Serve a stellar summer buffet, but hold the bacteria
As the weather warms up, it’s time for picnics and barbecues. Just make sure you aren’t serving up foodborne bacteria on your buffet. Self-service areas in restaurants are easy to contaminate. Guests haven’t received the food safety training your team has and can easily spread germs inadvertently. If you can’t have your team serve food to guests, the National Restaurant Association recommends you take some steps to minimize your risk. Use dispensers that release items one at a time, whether napkins, cups or flatware, and clean the dispensers regularly. Consider wrapping flatware or storing it with the handles up. Have your staff monitor guests to ensure they’re not reusing plates or utensils in service areas and post signs to help reinforce the message. Clean and sanitize surfaces frequently and with sanitizing wipes or separate cloths approved for use in this way. Mount touchless hand sanitizer dispensers in convenient locations near your self-service stations as a precaution. Choose your foods wisely and avoid serving options (like seafood, for example) that carry a greater safety risk. Finally, swap out the tongs and serving spoons regularly – the regulation is every four hours but consider increasing the frequency. Mashed says there are no regulations when it comes to food serving utensils being sanitized after they fall into a dish – and with only 5 percent of people washing their hands in the manner recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the utensils people handle are a big risk for cross-contamination.
Put more “social” into your social media marketing
Is your social media marketing building your business – or keeping it in the same place it was a year ago? If you’re using social media to sell your brand, menu or specials, you need to adjust. Standing out in a sea of competition requires you to use social media to engage with your audience and thank them for their business. It’s less important to have a high number of followers than it is to have a strong rapport with the followers you have. To build a more lasting connection, Digitalist magazine suggests you respond quickly to posts, which can help you build trust and quickly defuse any difficult situations that arise. Creating eye-catching graphics (paired with brief, compelling captions) can help you stand out in your guests’ crowded newsfeeds too. Before you post, ask yourself how you can add value – does your chef have tips on how to work a variety of greens into a dish? Share a recipe or suggest local suppliers of quality ingredients. This can also be an opportunity to work video into your strategy too. Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are making it easy for operators to use video to show the personalities of their kitchen team, talk about a new service or provide a behind-the-scenes look at running a restaurant. Finally, Digitalist suggests you ask for your followers’ input. Give guests a choice between two potential new appetizers or specials, for instance. Who doesn’t like being asked for their opinion?
For Domino’s, tech is on the menu too
Just when you thought Domino’s had reached the pinnacle of technology innovation, the chain has taken things a step further: It just announced a new partnership with IFTTT (If This, Then That) to further boost consumer engagement. Skift reports that as a result, the restaurant’s Pizza Tracker functionality will allow customers who have ordered a Domino’s pizza to trigger various digital actions automatically. For example, when a customer’s pizza is out for delivery, he can program his porch lights or television to turn on, or send an automatic text to friends sharing the meal. Domino’s offers some pre-set choices but customers can create their own assortment of prompts too.
Yelp makes its data more accessible to foodservice operators
Online reviews have an outsized amount of power these days, and Yelp has become the review site of choice for consumers (restaurant leaders at the recent Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit agreed that Yelp was the site to beat). Now, thanks to a new partnership with Splunk Enterprise, the company is making the data it collects from its 65 million mobile users more accessible to foodservice operators and more useful in uncovering new revenue opportunities, Fast Casual reports. Yelp uses Splunk to help support customer-facing parts of Yelp’s Eat24 food delivery service business – like, for example, monitoring its order pipeline and providing operational teams with customized dashboards and real-time alerts to track food deliveries. If your restaurant offers delivery and is among the tens of thousands Yelp reviews, take a look at its new technology – Yelp says it will help operators better analyze customer trends and pinpoint underperforming services.
Make personal stories part of your food safety training
You use stories to connect guests to your brand. They can also help you connect with your team, particularly when it comes to promoting food safety. If you need to drive home the importance of food safety practices and the impact they can have on people’s lives, consider having someone who has experienced a food-related health crisis speak to your team. A Food Safety Tech report shares the story of Rylee Gustafson, who recently spoke at the Partnership for Food Safety Education about how she became ill from E. coli in spinach in 2006 and has suffered longterm health problems since, including diabetes, a damaged pancreas, voice and vision problems and high blood pressure. The first-person account helped the audience appreciate the importance of their roles in keeping people safe. You can read additional stories and find contacts at stopfoodborneillness.org.
When EMV doesn’t prevent a data breach
EMV has long offered assurances about protecting merchants’ point-of-sale systems from fraud. So when Arby’s experienced a data breach recently, many wondered why EMV didn’t prevent it. A report in The Payments Review said since chip cards were first issued, merchants that have upgraded to chip-enabled terminals have seen a 43-54 percent decrease in fraud – that would likely be even greater if not for the continued use of magnetic-stripe cards. EMV can prevent card data from being transferred onto a magnetic stripe card and used at a chip-enabled point-of-sale system. Still, EMV isn’t bulletproof: It can’t prevent a hacker from downloading malware to a point-of-sale system, stealing payment information and using it at an ecommerce site that doesn’t validate a card’s security code. It’s important to understand how EMV can protect you if you’re vulnerable to fraud – according to Upserve, just 37 percent of merchants have completed EMV implementation – then take steps to fill in any gaps.
Promote proper handwashing
Handwashing…there’s more to it than most people think, and it’s a critical part of limiting the spread of bacteria in your business. The Washington State Department of Health shared these tips: Soap and water is the go-to combination for clean hands. Make sure you wet your hands so the soap will work. After applying the soap, scrub under fingernails, between fingers and up to the lower arm. The scrubbing process should take 10 to 15 seconds, a longer time than most people spend on it. Try singing a song to yourself to reach the required time threshold – the “Happy Birthday” song will get you there. Rinse your hands and dry them with a paper towel or other single-use method. (Paper towels remove more germs.) Note that hand sanitizers are a helpful precaution but don’t take the place of washing hands. These sanitizers work best on clean hands – use them after washing but not instead of it.
Prevent cross-contamination from allergens
Even food establishments who respond carefully when guests alert them to allergies can face trouble when trace amounts of allergens find their way into foods. Allergens are a key focus for the Food Safety and Modernization Act and are the leading cause of food recalls, according to a report in Food Safety magazine. The report notes that between 2005 and 2014, 12 million lbs. of food product was recalled due to undeclared allergens, many of which were present because of cross-contact.
Manufacturers and suppliers are in the hot seat when it comes to protecting consumers from allergens, but everyone in the supply chain needs to have controls in place. To protect your facility, Food Safety magazine recommends isolating tools used with allergens or color-coding them, which can help in case of language barriers on your kitchen team and can also make it readily evident when an item is misplaced. Designate specific cleaning equipment, tools and rags for use only on certain equipment or at certain times. Understand the proper protocols for ensuring that the residue of common allergens is thoroughly cleaned from hands and equipment. (For example, according to Food Allergy Research & Education, a study found that running water and soap or commercial wipes can clean peanuts from a person’s hands but antibacterial gels alone will not work. Further, common household spray cleaners and sanitizing wipes could clean peanut residue from surfaces but dishwashing liquid alone could not do it.)
Finally, store allergens in clean, airtight containers away from other foods. If you don’t have sufficient room in your facility for segregated storage, ensure that any foods containing allergens are not stored above non-allergens. Use internationally recognized allergen stickers or color-coding to set these containers apart.
Improving food safety through the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things – the evolving ability of everyday objects to connect to the Internet and communicate with each other – is rapidly showing new applications in the food industry when it comes to ensuring food quality and safety, Hospitality Technology reports. Kitchen equipment fitted with sensors already helps operators ensure food is stored and cooked at the proper temperature. From there, the Internet of Things can help operators make greater use of sensor data by showing them how to optimize their energy use and reduce unplanned downtime in the kitchen.
The benefits are even greater when it comes to the broader supply chain. Hospitality Technology reports that an RFID tag on a case of food could connect to temperature sensors on a truck to ensure the package has been kept at the appropriate temperature throughout its journey, for example. A restaurant could tie its inventory back to records from the distributor to get a complete picture of a product’s life cycle. Further, when recalls interrupt day-to-day operations, operators can receive USDA alerts and advisories so they can quickly identify the origins of contamination and pull products from shelves without delay.
Within foodservice establishments, the Internet of Things can help ensure kitchen staff follow proper protocols for cooking, food storage and handwashing. Via a digital dashboard, operators can see where training is needed or where procedures are falling short. Most operators have not yet taken advantage of these benefits, but as the supply chain grows in complexity, look for the Internet of Things to help you manage food safety from both a prevention and traceability standpoint.
Big-time tech for small restaurants
If you’re a small operation, bringing the latest technology into your restaurant may seem out of reach. But now the company behind Subway’s mobile ordering platform is making that functionality possible for smaller restaurants, Fast Company reports. Avanti Commerce is now able to have a restaurant of any size use its platform, along with the majority of enterprise features and functions it offers, for $125 a month. The restaurant can be in any location and have any amount of traffic. The one caveat is that it must have five locations or more. Assuming the launch with small restaurants goes well, Avanti’s CEO hopes to expand the platform to food trucks as well.
Fresh seafood, from ship to shore
Is your seafood really fresh? A new handheld screening and data collection device developed by Seafood Analytics can say for sure. Food Safety Tech reports that the device uses electrical currents to determine the quality of seafood products at the cellular level. It can measure how much the cells of a fish change between catch and freezing or catch and consumption, for example. Having that information can help everyone along the supply chain better manage factors including inventory, inbound supplier selection and price. The report says Seafood Analytics is currently developing a Certified Quality Seafood Certification that would serve as a seal of approval for suppliers to use (and end users to seek out) to separate the fresh seafood from the not-so-fresh.
Technology raises the bar
The bar is the latest place to make the most of technology in an effort to accommodate rising labor costs and evolving consumer preferences. Pour-your-own facilities are making it possible for consumers to try a taste of a beer, wine, cocktail, Kombucha or cold-brewed coffee that they might not commit to if they had to purchase it in larger quantities. (For example, Restaurant Business reports that Tapster in Chicago offers a tap card, which is linked to the guest’s credit card and charges them by the ounce for beverages at any of 62 different taps on offer.) Other facilities are using actual robots in place of bartenders to measure shots. But as tech takes the place of humans in some areas, it makes them more important in other areas, such as bussing glasses, helping guests use equipment, or even offering classes to teach guests more about the making of beverages currently on trend.
Avocado breeding helps ensure year-round access from within U.S.
Take one look at social media and you’ll see avocados everywhere – the recently opened Avocaderia in Brooklyn, N.Y. has even gambled that consumers will support a restaurant concept centered around the versatile green fruit. NPR reports that Americans consumed two billion lbs. of avocados last year, two-thirds of which were imported, mostly from Mexico. But the uncertainty surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement has made the future of avocados in the U.S. uncertain too. Fortunately, researchers in California may have found a solution just in time, with three new varieties that make a great guacamole, are easy to peel and can withstand the winter frost and summer heat of California’s central valley. (Existing varieties require milder growing conditions.) Further developing these varieties – dubbed GEM, which is already available, Lunchbox, and a third yet-to-be-named variety – could ensure that Americans have year-round access to avocados.
An innovator trusts (too much?) the power of Instagram
Taco Bell is a brand standout for its innovation capabilities – and Instagram is a major inspiration. Business Insider reports that the brand, which is constantly aiming to develop concepts that will generate buzz online, monitors the most-Instagrammed menu items in an effort to create tasty foods that are as photogenic as possible. But success is not all about looks, as it turns out. When Taco Bell launched its new Naked Chicken Chalupa earlier this year, the brand eschewed traditional media advertising and instead relied on pop-up launch parties around the country, where they provided lights and other visual props to encourage consumers to take social media-worthy photos of their Chalupa, then share them (on Instagram, of course). Consumers and media responded passionately, though not altogether positively – and Taco Bell pulled the item from its menu soon after.
Choose the right tech to manage your events
Private events can be the best way to drive profits in the small-margin restaurant business. At a full-service restaurant, the average large group or private event spends $2,500, as opposed to between $100 and $500 for an average-size table of 3.7 guests, according to the event management software company Gather. Technology can help you ensure you’re efficient as possible in managing them. Modern Restaurant Management recommends you use cloud-based software to get organized. Instead of having piles of paper clutter your desk, such software can help you track and edit invoices, bookings, menus and other details pertaining to your events, as well as make sure your team has the latest information. Speaking of which, your event management software should allow you and your team to communicate across different channels and mobile devices. Select a platform that allows you to tag team members so the right people get alerts at the right times.
As you build your event business, you’ll want to protect it from fraud. According to the Nilson Report, global credit card fraud losses hit $16.3 billion and are expected to top $35 billion annually by 2020. Select a system that complies with Payments Card Industry data security standards (PCI DSS). Operators must adhere to PCI DSS standards anyway, so this will save resources in the long run.
Finally, does your event software help you book events while you’re asleep? It should enable your website to take requests or bookings when you’re not open. Consider a platform that offers data and analytics so you can continue to generate leads.
Time…Is it on your side?
Most of us wish we had more hours in the day. While we can’t change the amount of time we have, we can always change the focus we give to our hours. In a Foodable report, restaurant coach Donald Burns recommends some tips to help you take charge of your schedule: First, do you show respect for your own time and the time of others? The HR consultant Ed Baldwin recently published an essay entitled “Busy is the New Stupid.” Though the title may sound harsh, the essay makes the point that if you spend your days running around trying to accomplish tasks, you are not prioritizing your tasks wisely. Being a workhorse doesn’t bring in profits unless you’re also delivering results. In everything you do, ask yourself if you’re the best person to do it. Don’t be a martyr and take everything on yourself. Delegating responsibility could actually help someone on your team grow and take greater ownership of their work. It can also free you up to focus on fine-tuning your operation’s food safety practices, recruiting talent or building guest loyalty.
Next, track your time – every minute you spend on every task across the span of a week. It will shine a spotlight on time wasters that can creep into your schedule. From there, you can usually carve out additional minutes and hours in your day. Write down your plan the day before and focus on three critical tasks you need to accomplish. Burns recommends you keep index cards handy and write your task or goal at the top of each card and then a few supporting actions below it that can help you reach it. The simple act of writing something down and resolving to accomplish it during a set time frame can help you make a task less of a dream and more of a commitment.
What’s the future of restaurant payment?
Payment technology is evolving so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up with what’s worthwhile. Toast has some tips. While the introduction of chip cards hasn’t been smooth in the U.S., these cards are here for the duration. If you’ve yet to upgrade to EMV-capable equipment, consider a tablet-based system that allows guests to tip as they have before (not before or during payment). Select a system with contactless payment features – many systems offer them already and while the future of contactless payment is less certain, you’ll be prepared if and when it expands. Kiosks are catching on in many quick-service and fast-casual operations and while costs may be prohibitive to small operations, they are likely to decline. Still, a safer bet may be tableside payments via tablet – either stationed at each table or carried by the server – which capitalize on consumers’ desire for prompt service and convenience.
Boost your Snapchat buzz
Are your guests on Snapchat? If they’re Millennials, they are. Bruce Irving, a successful restaurant operator who launched Smart Pizza Marketing, recently shared some important nuggets of wisdom about how any operator (not just those in the pizza business) can drive traffic through the site. If your brand has a fun personality, Snapchat can help you inject humor into your marketing through memes and video – the latter can be especially good if you’re new at video and want to refine your on-camera presence with content that disappears shortly after it’s posted. And if you would like to promote an offer to people nearby – say there’s an athletic event or other gathering happening and you’d like to boost your lunch traffic – you can use an inexpensive Snapchat geofilter to market a free or discounted item to people within a set radius and time frame.
If you’re concerned about food safety and transparency, smaller suppliers may have an edge over larger ones when it comes to accommodating consumer preferences for healthier, organic, gluten-free, fresh foods, according to a report in Food Safety Tech. It says new research by A.T. Kearney entitled “Is Big Food in Trouble?” found that smaller companies are able to be more nimble and flexible – as a result, their revenue has grown between 11 and 15 percent since 2012, as compared to just 1.8 percent for the largest companies during that period. The start-up mentality of these smaller firms is helping them to test and refine products quickly – not wait to develop formal testing processes, as is often required in larger companies.
App promises fine-dining quality at quick-service speed
If your customer base includes the business lunch set or others who like to get quality food quickly, take a look at Allset, the dining app that makes it possible for consumers to pre-book, pre-order and pre-pay for their meals. Upon arrival at a participating restaurant, guests are seated and served immediately and can leave whenever they like. Launched in 2015, Allset includes 400 restaurants in six cities and has been launching a new restaurant each month, expanding its customer base by 30 percent in that same period, Food + Tech Connect reports. The company is on track to have 1,000 partner restaurants this year and expand further to include partners in every major U.S. city and London by next year.
Supremely sustainable? New system showcases the standouts
If you have gone the extra mile to be a sustainable foodservice operation, check out a new system coming in June to help these operations stand out from the crowd. The Good Food Restaurants project is a restaurant survey, rating system and list designed to promote transparency about restaurant business practices that benefit the environment, plants and animals, producers, purveyors, restaurants and consumers, Foodtank reports. The project bases its ratings on annual purchasing data that participating chefs and restaurants supply in survey feedback. It then awards restaurants anywhere from two to five links to show how each operation compares to others in the survey. Any restaurant operation in the United States can take part but, like the Fortune 100, the inaugural list will be limited to 100 businesses.
How mobile wallets could open the door to more sales
Every year, it seems there is a new way for consumers to pay -- and restaurants and other businesses must scramble to keep up. But among those newcomers, mobile wallets could have some staying power, as they open the door to additional functionality beyond payment. FSR Magazine says mobile wallets offer credit card security in case of a data breach, device validation in the form of a PIN or fingerprint, easy access to loyalty cards and gift cards, and streamlined in-app purchases. Over time, expect there to be new ways that mobile wallets help restaurants engage with guests and make payment easier. Right now, the key players include Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal and ChasePay.
Prevent spices from causing foodborne illness
Spices, critical to adding global influence to your menu and boosting flavor without salt and sugar, have been subject to increasing recalls for food pathogens, Food Safety Magazine reports. An FDA study found that spices like oregano, basil, coriander, sesame seeds, curry powder, cumin and black pepper were contaminated at varying levels with salmonella. Spices produced in third world countries in unsanitary conditions and the movement of product across countries can make it easy for the origins of spices to get lost. Are your spice suppliers taking steps to address the problem? Food Safety Magazine says international spice trade organizations should be involved with efforts to track shipments and develop appropriate supplier controls, such as adherence to Good Agricultural Practices and the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Could you find your next star on Snapchat?
McDonald's thinks so. In Australia, the chain is inviting prospective employees to send a 10-second video interview to them via Snapchat, according to Fortune. These "Snapplications" are only preliminary (McDonald's directs applicants to the company's formal application afterwards) but the tool could generate some buzz -- it allows applicants to place virtual McDonald's hats and nametags on themselves so they can see how they would look behind the counter.
Grocery stores poised to compete with pizza restaurants
Pizza restaurants, with a product that's typically a good value, is easily customizable and designed for delivery, have been somewhat impervious to the strains hitting other parts of the restaurant industry. But that could change soon, according to a recent report from Food Dive. It says according to research from Progressive Grocer, the prepared foods departments of grocery stores could clinch some of the pizza market as they can offer fresher ingredients, competitive prices and potentially more interesting combinations. Datassential suggests pizza restaurants compete by offering more on-trend ingredients like Sriracha and roasted vegetables, then let guests customize their pie -- something nearly half of guests desire (but only 23 percent of grocery stores accommodate).
Coffee has its perks
Coffee is continuing its meteoric rise. The National Coffee Association reports that between 2008 to 2016, gourmet coffee beverage consumption rose from 13 percent to 36 percent among 12- to 24-year-olds, and from 19 percent to 41 percent for people between 25 and 39. Want to grab your share of that market? Toast recommends you test out these trends: Try cold brewing for a less acidic, smoother cup at a higher price point -- or even add pressurized nitrogen to that cold brew and serve it from a tap for a naturally sweet "nitro brew." Finally, some coffee companies are experimenting with cascara, the fruit that coats the coffee bean. It can be brewed or add a sweet, maple-like flavor to a latte. Even better, it helps reduce waste by helping roasters use the whole bean in their coffee.
Let your guests make your signature dish at home
Have you ever considered offering a meal kit service at your restaurant? According to the National Restaurant Association, 49 percent of adults in the U.S. would buy meal kits from their favorite restaurant if they were offered. In a Restaurant Hospitality report about the concept, operators who have tried it say offering kits isn't for every restaurant -- they take a lot of testing to get right. But it can help if you have a signature item you know guests will like, whether it be your steak, burgers or guacamole, and focus on helping guests make experiences around that item.
A new twist on an American favorite
The diner is an American icon -- but a new trend? A new report in Eater says 2017 could be the year of the luncheonette, as new diners pop up across the country. But these restaurants are not purely about nostalgia. In fact, the ones that have taken off have reinvented the concept. Take Dove's Luncheonette (a Mexican diner in Chicago) by James Beard Award winner Paul Kahan. Or Maurice, a Portland, Ore. pastry luncheonette. Others that have thrived include New York's Nickel & Diner, which doesn't serve typical diner food but looks like a futuristic diner, Philadelphia's Rooster Soup Co., which donates all proceeds to charity, and Dad's Luncheonette in Half Moon Bay, Calif., which has a relaxed, community feeling but is located in a renovated train caboose and features a small, locally sourced menu of just seven items.
New York's small (but strong) food safety team
Stopping foodborne illness before it reaches you can feel like an impossible task. But a team of just 43 microbiologists, chemists and support staff at the New York State Food Laboratory gave a substantial boost to the state's record of food safety testing in 2016. They increased testing of food and beverage samples by 10 percent this past year, which led to more than 300 recalls of contaminated items, according to a Food Safety News report of findings from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office. This included more testing for health hazards, purity and accuracy of labeling using new more accurate techniques. For the first time, the lab used a DNA-based method to test fish for speciation -- an important step in identifying food allergies and food fraud. They also increased testing of imported items like cheese and spices by 28 percent over 2015.
Before adding an ingredient, check the data
Do you ever wonder exactly how guests will respond to an ingredient you'd like to add to a new dish? Datassential has developed a new tool called Flavor, which helps you track specific foods, beverages, spices and other ingredients across a range of metrics and demographic segments. You can determine the awareness of an ingredient among people in a specific region, for example, and even identify if those people have children. The tool includes millions of consumer recommendations about thousands of products, from acai to za'atar.
Know your Instagrammability
Is Instagram in your restaurant's business plan? For a growing number of restaurants, it is -- credit the social network's more then 500 million active monthly users. The Financial Times reports that the social network has been transforming the restaurant scene in the U.K. and according to Skift, chefs in the U.S. are also creating dishes with an eye toward how they will look in a square photo on Instagram -- menu items have a unique appearance, plates are whiter and some have design or branding elements that people associate with the restaurant when people find them online.
Could technology help you make front-of-house improvements?
Where are your front-of-house pain points? Chances are, technology can help. Long wait times? FSR magazine suggests CAKE’s guest management and point-of-sale platforms, which allow a restaurant to issue guests a wait time and call them on their cell when their table is ready, freeing guests to wander before their meal. (Having that cell number also helps the restaurant build loyalty by recognizing guests and their commonly ordered items.) Inconsistent performance across locations? Mirus Restaurant Solutions can help measure guest feedback and a wide array of data to create a report card for servers, managers, operators or the company overall. For example, servers’ tips on charged transactions can be tracked and ranked so you can see where more training may be needed.
Choose the right full-service payment technology
Payment technology is changing too quickly for many restaurants to keep up. There are many routes to take – and a number of problems with them, according to FSR magazine. For example, you could tweak your existing payment technology with add-on functionality, but saving short-term costs could lead you to a large, expensive overhaul later. You could develop a smartphone app, but many guests still resist paying this way due to the appearance of security risks. You could attach devices to your tabletops, but many guests miss the human interaction and want their meals to be tech-free. You may get the most advantages with mobile devices that servers can bring to guests’ tables, FSR magazine says. Your guests get human interaction, plus the security of having a mini point-of-sale system delivered to their table when it’s time to pay.
Crowdsource your restaurant launch
Opening a restaurant can be a recipe for racking up debt, but the operators who launched Prequel in Washington, D.C. avoided taking out high-interest loans and instead relied on crowdfunding to bankroll their enterprise in its early stages. Civil Eats reports that the operators raised $350,000 in cash by selling gift cards to future customers before the restaurant even opened. Now they have launched a company, InKind, to help other restaurants benefit from their crowdfunding model. Restaurants that meet InKind’s criteria for community support (e.g. more than 1,000 likes on Facebook and a 500-person email list) can apply for funding and receive money quickly, then pay InKind back with high-amount gift cards for future guests.
A restaurant goes viral – by design
Laureen Moyal of Paperwhite Studio has helped New York restaurants increase their online followers exponentially – and all through branding tweaks that have made them Instagram hits. Grub Street reports that Moyal designed sugar packets with sayings like “Love you a latte” for the restaurant Jack’s Wife Freda, for example, as well as paper menus that serve as placemats (and are a natural backdrop for the photos guests take of their food and then post to Instagram). Jack’s Wife Freda now has 120,000 followers on the site – far beyond those of popular restaurants nearby – and its digital success has landed the restaurant a cookbook deal. (That’s getting some play on Instagram too.)
Restaurant-style innovation at the grocery store
Looking to keep tabs on the competition? In addition to knowing what your neighborhood restaurants offer, check out businesses like Whole Foods, which continues to evolve. A new Whole Foods opened last month in Chicago and according to Restaurant Business, the business is hardly just a grocery store, with bars (visitors can sit down or bring their drinks with them while they shop), a coffee roastery, seating for more than 200, a fresh pasta stand, a build-your-own concept, food and drink from upscale brands and a dizzying array of prepared foods that include everything from gelato to mochi to buffalo wings.
Why hasn’t fast-casual pasta taken off?
For many foods, the transition from casual dining to fast-casual is smooth – burgers, pizza, no problem. But Eater reports that pasta has struggled to break into the national consciousness as a fast-casual concept. That’s due to a number of factors, including the emotions associated with pasta – warmth, family and togetherness – which can get lost when you’re trying to serve pasta at lightning speed. What’s more, pasta is ill-equipped to be prepared in advance, suffering in texture and taste if left out too long before serving. And while pasta itself is inexpensive, the parmesan, tomatoes, pork and other items that accompany it can lift the price of a dish out of fast-casual territory. But Technomic’s Darren Tristano thinks there could still be potential for operators to succeed with it – especially if they focus on accompaniments like adult beverages and desserts.
Be street smart
Street food is in a sweet spot. It’s inspiring a lot of operators to develop street food-inspired menu additions. Datassential reports that the word “street” has increased 40 percent on menus in the past four years and “street tacos” has skyrocketed 200 percent in the same period. Street food also provides an opening for you to add global tastes to your menu. If you’re looking for some options ripe for expansion in the U.S., Datassential suggests street food favorites like yakitori, the Japanese meat skewers grilled over a charcoal flame, Singapore curry puffs with potatoes, herbs, spices, chicken and egg, or Hungarian kolbice, a bread cone stuffed with sausage, cheese and roasted onions.
Nuts and seeds are already a go-to snack for the health-conscious, supplying protein along with an energy boost. Mintel predicts that those benefits are now helping nuts and seeds move more deeply into snack foods and across day parts as well, popping up in breakfast foods and salads more frequently. Food producers are expanding their use of nuts and seeds as protein-rich ingredients in crackers, vegan cheese, yogurt and oatmeal.
Ag leaders ask Congress to boost funding for food safety
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is imploring Congress to increase funding to make it possible for states to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, Food Dive reports. The agency says state governments need an additional $100 million annually, including $40 million to protect produce safety, $20 million for preventive controls for animal food and $40 million for preventive controls for human food.
Food truck food safety has financial benefits too
Food Safety Magazine says as the number of people eating at food trucks continues to climb, food truck drivers are traveling longer distances, expanding hours of operation and working at a variety of events – all potential food safety challenges. To manage food safety, many drivers are using commissaries as their base of operation – that could include a commercial kitchen, restaurant, shared-use kitchen or other foodservice operation licensed and inspected by the local health department or a state agency like the department of health or agriculture. Commissaries provide a range of benefits, including storage space for items purchased in bulk, a central reporting location for employees to share information, restrooms and handwashing facilities, a temperature-controlled environment to reduce food spoilage, and conveniently scheduled food delivery.
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