Save your energy
Restaurants in the United States are among the most intense energy consumers when compared to other commercial spaces, using an average of 38 kilowatt hours of electricity and 111 cubic feet of natural gas per square foot each year, according to Business Energy Advisor. Which appliances and devices throughout your restaurant consume the most energy? Business Energy Advisor says in a typical restaurant, refrigeration and cooking are the two main uses of electricity. Cooking represents roughly two-thirds of natural gas usage and the remaining third is split fairly evenly between water heating and space heating. If you don’t know for sure where your biggest energy drains are, conduct an energy audit. Not only can an audit help you save money, but it can also help you understand where your biggest energy challenges actually are — so you can focus less on the things that are not generating significant expense. For example, you may already have smart devices in your restaurant that monitor the freshness of different foods you’re storing. It might then make good sense to invest in a smart thermostat that reduces your energy consumption when you’re not there. But what if your biggest energy drain is actually one of your ovens? Or what if a dirty HVAC filter is making your system work much harder than it should to cool down your restaurant? Month to month, monitor how much energy you’re using throughout your restaurant so you can more easily spot spikes and then take steps to decrease energy consumption in those areas. To eliminate the guesswork, Modern Restaurant Management suggests working with a restaurant energy consultant. It can help you home in on the top priorities at your business when it comes to conserving energy and then take action steps to rein in your biggest expenses.
How is your marketing mojo?
At a time when the majority of consumers have used Facebook to decide where to eat—75 percent of them, according to a study by Social Media Monthly—the game is clearly changing for restaurant marketers. Social media, the drive for customized service and advertising, competition from outside of the restaurant market, and the need to capably navigate a through a dizzying supply of data are making the marketing role evolve. And as Restaurant Business reports, when a restaurant business has a tough period, marketers are easy to scapegoat—in recent weeks, there have been a number of comings and goings of chief marketing officers at such brands as Papa John’s, Jimmy John’s and Chipotle. If you need to fine-tune your marketing efforts or are looking to hire new talent for the role, note the most critical skills marketers need right now, according to Restaurant Business: First, they need to know how to build effective digital campaigns. Then, just as importantly, they must know how to collect the data those campaigns generate and translate that data into action steps that will drive traffic and increase sales. Now, more than ever, marketers must learn in real-time how to select and use the tech tools available that can build business—so flexibility is important, along with an ability to identify which platforms are best suited to the business. They must understand how to respond to customer feedback provided in a variety of forms, ranging from Yelp reviews to post-meal surveys conducted at the table. Finally, when conceiving of campaigns, marketers need to know when they need the resources of an outside firm and when they can handle an effort in-house.
Avocados—and perhaps other produce—get a new lease on life
If you serve a lot of avocados and struggle to keep them fresh, take heart in the rollout of a new technology that promises to more than double the shelf-life of the popular fruit. Food Dive reports that Apeel Sciences has developed a powder, made from leftover plant skins and stems, which can be sprayed onto produce close to harvest. The coating forms an extra layer that slows the process of oxidation and loss of water, which cause produce to decay. Apeel Sciences says the technology could help reduce the $2.6 trillion in annual food waste. So far, the technology is being used at Costco stores nationwide and at Harps Food Stores in the midwest.
As a growing list of restaurants bans the use of plastic straws, some groups advocating for the disabled have said eliminating straws completely could be harmful to people with disabilities. Looking for a happy medium? Mic suggests a few alternatives to plastic straws that can accommodate consumers while providing an environmentally conscious option: Try paper straws (the brand Aardvark, though costlier than others, came out on top in a test performed by a bar in the Union Square Hospitality Group, according to Bloomberg). Bamboo straws, while more expensive, can be washed with soap and warm water, then reused. There is a wide variety of other materials used to make straws as well, ranging from stainless steel to even pasta. (Some restaurants are offering drinks with a long tube of bucatini standing in for a straw—for guests without a gluten allergy, of course.)
Summer is prime time for Salmonella
Salmonella, which causes one million foodborne illnesses annually in the United States, is more common during the summer months. The combination of warm weather and unrefrigerated foods create ideal conditions for the growth of Salmonella. To prevent it, the Centers for Disease Control advise taking care to refrigerate or freeze perishable foods, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours. If the air temperature is 90˚F or warmer, chill foods even more promptly—within one hour is best.
The gloves are off
If your kitchen staff wears gloves during food preparation, do they follow set guidelines for when those gloves must be changed? While gloves can help prevent foodborne illnesses, using them inappropriately can encourage bacteria to spread. To prevent problems, StateFoodSafety.com advises that before slipping on a pair of gloves, you should wash hands thoroughly to get rid of potential contaminants. Always change gloves when switching tasks, such as taking out the garbage or returning from a break, when gloves become torn or dirty, or when you have touched your hair or face. Even if gloves stay clean, the FDA advises a handwashing and change of gloves after four continuous hours of use.
Technology lets consumers design their own burger
Burger-flipping robots have been in the news for a while now, but in June, the first robots that make burgers from scratch hit the restaurant market in San Francisco. Bloomberg reports that Creator, a culinary robotics company that brings together engineers from top Silicon Valley companies and alumni from elite restaurants, has developed a machine that grinds meat to order, seasons the patties, adds toppings to order and slices and toasts the buns—all in just five minutes (and for $6). Such technology has the potential to change the model for restaurants: Creator has higher food costs than other burger restaurants but far lower labor costs, and the small footprint needed for the actual burger preparation allows for more seating space. In September, Creator plans to launch an app that lets guests customize their amount of sauces in millilitres, adjust the mix and amounts of cheeses used, and even select which part of the bun gets extra seasoning.
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