Clean and sanitize it right
In any foodservice operation, it’s important to use cleaning and sanitizing agents in ways that help prevent the transfer of microorganisms and residues that could be unsafe when left on food preparation surfaces. Are your procedures for cleaning and sanitizing being followed? According to a report by Dr. Angela Fraser, associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, cleaning agents comprise four categories: detergents, like those used for washing dishes, surfaces and equipment; solvents that help remove grease; acid cleaners that are used periodically on mineral deposits that detergents can’t remove; and abrasive cleaners used to clean (and sometimes disinfect) areas with heavy soil. It’s important to know which cleaners can be used on specific surfaces (glass and metal cleaners, for example, as well as some bathroom cleaners, are not safe to use on food preparation surfaces) and to clean items thoroughly before attempting to sanitize them (that goes for hands too!). When you use chemicals to sanitize, make sure you use approved ones including chlorine, iodine and quaternary ammonium — and be aware of their properties, since each one has benefits and disadvantages that may be applicable to your restaurant. For example, chlorine deteriorates during storage, iodine should not be used in water hotter than 120˚F and quaternary ammonium is incompatible with some detergents and hard water. While restaurants commonly use heat to sanitize, it’s important to ensure specific temperatures are reached when doing so. Hot water used in the third compartment of a sink must reach 171˚F, the final rinse of a machine used to sanitize clean dishes must reach 180˚F, and stationary-rack, single-temperature machines must reach 165˚F, with the dishes exposed to those temperatures for 30 seconds in each of the scenarios.
Turn around your turnover
When employee turnover rates are as high as they are in the restaurant industry, some operators may not make it a priority to build an employee-friendly culture. But the payoff is still worthwhile: A new study from the University of Warwick in England found that taking steps to make employees happy led to a 12 percent increase in productivity, whereas unhappy workers proved to be 10 percent less productive. What’s more, according to reports from the Sasha Corporation, which reviewed 15 studies about workplace turnover, the average cost to replace one employee earning $8 and hour is more than $9,000. Upserve says if your employees are doing just the minimum amount required—not going above and beyond what is expected in any way—consider offering some acknowledgement, appreciation or incentives to boost their level of motivation. Create a culture where friendships are formed so your employees have a reason to stay, even if restaurant work isn’t part of their long-term plan. Creating a relaxed atmosphere can help, as well as issuing periodic surveys, challenging employees to games and competitions, and scheduling team-building outings and other social activities. Ask for their feedback and ideas, and provide some opportunities for growth and recognition, which can help make them feel more responsible for and invested in the success of the business.
Botanical ingredients pack a flavorful, nutrient-dense punch
If your customers are looking for ways to integrate more plants with healing properties into their diets (and they likely are, if the trend forecasters are on target), it’s become increasingly easy for chefs to pack some nutritional power into their menus. Ingredients like ginger, matcha, cardamom, turmeric and lavender are gaining a growing following, according to Thomas Griffiths, vice president of Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute. He also touted the natural, global, clean-label and chef-friendly benefits of these items. It helps restaurants that major manufacturers are getting on board: Food Dive reports that the packaged herb company McCormick & Co.’s purchase of the Botanical Food Company of Australia in 2016 will make herbs with health benefits even more accessible to chefs and consumers alike.
Avoid pathogens when pickling produce
House-made pickles made the National Restaurant Association’s most-recent “What’s Hot” culinary survey. During the months when fresh produce isn’t as readily accessible from local producers, you may well use pickled vegetables in salads and as garnishes—and of course, pickles themselves are expected on burgers regardless of the season. If you aspire to offer more house-made pickled items on your menu, pay attention to your preparation methods to ensure you don’t introduce foodborne pathogens — and obtain the proper reviews from health safety officials. The National Restaurant Association says if you want to set up a canning operation for dry storage, you need FDA review as well as a third-party lab that can conduct a shelf-life test (make sure any supplier abides by these criteria too). If you would like to refrigerate pickled items for quality, you need a variance, a HACCP plan and approval from your local health department. The items should be refrigerated at 41˚F or below to maintain food quality. Finally, if you simply want to give foods a more acidic flavor, you can immerse them in a vinegar-water solution, refrigerate them at 41˚F and treat them as TCS foods.
Walmart’s spoilage prediction technology generates savings
Walmart has developed a technology called Eden that can inspect produce for defects and accurately predict the exact date when an item will spoil, Food Dive reports. The company expects to save $2 billion in avoided food waste over the next five years as a result. Since Walmart deployed the technology to 43 distribution centers in January of last year, Eden has saved Walmart $86 million. Eden taps into the kinds of data that restaurant operators are also looking to collect via blockchain: It tracks storage area temperatures, temperature control devices on trucks, and, in the future, will use data from drones that can fly over farms and monitor temperatures.
New payment app eliminates waiting for the bill
If your table turn time is being held back by delays in processing customer checks, take note of an up-and-coming payment app that is allowing customers to dine, pay their bill and dash — all without a word to their server. Skift Table reports that Barclaycard, the payment services arm of the U.K. bank Barclay’s, is testing out a system that allows users to download a mobile app, enter their bank details, then touch their smartphones to a device on the table when they sit down at a restaurant. The system then takes payment at the end of the meal and the table-top device changes color to let the server know when the payment has gone through. Diners can apply discounts and split a bill via their smartphone, then receive a digital bill. The payment system rolled out in March at a London branch of the Italian restaurant chain Prezzo, according to the report.
Instagram is among the top-five most popular social media apps in the United States, with 800 million active users. More than other platforms, it has become the place to go for consumers looking for their next crave-worthy meal. New research from Upserve helps restaurant operators fine-tune their approach to Instagram. First, make sure your account bio fits your restaurant brand, states what your restaurant wants to achieve and lists your location. It should also link to your website, Facebook page and online menu. When you take photos, frame the shot from above to make the plate stand out and ensure the food you’re picturing takes up one-third of the frame. Use the color blue to appeal to your followers: It gets 24 percent more likes than other colors, according to research from Salesforce.com. Finally, determine which hashtags appeal most to your audience — sites like Hashtagify, Display Purpose and Dehaze can help you find out which hashtags are trending as they relate to restaurants.
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