Salad days are here
Warmer weather, sprouting vegetables, swimsuit season on the horizon..It all adds up to more salad! But grains, fruit, legumes and even noodles can help your salads evolve well beyond greens. Restaurant Business suggests adding ingredients like quinoa, wheatberries or farro for a healthy grain-based option. Rice noodles can add texture to Asian-inspired salads. Even standards like the Caesar provide a good foundation for your signature twists -- Restaurant Business reports that items like proscuitto chips and sesame seeds are appearing on some Caesars along with the romaine and parmesan. If you'd like to be on trend, consider the appeal of poke and try something similar, like a Tataki-style protein, on a new salad.
At last, gluten-free bread as good as traditional loaves
If you have gluten-sensitive guests, you've likely struggled to provide a taste-tempting alternative to traditional bread. Let's face it: Most gluten-free loaves provide an experience that falls far short of the one you get with a chewy sourdough. But according to Food Ingredients 1st, researchers at Hiroshima University may have struck gold with a new rice-flour bread that closely mimics the texture, volume and consistency of wheat-flour loaves. The secret to better gluten-free loaves, according to the researchers, lies in the kind of wet milling used to process the rice flour. The report predicts that the successful development of the rice-based bread could conceivably shift bread exports and production from the world's wheat fields to Asia's rice paddies in the not-so-distant future.
Pizza proves its economy-proof power
Toast reports that while one-third of consumers report eating out less these days, pizzerias continue to grow, with 41 percent of Americans having a slice (or three?) every week and 68 percent ordering a pizza to go at least once a month. Why? Toast says it helps that pizza continues to reinvent itself -- take the "Detroit-style" pizza currently winning fans in Austin and Los Angeles. Pizza is also the original customizeable food and, paired with its presence in fast-casual chains, is continuing to win support from Millennials. Finally, pizza chains happen to be among the brands harnessing technology to great effect right now. Domino's, which has implemented both employee-facing and customer-facing technology effectively, now gets 55 percent of its revenue from digital orders and has seen its stock continue to climb since 2012.
Chick peas get a promotion
Long gone are the days of cold, water-logged chick peas relegated to a lonely compartment of the salad bar. According to Flavor & the Menu, hummus has paved the way for a much bigger role for chick peas. Now they're being used not only as a hearty addition to salads but as garnishes, as bar bites like fritters, as a vehicle for glazes like maple syrup and harissa, and as a base for more creative hummus flavors. If you're trying to bring more global flair to your menu, they're a good place to begin.
Food delivery gains a dubious addition
As the food delivery industry becomes cluttered with new players, there's yet another one coming on the scene. But this one begs the question, "who is paying attention to food safety?" TechCrunch reports that the Santa Clara, Calif. startup JoyRun has raised about $10 million in funding for a concept that allows people to place a food order and scan the area for people about to head out to that restaurant. For a small tip or even for free, these ad-hoc delivery people (who have agreed to the terms beforehand) will bring the food order back to the person who ordered it. The company is focusing its attention on college campuses, where students are often looking for ways to make money on the side and where bringing food back for friends has long been a norm.
Remember the spectrum of food safety risks
Food safety is not just about preventing pathogens from entering your supply. Enlist your team as partners in an effort to eliminate a range of hazards. Anything from glass to metal shavings could enter your products if equipment malfunctions at your supplier or even if their disgruntled employee purposefully adds them to a product. Last summer, P.F. Chang's was able to avoid a crisis when an alert employee noticed metal fragments in an ingredient used to make a sauce that accompanies two dishes on the restaurant's menu, Food Safety Magazine reports. The incident was found to be purely accidental but if not for the vigilance of one employee, it could have caused injury and a public relations disaster for the restaurant.
High-pressure processing chosen by more producers of refrigerated foods
As food production companies review their procedures to ensure compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act, many of them are finding that traditional methods used to protect food, such as heat pasteurization, aren't suitable anymore, Food Safety Tech reports. As consumers have demanded chemical-free processing, cleaner ingredients and foods with pure flavor, color and texture, more producers of refrigerated foods are turning toward high-pressure processing. The method, which uses pressure (vs. heat or chemicals) to remove pathogens from food, has the added benefit of increasing the distribution radius of foods, extending shelf- life and minimizing food waste.
How Panera's bet on tech has paid off
Three years ago, Panera launched its 2.0 initiative and implemented a range of guest-facing and employee-facing technology to improve the guest experience. So how is it going now? Motley Fool says their investment is paying off, and while Panera sees its technology as a differentiator, it's actually becoming what consumers expect when they visit quick-service or fast-casual restaurants nowadays. Digital ordering has been a strong positive, enabling Panera to more effectively present its menu and customizeable options than it could on a static menu. In the kitchen, color-coding technology has helped employees more quickly and accurately assemble orders and notice guest allergies and preferences. Nearly one-quarter of the chain's sales now come digitally and there is a clear sales gap between company stores that have been fully converted with Panera 2.0 technology and those that haven't (yet).
Complexity of food supply chain makes vigilance critical
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly one in 10 people become ill each year after eating contaminated food. Our food supply has become so complex that it's difficult, despite our best intentions, to ensure food is safe. Food Safety Tech suggests that because consumers demand traceability, from sourcing information to a list of ingredients, you should use suppliers who have obtained third-party certifications pertaining to food purity and safety. The supply chain is fragmented so get to know the people at each step and ensure communication is clear. Finally, pay attention to opportunities to fight food fraud by talking to legislators about it and watching out for helpful technology -- for example, Food Safety Tech says the blockchain, the technology underpinning Bitcoin, has applications in the food industry and can provide a transparent ledger of food products at every step of their journey.
The secret's in the sensors
At Cava, the Washington, D.C.-based chain of Mediterranean fast-casual restaurants, virtual tracking technology called Raspberry Pi helps manage everything from food safety to seating. Fast Company reports that to help avoid giving guests the impression of long lines and wait times, Cava has used motion sensors to detect where guests congregate -- like at the menu boards and serving station -- and then redesigned the spaces to keep traffic moving (lines now move 10 percent faster and hold 12 percent more people). Sensors have also predicted Cava's need for more seating in suburban stores, where guests tend to linger -- boosting revenue by 20 percent per square foot in those stores. Kitchen sensors track how long refrigerator doors have been open and if there have been humidity or temperature spikes. After sensors showed that its grill burners heated unevenly, cooks adjusted their approach and food quality complaints dropped by 28 percent.
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