Off-premise dining poised for further growth
What’s your formula for off-premise success? Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group, said 63 percent of all restaurant traffic is off-premise and he sees the off-premise market becoming even more important in the coming decade, with takeout, delivery and food trucks driving growth. A number of speakers at the recent National Restaurant Association Show said the same thing: Consumers are craving chef-prepared meals but don’t necessarily want to sit down at a restaurant to eat them. Modern Restaurant Management suggests several areas where operators can improve their chances of building their off-premise business. First focus your menu on items that are easy and quick to prepare and will maintain their quality if not eaten immediately after purchase. Fine-tune your packaging so it insulates foods that need to be kept hot or cold. Then you need technology that can manage different streams of guest traffic, taking into account orders from different channels and providing reliable quote times to guests — you may be able to upgrade your current platform to better support off-premise business streams. Study your sales of menu items across the ordering platforms you use to understand which items are popular and which need to be removed. Having this information can also help you test different price points for a popular item. Are guests clicking on the link to your website, or to special discounts and promotions? Measure which items are generating the best response so you can adjust your formula accordingly.
No space for a garden? No problem
Fresh, local produce has become an expectation of consumers dining out. To create space to grow that produce within the footprint of a restaurant, some operators have to get creative. As a result, they are finding ways to produce on rooftops, in cool climates, in cities, small spaces and other spots where bountiful gardens are a surprising find. Plate reports that at Coltivare in Houston, chef/owner Ryan Pera maximizes space in his restaurant’s patio garden by finding plants that are good partners and can be planted in the same bed. Long beans and peppers grow in one bed, basil and tomatoes in another. Operators just starting to grow their own produce can plant herbs and salad greens in boxes staggered along a patio wall. Pera also suggests planting smaller vegetables, such as quick-ripening small tomatoes instead of larger tomatoes that can collect water and rot. To protect what he grows, Pera makes an effort to prune frequently and manage water runoff after heavy rain to maintain the soil’s nutrients. Or you can avoid soil completely: Hydroponics are taking root in cities, allowing operators (and, on a larger scale, entrepreneurs) to raise greens in basements with the help of LED cultivation lamps. Finally, consider seeking an outdoor gardening space (and sharing an indoor growing space) with other nearby restaurant operators who have an interest in offering their own produce on the menu.
Manage rising recalls
In the past five years, the U.S. food and beverage industry has seen the biggest increase in product recalls of any industry. According to the Stericycle Recall Index, which tracks product recalls in the U.S., food recalls by the F.D.A. jumped nearly 93 percent between 2012 and 2017, while recalls managed by the U.S.D.A., which largely oversees meat production, climbed 83 percent during the same period. Bacterial contamination from such pathogens as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria was the most common cause. When recalls occur, do you have a reliable system for sequestering potentially contaminated items? StateFoodSafety.com advises that when a recall is announced, check to see if
you have the item in question. If so, remove it and store it away from other food and equipment that may otherwise come into contact with the item.
The struggle for sustainable seafood
In an industry where seafood fraud is widespread, the US distributor Sea to Table had become a favorite in the sustainable seafood movement for its purported mission to sell local, sustainably caught seafood — guaranteeing that its products were wild and could be traced to a U.S. dock or even a specific boat. But an AP investigation found that the business is linked to some of the practices it claimed to fight. It reports that DNA tests performed on Sea to Table’s yellowfin tuna indicated the fish originated from the other side of the world. AP research also found that Sea to Table was offering seafood varieties in different parts of the US that were illegal to catch, farmed and out of season. Further, when reporters traced the company’s supply chain, they found foreign fisherman who described labor abuses and poaching. For background about how you can make sustainable seafood choices, visit www.fishwatch.gov.
Keep your ice bin contaminant-free
Hot weather calls for icy beverages, so ensure your ice bin is ready for action. Dust, dirt, algae, bacteria from ice scoops stored unsafely, incoming water — all create conditions for unsanitary ice. The industrial ice machine provider EasyIce suggests a rough schedule for maintaining the cleanliness of your ice machine. First, conduct regular cleanings: Turn off your machine and soak a sponge in a solution of 1 oz. chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water. Wipe all surfaces of the bin that people handle — the lid, interior of the bin near the lid, and the plastic baffle inside that directs falling ice toward the back of the machine. Don’t rinse. Let the bin air dry. If scale is present, de-scale and rinse with water before bleaching as the products don’t mix well. Twice annually, do a deep cleaning. First, use a spray bottle to disperse de-liming and de-scaling products and scrub the bin’s interior with a brush or cloth. Rinse with water, then clean the bin interior with the bleach solution and air dry.
Be safe with shellfish
Nothing says summer like a lobster or clam bake. Food Safety News says that since the warm-water habitat of many shellfish is in areas of high water pollution from nearby cities, it’s important to cook this seafood well — to 145˚F, never consume it raw — to kill any lurking pathogens. Further, it advises that you do not cook or eat shellfish with open shells, which indicate the shellfish are dead and inedible. When storing shellfish, put it on ice or refrigerate or freeze it immediately after purchasing it. Take care to wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after handling shellfish, and to clean with hot, soapy water all utensils and surfaces that come into contact with the shellfish. Avoid cross-contamination during storage or prep by ensuring no juices from the shellfish touch other ready-to-eat foods.
Want loyalty? There’s an app for that
When you introduce user-friendly tech at your restaurant, consumers take notice and may become loyal customers. According to a recent survey of 1,000 diners by the hospitality integration platform Flyt, 58 percent of respondents said their perception of a restaurant improves — and makes them interested in visiting more frequently — if the restaurant uses technology effectively. In many cases (42 percent), that meant having an app that offers users the option of making voucher redemptions, ordering food delivery, making bookings and collecting loyalty points. Respondents said that for an app to be worth using again, it had to be easy to use (64 percent), provide key information (52 percent) and able to be used quickly (42 percent).
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