Protecting food safety when a storm hits
Hurricane season is now near its peak and as extremes of weather become increasingly common, it's important to remember practices to protect the safety of food compromised by power loss or flooding. Temperature is key to controlling most biological contaminants. In the case of power loss, food items must be kept at 41 degrees or less in the refrigerator or zero degrees or less in the freezer. Prior to a predicted power loss, place as many perishable items as possible in the freezer. The Washington State Department of Health suggests sourcing a refrigerated truck to help store perishable foods. In the event of power loss, keep track of the time it begins. Stop using gas or solid fuel cooking and heating equipment if the exhaust hood and make-up air systems stop working. Using this equipment without proper ventilation can lead to the build-up of toxic fumes. Throw away any foods that are in the process of being cooked but haven't reached their final cooking temperature. Once power is restored, check thermometers to ensure food is being kept at a safe temperature. Discard perishable foods including meats, milk, eggs or other items that have been kept in the refrigerator or freezer above 41 degrees for more than four hours. If a well has been flooded or damaged, have it tested for contaminants that can affect water safety. Note that portable generators will prevent loss and can help with recovery efforts, but they are not intended to replace approved power sources for foodservice operations.
When it comes to video, spread it far and wide
In a recent survey of 500 marketers by Animoto, 92 percent of marketers said they repurpose existing content and assets to create videos. The video marketing firm Tubular Insights says there are a number of benefits to repurposing video content, including improved search engine optimization, better audience targeting, a wider distribution and more views. To get a bigger bang from your video, Tubular Insights recommends you transcribe the video you create, which can make your videos more searchable because Google can index the closed captions. Next, try breaking your video content into shorter clips that can be used on different platforms. The ideal video length for a YouTube video is 14.5 minutes versus 1.3 minutes for Facebook. The maximum length of a video on Twitter is 30 seconds and for Instagram is 60 seconds. Cross-posting different versions or parts of the video on different platforms can generate more views -- and may lead those viewers to click on the longer video on YouTube after they've watched the teaser on Twitter. You could, for example, shoot a video of your new chef giving a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen, then feature the full content on YouTube (or a condensed version of it on Facebook), post quotes from the video in a blog entry on your website, share a clip on Instagram showing your chef wecoming that day's shipment of seafood or colorful produce, and post a humorous, stand-alone question or comment from the chef on Twitter.
September is National Food Safety Month
A recent study of restaurant food safety practices by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that among the 486 workers surveyed in nine states, there were clear patterns in the workers and establishments most likely to spread foodborne illness. Many workers reported engaging in risky behaviors that threatened food safety, including not washing hands or changing gloves between touching raw meat or poultry and ready-to-eat food, not using a thermometer to check the temperature of cooked foods, or working while they have vomiting or diarrhea. The findings suggested that younger, less-experienced workers in independent restaurants (as opposed to chains) were more apt to engage in risky behaviors with regard to food safety -- and that restaurant managers and food safety programs should adjust to focus on those areas.
Retain to avoid recruitment pain
Unemployment is at a 16-year low, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, making it more important than ever to keep the top talent you have. A recent report in Restaurant Business Online shared some retention tips that have worked for successful operators. TaKorean in Washington, D.C. offers achievable bonuses each month based on mystery-shopper-type evaluations that track customer service and speed of food delivery, for example. The average score determines how much the whole team receives -- most months, they take home an extra $30 to $50. Dead-End BBQ in Knoxville, Tenn. offers workers a profit-sharing bonus after three months on the job. LouVino in Louisville, Ken. offers sign-on bonuses of $600, part of which is payable after 60 days of work at the restaurant and the other part after 120 days. Other ideas that employees have received well: Commuter benefits, education benefits and paid vacation time.
Use your website to boost revenue
While online reviews get a lot of attention, don't discount the importance of a well-crafted website. A 2015 OpenTable survey reports that 84 percent of diners visit a restaurant’s website before making a reservation. Since they're the one place online where you have complete control over the message guests are receiving, they're a business opportunity worth your attention. In a Skift article, the CEO of the website development firm BentoBox recommends you build in ample opportunities to boost revenue. That can include giving visitors a place to buy digital gift cards, place catering orders, submit private event requests from contract all the way down to a deposit, or buy tickets and restaurant merchandise.
Strapped for cash? Get creative with social media.
The push for food delivery has given delivery companies a lot of power. These companies charge for both delivery and marketing, the latter being critical for the emerging set of restaurants-without-dining-rooms. but Skift reports that one Los Angeles restaurant, Trap Kitchen, has worked around those marketing costs by relying on its free Instagram account. It posts menus each day to Instagram and solicits orders there too. Two years in, the restaurant has 230,000 followers -- and it has lifted the prospects of the new business. The success of Trap Kitchen on Instagram has encouraged its operators to open a brick-and-mortar location.
How does your marketing measure up?
In the U.S., 82 percent of restaurants reserve at least part of their marketing budgets for social media, which makes it the most popular marketing channel today, according to a new TripAdvisor survey of 4 million restaurant operators worldwide. Print advertising and online listing services were rated the next most effective tools by U.S. operators. Most of those operators are relying on internal expertise to drive their marketing efforts: While 85 percent of respondents said they should be promoting themselves more, only 17 percent of operators have hired someone to handle marketing and 1 percent have hired outside marketing consultants for guidance.
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