Ready for seasonal pricing shifts?
As soon as the summer weather starts cooling off, your guests' tastes will rapidly shift from light, cool dishes to healthier ones. (Hence the pumpkin spice mania that seems to erupt every September.) Ingredient pricing trends will also change, creating a window where you can take advantage of deals -- or possibly be taken advantage of by a supplier who hopes you're not paying attention. Will you be ready? Using software or other tools that can help you study pricing trends will give you a head start. As a report in Orderly says, if you're blindly ordering new ingredients without considering the bigger picture, your profits could suffer. It's important to understand how the prices you are paying compare to local and national rates, as well as pricing trends over time, so you can be informed when negotiating with your suppliers. By doing so, you can catch price spikes and make sure you're not paying top dollar for an item that has dropped in price. Or, you can know when you're getting a better deal than other operators in the region or the country and respond accordingly, whether that means incorporating more of an item on the menu or trying to lock in a price with a supplier. If you're right in the middle, you can have some assurance that you're managing price fluctuations well.
Tech is enhancing restaurant performance, guest satisfaction
Investments in technology and enhancing the overall guest experience are paying off for American restaurants in the form of increased sales. That's according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Restaurant Report 2018, which reported a 2 percent increase for the restaurant industry as compared with last year. NBC reports that the improved scores at both full-service and quick-service restaurants are the result of higher scores for the courtesy of waitstaff, food and beverage quality and variety, and the speed with which an order was taken. Technology is playing a role in many of those improvements by enabling restaurants to update their food offering more regularly, monitor the quality of their food more closely, and to get food to guests more quickly and efficiently via mobile ordering and automated kiosks. As for the final point, online ordering, kiosks and mobile engagement seem to be gaining ground for consumers of all ages, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2017 State of the Industry Report. Of the consumers surveyed, one in three said they are using more restaurant technologies now as compared to two years ago. Other research from Cornell University has found that the technology is also providing the double benefit of reducing dining time and increasing check sizes.
Many ordering channels, one point of contact
As off-premise dining options are gaining momentum, many operators are setting themselves up to receive orders via multiple channels -- from takeout to delivery to catering -- and from mobile, call-in or in-person sources. While orders coming from a number of directions can be a boon to business, they can also create chaos if not managed effectively. In a recent Foodable interview, Richard Hodges, vice-president of operations services at La Madeleine, said his restaurant uses technology that funnels orders from multiple channels into a single bucket. An order from the restaurant's call center will come up in the kitchen in the same way an order placed via a Yelp review does. Hodges says their system has minimized the number of people involved in preparing an order -- there aren't two, three, four people touching an order -- and their accuracy has improved significantly as a result.
Get into a pickle
If you've got excess vegetables on hand and want to minimize waste in a way that maximizes your opportunities on the menu, consider adding some pickled vegetables to your lineup. As Food & Wine reports, pickled carrots can be a great complement to cocktails, and there is a wide range of produce (and accompanying spices) to try: Garlic, onion, beets, radishes, carrots, turnips, cucumbers, jicama, cauliflower and celery are all good options, and your additions to those items can lend broad variety. Try experimenting with yellow and brown mustard seed, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, dill, cilantro, chervil, parsley or tarragon.
Take the right temperature
Keeping food at a certain temperature -- and ensuring it doesn't spend too much time in the temperature danger zone -- is critical to preserving food safety. But your temperature measurements are only as good as your thermometer. Statefoodsafety.com advises that your thermometer should be accurate within ±2°F. If it falls out of that range, calibrate it.
A foodborne illness's most likely source
A new analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 10,000 people were sickened by foodborne illness outbreaks between 2009 and 2015. A major culprit was chicken, which the research found was behind 12 percent of illnesses. Pork and seeded vegetables weren't far behind 10 percent each. While fish and dairy caused more individual outbreaks than other foods, those outbreaks sickened smaller numbers of people. To help prevent foodborne illness, cook proteins thoroughly -- poultry to 145 degrees and meat to 160 degrees -- use a food thermometer and refrigerate any leftovers promptly.
Guests may be ordering fewer calories -- but only on certain dishes
If your restaurant lists calorie counts for menu items, you might see guests skimping on appetizers or entrees -- but not on dessert or drinks. That's according to a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which was based on detailed restaurant data about everything from individual food orders to whether guests shared a plate. Bloomberg reports that the research found that printed calorie information reduced the calories guests ordered by 3 percent -- but only from the appetizer and entree categories. While it did not account for any decreased consumption of drinks or desserts once they arrived at the table, calorie counts did not stop guests from ordering those items.
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