Save time on social media
No time for social media? Most operators handle social media in-house in addition to a host of other responsibilities, so it's easy to give it less attention than it needs. To help you save time, Social Media Week suggests some tips: For one, use a social media management system to set up a consistent posting schedule and streamline your efforts across different channels -- and consider using a dashboard that allows you to look at all of your social media activity in one place. Next, focus on two or three platforms and handle them well instead of dabbling in many of them. This will help you make a bigger, more visible impact on the platforms you select, as well as facilitate management of the customer comments and inquiries that come to you via social media. When someone mentions your brand online, make sure you know about it. Google Alerts is one free service that will send an email when a brand is mentioned. Mention.com and Hootsuite will also track social media and other online mentions and send you an email when they happen. Finally, create a bank of social media posts for different platforms -- sample tweets, Google+ updates or Facebook posts for example, using the language and word count appropriate for each site. Then grab an item from the bank in a variety of situations, such as when you profile an employee or announce specials or contests.
To boost your online power, look to peers with best formulas
As you build your online presence, from your website to your social media platforms, you have to keep a range of best practices in mind to ensure your content is as effective as it could be. Looking for tips from some pros? Toast recently shared the names of several operators who excel in different areas of online content: Sweetgreen, for example, is great at projecting a consistent voice. To weave their clean, modern look throughout their brand, they use only lowercase letters on social media (consistent with their app, logo and website), the same photography across all of their marketing materials, as well as a strategy for emoji use on social media. Looking for guidance in responding to reviews? Check out Paris Creperie's positive, professional approach. Pieology Pizzeria successfully attracts and posts consumer-generated content -- essentially free marketing -- on all of their social media channels and follows up by offering online coupons. Mei Mei Street Kitchen is great at posting features about employees, which has humanized the business and enhanced its image as a friendly brand. To engage followers, Which Wich asks funny questions on social media, managing to make something as mundane as a BLT into a fun discussion topic. If you feel you're lacking for content, try chiming in on some news already happening. For example, when a Nor'easter hit Boston, Upper Crust Pizza hopped on social media and used already-trending hashtags (like #openinBOS) to post a photo of their staff with a local weatherman.
Turn food waste into a business opportunity
Want to minimize food waste? One major food processor, New York City-based Baldor, is turning organic waste into big business, according to Fast Company. Baldor washes, chops and packages produce for grocery stores and restaurants -- and finds creative uses for the trimmings it once discarded. The company, which once sent 150,000 pounds of food waste to landfills or composting facilities each week, now sends nothing. It sells vegetable leftovers to chefs for use in stocks or sauces. Fruit scraps go to juiceries that use them in cold-pressed drinks. Rinds and other items not suitable for people are made into animal feed. Items that fall on the floor or arrive rotten are sent through a waste-to-water machine that turns the food into a slurry that can go down the drain. The company is using some vegetable waste to create completely new products as well, like a dry vegetable blend that can replace wheat in some recipes while increasing the nutrient content.
A better, faster, cheaper way to detect E. coli
The expansion of the food supply chain has made it that much easier for foodborne pathogens to spread, but technologies are aiming to keep up. Food Safety magazine reports that scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new detection system for E. coli, which causes 73,000 illness and 60 deaths in the U.S. each year. The test uses a liquid that binds to bacterial proteins and can be detected by either the naked eye or a smartphone, which could provide a much faster and cheaper alternative to existing food safety tests. MIT hopes to launch a company to commercialize the new technology within the next year and a half.
Get juiced about food safety
If you offer fresh juices on your menu, take note: Fruits and vegetables contaminated with harmful bacteria cause 46 percent of food poisonings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and much of that contamination comes not from the produce itself but from how it is packed, stored and prepared. Food Safety magazine recommends you wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after prep, give leafy greens a cold-water-and-vinegar bath for five to 10 minutes and rinse, wash all other produce in running water (scrubbing those with firm rinds), cut away damaged or rotten areas, and dry produce afterwards to reduce surface bacteria.
Regulatory hurdles for burger that bleeds
Impossible Foods, which generated positive buzz in recent months because of its plant-based burger that "bleeds" like real meat, may have inadvertently hurt itself by seeking FDA approval for its secret ingredient. Food Dive reports that Impossible Foods is being encouraged to pull its burger from the market (which includes dozens of restaurants in New York, California, Texas and Nevada) until it can prove it is safe to eat. The burger includes a material called soy leghemoglobin, a protein from soy roots that gives the meat its flavor and texture. FDA regulators have yet provide that acknowledgment, though they didn't say the burger was unsafe. While Impossible Foods said their burger was lab tested and that it did not need FDA approval to sell it, it sought the agency's designation of "generally recognized as safe" in order to build its brand.
When following trends, strategize first
It can be tempting to seize on whatever the hot ingredient du jour might be and find a way to work it onto your menu. But trend cycles move faster now than they used to and it no longer takes years (or even months) for a popular ingredient to progress from food producers to restaurants to consumers' kitchen pantries. Instead of constantly playing catch-up to deliver on-trend ingredients, Flavor & the Menu suggests that when temptation arises, take a step back, look at the larger trend surrounding an ingredient and embrace that instead. So in other words, a consumer fascination with Sriracha may not be about the Sriracha itself but about the desire for added heat. Guests who order kale don't necessarily love kale -- more likely, they love the idea of a healthy lifestyle. If you deliver on the wider trend while staying in line with your brand, you're less apt to jump from one passing fad to another.
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