. Consider wrapping flatware or storing it with the handles up. Have your staff monitor guests to ensure they’re not reusing plates or utensils in service areas and post signs to help reinforce the message. Clean and sanitize surfaces frequently and with sanitizing wipes or separate cloths approved for use in this way. Mount touchless hand sanitizer dispensers in convenient locations near your self-service stations as a precaution. Choose your foods wisely and avoid serving options (like seafood, for example) that carry a greater safety risk. Finally, swap out the tongs and serving spoons regularly – the regulation is every four hours but consider increasing the frequency. Mashed says there are no regulations when it comes to food serving utensils being sanitized after they fall into a dish – and with only 5 percent of people washing their hands in the manner recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the utensils people handle are a big risk for cross-contamination.
Put more “social” into your social media marketing
Is your social media marketing building your business – or keeping it in the same place it was a year ago? If you’re using social media to sell your brand, menu or specials, you need to adjust. Standing out in a sea of competition requires you to use social media to engage with your audience and thank them for their business. It’s less important to have a high number of followers than it is to have a strong rapport with the followers you have. To build a more lasting connection, Digitalist magazine suggests you respond quickly to posts, which can help you build trust and quickly defuse any difficult situations that arise. Creating eye-catching graphics (paired with brief, compelling captions) can help you stand out in your guests’ crowded newsfeeds too. Before you post, ask yourself how you can add value – does your chef have tips on how to work a variety of greens into a dish? Share a recipe or suggest local suppliers of quality ingredients. This can also be an opportunity to work video into your strategy too. Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are making it easy for operators to use video to show the personalities of their kitchen team, talk about a new service or provide a behind-the-scenes look at running a restaurant. Finally, Digitalist suggests you ask for your followers’ input. Give guests a choice between two potential new appetizers or specials, for instance. Who doesn’t like being asked for their opinion?
For Domino’s, tech is on the menu too
Just when you thought Domino’s had reached the pinnacle of technology innovation, the chain has taken things a step further: It just announced a new partnership with IFTTT (If This, Then That) to further boost consumer engagement. Skift reports that as a result, the restaurant’s Pizza Tracker functionality will allow customers who have ordered a Domino’s pizza to trigger various digital actions automatically. For example, when a customer’s pizza is out for delivery, he can program his porch lights or television to turn on, or send an automatic text to friends sharing the meal. Domino’s offers some pre-set choices but customers can create their own assortment of prompts too.
Yelp makes its data more accessible to foodservice operators
Online reviews have an outsized amount of power these days, and Yelp has become the review site of choice for consumers (restaurant leaders at the recent Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit agreed that Yelp was the site to beat). Now, thanks to a new partnership with Splunk Enterprise, the company is making the data it collects from its 65 million mobile users more accessible to foodservice operators and more useful in uncovering new revenue opportunities, Fast Casual reports. Yelp uses Splunk to help support customer-facing parts of Yelp’s Eat24 food delivery service business – like, for example, monitoring its order pipeline and providing operational teams with customized dashboards and real-time alerts to track food deliveries. If your restaurant offers delivery and is among the tens of thousands Yelp reviews, take a look at its new technology – Yelp says it will help operators better analyze customer trends and pinpoint underperforming services.
Make personal stories part of your food safety training
You use stories to connect guests to your brand. They can also help you connect with your team, particularly when it comes to promoting food safety. If you need to drive home the importance of food safety practices and the impact they can have on people’s lives, consider having someone who has experienced a food-related health crisis speak to your team. A Food Safety Tech report shares the story of Rylee Gustafson, who recently spoke at the Partnership for Food Safety Education about how she became ill from E. coli in spinach in 2006 and has suffered longterm health problems since, including diabetes, a damaged pancreas, voice and vision problems and high blood pressure. The first-person account helped the audience appreciate the importance of their roles in keeping people safe. You can read additional stories and find contacts at stopfoodborneillness.org.
When EMV doesn’t prevent a data breach
EMV has long offered assurances about protecting merchants’ point-of-sale systems from fraud. So when Arby’s experienced a data breach recently, many wondered why EMV didn’t prevent it. A report in The Payments Review said since chip cards were first issued, merchants that have upgraded to chip-enabled terminals have seen a 43-54 percent decrease in fraud – that would likely be even greater if not for the continued use of magnetic-stripe cards. EMV can prevent card data from being transferred onto a magnetic stripe card and used at a chip-enabled point-of-sale system. Still, EMV isn’t bulletproof: It can’t prevent a hacker from downloading malware to a point-of-sale system, stealing payment information and using it at an ecommerce site that doesn’t validate a card’s security code. It’s important to understand how EMV can protect you if you’re vulnerable to fraud – according to Upserve, just 37 percent of merchants have completed EMV implementation – then take steps to fill in any gaps.
Promote proper handwashing
Handwashing…there’s more to it than most people think, and it’s a critical part of limiting the spread of bacteria in your business. The Washington State Department of Health shared these tips: Soap and water is the go-to combination for clean hands. Make sure you wet your hands so the soap will work. After applying the soap, scrub under fingernails, between fingers and up to the lower arm. The scrubbing process should take 10 to 15 seconds, a longer time than most people spend on it. Try singing a song to yourself to reach the required time threshold – the “Happy Birthday” song will get you there. Rinse your hands and dry them with a paper towel or other single-use method. (Paper towels remove more germs.) Note that hand sanitizers are a helpful precaution but don’t take the place of washing hands. These sanitizers work best on clean hands – use them after washing but not instead of it.
Prevent cross-contamination from allergens
Even food establishments who respond carefully when guests alert them to allergies can face trouble when trace amounts of allergens find their way into foods. Allergens are a key focus for the Food Safety and Modernization Act and are the leading cause of food recalls, according to a report in Food Safety magazine. The report notes that between 2005 and 2014, 12 million lbs. of food product was recalled due to undeclared allergens, many of which were present because of cross-contact.
Manufacturers and suppliers are in the hot seat when it comes to protecting consumers from allergens, but everyone in the supply chain needs to have controls in place. To protect your facility, Food Safety magazine recommends isolating tools used with allergens or color-coding them, which can help in case of language barriers on your kitchen team and can also make it readily evident when an item is misplaced. Designate specific cleaning equipment, tools and rags for use only on certain equipment or at certain times. Understand the proper protocols for ensuring that the residue of common allergens is thoroughly cleaned from hands and equipment. (For example, according to Food Allergy Research & Education, a study found that running water and soap or commercial wipes can clean peanuts from a person’s hands but antibacterial gels alone will not work. Further, common household spray cleaners and sanitizing wipes could clean peanut residue from surfaces but dishwashing liquid alone could not do it.)
Finally, store allergens in clean, airtight containers away from other foods. If you don’t have sufficient room in your facility for segregated storage, ensure that any foods containing allergens are not stored above non-allergens. Use internationally recognized allergen stickers or color-coding to set these containers apart.
Improving food safety through the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things – the evolving ability of everyday objects to connect to the Internet and communicate with each other – is rapidly showing new applications in the food industry when it comes to ensuring food quality and safety, Hospitality Technology reports. Kitchen equipment fitted with sensors already helps operators ensure food is stored and cooked at the proper temperature. From there, the Internet of Things can help operators make greater use of sensor data by showing them how to optimize their energy use and reduce unplanned downtime in the kitchen.
The benefits are even greater when it comes to the broader supply chain. Hospitality Technology reports that an RFID tag on a case of food could connect to temperature sensors on a truck to ensure the package has been kept at the appropriate temperature throughout its journey, for example. A restaurant could tie its inventory back to records from the distributor to get a complete picture of a product’s life cycle. Further, when recalls interrupt day-to-day operations, operators can receive USDA alerts and advisories so they can quickly identify the origins of contamination and pull products from shelves without delay.
Within foodservice establishments, the Internet of Things can help ensure kitchen staff follow proper protocols for cooking, food storage and handwashing. Via a digital dashboard, operators can see where training is needed or where procedures are falling short. Most operators have not yet taken advantage of these benefits, but as the supply chain grows in complexity, look for the Internet of Things to help you manage food safety from both a prevention and traceability standpoint.
Big-time tech for small restaurants
If you’re a small operation, bringing the latest technology into your restaurant may seem out of reach. But now the company behind Subway’s mobile ordering platform is making that functionality possible for smaller restaurants, Fast Company reports. Avanti Commerce is now able to have a restaurant of any size use its platform, along with the majority of enterprise features and functions it offers, for $125 a month. The restaurant can be in any location and have any amount of traffic. The one caveat is that it must have five locations or more. Assuming the launch with small restaurants goes well, Avanti’s CEO hopes to expand the platform to food trucks as well.
Fresh seafood, from ship to shore
Is your seafood really fresh? A new handheld screening and data collection device developed by Seafood Analytics can say for sure. Food Safety Tech reports that the device uses electrical currents to determine the quality of seafood products at the cellular level. It can measure how much the cells of a fish change between catch and freezing or catch and consumption, for example. Having that information can help everyone along the supply chain better manage factors including inventory, inbound supplier selection and price. The report says Seafood Analytics is currently developing a Certified Quality Seafood Certification that would serve as a seal of approval for suppliers to use (and end users to seek out) to separate the fresh seafood from the not-so-fresh.
Technology raises the bar
The bar is the latest place to make the most of technology in an effort to accommodate rising labor costs and evolving consumer preferences. Pour-your-own facilities are making it possible for consumers to try a taste of a beer, wine, cocktail, Kombucha or cold-brewed coffee that they might not commit to if they had to purchase it in larger quantities. (For example, Restaurant Business reports that Tapster in Chicago offers a tap card, which is linked to the guest’s credit card and charges them by the ounce for beverages at any of 62 different taps on offer.) Other facilities are using actual robots in place of bartenders to measure shots. But as tech takes the place of humans in some areas, it makes them more important in other areas, such as bussing glasses, helping guests use equipment, or even offering classes to teach guests more about the making of beverages currently on trend.
Avocado breeding helps ensure year-round access from within U.S.
Take one look at social media and you’ll see avocados everywhere – the recently opened Avocaderia in Brooklyn, N.Y. has even gambled that consumers will support a restaurant concept centered around the versatile green fruit. NPR reports that Americans consumed two billion lbs. of avocados last year, two-thirds of which were imported, mostly from Mexico. But the uncertainty surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement has made the future of avocados in the U.S. uncertain too. Fortunately, researchers in California may have found a solution just in time, with three new varieties that make a great guacamole, are easy to peel and can withstand the winter frost and summer heat of California’s central valley. (Existing varieties require milder growing conditions.) Further developing these varieties – dubbed GEM, which is already available, Lunchbox, and a third yet-to-be-named variety – could ensure that Americans have year-round access to avocados.
An innovator trusts (too much?) the power of Instagram
Taco Bell is a brand standout for its innovation capabilities – and Instagram is a major inspiration. Business Insider reports that the brand, which is constantly aiming to develop concepts that will generate buzz online, monitors the most-Instagrammed menu items in an effort to create tasty foods that are as photogenic as possible. But success is not all about looks, as it turns out. When Taco Bell launched its new Naked Chicken Chalupa earlier this year, the brand eschewed traditional media advertising and instead relied on pop-up launch parties around the country, where they provided lights and other visual props to encourage consumers to take social media-worthy photos of their Chalupa, then share them (on Instagram, of course). Consumers and media responded passionately, though not altogether positively – and Taco Bell pulled the item from its menu soon after.
Choose the right tech to manage your events
Private events can be the best way to drive profits in the small-margin restaurant business. At a full-service restaurant, the average large group or private event spends $2,500, as opposed to between $100 and $500 for an average-size table of 3.7 guests, according to the event management software company Gather. Technology can help you ensure you’re efficient as possible in managing them. Modern Restaurant Management recommends you use cloud-based software to get organized. Instead of having piles of paper clutter your desk, such software can help you track and edit invoices, bookings, menus and other details pertaining to your events, as well as make sure your team has the latest information. Speaking of which, your event management software should allow you and your team to communicate across different channels and mobile devices. Select a platform that allows you to tag team members so the right people get alerts at the right times.
As you build your event business, you’ll want to protect it from fraud. According to the Nilson Report, global credit card fraud losses hit $16.3 billion and are expected to top $35 billion annually by 2020. Select a system that complies with Payments Card Industry data security standards (PCI DSS). Operators must adhere to PCI DSS standards anyway, so this will save resources in the long run.
Finally, does your event software help you book events while you’re asleep? It should enable your website to take requests or bookings when you’re not open. Consider a platform that offers data and analytics so you can continue to generate leads.
Time…Is it on your side?
Most of us wish we had more hours in the day. While we can’t change the amount of time we have, we can always change the focus we give to our hours. In a Foodable report, restaurant coach Donald Burns recommends some tips to help you take charge of your schedule: First, do you show respect for your own time and the time of others? The HR consultant Ed Baldwin recently published an essay entitled “Busy is the New Stupid.” Though the title may sound harsh, the essay makes the point that if you spend your days running around trying to accomplish tasks, you are not prioritizing your tasks wisely. Being a workhorse doesn’t bring in profits unless you’re also delivering results. In everything you do, ask yourself if you’re the best person to do it. Don’t be a martyr and take everything on yourself. Delegating responsibility could actually help someone on your team grow and take greater ownership of their work. It can also free you up to focus on fine-tuning your operation’s food safety practices, recruiting talent or building guest loyalty.
Next, track your time – every minute you spend on every task across the span of a week. It will shine a spotlight on time wasters that can creep into your schedule. From there, you can usually carve out additional minutes and hours in your day. Write down your plan the day before and focus on three critical tasks you need to accomplish. Burns recommends you keep index cards handy and write your task or goal at the top of each card and then a few supporting actions below it that can help you reach it. The simple act of writing something down and resolving to accomplish it during a set time frame can help you make a task less of a dream and more of a commitment.
What’s the future of restaurant payment?
Payment technology is evolving so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up with what’s worthwhile. Toast has some tips. While the introduction of chip cards hasn’t been smooth in the U.S., these cards are here for the duration. If you’ve yet to upgrade to EMV-capable equipment, consider a tablet-based system that allows guests to tip as they have before (not before or during payment). Select a system with contactless payment features – many systems offer them already and while the future of contactless payment is less certain, you’ll be prepared if and when it expands. Kiosks are catching on in many quick-service and fast-casual operations and while costs may be prohibitive to small operations, they are likely to decline. Still, a safer bet may be tableside payments via tablet – either stationed at each table or carried by the server – which capitalize on consumers’ desire for prompt service and convenience.
Boost your Snapchat buzz
Are your guests on Snapchat? If they’re Millennials, they are. Bruce Irving, a successful restaurant operator who launched Smart Pizza Marketing, recently shared some important nuggets of wisdom about how any operator (not just those in the pizza business) can drive traffic through the site. If your brand has a fun personality, Snapchat can help you inject humor into your marketing through memes and video – the latter can be especially good if you’re new at video and want to refine your on-camera presence with content that disappears shortly after it’s posted. And if you would like to promote an offer to people nearby – say there’s an athletic event or other gathering happening and you’d like to boost your lunch traffic – you can use an inexpensive Snapchat geofilter to market a free or discounted item to people within a set radius and time frame.
If you’re concerned about food safety and transparency, smaller suppliers may have an edge over larger ones when it comes to accommodating consumer preferences for healthier, organic, gluten-free, fresh foods, according to a report in Food Safety Tech. It says new research by A.T. Kearney entitled “Is Big Food in Trouble?” found that smaller companies are able to be more nimble and flexible – as a result, their revenue has grown between 11 and 15 percent since 2012, as compared to just 1.8 percent for the largest companies during that period. The start-up mentality of these smaller firms is helping them to test and refine products quickly – not wait to develop formal testing processes, as is often required in larger companies.
App promises fine-dining quality at quick-service speed
If your customer base includes the business lunch set or others who like to get quality food quickly, take a look at Allset, the dining app that makes it possible for consumers to pre-book, pre-order and pre-pay for their meals. Upon arrival at a participating restaurant, guests are seated and served immediately and can leave whenever they like. Launched in 2015, Allset includes 400 restaurants in six cities and has been launching a new restaurant each month, expanding its customer base by 30 percent in that same period, Food + Tech Connect reports. The company is on track to have 1,000 partner restaurants this year and expand further to include partners in every major U.S. city and London by next year.
Supremely sustainable? New system showcases the standouts
If you have gone the extra mile to be a sustainable foodservice operation, check out a new system coming in June to help these operations stand out from the crowd. The Good Food Restaurants project is a restaurant survey, rating system and list designed to promote transparency about restaurant business practices that benefit the environment, plants and animals, producers, purveyors, restaurants and consumers, Foodtank reports. The project bases its ratings on annual purchasing data that participating chefs and restaurants supply in survey feedback. It then awards restaurants anywhere from two to five links to show how each operation compares to others in the survey. Any restaurant operation in the United States can take part but, like the Fortune 100, the inaugural list will be limited to 100 businesses.
How mobile wallets could open the door to more sales
Every year, it seems there is a new way for consumers to pay -- and restaurants and other businesses must scramble to keep up. But among those newcomers, mobile wallets could have some staying power, as they open the door to additional functionality beyond payment. FSR Magazine says mobile wallets offer credit card security in case of a data breach, device validation in the form of a PIN or fingerprint, easy access to loyalty cards and gift cards, and streamlined in-app purchases. Over time, expect there to be new ways that mobile wallets help restaurants engage with guests and make payment easier. Right now, the key players include Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal and ChasePay.
Prevent spices from causing foodborne illness
Spices, critical to adding global influence to your menu and boosting flavor without salt and sugar, have been subject to increasing recalls for food pathogens, Food Safety Magazine reports. An FDA study found that spices like oregano, basil, coriander, sesame seeds, curry powder, cumin and black pepper were contaminated at varying levels with salmonella. Spices produced in third world countries in unsanitary conditions and the movement of product across countries can make it easy for the origins of spices to get lost. Are your spice suppliers taking steps to address the problem? Food Safety Magazine says international spice trade organizations should be involved with efforts to track shipments and develop appropriate supplier controls, such as adherence to Good Agricultural Practices and the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Could you find your next star on Snapchat?
McDonald's thinks so. In Australia, the chain is inviting prospective employees to send a 10-second video interview to them via Snapchat, according to Fortune. These "Snapplications" are only preliminary (McDonald's directs applicants to the company's formal application afterwards) but the tool could generate some buzz -- it allows applicants to place virtual McDonald's hats and nametags on themselves so they can see how they would look behind the counter.
Grocery stores poised to compete with pizza restaurants
Pizza restaurants, with a product that's typically a good value, is easily customizable and designed for delivery, have been somewhat impervious to the strains hitting other parts of the restaurant industry. But that could change soon, according to a recent report from Food Dive. It says according to research from Progressive Grocer, the prepared foods departments of grocery stores could clinch some of the pizza market as they can offer fresher ingredients, competitive prices and potentially more interesting combinations. Datassential suggests pizza restaurants compete by offering more on-trend ingredients like Sriracha and roasted vegetables, then let guests customize their pie -- something nearly half of guests desire (but only 23 percent of grocery stores accommodate).
Coffee has its perks
Coffee is continuing its meteoric rise. The National Coffee Association reports that between 2008 to 2016, gourmet coffee beverage consumption rose from 13 percent to 36 percent among 12- to 24-year-olds, and from 19 percent to 41 percent for people between 25 and 39. Want to grab your share of that market? Toast recommends you test out these trends: Try cold brewing for a less acidic, smoother cup at a higher price point -- or even add pressurized nitrogen to that cold brew and serve it from a tap for a naturally sweet "nitro brew." Finally, some coffee companies are experimenting with cascara, the fruit that coats the coffee bean. It can be brewed or add a sweet, maple-like flavor to a latte. Even better, it helps reduce waste by helping roasters use the whole bean in their coffee.
Let your guests make your signature dish at home
Have you ever considered offering a meal kit service at your restaurant? According to the National Restaurant Association, 49 percent of adults in the U.S. would buy meal kits from their favorite restaurant if they were offered. In a Restaurant Hospitality report about the concept, operators who have tried it say offering kits isn't for every restaurant -- they take a lot of testing to get right. But it can help if you have a signature item you know guests will like, whether it be your steak, burgers or guacamole, and focus on helping guests make experiences around that item.
A new twist on an American favorite
The diner is an American icon -- but a new trend? A new report in Eater says 2017 could be the year of the luncheonette, as new diners pop up across the country. But these restaurants are not purely about nostalgia. In fact, the ones that have taken off have reinvented the concept. Take Dove's Luncheonette (a Mexican diner in Chicago) by James Beard Award winner Paul Kahan. Or Maurice, a Portland, Ore. pastry luncheonette. Others that have thrived include New York's Nickel & Diner, which doesn't serve typical diner food but looks like a futuristic diner, Philadelphia's Rooster Soup Co., which donates all proceeds to charity, and Dad's Luncheonette in Half Moon Bay, Calif., which has a relaxed, community feeling but is located in a renovated train caboose and features a small, locally sourced menu of just seven items.
New York's small (but strong) food safety team
Stopping foodborne illness before it reaches you can feel like an impossible task. But a team of just 43 microbiologists, chemists and support staff at the New York State Food Laboratory gave a substantial boost to the state's record of food safety testing in 2016. They increased testing of food and beverage samples by 10 percent this past year, which led to more than 300 recalls of contaminated items, according to a Food Safety News report of findings from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office. This included more testing for health hazards, purity and accuracy of labeling using new more accurate techniques. For the first time, the lab used a DNA-based method to test fish for speciation -- an important step in identifying food allergies and food fraud. They also increased testing of imported items like cheese and spices by 28 percent over 2015.
Before adding an ingredient, check the data
Do you ever wonder exactly how guests will respond to an ingredient you'd like to add to a new dish? Datassential has developed a new tool called Flavor, which helps you track specific foods, beverages, spices and other ingredients across a range of metrics and demographic segments. You can determine the awareness of an ingredient among people in a specific region, for example, and even identify if those people have children. The tool includes millions of consumer recommendations about thousands of products, from acai to za'atar.
Know your Instagrammability
Is Instagram in your restaurant's business plan? For a growing number of restaurants, it is -- credit the social network's more then 500 million active monthly users. The Financial Times reports that the social network has been transforming the restaurant scene in the U.K. and according to Skift, chefs in the U.S. are also creating dishes with an eye toward how they will look in a square photo on Instagram -- menu items have a unique appearance, plates are whiter and some have design or branding elements that people associate with the restaurant when people find them online.
Could technology help you make front-of-house improvements?
Where are your front-of-house pain points? Chances are, technology can help. Long wait times? FSR magazine suggests CAKE’s guest management and point-of-sale platforms, which allow a restaurant to issue guests a wait time and call them on their cell when their table is ready, freeing guests to wander before their meal. (Having that cell number also helps the restaurant build loyalty by recognizing guests and their commonly ordered items.) Inconsistent performance across locations? Mirus Restaurant Solutions can help measure guest feedback and a wide array of data to create a report card for servers, managers, operators or the company overall. For example, servers’ tips on charged transactions can be tracked and ranked so you can see where more training may be needed.
Choose the right full-service payment technology
Payment technology is changing too quickly for many restaurants to keep up. There are many routes to take – and a number of problems with them, according to FSR magazine. For example, you could tweak your existing payment technology with add-on functionality, but saving short-term costs could lead you to a large, expensive overhaul later. You could develop a smartphone app, but many guests still resist paying this way due to the appearance of security risks. You could attach devices to your tabletops, but many guests miss the human interaction and want their meals to be tech-free. You may get the most advantages with mobile devices that servers can bring to guests’ tables, FSR magazine says. Your guests get human interaction, plus the security of having a mini point-of-sale system delivered to their table when it’s time to pay.
Crowdsource your restaurant launch
Opening a restaurant can be a recipe for racking up debt, but the operators who launched Prequel in Washington, D.C. avoided taking out high-interest loans and instead relied on crowdfunding to bankroll their enterprise in its early stages. Civil Eats reports that the operators raised $350,000 in cash by selling gift cards to future customers before the restaurant even opened. Now they have launched a company, InKind, to help other restaurants benefit from their crowdfunding model. Restaurants that meet InKind’s criteria for community support (e.g. more than 1,000 likes on Facebook and a 500-person email list) can apply for funding and receive money quickly, then pay InKind back with high-amount gift cards for future guests.
A restaurant goes viral – by design
Laureen Moyal of Paperwhite Studio has helped New York restaurants increase their online followers exponentially – and all through branding tweaks that have made them Instagram hits. Grub Street reports that Moyal designed sugar packets with sayings like “Love you a latte” for the restaurant Jack’s Wife Freda, for example, as well as paper menus that serve as placemats (and are a natural backdrop for the photos guests take of their food and then post to Instagram). Jack’s Wife Freda now has 120,000 followers on the site – far beyond those of popular restaurants nearby – and its digital success has landed the restaurant a cookbook deal. (That’s getting some play on Instagram too.)
Restaurant-style innovation at the grocery store
Looking to keep tabs on the competition? In addition to knowing what your neighborhood restaurants offer, check out businesses like Whole Foods, which continues to evolve. A new Whole Foods opened last month in Chicago and according to Restaurant Business, the business is hardly just a grocery store, with bars (visitors can sit down or bring their drinks with them while they shop), a coffee roastery, seating for more than 200, a fresh pasta stand, a build-your-own concept, food and drink from upscale brands and a dizzying array of prepared foods that include everything from gelato to mochi to buffalo wings.
Why hasn’t fast-casual pasta taken off?
For many foods, the transition from casual dining to fast-casual is smooth – burgers, pizza, no problem. But Eater reports that pasta has struggled to break into the national consciousness as a fast-casual concept. That’s due to a number of factors, including the emotions associated with pasta – warmth, family and togetherness – which can get lost when you’re trying to serve pasta at lightning speed. What’s more, pasta is ill-equipped to be prepared in advance, suffering in texture and taste if left out too long before serving. And while pasta itself is inexpensive, the parmesan, tomatoes, pork and other items that accompany it can lift the price of a dish out of fast-casual territory. But Technomic’s Darren Tristano thinks there could still be potential for operators to succeed with it – especially if they focus on accompaniments like adult beverages and desserts.
Be street smart
Street food is in a sweet spot. It’s inspiring a lot of operators to develop street food-inspired menu additions. Datassential reports that the word “street” has increased 40 percent on menus in the past four years and “street tacos” has skyrocketed 200 percent in the same period. Street food also provides an opening for you to add global tastes to your menu. If you’re looking for some options ripe for expansion in the U.S., Datassential suggests street food favorites like yakitori, the Japanese meat skewers grilled over a charcoal flame, Singapore curry puffs with potatoes, herbs, spices, chicken and egg, or Hungarian kolbice, a bread cone stuffed with sausage, cheese and roasted onions.
Nuts and seeds are already a go-to snack for the health-conscious, supplying protein along with an energy boost. Mintel predicts that those benefits are now helping nuts and seeds move more deeply into snack foods and across day parts as well, popping up in breakfast foods and salads more frequently. Food producers are expanding their use of nuts and seeds as protein-rich ingredients in crackers, vegan cheese, yogurt and oatmeal.
Ag leaders ask Congress to boost funding for food safety
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is imploring Congress to increase funding to make it possible for states to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, Food Dive reports. The agency says state governments need an additional $100 million annually, including $40 million to protect produce safety, $20 million for preventive controls for animal food and $40 million for preventive controls for human food.
Food truck food safety has financial benefits too
Food Safety Magazine says as the number of people eating at food trucks continues to climb, food truck drivers are traveling longer distances, expanding hours of operation and working at a variety of events – all potential food safety challenges. To manage food safety, many drivers are using commissaries as their base of operation – that could include a commercial kitchen, restaurant, shared-use kitchen or other foodservice operation licensed and inspected by the local health department or a state agency like the department of health or agriculture. Commissaries provide a range of benefits, including storage space for items purchased in bulk, a central reporting location for employees to share information, restrooms and handwashing facilities, a temperature-controlled environment to reduce food spoilage, and conveniently scheduled food delivery.
Salad days are here
Warmer weather, sprouting vegetables, swimsuit season on the horizon..It all adds up to more salad! But grains, fruit, legumes and even noodles can help your salads evolve well beyond greens. Restaurant Business suggests adding ingredients like quinoa, wheatberries or farro for a healthy grain-based option. Rice noodles can add texture to Asian-inspired salads. Even standards like the Caesar provide a good foundation for your signature twists -- Restaurant Business reports that items like proscuitto chips and sesame seeds are appearing on some Caesars along with the romaine and parmesan. If you'd like to be on trend, consider the appeal of poke and try something similar, like a Tataki-style protein, on a new salad.
At last, gluten-free bread as good as traditional loaves
If you have gluten-sensitive guests, you've likely struggled to provide a taste-tempting alternative to traditional bread. Let's face it: Most gluten-free loaves provide an experience that falls far short of the one you get with a chewy sourdough. But according to Food Ingredients 1st, researchers at Hiroshima University may have struck gold with a new rice-flour bread that closely mimics the texture, volume and consistency of wheat-flour loaves. The secret to better gluten-free loaves, according to the researchers, lies in the kind of wet milling used to process the rice flour. The report predicts that the successful development of the rice-based bread could conceivably shift bread exports and production from the world's wheat fields to Asia's rice paddies in the not-so-distant future.
Pizza proves its economy-proof power
Toast reports that while one-third of consumers report eating out less these days, pizzerias continue to grow, with 41 percent of Americans having a slice (or three?) every week and 68 percent ordering a pizza to go at least once a month. Why? Toast says it helps that pizza continues to reinvent itself -- take the "Detroit-style" pizza currently winning fans in Austin and Los Angeles. Pizza is also the original customizeable food and, paired with its presence in fast-casual chains, is continuing to win support from Millennials. Finally, pizza chains happen to be among the brands harnessing technology to great effect right now. Domino's, which has implemented both employee-facing and customer-facing technology effectively, now gets 55 percent of its revenue from digital orders and has seen its stock continue to climb since 2012.
Chick peas get a promotion
Long gone are the days of cold, water-logged chick peas relegated to a lonely compartment of the salad bar. According to Flavor & the Menu, hummus has paved the way for a much bigger role for chick peas. Now they're being used not only as a hearty addition to salads but as garnishes, as bar bites like fritters, as a vehicle for glazes like maple syrup and harissa, and as a base for more creative hummus flavors. If you're trying to bring more global flair to your menu, they're a good place to begin.
Food delivery gains a dubious addition
As the food delivery industry becomes cluttered with new players, there's yet another one coming on the scene. But this one begs the question, "who is paying attention to food safety?" TechCrunch reports that the Santa Clara, Calif. startup JoyRun has raised about $10 million in funding for a concept that allows people to place a food order and scan the area for people about to head out to that restaurant. For a small tip or even for free, these ad-hoc delivery people (who have agreed to the terms beforehand) will bring the food order back to the person who ordered it. The company is focusing its attention on college campuses, where students are often looking for ways to make money on the side and where bringing food back for friends has long been a norm.
Remember the spectrum of food safety risks
Food safety is not just about preventing pathogens from entering your supply. Enlist your team as partners in an effort to eliminate a range of hazards. Anything from glass to metal shavings could enter your products if equipment malfunctions at your supplier or even if their disgruntled employee purposefully adds them to a product. Last summer, P.F. Chang's was able to avoid a crisis when an alert employee noticed metal fragments in an ingredient used to make a sauce that accompanies two dishes on the restaurant's menu, Food Safety Magazine reports. The incident was found to be purely accidental but if not for the vigilance of one employee, it could have caused injury and a public relations disaster for the restaurant.
High-pressure processing chosen by more producers of refrigerated foods
As food production companies review their procedures to ensure compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act, many of them are finding that traditional methods used to protect food, such as heat pasteurization, aren't suitable anymore, Food Safety Tech reports. As consumers have demanded chemical-free processing, cleaner ingredients and foods with pure flavor, color and texture, more producers of refrigerated foods are turning toward high-pressure processing. The method, which uses pressure (vs. heat or chemicals) to remove pathogens from food, has the added benefit of increasing the distribution radius of foods, extending shelf- life and minimizing food waste.
How Panera's bet on tech has paid off
Three years ago, Panera launched its 2.0 initiative and implemented a range of guest-facing and employee-facing technology to improve the guest experience. So how is it going now? Motley Fool says their investment is paying off, and while Panera sees its technology as a differentiator, it's actually becoming what consumers expect when they visit quick-service or fast-casual restaurants nowadays. Digital ordering has been a strong positive, enabling Panera to more effectively present its menu and customizeable options than it could on a static menu. In the kitchen, color-coding technology has helped employees more quickly and accurately assemble orders and notice guest allergies and preferences. Nearly one-quarter of the chain's sales now come digitally and there is a clear sales gap between company stores that have been fully converted with Panera 2.0 technology and those that haven't (yet).
Complexity of food supply chain makes vigilance critical
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly one in 10 people become ill each year after eating contaminated food. Our food supply has become so complex that it's difficult, despite our best intentions, to ensure food is safe. Food Safety Tech suggests that because consumers demand traceability, from sourcing information to a list of ingredients, you should use suppliers who have obtained third-party certifications pertaining to food purity and safety. The supply chain is fragmented so get to know the people at each step and ensure communication is clear. Finally, pay attention to opportunities to fight food fraud by talking to legislators about it and watching out for helpful technology -- for example, Food Safety Tech says the blockchain, the technology underpinning Bitcoin, has applications in the food industry and can provide a transparent ledger of food products at every step of their journey.
The secret's in the sensors
At Cava, the Washington, D.C.-based chain of Mediterranean fast-casual restaurants, virtual tracking technology called Raspberry Pi helps manage everything from food safety to seating. Fast Company reports that to help avoid giving guests the impression of long lines and wait times, Cava has used motion sensors to detect where guests congregate -- like at the menu boards and serving station -- and then redesigned the spaces to keep traffic moving (lines now move 10 percent faster and hold 12 percent more people). Sensors have also predicted Cava's need for more seating in suburban stores, where guests tend to linger -- boosting revenue by 20 percent per square foot in those stores. Kitchen sensors track how long refrigerator doors have been open and if there have been humidity or temperature spikes. After sensors showed that its grill burners heated unevenly, cooks adjusted their approach and food quality complaints dropped by 28 percent.
Help your menu send the right message
Just as your guests assess your brand and identity as soon as they walk through the door, they're also taking in this information from your menu. Is yours having the best impact on sales? Foodable recommends you consider several elements: Is it structured so guests can read it easily, like they would read a book? Does your typography and layout help guests categorize your dishes? Use headings, borders, boxes, complementary font changes and even empty space to help guests change gears and process what's on offer. If you use photography and illustration, less is more -- and make sure photos are well lit and appear professional. Color is important too, as its psychological effects should stimulate the right emotions.
It’s snack time
Occasions for snacking now outnumber traditional daypart meals as most consumers eat snacks four or five times each day, according to Datassential. What’s more, their survey of more than 3500 consumers found that 62 percent of respondents agree that anything can be a snack. A wide range of food and beverages now qualify as snacks – and that creates new possibilities for restaurants looking to appeal to snacking guests. The top non-traditional snacks in the survey were sandwiches, wraps, pizza, breakfast cereal, burgers, sliders and chicken wings or nuggets.
Do you have an activist investor?
Activist investors abound in the restaurant industry and they have a reputation for shaking things up: Note Chipotle's recent move to eliminate its co-CEO structure under pressure from one investor. QSR Magazine says these investors can be helpful in lifting a struggling company's stock price, though they often do this by changing up the board and eliminating fat in the form of bureaucracy and waste. While they often have great skill in certain areas of business, they usually need lots of help from the operator. They tend to advise companies to focus on one thing, not several, in order to stengthen their core business. Finally, it's important to watch them and understand their time horizon, which will help you ensure they are there to help you fix problems.
Expand your seasonal coffee menu
If you’re looking to innovate your beverage menu by incorporating seasonal flavors throughout the year, consider your hot and iced coffee selection. According to Mintel research, 43 percent of consumers surveyed prefer seeing seasonal ingredients in coffee drinks. In the survey, coffee came out well ahead of tea, beer and cocktails as the ideal beverage to showcase the tastes of the season.
Innovate with seafood
When is the last time you changed up your seafood offering? According to Datassential research, 53 percent of consumers are interested in trying global seafood items. Nation's Restaurant News suggests you find ways to make it more interactive and experiential -- think Korean barbecue or Asian hot pot. Consider new twists on favorites as well -- like the calamari gunkan sushi with tzatziki sauce served at the international seafood restaurant concept Ocean Basket. And while seafood doesn't have a large presence on take-away menus, it should: 65 percent of consumers surveyed said they were interested in both hot and cold seafood dishes at buffets, especially those offered as grab-and-go options.
Where's the bacon?
Thanks to a devoted following, bacon has evolved well past its position as a breakfast side dish. In recent years, it's been equally at home garnishing a cocktail or adding savory flavor to a dessert. But perhaps the American love affair with bacon has finally gone too far. Grub Street reports that according to the Ohio Pork Council, demand for frozen pork belly is outpacing supply. Farmers can no longer keep up, even as they are raising "more pigs than ever." You can sleep well knowing there are still 17.8 million pounds of frozen pork belly available, but expect prices to rise.
Easy actions to improve food safety
Want a few low-cost tools to boost your food safety readiness? Food Navigator shared these tips from Walmart’s Vice President of Food Safety Frank Yiannas, who addressed the recent Consumer Food Safety Education Conference: Consider clothing – it impacts performance. Studies have shown that a person wearing a uniform that conveys responsibility performs better than one performing the same task while wearing street clothes. Teach the right way AND the wrong way – and show what can happen when mistakes occur. Make food safety the norm. If you talk about how 75 percent of workers wash their hands with soap and water (and not about the 25 percent who don’t), most people will follow suit to be part of the norm. Finally, make it rhyme. Walmart made up a rap song and video to help teach food safety standards to deli employees. Those lessons are more likely to stay with employees than those delivered on a Powerpoint deck.
Make your kitchen pass muster
Would your kitchen pass a surprise inspection? In a report in Food Safety Magazine, Breann Marvin-Loffing of HOODZ International recommends you take four actions to ensure you comply with state and local health regulations. First, make sure you know those regulations, as well as the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code, and stay abreast of updates. Have a kitchen cleaning checklist for use during and at the end of a shift. It should include items such as washing and sanitizing all surfaces and emptying trash bins. Ensure you properly maintain your kitchen exhaust system, which can be a fire hazard and impact the taste of food if not adequately cleaned and maintained. Finally, conduct self-inspections at different unannounced times and note common violations that occur during specific day parts or when particular team members are working.
Mobile ordering, Disney style
For a look at how mobile technology and food ordering can intersect, take a look at Disney, which prides itself on creating seamless guest experiences. Food & Wine reports that at Satu’li Canteen, a new fast-casual restaurant opening at the resort in May, a mobile ordering feature will allow guests to customize their meals, pre-pay for their order and notify the restaurant when they arrive via an “I’m here” button on their My Disney Experience app. At that point, the app prompts the kitchen to start preparing the order, then tells the guest when the order is ready and where to pick it up. Disney’s aim for the technology is to shorten lines and minimize wait times.
A tech trailblazer must defend its choices
Eatsa, the quick-service brand that has made headlines for its quinoa bowls and high-tech, low-human-contact approach, is getting some negative publicity for its technology choices. Specifically, a lawsuit filed against the chain in New York claims that the entire process of purchasing food at Eatsa, from ordering through pick-up, is inaccessible to the visually impaired. According to Recode, the suit claims that while technology is available to make touchscreens and self-service pick-up accessible to the visually impaired, Eatsa has neglected to adopt it. Further, while the restaurant has a staff person on hand to help guests who need assistance, the suit claims that the touchscreen method guests must use to summon that help is not accessible to blind or low-vision guests and there is no audible cue to signal when food is ready.
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