eTundra Categories

Archive | February, 2012

How To Use Google To Manage Your Restaurant’s Reputation

Restaurant Reputation ManagementWe’ve talked about the importance of reputation management on The Back Burner in the past, and as review sites like Yelp and discount sites like Groupon continue to influence the way consumers make their dining decisions it becomes even more important for restaurants to make sure they are engaged with their customers online.

Yet that job has only become more difficult as social media continues to grow in importance, and the reality is there are dozens, maybe hundreds of sites where your customers may be talking about your restaurant and there are only so many hours in the day.

This is not to say you should spend your time combing the internet for every last mention of your business.

This is to say, there’s an easy way to manage the most important mentions of your business and quickly decide where to respond (and where not to) without adding a lot of work to your already busy day.

And it’s free.

Restaurateurs, meet Google Alerts.  Google Alerts, Restaurateurs.

Google Alerts is a way to make the  most popular search engine in the world work specifically for your restaurant.  By entering your business name as a keyword in Alerts Google will start keeping an eye out for that name on every webpage it crawls every day, and by all accounts that’s a lot of web pages, like billions of web pages.

Every time Google’s crawler finds a mention of your business name it will save it to a report.  That report is automatically emailed to you every day where results are found.  This way you can sit back, check your email, and watch for the places on the internet where your customers are talking about.

How To Set Up A Google Alert:

It’s as easy as that and suddenly managing a restaurant’s reputation online just got a whole lot easier.  Of course, you’ll probably still want to check up on yourself on the major sites like Yelp just to make sure important comments aren’t slipping through the cracks.  And it would definitely help to refine the keywords you use to search for customer comments based on what Google Alerts is sending you versus what you find when you do a search.

Some suggestions for tweaking your search:

  • Use quotes (“ “) around your business name to make sure results match the phrase exactly and not just partially.  This will help limit the number of irrelevant results you get, but may cut out some relevant ones as well.
  • If you have a common restaurant name add location to the keyword phrase you use to weed out the Johnny’s Café in the next state over.
  • Experiment with some common variations of your restaurant’s name to make sure you are catching all the references your customers might be using.

Google Alerts is a quick, free and easy way to help you manage your business reputation online.  Start taking advantage of the power of Google today!

Continue Reading

Identify Commercial Faucet Parts

There are many different brands of faucets on the market.

Some of the most common faucet brands are:

A T&S Faucet

A T&S Faucet

Some faucets are easily identified and sometimes it is more difficult.  The best way to identify the faucet you have is by the manufacturer’s name found on the front of the base.  The base is the part that the stems and spout attach to.  If the brand name has been worn off from age you may find the name on the end of the spout.  If you are still not able to identify the type of faucet, then we move on to identifying portions of the stem faucet.  The shape of the spout would be another factor.

A CHG/Encore Faucet

A CHG/Encore Faucet

Most manufacturers have different shaped spouts.  This includes the angle at which they are bent to the curvature of the bends.  Another identifying factor is how it attaches to the body.  They all have a nut that either screws into the body (male threads) or screws over the outside of the body (female thread).  Most have the female threaded nut, so the last identifying possibility is whether there are o-rings on the part that inserts into the body.  Some may have a double or a single o-ring (rubber).  There are others that have a brass sealing ring.

A Krowne Faucet

A Krowne Faucet

Sometimes you still may not be able to identify the faucet correctly.  The last means of identification are the stem assemblies.  Of course, they vary by manufacturer, and some may have different stem assemblies depending on whether or not they go into a standard duty or heavy duty faucet.  They may also vary if it is a wall mount or deck mount faucet.

There are three manufacturers (CHG, T&S, and Krowne) that use what is called a barrel type stem assembly.  The barrel inserts into the body of the faucet and the stems screw into the barrel.  They do differ and are not interchangeable. The T&S and Krowne can be confused with one another because of the bonnet assembly, although the handles are very different and the name may be embossed into the stem.  Encore/CHG is fairly easy to identify by the black plastic cap that covers the packing nut that screws into the bonnet nut.

Identifying other stem assemblies may be a little more difficult.  You would need to remove the stem for proper identification.  Look at the bonnet nut to see if it is a female or male thread.  Check to see if it has o-rings on it (single or double), or no o-rings.  Also check the spline on the stem, which is at the top of the stem where the handle attaches.  It can help sometimes.  For example, a Chicago stem has no spline and it is square.  A Perlick stem has no spline.  These are not interchangeable so be sure you are getting the right one.

If all else fails compare your stem to pictures of stems and assemblies online.    If you are unable to match up your stem, it may be a discontinued model or it may be a residential version.  If this is the case you may have to replace the entire faucet.

Check out more food service parts.

Continue Reading

How To Get A Liquor License

Liquor LicenseGetting a liquor license for your restaurant all comes down to two words: it depends.  Determining how much it’s going to cost, how long it will take, and how easy it’s going to be all depend on where you’re located.  That’s because liquor licensing varies from state to state and even county to county.

First, find out if a liquor license is even available in your community.  Almost every municipality has a quota on the number of liquor licenses they issue, and if that quota has been reached then you’ll need to buy an existing license from someone else.

As populations grow, local governments will issue new licenses as well, so you may want to save the cost of purchasing a license by waiting for new ones to be issued.  If you do buy an existing license, make sure you get a lawyer who knows what he or she is doing to help you through the transaction.

Once you have a bead on an available license, your next step is to determine what kind of license you need.  The most common types are:

Qualifying for this type of liquor license usually requires that a limited portion of your sales come from alcohol (typically 40%).  This means it’s usually easier and cheaper to acquire than a full on tavern license.

Tavern. This type of license is meant for establishments that make most of their money on liquor sales.  Some states will require you to serve food anyway, so make sure you check to see if you need a menu to go along with your license.

Beer and wine. This license acts exactly like it sounds – if you want to serve only beer and wine, this one’s for you.  It’s also somewhat easier to get this kind of license in most cases.

Club. Small private clubs that require a membership fee can get a special license for serving alcohol.  Again, the rules on this type of license will vary greatly from state to state.

It can take days, weeks, months, or even more than a year to procure a liquor license, depending on where your restaurant is located.  That means you need to jump on the ball early if you’ve got a set opening date for a new establishment.

Start by contacting the Alcohol Beverage Control agency in your county to start the process.  Naturally there will be many hoops to jump through so make sure you follow requirements strictly to avoid unnecessary delays.
After you’ve gone through the process and paid the processing fee, you’re ready to serve alcohol in your establishment, which is the perfect time to send your employees through alcohol service training.

Continue Reading

HACCP Principle 2 – Defining Processes

HACCP Food SafetyAs we discussed in the last HACCP post, you need to organize the hazards and critical control points at every step in the food preparation process.

So how do you decide which points are a CCP and which can be handled by a Prerequisite Program?  A good strategy is to analyze the food preparation process for each item on your menu.  There are a few exceptions, but in general most menu items can be divided into three groups (please keep in mind that the CCPs listed below are the most common examples only; actual CCPs may vary depending on the situation):

Process 1:  No cook step (example: receive – store – prepare – hold – serve).  This food is served cold and is never cooked.  That means this food never goes through a “kill step” before it is served to customers, meaning the process of cooking the food, which kills most biological hazards, never occurs.

Some examples of Process 1 foods: oysters, salads, fresh vegetables, sushi, ceviche, shashimi.

The CCPs for Process 1 are:

Receiving temp and certification tag.  These foods must arrive below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.  Many types of food in this category, especially shellfish, must arrive with a tag certifying its freshness, and the tag must be retained as proof.

Cold holding.  While the product is stored or after it has been prepared and is waiting to be served, it must remain below the 41 degree threshold to limit bacterial growth.

Date marking.  Even if these foods are stored at the proper temperature, as time passes the risk of contamination grows.  A system must be in place to dispose of product that has sat unused too long.

Freezing.  Some types of food in this category, especially sushi, ceviche, and shashimi, require freezing to kill potential parasites.

It’s important to note that several other risks and hazards apply to Process 1 foods, like proper employee hygiene, properly sanitized food preparation equipment and utensils, etc.  Those more general factors should be addressed in the SOPs of your Prerequisite Program.  The above CCPs are specific to these Process 1 foods and therefore require that you set specific Critical Limits for each risk factor (see Step 3 for more information).

Process 2:  Same day service (example: receive – store – prepare – cook – hold – serve).  This process involves cooking food before it is served, which means it takes one trip through the danger zone (see Step 3 for more information), and potential biological hazards are exposed to a kill step before the food is served.

Some examples: hamburgers, steak, various fish species.

The CCP’s for Process 2 are:

Cooking.  Depending on the type of food, it must be cooked to a specific temperature for a specified amount of time.  For example, hamburger should be cooked at 155 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds, while chicken should be cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.  See Step 3: Critical Limits for more information.

Hot holding or using time.  After this food is cooked, it should be held hot until served or served in a specified amount of time before disposal to prevent contamination.

Please note that some types of seafood require additional CCP’s like cold holding and receiving certification because of the risk of the buildup of bacteria-related toxins that are not removed by the cooking “kill step.”  Consult with your local Board of Health for more information.

Process 3:  Complex food preparation (example: receive – store – prepare – cook – cool – reheat – hot hold – serve).  These foods pass through the danger zone (see Step 3 for more information) more than once before they are served to the customer and therefore must have their temperature strictly monitored in order to prevent contamination.  Even though these foods pass through a cooking “kill step” more than once, the danger of “spore forming bacteria” (bacteria that leave behind spores that can survive the kill step and start reproducing again) presents a particular danger in this process because so much time passes between the time the food is first cooked and the time it is served to the customer.

Process 3 foods fall into two categories: foods that are mass produced in preparation for the next day’s business and foods that are cooked using Process 2 but are never served and thus end up back in cold holding.

The CCP’s for Process 3 are:

Cooking.  This CCP is identical to the Process 2 CCP above.  See step 3 for more information on Critical Limits.

Cooling.  After this food has been cooked and hot held, it must be cooled within a given timeframe to prevent bacteria from reproducing.  See step 3 for more information.

Hot and cold holding or using time.  Once cooked, these foods must maintain a certain temperature until cooled, and once cooled, they must maintain a certain temperature until they are reheated.

Date marking.  Even if these foods are stored at the proper temperature, as time passes the risk of contamination grows.  A system must be in place to dispose of product that has sat unused too long.

Reheating for hot holding.  The second time foods are heated, they need to be reheated to the proper temperature to ensure bacteria has been effectively eliminated.

Again, certain types of seafood may require additional CCPs due to the risk of bacteria-related toxin buildup.  Consult with your local Board of Health for more information.

Group the items on your menu according to the process they fit into above.  Once you have your menu items grouped, you can set definitive standards for time and temperature at every CCP not already covered by your Prerequisite Programs.

Continue Reading

Your Restaurant’s Guide To Commercial Composting

Every to go container, every disposable cup, and every plastic fork your restaurant uses ends up in a landfill somewhere.  Over the course of a year that adds up to millions of tons of trash from all the restaurants in the United States.  For most restaurants, these disposable items are a necessary part of doing business, and the lower the cost, the better.

Yet more and more restaurants are turning to compostable versions of these disposable items, even though they tend to be more expensive than their styrofoam and plastic counterparts.

Why?  Two main factors are driving the trend towards commercial composting:

Connecting with your customer.
Overwhelming majorities of Americans support sustainable products like compostable cups, plates, and food containers.  They may not be particularly motivated to spend more money for them at the grocery store, but when consumers encounter these products in places like restaurants, they tend to give the establishment high marks.  When you connect with customers on issues they care about, you’re going to see loyalty and repeat business increase.

Adding another facet to your overall green program. Whether driven by pure moral conviction or a desire to connect with customers (or both), more and more restaurants are instituting green programs as a part of their business.  The use of commercial composting and recycling systems have become widespread, and many restaurants employ programs to improve energy efficiency, reduce water use and carbon footprints.  Using compostable products can add a powerful element to any restaurant’s green efforts.

Person with green recycling binSo how do compostable food service supplies work and why are they so great? Some common questions and answers:

What does compostable mean? Compostable products break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper) in an industrial composting facility.  It may take these products longer to breakdown in a non-composting environment like a landfill, but in general these products break down exponentially faster than regular plastics and even biodegradable products.  For a more complete explanation, check out this article: Understanding Green Restaurant Terms: Compostable, Biodegradable, and Recyclable.

What are the benefits of corn-based compostable products? Corn cups and other compostable products made from corn are beneficial because they use a crop that is already produced on a massive scale in the United States to replace petroleum (oil) based plastics that rely on a substance we must import.  Corn-based products are also carbon neutral because the plants they are made from absorb an equal amount of carbon dioxide as is produced to harvest the crop.

What is PLA? PLA stands for polyactic acid, which is a polymer that is used to make a replacement for oil-based plastics.  PLA is made from lactic acid, which is created when the dextrose (starch) found in biomass like corn is fermented.  Today almost all PLA is created from corn, but in the future PLA will be made from other crops, including sugar beets, sugarcane, and rice, depending on what’s available locally.

How are sugarcane food containers, plates, and bowls made? Sugarcane has a long, fibrous stalk that contains a sweet juice.  Sugar and many other things are made from the extracted juice, leaving the stalk behind.  This leftover is called Bagasse, and it has traditionally been burned or discarded.  Disposable sugarcane products are made using Bagasse, taking a previously unusable byproduct and turning it into a fully compostable plate, bowl, or food container for your restaurant.

What does post-consumer recycled material mean? Post-consumer means the materials are recycled after they are used by consumers and discarded.  Compostable hot cups are partially (about 25%) made from post-consumer recycled materials.  Not only is it sustainable to use recycled materials, buying products made from those recycled materials helps stimulate demand, meaning more will be recycled in the future.

What kinds of compostable products are available for use in my restaurant? Corn cold cups (PLA), post-consumer recycled fiber hot cups, sugarcane food containers, and high heat PLA cutlery are all examples of products you can put to use in your restaurant.  Make sure any compostable product you buy is BPI certified, as this is the gold standard for compostable products.  Checking for BPI certification helps you avoid “greenwashed” products that claim they are compostable but really aren’t.

Using commercially compostable products in your restaurant has a clear marketing benefit for your business because your customers will appreciate your decision to use them.  If your restaurant has already decided that going green is a part of your business model, then compostable products are a must to round out your program.  If you haven’t yet decided whether greening your restaurant makes sense, check out The Back Burner’s Going Green section for more information on everything food service is doing to meet the increasing demand for sustainability in food service.

Continue Reading

Ten Cheap Ways To Increase Restaurant Efficiency (AND Profits!)

1. Start-up, Shutdown Schedules
Not everything needs to be turned on right away when the first cook arrives. Equipment start-up schedules similar to just-in-time ordering saves energy with no investment.

2. Low flow aerators
These are potentially one of the lowest priced efficiency measures a restaurant can buy. Aerators range from .50 to a several dollars and return the investment almost instantly.

3. Pre-rinse Assemblies
At about $60, these devices pay for themselves in about a week depending on your usage and prior sprayer. Some of the newest units on the market use as little as .65 gallons per minute compared to the old units that use around 3.5 gpm. New regulations require all pre-rinse sprayers to use no more than 1.6 gpm so go as low as you can find.

4. Turbo Pots
Research from the Food Service Technology Center shows that Turbo Pots use about half as much energy to boil a pot of water compared to a standard pot. If you have a pot of water boiling all day in your kitchen these pots are a must have.

5. Thawing Meats
A little bit of organization and scheduling could save many restaurants thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars a year. If you must thaw meats with running water make sure the faucet has a low-flow aerator, and turn the flow down to just enough to keep water flowing across the product – not full blast.

6. CFLs
They are simple and almost old school at this point, but CFLs save a lot of money. Today’s CFLs are cheap and high quality, but don’t buy the cheapest ones you can find. You get what you pay for. Use them in hoods, storage areas, offices, back halls and walk-in coolers.

7. Training
All the green gadgets and gizmos in the world don’t save money unless the users are using them correctly. Moreover, training staff to be conscious about the resources they are using will go much further than any piece of energy efficient equipment.

8. Recycling
Even restaurants that currently recycle should audit their garbage once in a while. More than likely, recyclables are being thrown away and potentially costing the business extra hauling fees. Recycling is a simple task, and can cut a garbage bill in half if the restaurant is not currently taking part in the practice.

9. Composting
Food waste makes up something around 50% of the volume and 75% of the weight of most full service restaurants. Implementing a composting program can be a little more involved, but like recycling it soon becomes second nature to the staff.

10. Food Waste Tracking
Before starting a composting program, start tracking the restaurant’s food waste, and make changes to reduce that waste. Whether through simple paper logs or more complex digital systems like Leanpath, food waste tracking helps chefs and management actualize their waste and make adjustments to par lists, menus or schedules.

Continue Reading