There’s a crisis. What’s your food safety plan?
While natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey aren’t common, we’re living in an era when sudden weather events are taking a major toll on people’s lives, not to mention their food supply. Even storms on a smaller scale could cause contamination from flood water, pests, insufficiently cleaned equipment and compromised food sources. Do you have a plan for if and when the safety of your operation is at risk? The FDA recommends a number of guidelines when you’re managing such an event. First, ensure all rodents and other pests have been cleared from the facility, seal any cracks that could provide entry for them and discard spoiled food that could attract them. Discard and properly dispose of any food that has been submerged in flood waters – the only exception is food in undamaged, hermetically sealed cans that have had labels removed and have been washed and sanitized. If your facility has been in contact with flood waters, confirm that your well has not been flooded, wash all facility surfaces in a hot detergent solution followed by a sanitizing solution, recondition or replace surfaces with mold growth, and clean your exhaust system and hood and have it inspected. Examine your equipment, utensils, display cases, filters and other equipment and thoroughly clean and sanitize them. Some equipment, such as dishwashers and ice machines, should run through three cycles following cleaning to ensure they’re free of contaminants. Make sure all equipment can cool or heat to the required temperatures for maintaining food safety. All food supplies should be provided by a licensed, approved food source and received by a person who is responsible for ensuring the food containers are undamaged and that food requiring cold storage arrives either frozen or at temperatures below 41˚F. You may need to serve a limited menu until your operation has its usual inventory and roster of employees on hand.
Don’t make your neighbors hunt for you online
How do locals find you? The National Restaurant Association says 83 percent of adults consult their smartphones or tablets to find restaurant locations, directions, and hours of operation, and 55 percent of adults read restaurant reviews. Further, Google says searches with the words “near me,” “closest” and “nearby” have doubled since last year. To best capture your local online audience, Modern Restaurant Management suggests you have a clear local marketing strategy, along with a thorough, mobile-friendly website that includes the essential information customers need, shareable content and a connection to online reviews. First off, make sure people can find you when they’re looking for nearby restaurants. Check your listings on review sites like Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor and Google My Business to ensure they’re updated with your location, contact information and latest menu. Enhance your SEO with keywords and links that will elevate your standing in online searches. Next, find out where your best guests spend time on social media and focus your efforts on those sites (and with the content that does best on those platforms). If you know your target demographic well, consider Facebook advertising to help you deliver content to people based on factors like gender, age, interests and location. Finally, monitor your online presence and be ready to act when you get reviews – provide a constructive, professional response when a negative one comes through and share any positive feedback on your website and social media channels to get the most mileage from your happy guests.
A restaurant more like a memorable dinner party
Some millennial chefs around the country are testing out new alternative restaurants – pop-up dinner parties that feel more like social gatherings with friends than dining establishments – and they’re generating a lot of buzz. Food & Wine reports that these chefs are cultivating a special social environment – it could be a homey space filled with couches, chairs, friends’ artwork and musical entertainment – and then hand-picking attendees who gather for a flat price to enjoy the company along with a selection of food (though not necessarily anything from a menu). Consider hosting occasions like these for your most loyal guests, or if you’re looking to test new menu ideas or concepts on a willing audience.
We all wish we could be more efficient. Mobile technology can help and the U.S. wants it -- Pew research indicates 77 percent of Americans now own smartphones. Modern Restaurant Management says there are three key ways having a robust mobile strategy streamlines your day-to-day operations. For one, mobile ordering opens you up to a larger customer base that will likely place larger orders because they don’t have to wait for them. Automating the ordering and reservation-making process will free up your staff’s time too. Even an app just for your staff can make ordering, payment, scheduling and bookkeeping more efficient. Next, allowing people to order ahead minimizes errors and therefore, waste. You’ll quickly see what your most popular items are, which will help you know how to tweak your menu. Finally, having a mobile strategy helps you build a better loyalty program. No more punch cards to lose. Your customers will receive points automatically with each purchase, and you will be able to see patterns in how they redeem their rewards (so you can offer more of what they like and bring them back in the door more frequently).
Panera steps up beverage transparency
Panera is making a new push to be transparent with its guests – even if its beverage sales suffer in the short term. Business Insider reports that Panera’s strategy to promote its new low-sugar craft beverage line, which includes options like blood orange lemonade and passion papaya green tea, will include serving drinks in cups labeled with the calories and grams of sugar that its broader line of beverages contains. This will likely steer customers away from high-profit-margin soft drinks (which pack a whopping 17.25 added teaspoons of sugar) and toward Panera’s new craft beverages, which are more expensive to produce but include far less sugar. The chain’s CEO hopes the effort will build loyalty. Panera commissioned a survey that found that 99 percent of Americans were unaware of the sugar their beverages contain. It wants to help educate its guests – and along the way, demonstrate that it’s a reliable place to go for a healthy meal.
Food traceability gets a boost
Food traceability is becoming increasingly important as our supply chain gets more complex. Food Safety magazine reports that a new guideline was published recently by a special traceability workgroup of suppliers, distributors and foodservice operators who wanted to enhance traceability practices in the wake of foodborne illness outbreaks. The guideline suggests case-level traceability processes that use GS1-128 barcodes to track cases of product across the foodservice supply chain. As consumers continue to demand food transparency, locally grown products and sound animal welfare practices, traceability efforts such as these could be critical to business. (A recent study from the Center for Food Integrity found that consumers want transparency around a company’s business practices just as much as they want food product labels.)
Redesign your way to a new vibe
The right restaurant design can take a business from good to great (assuming your food is just as good as its surroundings). In a Bloomberg interview, the design guru David Rockwell shared some design tweaks that can help transform a space. Some of the details he pays attention to? First, the entrance should have a sense of theater – it’s where guests make snap decisions about how welcoming the place is, what kinds of people eat there and how good the food is likely to be. Second, notice the noise – and make it appropriate for the space. In pockets of the restaurant where you want less of a din, ceiling perforations or fabric can absorb sound. Next, adjust your flow. A room with more than four tables across can feel like a cafeteria, so interspersing long and short tables and different levels can provide contrast. Just don’t create seating areas where people don’t want to go – use banquettes in corners or install displays that transform potentially unwanted areas into focal points. Use lighting as a way to vary the ambience between lunch and dinner and to bring a warmer or cooler vibe.
Food For Thought And Profit brings you the latest foodservice trends, news, safety, and technological advances in the industry. We are part of an outsourced purchasing and logistics company that provides comprehensive supply chain solutions to our customers. Our executive team has many years of foodservice experience and we bring that experience to work for you. We have expertise in all areas of the foodservice sector.