Take the right steps after an accident
Accidents happen – even if you have an airtight safety program. Does your team know what to do? An FSR report recommends you quickly asses the need for medical attention – if calling 911 isn’t required, call your insurer’s injured employee hotline (if applicable) or transport the employee to a medical facility. Secure the area with barriers so you can adequately investigate the area and prevent secondary injuries. Collect information for an incident report – not to assign fault but to identify root causes. Maintain a record of the incident using OSHA form 300 and consult your insurance carrier for additional help. Institute a return-to-work program for the employee and ensure it’s flexible and won’t aggravate the injury – less-physical clerical work may be appropriate for a person who injured his back while moving inventory, for example. Finally, reinforce and revise (if needed) your safety program with your team to help prevent future problems.
Build an authentic emotional brand
Even if you weren’t a fan of the hit show “The Golden Girls,” you have likely heard about the recent opening of the New York City restaurant it inspired. As Inc. reports, the restaurant represents “emotional branding at its best,” right down to the color scheme and cheesecake selection. Does your brand hit the right notes? Far more than your logo and look, your brand is about what others are saying about you and the emotions your business evokes in guests. Foodable recommends you start by ensuring your customers know what you do best. Is there a special ingredient or process that makes you different? Your guests should know that and trust they’re seeing the real you when they visit your restaurant and interact with anyone from your team.
A new badge of trust for food transparency
Consumers demand food transparency – and food industry buzz words like “organic” and “sustainable” can make restaurant guests feel good about what they order – but how do consumers know who backs up these claims? Eater Denver reports that a new program, Good Food 100 Restaurants, provides a “badge of trust” that helps educate consumers and recognize chefs and restaurants that are transparent with their purchasing and sustainable business practices.” It’s a rating system designed to demonstrate how restaurant chefs are developing a better food system and supporting good food economies at state, regional and national levels. The effort started in Colorado but is gaining a national following and includes chefs from organizations including Union Square Hospitality Group, Frontera and Bateau.
Nachos get a makeover
Nachos are a food for the times: shareable, customizeable, interactive, comforting, and an appealing foundation for any number of proteins, toppings and spices. What’s more, the dish is evolving on menus well past the salty-chips-and-processed-cheese variety that have long been a staple at arena events. Flavor & the Menu reports that chefs are reinventing nachos in a number of new ways, like the tuna poke nachos at Next Door in Dallas, which include cucumber, pine nuts, wasabi crema and wonton crisps. In Los Angeles, Petty Cash Taqueria’s roasted cauliflower nachos include crema poblano, Jack cheese, rainbow cauliflower, kale and pickled Fresno chiles. Nachos are becoming a platform to show off both regional flavors (think barbecue or grilled shrimp) and global tastes (from Bolognese to béarnaise).
Handheld foods reign
Sandwiches, burgers and other foods consumers can hold in their hands accounted for about one out of every four dollars spent in the foodservice channel in 2016 – that’s $205 billion in sales according to Technomic’s new “Foodservice Prepared Sandwich Category” study. Burgers led with 44 percent of total handheld food sales in the U.S., deli and submarine sandwiches accounted for 13 and 11 percent, respectively, and other favorites included tacos, burritos, breakfast sandwiches and wraps. While 53 percent of handheld sales occurred during lunch, those sales have begun to spread into other dayparts too. In the study, respondents noted that while handheld foods are a natural fit for take-out, the packaging and delivery of these foods need improvement to become greener, more cost effective and capable of maintaining food temperature.
Lights, camera, foodborne illness!
The next time you watch a cooking show, note whether the featured chef follows food safety protocol. As Francine Shaw, president of Food Safety Training Solutions, noted in Restaurant News recently, on-air personalities often skip handwashing, have hair or clothing dangling down near the food they’re preparing, fail to use meat thermometers and often use the same cutting board for vegetables and raw meat. Lax food safety protocol sets a bad example for home cooks and those in the restaurant business who prepare food before an audience (whether on television, via a live demo or simply on a video that goes on the restaurant’s website or Facebook page). Shaw urges chefs to remember safety whenever they’re preparing food – wash hands, avoid cross-contaminating foods, cook food to the appropriate temperature (and keep hot and cold foods at their required temperatures), clean and sanitize all equipment and prioritize safety over fashion.
Utensil design for joyful, mindful eating
New research has found the design of eating utensils impacts consumers’ perceptions of food quality and taste. The men behind it are Andreas Fabian, a PhD, and Charles Michel, chef-in-residence at Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory. They collaborated on a teardrop-shaped glass wand used to eat creamy foods like peanut butter, yogurt or hummus, Fast Company reports. Their goal was to recreate what a person does when eating something so mouth-watering he forgets manners – like licking a finger while cooking or a plate after eating. The utensil Fabian and Michel created, dubbed a Goûte, is actually shaped like a finger. Their research showed that when taste testers ate yogurt with it, they perceived it as being better and creamier. Fabian and Michel started a design studio and are conducting further grant-funded studies to develop new utensil designs aimed at making people more mindful about eating so they choose healthier diets.
Creating an Instagram hit
Searching for a food destined to become an Instagram sensation? Try a kitschy or familiar twist on an unrelated food, give it some interesting color and texture and voila! Note the success of the sushi donut, which vegan cookbook author Sam Murphy claims she invented while playing around with a donut mold last summer, according to the Washington Post. (She presses sushi rice into a mold greased with coconut oil, lets it set, then pops it out and decorates it with salmon, cucumber, avocado, pickled ginger and a range of other ingredients.) The ring-shaped sushi concoctions have recently gone viral on Instagram and a number of restaurants are testing versions to add to their menus.
Better communication via kiosk
Kiosks are getting a lot of play lately as vehicles to help restaurants cut labor costs and speed up service. But Hospitality Technology recently identified some additional benefits for restaurant operators, particularly those that serve diverse populations. The kiosks, supported by customizeable technology, can help restaurant overcome a range of communication challenges they experience with guests. They can offer foreign language and sign language translations, for example, or an easier means for those with physical and mental disabilities to place an order. They can also help you avoid triggering a guest’s allergic reaction by allowing the guest to specify their sensitivities.
Out with the buzzer, in with the phone alert
Disappearing are the days of the black buzzers used to signal to restaurant guests that they have moved up the waiting list and their table is ready. In their place is technology like that of Nowait, a waitlist company that alerts guests on their phones. Skift reports that Yelp Reservations just acquired Nowait in a move to compete with other booking services aiming to help restaurant operators manage their tables. The Nowait app, available on Apple and Android platforms, lets guests browse a list of participating restaurants to check the wait times at each one and add their names, reports SFGate. As they move up the list en route to the restaurant, they receive a notification by text.
What’s your upsell strategy?
The book Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance by Paul Farris says the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent. (A new customer? Only 5 to 20 percent.) So how smart is your upselling strategy? Toast suggests three ways to improve. Have your servers offer tailored suggestions based on strong knowledge of the menu and your CRM software – it helps to know that merlot is the wine guests order most often with pasta primavera, for example. Second, have servers focus on the customers they’re serving – if your server discovers his guests are vegetarians, he can avoid gushing over your filet mignon special. Finally, make sure your technology supports smooth service. Your point-of-sale system should be structured so servers waste no time in taking orders – the less time they need to explain the menu to hungry guests, the more time they have to promote items that enhance the meal.
Tip the scale
If you want your restaurant to stand the test of time, it’s a given that you should make your business memorable, consistent and profitable. But Foodable adds one element to the mix: make your business scalable. In other words, how well does your operation adapt to market changes? Do you have a strategic plan for how to grow through changes to your menu, fluctuations in ingredient pricing, or increased competition in your neighborhood? It’s also important to tap into the local community, so you can offer products from local farms, breweries or other producers – but at the same time, weave those practices through operations of different sizes while staying true to your mission and core values.
It’s innovation time for salad
Long the go-to lunch option for guests trying to eat healthy, salads can be short on surprises. That’s changing. Flavor & the Menu reports that the bowl trend, along with the international flavors often woven in, is challenging chefs to rethink the salad bowl by incorporating more superfoods, a range of proteins, bold flavors and layers of crispy greens like iceberg and romaine. Consider the When in Romaine salad by José Andrés at Beefsteak, which combines romaine with cucumber salad, seaweed salad, toasted seaweed, cherry tomatoes, radishes, sprouts and scallions. The crunchy greens on trend can be more filling, due to their higher water content, and they’re also versatile. Try charring or grilling them for your next salad.
Eatertainment takes off
One new restaurant and bar in Austin, Texas is taking the “eatertainment” trend to a new level and building community among guests, all while wrapping in some tech-driven benefits. Eater Austin reports that the concept, dubbed Vigilante, offers more than 150 games and special tables designed for game playing, with cup holders and trays connected to the outside of tables to provide more space for play. The tables have electrical outlets, buttons that allow guests to summon their server, and “join me” signals to invite other guests to join their game. The menu, which includes easily handheld items like sliders and skewers, promises not to distract from the games in progress.
Help employees take ownership
Want to keep your top talent? Consider giving your employees a stake in the business. Take Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Mich., which was built around an open-book management philosophy. Restaurant Hospitality reports that the deli is part of a portfolio of 10 businesses all developed by the brand’s 700 employees. Employees have weekly huddles to review profit-and-loss statements in which every line item has an owner. Employees can buy shares in the business after two years. The structure has been good for business – between 2011 and 2016, labor costs at the deli alone dropped from 16 percent to 15 percent and employee turnover declined from 65 percent to 48 percent.
Study finds children’s menus have much room to improve
Back in 2011, the National Restaurant Association launched the Kids LiveWell initiative to improve the nutritional profile of children’s menus at 15,000 chain restaurant locations around the country. A report by The Lunch Tray says more than 150 restaurant chains with 42,000 locations are participating in the program. However, it also says a recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine indicates the average children’s restaurant meal in 2015 contained twice the recommended calories and more than 60 percent of their recommended daily allowance for sodium. And while soda is no longer a default beverage on children’s menus, sugar-sweetened milk, juices and teas often are.
Inspect, replace and protect the tools of your trade
Employing the best sanitation practices in your kitchen only goes so far when your team is using damaged tools. Food Safety magazine recommends you inspect your tools regularly and replace them when you find excessive abrasions or gouges, damaged bristles, extreme discoloration or staining, or wear that could be hazardous to the user. When replacing tools, look for ones with ergonomic, one-piece design and store them in clean, protected areas – avoid high-humidity areas that can encourage the growth of bacteria, as well as cold areas that can fracture equipment.
Restaurants ripe for investment? Not so fast
Investors see restaurants as a hot market right now. Restaurant stocks have surged in the past few months and are up 6 percent so far this year, according to the NRN Restaurant Index. Restaurant sales remain stagnant overall – but is the industry poised for a comeback? Nation’s Restaurant News, for one, doesn’t see the industry’s challenges going away any time soon. It’s still unclear whether middle-class consumers will have the kind of increased discretionary income that will drive visits in the coming months. What’s more, while regulatory requirements should let up, immigration limits could further boost labor costs and restaurants that import produce may face new border taxes.
Striking the balance between value and quality
As quick-service brands are moving away from speed and frugality in the interest of delivering higher-quality ingredients, Taco Bell’s thriving dollar value menu provides some evidence that “easy beats better,” as its parent company’s CEO said in an earnings call last year. Eater reports that while the brand has mentioned in advertising that it has improved the quality of some of its food, that doesn’t have to take priority when its “speed and value” model are working so well – and in fact, are being perceived by guests as a measure of a quality experience. (The report says this hasn’t been the case at McDonald’s and Wendy’s, where past dollar value menus have not helped the bottom line and have evolved to combo meal deals offered at slightly higher prices.) Taco Bell told Eater that its breakfast and all-day dollar menus were major sales drivers last year.
Omnivore launches App Marketplace to drive restaurant tech
Looking to try out some new tech? Take a look at Omnivore’s new App Marketplace, which aims to connect restaurant point-of-sale systems to technology that can help restaurants enhance service and brand engagement. Hospitality Technology reports that the App Marketplace is an open online exchange that helps connect restaurants to a range of technology services. DoorDash, MenuPad and SeatNinja are among the more than 25 app developers currently signed on to join the platform in areas such as ordering and payment, gifting, seating, analytics and payroll.
A model for slashing food waste
Minimizing food waste is not just good for the planet – it’s good business. In the U.S., food waste accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s $161 billion worth of food based on 2010 figures. The two largest grocery trade groups in the U.S. just announced plans to clarify food labels, which will better identify waste for consumers – but note what’s already happening in Denmark, the European country leading the fight against food waste. The Huffington Post reports that many restaurants there, especially those with buffets, use an app called Too Good to Go. It tells its million-plus Danish and international users which restaurants have excess food. Users get an inexpensive meal from the restaurant’s buffet and the restaurant eliminates food waste. Supermarkets are also offering “stop food waste” bargains and an app called YourLocal helps consumers find the best offers.
Farm-to-table has made it to the bar
Food and Drink Resources reports that increasingly, restaurant bartenders are skipping the bottles of juice and relying on fresh, local produce to add flavor to cocktails – or saving that produce for later by freezing herbs in ice or pureeing fruits and vegetables and pouring them into ice cube trays. It’s not just about jazzing up alcohol, either. In a Flavor & the Menu report, a representative of NPD Group says on-premise, non-alcoholic beverage sales are down due to guests turning away from carbonated soft drinks in favor of options they perceive to be healthier, including fruit-flavored water and juices made with fresh fruit. There’s a big opportunity to expand sales by offering fruit-and-vegetable juice flights, pairings or cocktails.
Foreign-born workers important to industry growth
Foreign-born restaurant employees are critical to the industry’s ability to expand as the number of 16-to-24-year-olds in the labor force continues to shrink. That’s according to the National Restaurant Association’s Chief Economist Bruce Grindy. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey says restaurants employ nearly 2.3 million foreign-born workers, more than 8 percent of the foreign-born workers in the U.S workforce. More than 23 percent of those employed at restaurants are foreign-born, versus 19 percent for the overall economy. Foreign-born workers are also comparatively more likely to hold higher-paying jobs in the restaurant industry – 45 percent of restaurant chefs and 24 percent of restaurant managers are foreign-born. This means such employees will be increasingly important to the industry’s ability to create jobs in the future.
The fast casualization of fine dining
Fast fine, fast casual premium, fast casual 2.0…Whatever you want to call it, Mintel reports that a new kind of restaurant is emerging that offers high-quality meals, a full bar, a comprehensive menu and no wait staff. Mintel analysts say the trend may make operational sense for restaurants that
want to source fine ingredients while streamlining and automating the ordering process – and it could appeal to Millennials. Still, servers are often what make a fine dining experience memorable, and as one analyst says, “something is lost when a plastic buzzer tells you to pick up your food, no matter how fancy the dish is.” These restaurants are likely the next step for fast casuals but won’t replace fine dining.
What consumers want in prepared foods
Supermarkets are proving to be worthy competitors for restaurants that offer prepared foods. If your local market fits that mold or you sell prepared foods for take-away, ensure you’re providing what Datassential says consumers want from their local markets: 35 percent of consumers surveyed say they want unique or new items or flavors, 33 percent want healthier food options, 30 percent want healthier versions of foods they consider to be bad for them, and 27 percent want food items they can customize.
Service with a : )
Emojis are adept at getting a point across – and a growing number of restaurants are using them to engage guests in their menus. While Domino’s has been using emojis in online ordering for some time, Eater reports that full-service restaurants are now using emojis on more traditional food and drink menus, streamlining menu items down to pictures of ingredients. In doing so, they’ve simplified their menus while making them playful and memorable. At the Little Yellow Door in London, for example, a seared steak roll with truffle mayo, caramelized onions, and rocket is presented on the menu as a “cow face” “baguette" with "mushroom" "chestnut" "rocket ship." While emojis aren’t for every restaurant, they can bring fun and novelty to a restaurant while breaking down barriers between wait staff and guests.
Reduce the spread of foodborne pathogens in juice
Juicing is a great way to offer guests a boost in vitamins, minerals and enzymes – and potentially a concentrated dose of foodborne pathogens. Food Safety News recommends you ensure the bacteria on your produce doesn’t end up in the drink you serve by taking these steps: Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water pre- and post-preparation. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water and scrub firm produce like melons or cucumbers with a produce brush under running water before peeling it. Give greens a bath in a clean basin with cold water and a half cup of vinegar, soak for five to 10 minutes and rinse leaves well in a colander with cold water. Dry produce with a clean towel to further reduce any remaining bacteria present.
What temperature makes this food safe?
Could you pass a quiz asking you to confirm the temperature you need to cook various proteins to ensure their safety? To ensure fish and shellfish doesn’t contain foodborne pathogens, cook it to 145 degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If it’s a whole chicken or turkey you’re cooking, it’s finished when it registers 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast and the innermost part of the wing and thigh. Beef, pork, veal and lamb need to reach 145 degrees and rest for three minutes, whereas ground meats need to reach 160 degrees.
New tech to boost your traffic
Want to attract more guests – and turn them into loyal ones? Coffee shops and other quick-service establishments are beginning to offer wireless phone chargers to help guests repower their devices while they grab a bite to eat. QSR reports that these chargers are simply thin mats that are placed on the table or built into it. Guests place their phone in a special charging case that uses magnetic induction technology to charge the device. Right now, they’re just an added convenience but that could change (wifi was merely a convenience at one time – now guests expect it). Starbucks has begun a nationwide rollout of the wireless chargers.
Be a smooth operator
It’s a new year – take a fresh look at your restaurant’s efficiency. FSR recommends you consider these ideas: What steps does your team have to take from creating the menu to delivering service? If you analyze each step, you’ll uncover processes that are slow, messy or inefficient. Where is technology needed – or not? Too little capacity can stall your growth during peak periods and too much adds unnecessary expense, so ensure you have the right support to ease your biggest pain points. Is your restaurant’s layout as efficient as possible? More space means greater costs so make it count by considering how employees and guests move throughout the restaurant. Are your menu items and promotions easily prepared during peak periods? If not, simplify. Do you have the right staff in place at the right time to increase sales? Remove bottlenecks and roadblocks so the smallest number of people can capably provide the best hospitality.
Moneyball for restaurants
Can you quickly answer questions such as “Who are my best- and worst-performing servers?” or “Why are my ingredient costs rising?” Your competition may be able to. Consider tuning in to software companies like Damian Mogavero’s firm, Avero, which advises 10,000 restaurants in 70 countries about how to use data to maximize performance – much like how statistics were applied to make a winning baseball team in the film Moneyball, Skift reports. The company scrutinizes data that can get lost in a spreadsheet. It consults about such topics as how to identify and stop theft in a restaurant as technology evolves, or for seasonal operators, how weather patterns affect business and how to make the most of the weather they get. Mogavero details the power of analytics in his new book, The Underground Culinary Tour.
How a food trend is born
Do you know how avocado toast, broccoli rabe and kale became hot menu items? The Wall Street Journal and food and beverage consulting firm PadillaCRT analyzed trendy foods’ paths to stardom and found they have qualities in common: It must be approachable and easily understood by a mass audience – something a person could assemble without tracking down special ingredients. It must be seeded with the right group – PadillaCRT’s Jason Stemm said avocado toast took off after it was served to clean-living aficionados at the Wanderlust “Yoga in the City” event in New York in 2012. Finally, the trend must have a means to expand, whether that’s adoption by celebrities, an Instagram-worthy appearance, or a mention on a popular food blog. For the record, Stemm predicts kale sprouts could soon have their moment in the spotlight.
Starbucks commits to hiring refugees, providing healthcare
As the restaurant industry adapts to a new administration, Starbucks has stepped out with an announcement that may make waves: CEO Howard Schultz announced recently that Starbucks has committed to hiring 10,000 refugees over five years and will continue to offer health insurance to employees, whether or not the Affordable Care Act is repealed. QSR magazine reports that Schultz said the company will focus first on hiring those refugees who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support staff in countries where the U.S. has needed support. He promised that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, employees will be able to reclaim their insurance coverage within 30 days of losing it, rather than wait for open enrollment.
Food delivery industry’s bumpy ride
Industry analysts point to food delivery as the big space for growth in 2017. But there’s much to learn from the industry’s growing pains: Take Munchery, the San Francisco startup that cooks and delivers meals to hundreds of thousands of customers in several cities. Bloomberg reports that according to current and former employees, Munchery has had to cut back on premium ingredients like organic chicken and wild salmon to keep budgets in check, and that from September 2014 through July 2016, Munchery’s San Francisco kitchen made more than 653,000 meals that were never sold. While a company spokesperson said overproduction was a given in the food industry, the startup’s challenges reveal difficulty in striking the balance between profits and losses in food delivery.
Tap into the wedding market
Domino’s has found an innovative way to appeal the Millennial consumer base and capitalize on guest loyalty: Pizza lovers who are engaged to be married can now create a wedding registry on the site. Registrants who prefer receiving gifts of pizza instead of the traditional wedding china can register for pizza to be served at wedding festivities like bachelorette parties or offered as a take-away to guests as they depart the wedding reception. Couples can also register for gift cards good for a low-key date night or night off of cooking sometime after their wedding. Registrants can share their wish list with guests on social media, of course.
Walmart finds an organic restaurant partner
In a new sign showing the mainstream appeal of organic food, a Walmart Supercenter near Orlando, Fla. is opening an organic quick-service restaurant, according to Restaurant Hospitality. The restaurant, Grown, is the first quick-service restaurant on the east coast to be certified organic by the U.S.D.A. The restaurant, which was founded last year by the former professional basketball player Ray Allen and his wife, Shannon, serves breakfast, soup, salad, sandwiches, wraps, smoothies and cold-pressed juices. Walmart pursued Grown as a partner to help promote foods local to Florida and connect guests to fresh foods sold in other parts of the store.
Signs of a vendor that protects food safety
Considering a new food vendor? Or trying to decide whether to split from another? Food Safety magazine suggests you analyze a number of factors, such as to what degree they’re innovating. For example, do they have continuous temperature monitoring so that if there’s a problem with your order, they can demonstrate the temperature of the stock at all stages of the journey? Do they anticipate your needs, stay in touch and add unexpected value? Such companies often show their leadership by serving on councils that make it a public service to share their expertise. Your vendors, whether it’s your pest control expert or the account manager of your seafood supply, should make an effort to be on a first-name basis with you and expend extra effort to ensure your needs are met.
The biggest food recalls of 2016
Food recalls surged 22 percent last year as compared to 2015 and two of the main sources were Listeria contamination and undeclared allergens. Major culprits included milk, eggs, peanuts and wheat and a smaller, but still significant, number of recalls were issued for soy and tree nuts. That's according to Food Safety magazine, which tracked food product recalls issued in the U.S. and Canada based on announcements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S.D.A.'s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The recalls stemmed from a variety of causes, including insufficient food production and monitoring processes, failure to maintain facilities and equipment, failure to comply with federal food safety regulations and inability to track ingredients through the supply chain.
Mobile technology driving future of the drive-thru
Technology changes so quickly that it can be hard to know where to invest – but mobile technology seems to be at the foundation of much of it. Take the touchscreens appearing at many drive-thrus nationwide. Restaurant Business reports that in five years, those screens will be passé. It’s more likely that the drive-thrus of the future will be pick-up windows for food that guests order in a variety of ways, according to Rob Grimes of the International Food and Beverage Technology Association, such as via voice-recognition software on site, the restaurant’s website, mobile apps or their car’s GPS system. Some operators are already using mobile apps that connect to their restaurant’s point-of-sale system to order food and set a pick-up time, at which point restaurant staff bring the meal to the person’s car.
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