Two-thirds of restaurant diners prefer locally sourced meat and produce, according to Statista. So how local is your menu? Toast says food sourced within 100 miles, within your state or by a small-scale production facility typically qualifies as local. These purveyors are increasingly critical to your marketing efforts with guests. Consumers tend to believe that local products taste better. Beyond that, serving local fare can provide you with a compelling story to share with guests – especially if you create memorable experiences around the farmers, cheesemakers, brewers, and others who produce the local items you feature on your menu. To identify more local food producers, the Sustainable Restaurant Association suggests you challenge your largest supplier to tell you what produce is available in your area. Look online too – keeping tabs on Instagram and Twitter can help you uncover new suppliers in your region. When you find those local producers, meet with them face-to-face and look for ways to partner with them as both ingredient suppliers and storytellers you can showcase at exclusive events with your guests. Forging a close partnership with local producers may help you influence what they plant in future growing seasons, or spark your chef’s creativity by alerting you to the produce that will be the freshest, tastiest addition to your menu at a given time – and what you’d be better off omitting.
What does your restroom say about you?
A recent study by the consulting from King-Casey found that 78 percent of restaurant guests rank a clean restroom as a sign of a clean kitchen. So like it or not, your guests could very well be assessing the cleanliness of your kitchen before they’ve tasted a bite of food. To keep your restrooms as clean as possible, Food Quality & Safety suggests some tips: Offer paper towels, which dry hands quicker and keep customers safer from germs (a Journal of Applied Microbiology study found that jet dryers spread germs 1,300 times more than paper towels). Offer high-quality paper products that dissolve and biodegrade easily – they will help you avoid expensive, unsightly clogs and keep your stall floors free of torn and shredded paper. If possible, install touchless soap dispensers, faucets and paper towel dispensers. Consider touchless or foot-pedal-activated trash receptacles and entrance doors as well. To help maintain a clean restroom, use a cleaning log with a step-by-step list of areas to check multiple times daily. Have a cleaning cart dedicated to restroom use to ensure you have all cleaning supplies and paper goods on hand and are reducing the likelihood of cross-contamination with your kitchen. Finally, make sure your supply closet has an ample supply of restroom products and is easy to access throughout the day.
Build a better burger
Creative burgers are on the rise – and adding inventive ingredients to your patties can help you pack in more nutrients, reduce costs and improve the environmental impact of the burgers on your menu. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that operators are experimenting with ingredients like barley, quinoa, mushrooms, tofu and even seaweed as burger mix-ins. These additions can help you retain the flavor, moisture, texture and thickness of your burgers while using less meat. At the same time, you’ll have a good story to share with your guests: The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates far more man-made greenhouse gas emissions than transportation, so using less of it can help slow that trend.
Clean ice is twice as nice
There’s nothing like an ice-cold beverage to beat the summer heat. Just make sure your ice machine isn’t serving up harmful bacteria. The BBC consumer affairs program Watchdog recently carried out a test of coliforms in ice at 10 branches each of McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC and found indicators of possible contamination with feces in more than half of the samples collected. To help keep your ice clean, Food Safety magazine advises operators train all employees to wash hands before collecting ice. Store the scoop outside of the machine on an uncovered, impervious tray that is washed daily in the dishwasher. Hold the scoop by the handle only and do not handle ice or return any unused ice to the machine. Clean ice storage chests monthly (if not weekly) and consider regular testing of ice and the surfaces around it to help you adjust your cleaning frequency and methods.
Accepting tips in the EMV age
If you accept tips at your restaurant, is your technology keeping up with the most convenient ways for customers to offer them? FSR magazine says that as more operators adopt EMV, which includes a secure PIN option, they will have to prepare their payment systems to accept all kinds of payments. That could mean ensuring your point-of-sale system can handle all transactions with tip allowance or transitioning away from a central checkout system in favor of a mobile, pay-at-the-table model. The latter system is widely used in other countries and appears to be where the U.S. is evolving. Though it puts customers in the somewhat awkward position of stating the tip amount at the time they pay their bill, the security offered by these PIN-enabled transactions is likely to outweigh the negatives.
Following a new trend? Adapt your safety protocol
There’s always pressure to stay on trend in the restaurant business, but catering to the latest consumer need raises food safety challenges, according to Food Safety magazine. Hydroponic gardens popping up in restaurant dining rooms – or rooftop gardens used to grow produce used on the menu – can pose risks when guests are in close proximity to ingredients that will land on someone’s plate. The push to provide local ingredients poses another risk. If you purchase from a local co-op, your produce may have come from dozens of growers, so traceability is especially important. If you offer smoothies or other produce-packed beverages, note that some frozen produce wasn’t intended to be served without cooking and may contain pathogens. The demand for delivery is raising safety concerns too – if you use a third-party service, who is responsible for the temperature and quality of the food during transport? Is the food protected from intentional or unintentional contamination?
Fine-tune your hashtags
If you have a presence on social media, hashtags can help you tell your story and connect to a larger online community at the same time. To use them to greatest effect, Social Media Restaurant suggests you keep them brief, memorable and easy to spell – #PerfectPizzaPairings will score higher than “BestWinesWithPizza, for example. Choose an original-sounding (but understandable) tag, use capital letters for each new word and double check it to ensure it won’t be misinterpreted or used in an unintended way. Don’t overdo them – tweets with three or fewer tags are twice as likely to be favorited, answered or retweeted. If you’re running a contest where you challenge guests to post a photo along with a single hashtag, consider using online aggregation services like Tag Board or Rebel Mouse. They will help you bring all entries together onto one easy-to-reference page.
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