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Archive | July, 2012

Eat Responsibly: Support Ethical Treatment of Restaurant Employees

Eat Responsibly: Support Ethical Treatment of Restaurant EmployeesSeveral different factors can help market a restaurant to the public. Quality ingredients, good service and of course tasty food are the first to come to mind. Other standards must be met or exceeded to maintain a good public image. These are factors like food safety and ethical employee treatment.

Failure to meet expectations in theses areas can result in bad publicity and loss of business. Today diners are very interested in the ethical treatment of animals in the food industry and now they’re beginning to focus some of that attention on human rights in the industry. Creating a quality working environment for a restaurant staff is not only the right thing to do, it also helps market your business.

Some businesses in the restaurant industry have been exposed for poor treatment of employees, which draws diners’ attention to the issue. Providing workers with paid sick leave and proper wages will give you a leg up on the competition for all the right reasons.

According to the 2012 Diners’ Guide by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), some popular restaurants in America are not providing proper wages, benefits or advancement opportunities to their employees. ROC United is a nationwide organization that is dedicated to improving wages and working conditions for the low-wage restaurant workforce. The organization was founded after September 11, 2001 in New York City. ROC NY experienced a great deal of success and in 2008 the founders decided to take their cause to the national level. The organization currently has 8,000 low-wage restaurant workers and is growing fast.

The Problem

The report states that many restaurant employees do not get paid sick leave. The ROC surveyed more than 4,300 restaurant workers and in this group 90% said they aren’t offered paid sick days. 2/3 of these people reported cooking, preparing or serving food while sick, potentially putting diners’ health at risk.

Some restaurant workers are not only denied paid sick days but they also receive extremely low wages while working. As reported in the Diners’ Guide more than half of restaurant workers nationwide are below the federal poverty line.

The last troubling trend highlighted by the Diners’ Guide is occupational segregation. The report says that employees are discriminated based on sex, race and immigration status in some restaurants when being considered for career advancement opportunities.

ROC United conducted 4,000 surveys in 8 American cities for a report entitled “Blacks in the Restaurant Industry Brief.” The brief found a gap in pay between black and white restaurant workers of more than $4.00/hr. ROC also discovered that in fine dining restaurants bartenders were 3 times more likely to be white than black and servers were 4 times more likely to be white.

ROC United Takes a Stand

The Diners’ Guide is an attempt to bring awareness to this growing issue and as a result fight back against poor working conditions. The ROC’s ultimate objectives for the Diners’ Guide is to raise the federal minimum wage for tipped workers, provide workers with paid sick days and to eliminate occupational segregation in the industry.

The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is currently $2.13. ROC believes this is not nearly enough for people trying to earn a living working in a restaurant. They are teaming with congress members and other organizations to pass the WAGES Act. This act would increase tipped minimum wage to $5.

ROC United is also teaming with a large group of organizations to support the Healthy Families Act. This bill would offer all people working in the United States 7 paid sick days. The bill would help support our public’s health by not forcing sick restaurant employees to report to work while they are sick and endangering the health of their customers in doing so.

ROC is also fighting back against occupational segregation by urging employers to have clear promotion policies that are based on time worked at the establishment and the quality of that work.

The Other Side of the Story  

As a restaurateur the ROC’s Diners Guide must be troubling. If your restaurant is above the problem and treats employees correctly then this report is troubling because your business is being portrayed in a negative light by being grouped into the problems of the industry as a whole.

For restaurants that are not treating employees fairly this is eye-opening because of the possible repercussions in the form of lost business. Either way this is the time for restaurant owners to take a stand and make their own statement on how restaurants treat employees. Fair treatment of employees is both ethical and constructive. If your employees are treated right the quality of their work is likely to increase because they care more about the company and doing their part to improve business.

A few organizations opposed to the Diners’ Guide findings include the National Restaurant Association, Darden Restaurant Group and other advocates for the restaurant industry. These groups believe that the Diners’ Guide is an unjustified attempt to tarnish the industry’s image. They say that the restaurant industry is one of the largest job providers in the country and that they do not deserve this bad publicity.

Darden Restaurant Group restaurants were rated as some of the worst for ethical employee treatment in the Diners’ Guide. The company is accused of several different cases of wage theft, worker discrimination, paying poverty wages and not providing paid sick leave. An example of this alleged employee mistreatment comes from a Capital Grille located in Chevy Chase, MD. Employees claim that several African-American servers were fired because they didn’t “fit the company standard.”

Darden Restaurant Group is closely reviewing its own policy and evidence of how their employees are treated daily. According to Rich Jeffers, Darden’s director of media relations and external communications, the company believes the accusations of wage improprieties and racial discrimination from former employees and ROC are “baseless.”

The world’s largest full-service restaurant company says that to their knowledge they have done nothing wrong and point to awards they have received in the past in support of their case. Darden Restaurant Group has received awards from Black Enterprise and Diversity Inc. for being one of the top companies for diversity in the country. The company was listed in Forbes “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2011 and 2012. Finally, Darden also received the National Restaurant Association’s “Faces of Diversity Award” in 2007. Darden believes that its awarded track record is proof that it treats employees ethically.

The National Restaurant Association is standing behind Darden and other restaurants that were negatively exposed in the Diners’ Guide. NRA spokesman Scott Defife says the guide is a “transparent attempt to disparage” the restaurant industry. He goes on to point out that the industry has continued to be a leading job creator in the country.Eat Responsibly: Support Ethical Treatment of Restaurant Employees

These groups are united in their belief that ROC has not provided enough evidence for their findings and that the restaurant industry has not earned this negative publicity.

What You Can Do

Restaurant owners and managers are in a position where they can directly help solve this problem. It is pretty simple. If you are ethical about your employment practices then great, keep doing what you’re doing, but if not then fix them by doing what you know is right. Doing so will be obviously beneficial to your employees first of all but it will also be good for your brand’s public image.

With the new information circulating about poor treatment of restaurant employees diners will seek eateries that are above the problem. If you treat your workers right, then let people know and your business will be positively impacted.

The low wages and poor conditions that restaurant workers have to endure is a serious issue. In a time where the restaurant industry is beginning to take a stand for animal rights and sustainable farming practices it is time we stood up for the workers. Read the Diners’ Guide today and fight back by improving your employee treatment standards and informing others in the industry of this serious problem.

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Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

In last week’s post, we introduced some of the benefits for deploying an energy management system across a restaurant’s operations.  We also described three critical questions that need to be addressed in order for a business to extract the maximum value from an energy management system:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

In last week’s post, we focused on the first question.  In this week’s post, we will focus on the second question:

Where are the opportunities for saving money?

An energy management system can be a very effective tool for identifying and eliminating areas of excessive energy spending, and there are a number of different categories of wasteful consumption where the platform can make a significant impact.

Off-hours consumption

In a typical restaurant operation, the “off-hours” period can be an opportunity for cutting back on excessive energy spending.  It is not uncommon for expensive loads, such as make-up air and exhaust fans, to frequently be left running all night when the restaurant is closed.  Some of the staff may be new or have not yet had proper training on all aspects of restaurant operations.  Managers have multiple competing demands for their attention.  People forget.  Ineffective off-hours management of even a modest number of devices in a restaurant can result in thousands of dollars in lost profits every year per store.

A modern energy management system can provide insight into energy consumption patterns, can calculate the costs of running equipment in the off-hours to highlight the magnitude of the waste, and can send alerts to management when equipment has been left running too late or is turned on too early.  By bringing this level of visibility into off-hours consumption, a modern energy management system can greatly facilitate implementation of robust operational practices that ensure equipment is only running when it needs to be.

Management of equipment use versus business volumes

As with off-hours energy consumption, there are many pieces of energy-intensive equipment in the restaurant’s kitchen, such as heat lamps, toasters, and Panini presses that can be turned down or turned off during quiet periods.  An energy management system can help evaluate consumption patterns and target the most cost-effective pieces of equipment to manage during lulls over the course of the day.

Inefficient HVAC and Refrigeration Equipment

A recent survey of commercial HVAC equipment revealed that more often than not, HVAC equipment is not operating as efficiently as it could be, due to faults in a variety of components, including:Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2

•    Refrigerant circuit
•    Economizer
•    Air flow
•    Thermostat
•    Sensors

An energy management system can reveal problems with HVAC and refrigeration systems by identifying problematic operating patterns, such as compressor short-cycling, continuous operation of compressors, compressor failure, and by finding aberrations in expected supply and return duct air temperatures.

Inefficient Programming of Thermostats

Installing programmable thermostats and keeping on top of the different heating and cooling set points across each day and between seasons is the single most cost-effective way to automate energy savings.  Heating and cooling costs are typically a restaurant’s largest energy cost, and programmable thermostats are substantially less expensive than any other kind of energy automation.

Unfortunately, many restaurants use their programmable thermostats the same way many people use them at home: they don’t program them.  Programming the thermostat can be cumbersome, so it can be difficult to implement schedule changes or seasonal changes.  Set points are constantly over-ridden, with a tug-of-war between the staff’s desired temperature settings and the customers’ desired settings.    The result is HVAC equipment typically running harder and longer than necessary, wasting precious profits.

Having a staff trained on the use of the programmable thermostats and having a thermostat that is convenient (e.g., internet connected for remote control) and intuitive to can go a long way to optimizing the use of heating and cooling systems, balancing comfort and energy savings.

Early warnings of equipment problems

Equipment can reveal much about its performance through its energy consumption patterns.  If there are problems – e.g., a broken belt on a fan or a clogged vent in an exhaust system – equipment may use substantially more or substantially less energy than it was designed to consume.  An energy management system can be configured to automatically recognize aberrations in consumption patterns and proactively send out text and email alerts to management.  Because of this, an energy management system’s on-going analysis can help prevent “black swan” events — catastrophic failure of critical equipment.

Management of energy demand spikes

Most commercial properties, including restaurants, incur so-called “demand charges” from their electric utilities.  Demand charges are established when electricity consumption spikes, usually for 15 to 30 minutes.  The utility will charge based on the magnitude of the customers’ demand spikes, as measured in kilowatts, not kilowatt-hours.  The greater the spike, the greater the demand charge. (See here for a more detailed explanation.)

An energy management system can detect spikes in electricity consumption and either send out warnings with enough time for restaurant managers to do something to reduce the magnitude of the spike or, more likely, reveal overtime what changes could be made on a daily basis to systematically reduce the likelihood of higher demand charges.  For example, managers may set the thermostat back by 2 degrees or turn off their ice machine from 3pm to 4pm during the summer to reduce the total demand from the restaurant for the duration of the spike.

Modeling the savings

How do these different opportunities break-down in terms of savings potential?  Below is a model of a typical restaurant with a range of typical expected savings for each category of savings opportunity:

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2

These savings can range by +/- 50%, meaning the savings range is 8-18% in direct energy savings. These savings do not reflect potential savings in gas consumption due to more effective use of thermostats and more efficient operation of HVAC equipment.

There are other savings opportunities as well.  Savings from maintenance calls that are avoided due to the remote diagnostics and equipment performance monitoring could add another $1,000 a year in direct savings (benchmarks for service calls are about $350 per call). While the HVAC/R faults require an HVAC technician to resolve,  we find that those issues can be addressed with minimal incremental cost to the existing R&M contract that is already “bought and paid for”  in year 1 of the program. Other cost reduction modifications to that contract are possible in future years as well.

In summary, when deploying an energy management system, it is important to focus on the areas where the system can deliver substantial cost savings:

•    Off-hours energy consumption
•    Management of equipment use versus business volumes
•    Inefficient HVAC and refrigeration equipment
•    Inefficient programming of thermostats
•    Early warnings of equipment problems
•    Management of energy demand spikes

With the proper focus, an energy management system can deliver real, measurable, and impactful energy savings.

In next week’s blog posting, we will focus on the final critical question: When should the customer expect to achieve savings?

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Fiesta of Flavor: Mexican Food Recipes

Mexican cuisine is off the charts with flavor and color. The best part about making Mexican food is that you can use canned ingredients from your cupboard or fresh produce from the local farmers market to make a tasty and appealing dish.

Below are a few Mexican recipes we compiled that will not only impress customers at your establishment but also your friends and family at home.

Vegetarian Mexican Salad Boats:
Fiesta of Flavor: Mexican Food Recipes
1 bunch romaine hearts, rinsed and separated
1 sweet potato, finely diced
1 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 oz) can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
4 radishes, thinly sliced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 lime
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 avocado, diced

Directions: Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add the sweet potatoes, cumin, chili powder, a pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Sauté about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 Tbs. oil, juice from the lime, cilantro and another pinch of salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the beans, corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and radishes. Pour in the dressing and toss to combine. Spoon the mixture into each romaine boat and top with diced avocado and more cilantro, if desired.

Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas
Fiesta of Flavor: Mexican Food Recipes
Ingredients:
1 poblano chile, cut into matchsticks
2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, halved and slivered
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
3 T heat-safe oil like grape seed or coconut
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups homemade or store bought salsa/pico de gallo
2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 big handfuls)
9-10 corn tortillas, halved (try making homemade tortillas!)
2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar-Monterey Jack blend)
sour cream and thinly sliced scallions (green onions) for garnish, if desired

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet.

Place poblanos, red bell peppers, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, and corn kernels onto cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle the cumin and minced garlic over top. Add a generous pinch or two of salt and black pepper, and then use your hands to mix everything together. After everything is coated well, spread the vegetables evenly in the pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are tender and begin to brown in spots. Stir or shake the pan every 10 minutes for even roasting. Remove pan from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Prepare an 8” or 9” square baking pan with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, stir the cilantro into the salsa. Spread 1/4 cup of salsa into the bottom of the baking pan. Add a layer of tortilla pieces, to completely cover the salsa. Top with 1/3 of the vegetables, a handful of spinach, and 1/3 of the cheese. Make a second layer of tortilla, salsa, vegetables, spinach, and cheese. Top with a layer of tortillas, salsa, vegetables, and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Let it sit for 5 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced scallions.

Fiesta of Flavor: Mexican Food Recipes

Photo Credit Pinch of Yum. Click on image to view recipe.

Chicken Tamale Pie

1/3 cup fat free milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 tablespoon taco seasoning, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14 3/4 ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8.5 ounce) box corn muffin mix (such as Jiffy)
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
1 (10 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
3/4 cup shredded white cheese
Cilantro and crumbled Cotija cheese for topping

Instructions: Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine milk, egg, ½ tsp taco seasoning, ground red pepper, corn, muffin mix and green chilies in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a round pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes. While corn is baking, toss the chicken in the remaining 1 tablespoon taco seasoning. When corn is done – it will be just barely set and golden brown – pierce entire surface liberally with a fork (it might stick a little bit to the fork). Pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Top each serving with cilantro and Cotija cheese.

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Iced Coffee: More Expensive and Totally Worth It

Iced Coffee: More Expensive and Totally Worth It On a hot summer day in a coffee shop most customers don’t want to drink hot coffee. They want something cool and refreshing. Coffee drinkers still want their caffeine fix without the steaming hot cup of joe. This is where iced coffee comes in, it’s cold, refreshing and satisfies customers coffee needs. This popular coffee option helps businesses maintain coffee sales in the warm months.

Iced coffee season is a major shift in business for restaurant owners or coffee shop managers. Iced coffee requires separate brewing processes and different packaging materials. As a result, the iced beverage is more expensive to produce and purchase.

The additional costs can make it seem that iced coffee may not be worth offering but this is not the case. Iced coffee is widely popular and getting more popular every year. In 2009 iced coffee sales accounted for 1/5 of all American coffee consumption, according to business week magazine.

Grubstreet, a daily food news provider for New York Magazine, broke down the reasons for iced coffee being more expensive. They did this by comparing a 16-ounce cold-brewed coffee to a 14-ounce hot coffee; the ice displaces about 4 ounces in the cold beverage.

Grubstreet estimated that the iced coffee costs 25 cents to a dollar more than hot coffee to produce.  This is due to a few added expenses. First, iced coffee calls for about twice as many beans as hot coffee. According to Grubstreet this difference is about 35 cents worth for hot coffee and 62 cents worth for iced. The next hike in price for iced coffee beverages is for the plastic cup the drink is served in. On average, the paper hot coffee cups are about half the price of the plastic ones. The lids and straws that go with these cups add another cent or two to the production cost.

On top of these extra costs that roll in for iced coffee season there are also other miscellaneous items your business may need to rent or purchase like an ice machine to accommodate iced coffee production. When it’s all said and done Grubstreet estimates the added cost of making iced coffee is about 80 cents.

If you are serious about your coffee making, iced coffee is a worthy investment and is no longer limited to the hot weather months. The summertime drink has broken through its seasonal barrier. More people are drinking iced coffee in the winter. According to a survey by Dunkin’ Donuts 84% of consumers said they drank more iced coffee this winter than last. Half of people surveyed said they feel cooler and trendier when drinking iced coffee.

If your business is going to sell iced coffee it’s important to offer the highest quality, best-tasting iced coffee possible to justify extra costs. There are several methods businesses use to make iced coffee. Two of the most common methods are known as cold brew and ice brew. Both of these brewing processes end up producing an iced coffee but the process and resulting taste can be very different.

Cold brew (also known as Toddy for the machine used to prepare it) is a process where the coffee grounds are stirred into cold water and left in the refrigerator for 12 hours giving it time to blend. After 12 hours the grounds are strained from the mixture and it’s ready to serve. This method lowers the acidity of the coffee. One of the keys to cold brew is that the coffee is never heated during the process. Other methods may brew the coffee at a high temperature and then let the drink cool after. Cold brew keeps the mixture cool the entire time to improve the flavor of the blend.

Ice brew is believed by some experts to produce better tasting coffee than cold brew. This method involves brewing the coffee hot and dripping it onto ice, cooling the drink and helping capture all of the coffee flavor in the process. This is also a good method because it’s ready right after it’s brewed.

There are also some tricks that you can apply to improve the flavor of iced coffee. Muddy Dog Roasting Co. provides a list of tips for iced coffee professionals. These tips include using premium coffee beans and making iced coffee on the strong side because in most situations the mixture will be watered down. They also recommend making ice cubes out of frozen coffee which will help to keep the coffee cold while not adding extra water to the coffee drink.

Coffee is the most popular drink in the world with approximately 400 billion cups consumed every year. Don’t limit your potential coffee sales by not offering iced coffee.  This menu item will help you maintain some of your coffee sales even when it is too hot for a hot beverage and still be popular when the heat is gone.

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POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?

POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?Employee scheduling software, in its most ideal form, is meant to save you time while making schedules easy to implement and even easier to access and understand. The most intuitive software gives its user the ability to streamline scheduling, quickly summarize information in reports, and integrate with POS systems to correlate payroll data. When searching for the holy grail of scheduling systems it’s not uncommon to trip over those that are lacking in this respect or that, finding a handful of features you like in a system coupled with a handful more that are missing.

Well we’ve done the research for you and have found two quality scheduling software providers that we guarantee can make your life less complicated.

ShiftPlanning Easy to use, extremely versatile, and jam-packed with features that make the process not only intuitive, but fun, ShiftPlanning brings a little bit of everything to the employee scheduling table. From its cloud-based operation and free desktop platform to the extensive reporting and exporting capabilities this affordable software is the complete package. The combination of free 1-on-1 training and schedule integration make using the service and troubleshooting problems a breeze.

For a reasonable monthly fee (or an adjusted annual rate) you can create and manage schedules, print or analyze reports and trends, and process staff payroll from the comfort and convenience of a tablet device or desktop computer. No additional downloads or software required.

The mobile components of ShiftPlanning come at no additional cost and add value to the overall offering. From any mobile device employees can access a number of staff-centric features including viewing upcoming shifts and clocking in and out (time clock feature is IP-based to avoid employees clocking in and out while not on location). From the employer seat, and with the use of a tablet, all ShiftPlanning features are available which means you can be out of town or home sick and still manage your schedule on the fly.

When it comes to clocking in and out ShiftPlanning gives you the ability to get creative and have some fun with your employees. The biometric time clock feature, paired with any webcam, takes a picture each time someone clocks in or out. This not only helps employees enjoy clocking in with a funny face but also gives you proof that no one’s clocking in or out for anyone else. Plus, the time clock function of ShiftPlanning is completely online so there’s no need for expensive equipment.

One feature that helps ShiftPlanning stand out in the sea of scheduling software is the fact that the service is offered for free to non-profit business with volunteer employees (and 50% off annually for non-profits with paid employees) – just one way ShiftPlanning goes above and beyond when it comes to service and satisfaction.

Noteworthy Specs:
-   14 day free trial (full version)
-    Full mobile access
-    SMS text schedule reminders
-    Unlimited employees
-    Calendar sink
-    POS system integration

TimeForge Another contender for the title of strongest scheduling software on the market, TimeForge Scheduling secures its position by offering comprehensive setup and scheduling integration on top of around-the-clock help desk support.  With a $1 per employee pricing structure and the ability to customize which features you need and which you don’t this scheduling solution is perfect for restaurant’s small and large.

As co-founder Anthony Presley puts it, “TimeForge is awesome!” The company works with owners and managers to help solve and avoid real world issues that face restaurants all over the country. Ranging from human resources to scheduling, attendance, and daily logs, TimeForge has a specific product offering that easily takes care of the essentials. Not certain one of the products is right for you? The software’s free trial lasts 10 days and gives you full access to everything (TimeForge Max) so you can test drive some features and make a confident decision.

Keeping focus on TimeForge Scheduling, the service is ideal for the fast-paced, no-room-for-error world of the commercial restaurant. The service is fully hosted, meaning you don’t have to download a thing, and cloud-based data storage ensures you never lose your information.  Once you’ve got things set up and running smoothly, SMS text message reminders as well as e-mailed schedules let employees know about upcoming shifts and shift changes. The mobility of the application gives your staff the ability to log in from any computer or mobile device, which means no more “I didn’t know I was scheduled” excuses.

An outstanding feature that benefits smaller restaurants and businesses is that TimeForge Lite is completely free for up to 24 employees. That means as long as you’re staff consists of under 25 people you can use the Lite version of the service and it won’t cost you a penny. Granted, TimeForge Lite does not include the autoscheduler or text message notifications, but for many small eateries already struggling to find quality restaurant equipment and supplies for less the missing features aren’t necessary.

The system’s ability to integrate with web and POS systems, paired with a 24/7 help desk and free set up support, makes TimeForge easy to implement and even easier to manage.

Noteworthy Specs:
-    Fully hosted
-    Cloud based data storage
-    Video tutorials
-    Customizable pricing structure
-    TimeForge Max includes Scheduling, Attendance, HR, and Sales

Quality scheduling software goes hand in hand with a reliable point of sale (POS) system. Scheduling and managing your employees is one step in the escalator ride that is a successful restaurant, and another essential step is being able to confidently track your daily, monthly, and yearly sales. Investing in an excellent POS system is investing in the future of your eatery so it’s crucial to shop around and find the system that does what you need it to.

Here’s a quick look at some of the better systems on the market today:POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?

Gotmerchant Easily the most impressive system with an extremely attractive pricing structure, Gotmerchant POS hardware is backed by lifetime technical support and is completely free. Yep, you read that right. From the touch screen monitor and micro computer to a cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer, all the necessary software and a few extras you get everything for free. Where other companies charge upwards of a few thousand dollars for just the hardware, not to mention operation and transaction fees, Gotmerchant gives you the system and only charges you for the service.

At an exceptionally reasonable $59 a month, plus $59 a quarter, you get a complete POS station with a lifetime replacement warranty, professional on-site installation, and 24/7 technical support. Need two, five, or even ten full systems? Not a problem. Each complete system is 100% free, and all you need to pay is the separate operation fees each month and quarter. You simply can’t beat the value for the price.

On top of the standard features like debit and credit card processing and receipt printing you get a handful of additional features that enhance the system’s functionality. With your package Gotmerchant provides 50 free custom gift cards and lets you sample the gift card service for 60 days (after which it’s $9.95/month and $0.15 a swipe). Additionally, free menu programming, an internet-based back office component, and more than 75 built-in reporting options give you full control of your POS operations.

Keeping up with the times, Gotmerchant has also recently updated their system to include tableside ordering via iPads. For a monthly wireless charge and small fee for operation of each device (you supply the iPad) your servers can impress customers and streamline the ordering process.

Noteworthy Specs:
-    Free hardware & software
-    Lifetime replacement warranty
-    Overnight shipping of replacement parts
-    Live software demos

POS Nation The variety of individual components added to an easy-to-use “Build a System” website feature makes POS Nation like a buffet of quality equipment and software. Whether you’re looking to equip a salon, grocery store, quick service eatery, or a restaurant POS Nation has an assortment of system essentials that you can choose from.

Pole displays, fingerprint scanners, and mobile POS all bring an extra element of professionalism and sophistication to a bare-bones POS system. Ensure your system works for you rather than against you by combining the components you need while excluding the ones you don’t. Not looking to put your system together from scratch? POS Nation offers all-in-one options that are customized and streamlined for individual industries.

On the software side of things, POS Nation has a number of different packages, ranging from Quickbooks to Aldelo, Microsoft RMS, and much more, for you to choose from. Also easily shoppable by industry, the software options available have their own beneficial payroll and reporting functions. Just like your hardware, picking and choosing what software your system needs is essential.

Simply put, shopping POS Nation is like shopping a number of different POS suppliers in one place. The hardware offering alone is comparison shopping from the comfort of one website. A POS system is an investment, and it’s wise to not buy the first system you see. Luckily, POS Nation has a little something for everyone and makes the shopping process almost effortless.

Noteworthy Specs:
-    Custom programming
-    2 year manufacturer warranty
-    Comprehensive Build a System feature

The General Store If POS Nation were the large chain store of POS systems on the block then The General Store would be the tried-and-true Mom and Pop place on the corner that’s still going strong. With over 20 years of experience in retail software and POS evolution The General Store has been building and regularly perfecting their own system. Cost effective and reliable, the system that The General Store continues to improve, according to their website, “rivals major retail chains in its power and flexibility.”

Inventory management is simple and intuitive with The General Store software. An unlimited number of items can be entered into the system, and up to 10 price levels, multi-unit pricing, barcode printing capabilities, and stock status reporting all help make supervising your stock easy. Additionally, sales tracking for both cash and charge customers, as well as total system integration and a detailed ledger balance sheet let you map your finances from start to finish.

The General Store’s hardware is built to last and designed to perform. Barcode scanners and printers, cash drawers, the computer and monitor, data collectors, pole displays, and receipt printers have all been perfected to benefit the overall package of their POS system.

More than half of the extra features The General Store has incorporated into its system were based on suggestions from existing users. Plain and simple, The General Store listens to the needs of their customers. It’s this commitment to perfecting their product that makes the company one to consider when picking your POS system.

Noteworthy Specs:
-    Online demos
-    Affordable, competitive pricing
-    Industry flexibility
-    Full accounts receivable support (The General Store Plus)
-    Online knowledge base

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Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 1

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 1By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

Energy has historically been considered an “uncontrollable” cost by most food service businesses.  With the possible exception of lighting, most forms of energy consumption in restaurants and other businesses are nearly invisible, and many of the invisible forms of energy consumption are far more expensive than lighting, especially when it comes to restaurant operations.  Energy can often be in the top 3 to 5 costs for a restaurant.  The challenge is that historically, there have been few, if any, tools available to seize this opportunity for cost control.

The good news is that cost-effective and comprehensive energy management technologies that can help control, identify, and eliminate excessive and unnecessary forms of energy consumption, drive down operating costs and improve profitability are becoming available to restaurant owners and other businesses operating in small commercial facilities.  These new energy management systems provide the ability to remotely control HVAC, gather detailed, real-time data for each piece of energy consuming equipment, and generate intelligent, specific, real-time guidance on finding and capturing the most compelling savings opportunities.  The systems may also include other functionality such as refrigeration temperature monitoring (think food safety), water and gas monitoring, and lighting automation, all of which enhance the value proposition that an energy management system can deliver.

Although there is much promise in these technologies today, many owners and operators can probably tell you a story about the energy related technology that was in fact too good to be true or a total bust. In our experience, to avoid the bad and the ugly and focus on the good, one needs to better understand these technologies, their value to an organization, and how they can be effectively deployed to improve an operation’s profitability. To help in this effort, there are three key questions that should be answered before embarking on a new energy management system project:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

Over the next three weeks, we’ll be addressing each one of these questions.  This week’s post focuses on the first issue:

Who should be involved in the use of energy management systems?

An energy management system can provide value across the span of an organization’s staff, so it’s important to have different groups engaged in the use of the system to reap maximum benefit.

Finance / Owner

Because an energy management system can bring visibility, detail, and benchmarking to one of the top operating costs for restaurants, it’s important to have the finance office involved in the use of the system.  Often, the main internal sponsor of an energy management implementation can be the CFO or franchise owner because one of the primary results of the system is an improvement to the bottom line for a company.

Managers / Operations

Many of the savings reaped from an energy management system are driven by process and operational changes, so it’s critical to have engagement with operating managers who have the authority to set policy and procedures and to manage staff operating critical energy-consuming devices.  In particular, it is important that both the person who is responsible for implementing the operational improvements AND that person’s direct supervisor are engaged in using the system — so, both regional and store managers should be involved. Moreover, as with any initiative, success is usually doomed if the people at the very top of the organization don’t make it clear that the initiative is a priority.

Systems / Facilities

Finally, whoever in the organization has responsibility for facilities or equipment management should be engaged in the project.  The energy management system can help track critical equipment performance and provide the necessary data for making intelligent decisions about equipment maintenance and upgrade programs.

Integrating an energy management system’s deployment across an organization helps to ensure that all those functions within a business that can benefit from the platform will do so.

In next week’s post, we’ll address the next critical question: Where are the opportunities for saving money?

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Tundra & The Future Leaders Of The Food Service Industry

Tundra & The Future Leaders Of The Food Service IndustryThis past Monday Tundra Restaurant Supply was honored to be a part of a seminar at the International Culinary School in Denver, Colorado.

We got Justin Christman and Johnny Fimple of the Hard Rock Café in Denver plus Joe Sinopoli of Stoney’s Bar & Grill to come in and talk for over an hour to over 40 culinary students about the challenges and rewards of starting and managing a restaurant.

The seminar was titled From Dream To Reality: What It Takes To Start Your Own Restaurant and as most of the students in the class were very close to graduation they took an immediate interest in what these seasoned restaurateurs had to say.

Tundra is looking forward to organizing future learning and leadership opportunities as a way to give back to the culinary community in Colorado.  This truly is only the beginning.  As many have long observed, it can be very difficult to succeed in the food service industry, and as Tundra has long realized, our success directly depends upon the success of the future leaders of the food service industry – hence why Tundra will continue to arm those leaders with the best knowledge available.

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Summer Ice Cream Treats

Ice cream is one of those treats that can put a smile on anyone’s face who is indulging in the desert. It comes in many forms and flavors to appeal to everyone and can be enjoyed throughout the day. Here are a few appetizing ice cream recipes that would be great for an ice cream shop, restaurant or even at home. They make us smile just looking at them.

Chocolate Covered Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Summer Ice Cream Treats

 

 

 

 

 

 


For the Brownies:

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cocoa, plus more for pan
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
pinch of kosher salt

For the Ice Cream Sandwiches:
1 qt vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
2 lbs chocolate chips
1 tsp oil

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a quarter sheet pan (a small jelly roll pan), or a 13x9inch pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom, spread with butter, and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. When the mixture is creamy, and all lumps are gone, add in eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add in vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add in flour and salt. Mix until just combined. Spread into prepared pan and bake until shiny on the top, 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely.

Remove brownie from the pan, and cut in half. Spread ice cream on one half, and top with the other half. Freeze for 2-4 hours, until firm.

Cut the large ice cream sandwich into smaller sandwiches. Insert wooden Popsicle sticks, and freeze for another hour.

Melt the chocolate chips with the oil in the microwave in 30 second intervals, until chocolate is smooth. Dip each ice cream sandwich in the chocolate and let set on a sheet of parchment paper. Wrap in parchment paper and freeze until ready to serve.

Recipe from: http://www.goodlifeeats.com

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream
Summer Ice Cream Treats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup bottled Key lime juice (such as Nellie and Joe’s)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Dash of salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
6 graham crackers (1 1/2 cookie sheets), coarsely crushed, divided
Key lime wedges

Directions: In a large bowl, combine milk, lime juice, heavy cream, salt and sweetened condensed milk; whisk to combine.

Pour mixture into your ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Stir 1/3 cup graham crackers into ice cream. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container, and cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon graham crackers. Garnish with lime wedges.

Recipe from: http://www.goodlifeeats.com

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Food Service Gloves: Pros and Cons

Food Service Gloves: Pros and Cons A line cook at a bar and grill is preparing a hamburger. He puts on food service gloves and grabs a handful of raw ground beef and forms a patty. Without changing gloves the worker proceeds to top the grilled patty with lettuce, tomato and onions. After sending out the burger the line cook starts the process over without changing his gloves. This is just one example of food service glove use gone wrong. The problem is that this scenario is probably not uncommon and is just one of the many ways food can be contaminated through improper glove use.
 

The Food Service Glove Problem

Food service gloves can provide a false sense of security for employees and customers. Once the gloves are on people feel as though the food being handled is safe and not being contaminated by the server’s hands. This can be true if the server closely follows the right protocol but the majority of the time the gloves are not helping and in some cases they are hurting the situation.

Studies have found that improper glove use can be a bigger problem than poor hand hygiene. This is true for a few different reasons. Gloves do not provide the level of protection that many people think they do and still require hand washing. Also workers tend to become more careless and take more risks when wearing gloves.

The Journal of Food Protection studied food service glove use in 2007 and 2010. The journal reported that hand washing was less likely to occur when employees were wearing gloves. This is a frightening trend for restaurateurs because these gloves will not fully protect food from being contaminated when the hands they are covering are not clean. In fact, gloves can act as a breeding ground for bacteria and actually raise the risk of food contamination. In their 2010 study the Journal of Food Protection concluded that the warm, moist conditions inside a glove are necessary for microbial proliferation and can increase pathogen transfer onto foods through leaks in the gloves, exposed skin or just by taking the gloves off.

Using food service gloves in a restaurant on a daily basis can also be very wasteful. Most of these gloves are disposable and pairs can be discarded a dozen times an hour just by one employee. These numbers start to add up fast. This is wasted money for your business and more trash in the environment.

During food prep a server or line cook can be handling several different types of food at the same time. If one of these foods is raw meat then the server is required to change gloves before picking up a different piece of food. Or if the worker opens a refrigerator, sneezes, coughs, handles money or touches any other contaminated surface they are required to change gloves. If servers are changing gloves as often as they are required to, which most of the time is not the case, they will be using a large amount of disposable gloves and slowing down the food preparation time.

Having said this there are some positive reasons to wear food service gloves. One situation where glove use can be important is when preparing sushi. Because these workers are handling raw fish they need to take certain precautions to ensure customer safety and gloves make it easier to do so. For example, if a sushi chef is preparing a roll with shellfish and a customer orders a different roll and is allergic to shellfish, gloves make it easy for the chef to switch materials safely.

Food service gloves also create a positive customer perception about the cleanliness of your business operation. This as mentioned before may be a false sense of security for the customer but either way they have a positive outlook about the restaurant.

Types of Gloves

There are currently many different options when buying food service gloves. From latex to polyethylene they’re all a little different and they all have their own benefits and problems.

Latex

Latex gloves are frequently used in the food industry. They can withstand exposure to high heat, feature a tight fight and good dexterity. The main problem with latex is that some people are severely allergic to the material and use of these gloves has been banned in 3 states.

Nitrile

Nitrile gloves are durable with good dexterity. The problem with this material is these gloves often contain DEHP. DEHP is a potential carcinogen and could be harmful to customers and servers.

Polyethylene

Polyethylene gloves are the cheapest of the group. These gloves may be affordable but are far from durable because they tend to tear easily and can not be exposed to heat.

Vinyl

Vinyl gloves tend to be considered an acceptable alternative to latex but they have problems of their own. These gloves have been described as “infection control nightmares” by Food Safety Magazine. This is because they can begin leaking sometimes as soon as they are donned by the worker.

The Centers for Dieses Control and Protection (CDC) recommends that instead of requiring businesses to use food service gloves it would be better to revise food prep methods to reduce the number of times an employee needs to wash their hands. This can be done by limiting the number of times the worker has to handle raw meat or other contaminating materials.

The issue of food service gloves and their safety is important because it can directly affect the public’s health. Food borne illnesses can be very dangerous and detrimental to diners’ health.

As a restaurateur you are in a position to positively impact this issue. Whether you decide it is better for your servers to use gloves or practice regular hand washing it is important to commit to making sure your food is safe. This can be done by training the staff on the correct way to use food service gloves and on maintaining proper hand hygiene. Make all of the necessary equipment readily available to make this easy for your employees. Do this by always having a supply of gloves near the food prep area or by always making sure your sink is stocked with enough soap and towels.

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10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue

10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue
After a year of dedicated blogging on The Back Burner, I took a minute to reflect recently about where the food service industry has been and where it’s going in 2010.  That reflection got me thinking: after a year and 350+ posts, what were the 10 simplest, most effective ways for a restaurant to boost their business?

Over the course of the last two months, I combed every resource and post I had and started putting together a list of the most effective restaurant marketing tips I could find.  Then I condensed them into a single article that was easy to read and even easier to implement.

I’m calling this article “10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue,” and after two months worth of effort, I think it’s a pretty good practical guide for any restaurateur looking for easy, affordable ways to get more butts in seats in their restaurant.

This article is posted on The Back Burner’s sister site www.etundra.com and is free for anyone to download.  If you’re looking for a competitive edge for your marketing efforts, you need to download this article right away.

Download It Now!

Already read 10 Restaurant Marketing Tips?  Tell us what you think below!

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