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Archive | July, 2009

7 Technology Trends In Food Service

Technology & The Food Service IndustryAs we approach the end of the first decade of the new millenium, technology has become a stronger and stronger force in our lives.  Every industry has been affected, and food service is no exception.  Yet it seems that many restaurants lag behind when it comes to harnessing the power of technology to their advantage.

The following Back Burner posts peg the cutting edge of technology and how it is being applied in the food service industry.  And while you may not Twitter or have wireless access in your dining area just yet, knowing what’s coming in the near future will help you stay ahead of the curve and on top of the competition.

1.  Can Google Improve Food Safety? – Tracking a food-borne illness outbreak takes time, which is precisely the last thing we have when attempting to control one.  Google has developed a way to track outbreaks accurately, and above all, quickly, beating the CDC by over a week in identifying a sickness trend.

2.  Should You Use Digital Media In Your Restaurant? – As we make the transition to a digital society, customers are becoming more and more familiar with digital media.  Sooner or later, it will become the primary way to communicate with your guests.  Learn what some restaurants are doing to engage customers with digital media.

3.  Become a Hotspot! – Speaking of digital technology, wireless internet access has long been the domain of coffee shops, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to improve lunch and afternoon traffic in your restaurant.

4.  10 iPhone Apps Your Customers Are Using– Several iPhone Apps are helping customers find your restaurant.  Learn more about it in this post.

5.  Online Ordering: A Blessing Or A Curse? – Can your restaurant handle orders coming in from the web?  More business is always good, but what are you going to do to handle it?  And what happens when customers start expecting to be able to order online?

6.  Make Tableside Ordering Easy With New Technology – Hand-held wireless devices like BlackBerries and iPhones are now common.  What if your server had a similar device for taking orders?

7.  Should Your Restaurant Have A Website?– A website is the most basic building block of the technology revolution.  The short answer to this question is yes, definitely.  Get some tips on how to do it right in this post.

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Sardines: Sustainable AND Delectable??

Sardines Can Be A Sustainable Seafood OptionSardines don’t exactly evoke thoughts of fine seafood to most Americans.  Instead, many think of tin cans packed with greasy, mushy fish and some kind of sauce.  Growing up, I only ate sardines on camping trips, and then only reluctantly.  I doubt anyone would look at sardines on the menu and think “That looks good!”

But in fact fresh sardines can be delectable.  Long a favorite fish on Mediterranean menus, sardines can be grilled and then served with lemon and olive oil, mixed with pasta sauces, baked, or braised.  Americans on the west coast are rediscovering the lowly sardine since local populations have made a comeback in places like Monterey Bay.  During the 1950s, chronic overfishing caused the collapse of the fishery, and sardines have taken years to recover.  Now fish merchants are selling sardines to local restaurants at a brisk pace.

Customers who try sardines will be surprised by the taste and happy about the abundant omega-3 fatty acids, which are a very healthy addition to any diet.  But the best part about sardines is the sustainability of the fishery.  The sardines living in the waters off the Californian coast are carefully managed, with only three short fishing seasons allowed every year, and the fish has been certified sustainable by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program.

That means restaurants can get the best of all worlds: marketing a great tasting fish that comes from a sustainable population and is healthy to eat.  As other once-popular fish selections like orange roughy, swordfish, and grouper decline because of overfishing and mercury contamination, once snubbed fish like the sardine start to look much more appealing.

Consumers value healthy, “green” menu choices.  And while the sardine probably won’t hit menus nationwide, the story is an encouraging one.  Surely more smart menu choices like the sardine await restaurateurs willing to look.

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Boulder Spotlight: The Kitchen Cafe’s Sustainable Restaurant Ethos

The Kitchen Cafe Uses Local FarmsThe Kitchen Café community bistro takes the community part of their name very seriously.  The Boulder, Colorado restaurant provides a simple, rustic setting where friends, families, and neighbors can gather to enjoy great tasting, unpretentious food and a world-class beer and wine list.  Meals can be ordered family style any day of the week and weekday “community hours” feature shared plates and drink deals.  Everything about this place invites you to enjoy the atmosphere of togetherness.

But The Kitchen’s commitment to community doesn’t end there.  The restaurant is 100% wind powered.  Almost 100% of leftover food and food scraps are either given to staff at the end of their shift, composted, or recycled.  And the menu evolves with the seasonal availability of mostly local herbs, greens, vegetables, and meat.

“Depending on the time of year, upwards of 70% of our ingredients are sourced locally,” says Adam Watts, a Kitchen chef.  “We change our menu to what’s available.”  These local ingredients are fresher, save hundreds of food miles, and compost created from the scraps ends up back on the farmer’s fields.  “The quality is absolutely better,” Adam says.  “When you have to wash off the dirt, you know it’s fresh.”

Sustainable practices and a community oriented atmosphere gives The Kitchen a lot of credibility when they call themselves a “community bistro.”  The great thing about The Kitchen, however, is just how serious they really are about their Boulder neighborhood.  They have partnered with local non-profit The Growe Foundation to help sponsor the Garden To Table initiative, which educates local kids about the cycle of food, from planting seeds to harvest to the final product on the dinner table.

Garden To Table takes a hands-on approach with 9 schools from the Boulder Valley School District.  Each school plants a garden, harvests vegetables and greens, and then, with the help of The Kitchen chefs, create salads and dishes to be eaten at school benefit functions.  To chef Adam Watts, it’s all about educating future generations about where food comes from.  “We want to create a new culture that understands garden-to-table ethics,” he says.

The Kitchen represents a new movement in food service, one that focuses on the benefits of not only serving good tasting food, but sustainable food as well.  To The Kitchen, it’s just another part of being a member of a community.

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