Evolve your allergy awareness
Allergens were a key topic of discussion at the National Restaurant Association’s recent Nutrition Executive Study Group in Seattle. One roundtable session touched on how to communicate about the presence of allergens in menu items that had not contained the allergen before, so allergy training in foodservice is an evolving activity. As consumer allergies are continuing to change and become more complex, are your servers and kitchen crew ready to respond? Francine Shaw of Food Safety Training Solutions shared some tips to help restaurant teams stay nimble and avoid triggering a dangerous reaction when preparing foods for people with allergies. First, train your servers to ask guests about allergies and to communicate that information clearly to the manager and head chef. Any questions from guests should go directly to the manager or head chef so there is a main point of contact managing any concerns. When they are cooking and plating items, your kitchen staff should be in constant communication to prevent cross-contamination with foods that contain allergens. Of course, it helps if you can sequester common food allergens in a separate part of the kitchen, use color-coded cooking tools and separate fryers when preparing those items, and even serve those items on plates that are a different color or shape than other foods served to the table. Create different modifications for dishes with special sides or sauces so you can still provide a tasty dish when accommodating an allergy. As you purchase new ingredients, study the lingo: Your staff should know that casein and whey are dairy products and semolina contains gluten, for example. Finally, be aware of multiple or complex allergies—something operators see with increasing frequently—and have a plan that can flex to accommodate them. It’s one thing to prepare a meal that’s free from the “big eight” allergens and another to be able to prepare one that avoids less common (but equally severe) triggers.
Don’t let business slip behind a cloud
Making the transition to cloud-based platforms to manage point-of-sale logistics makes sense for many operators—but if your Internet were to go down or you experienced other technology challenges, would your business come to a crashing halt? Even a temporary interruption could throw off a day of sales, but Modern Restaurant Management suggests some tips to ensure you have a back-up plan when things go wrong. Identify key staff who can become familiar with your Internet wiring, access points and routers, along with other important network connections. Train staff to use your system in offline mode and have a documented procedure in place (and practice it periodically) so you can operate through disruptions. If you’re fortunate enough to have time to develop a plan before a problem occurs, it may be time to find vendors who can promise the best service through events that would interrupt business. Consider purchasing a commercial internet connection plan, which may provide a stronger, more powerful connection that helps you avoid problems down the line. Determine what sort of service your vendors provide through internet disruptions. Can they ensure that you will, at minimum, be able to accept credit cards, split checks and create kitchen tickets during outages? Do they have a good history of providing software updates that offer stability and security? Make sure you know what support you will (or won’t) get when you need it most.
A recycling tool that pays dividends
How do you manage recyclable waste at your restaurant? If you have a bulky recycling bin taking up valuable real estate in your facility, Upserve suggests an appliance that can allow you to save space, recycle more efficiently, earn green credentials, and reduce costs: a waste compactor. Having one enables a restaurant to remove recycling bins from the premises and generate recycled waste in bale form. The bales must be collected but typically for just a small fee—and some recycling companies will even pay a rebate depending on the size and quality of bales received. The compactors can handle large pieces of plastic and boxes, which are time-consuming to break down and can often make a bin overflow, increasing the odds that they will end up in a waste bin heading to a landfill.
The best way to halt norovirus
It only takes one particle of norovirus to infect a human, compared to 100 particles of flu virus, NPR reports. That’s why norovirus can spread like wildfire in crowded places like schools, hospitals and restaurants. A new study, published in Royal Society Open Science, found that while wiping down surfaces with chlorine bleach could reduce a norovirus outbreak by 10 percent, handwashing was far more powerful: If 80 percent of those who didn’t wash their hands changed their habits, the effect could halt an outbreak. It’s important to first wet hands, then apply soap and work it into a lather, which helps break down the norovirus proteins. Experts recommend spending 20 seconds on the task.
What germs lurk in restaurant linens?
Many foodservice operators are replacing disposable linens with cloth varieties in order to present a more environmentally friendly image to guests. Just take precautions to make sure your linens don’t harbor bacteria that could cause illness. Within your restaurant, StateFoodSafety.com recommends you replace any linens used in foodservice, such as the napkins lining a bread basket, for every new guest. When choosing a linen cleaning vendor, look for one that provides a Hygienically Clean Food Safety Certification, which, according to Joseph Ricci, head of TRSA.org, an international organization representing companies that supply laundered garments, uniforms, linens and other items to businesses, is important to demonstrating a commitment to providing hygienically clean linens that have been verified by a third-party inspection and ongoing microbial testing.
Reach the final straw
Do you have an eco-conscious clientele? Create a campaign to ditch your plastic straws — and talk it up to your customers. Many media outlets have reported that 500 million plastic straws are used in the U.S. each day. Restaurant industry expert David Henkes claims the number is closer to 175 million, but any way you look at it, straws generate a lot of (largely unnecessary) plastic. While there are worse pollutants, plastic straws are small and lightweight enough that they escape recycling efforts and are usually discarded as waste. That waste eventually ends up polluting oceans, where fish and other marine life regularly get entangled in them or consume them.
A digital menu experiment
Digital menus can offer operators flexibility on food selection, pricing and promotion—all at the touch of a button. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of investing in one, watch how the experiment works at Starbucks. Skift Table reports that because the brand’s growth has been stagnating in the U.S. in recent months, it is testing digital menu boards in several locations and airport stores in order to boost sales, particularly during slower afternoon periods. One location, according to the report, has a large, six-panel digital menu that changes throughout the day and highlights the Starbucks food line, which the brand is trying to promote to help consumers see their stores as places to come for a meal, not just a cup of coffee.
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