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Archive | July, 2012

A Really Easy Way To Make Commercial Steam Tables Energy Efficient

A Really Easy Way To Make Commercial Steam Tables Energy EfficientIf your restaurant or commercial food service operation uses steam tables to keep food hot before you serve the customer, then this post is for you.  If this post is for you, then you already know how integral steam tables can be in your day-to-day operations.  You also know they can eat up a lot of energy on a daily basis.

Making commercial steam tables more energy efficient is easier than you might think.  If you’ve got an older unit, the first thing to consider is buying a new steam table.  Newer models are more efficient, more reliable, and create a better impression with your customer.

I know, you thought I said this would be easy.  In the likely case you’re planning on keeping your current steam tables and just want to make them more efficient, read on for the really easy part.

Steam table pans are the essential moving part that keeps a steam table going.  Those pans also act as a lid that helps trap the heat the table is creating to keep food warm.  And as anyone who has worked with those steam table pans knows, over time the corners and edges become bent and wavy.  In fact, my personal experience is that it only takes a trip or two through the dishwashing station in a busy kitchen for those corners and edges to start bending upward.

The problem with bent corners and edges on steam table pans is that their role as the lid on the heat generated by the table is compromised.  The gaps between the edges of the well and the edges of the table allow steam to escape, and anyone watching a pot of water come to a boil knows that one without a tightly sealed lid is going to take longer.

It may not seem like a big deal to have a little steam escaping from a couple gaps where the pan meets the well, and by itself for an hour or two it isn’t.  The problem is that if you’re using commercial steam tables to keep food warm, you’ve probably got it running for several hours at a time many days in a row.  Over time, those little gaps end up costing you significant amounts of money – as much as $30 per well per year!

This is where the easy part comes in.  A pair of pliers and some time should be enough for you to straighten out the curled and bent edges of your existing steam table pans.  A Really Easy Way To Make Commercial Steam Tables Energy Efficient

When you go to buy new pans, I would highly recommend The Edge steam table pans by Polarware.  These pans are made from 300 series stainless steel and have a reinforced edge and corners that resists bending or curling.  The edges are also specially designed for easy gripping, making the constant chore of replacing steam table pans much easier on your staff.

Sometimes the simplest solution, like making sure all the edges on your steam table pans are straight, can make a huge difference, especially in a business with historically thin profit margins like the food service industry.  And sometimes, when all new steam table pans look the same, one has features that make it stand out from the crowd.  Polarware’s The Edge steam table pans are definitely a standout.

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Tap into Better Drink Service with Keg Cocktails

Tap into Better Drink Service with Keg Cocktails Busy nights at a restaurant bar can be hectic. The chaotic atmosphere will test your bartenders’ skill and your customer’s patience. Cocktail orders and other hand-crafted concoctions act as roadblocks in the bartender’s effort to keep up with the barrage of incoming drink requests. These specialty drinks require more time and effort for the server to prepare and are often a favorite among customers.

One way to continue accepting these complicated drink orders and improve the efficiency of your service is to hire another bartender to help out with mixing cocktails. This may help but it will also add another server to your payroll and creates a crowded space behind the bar. Thankfully this is not your only option.

Keg cocktails offer a trendy solution to your service problem. Large batch cocktails allow your restaurant to continue offering all of those tasty drinks your customers love without slowing down your drink service. From red and white wine to vermouth and sangria to house cocktails, serving specialty drinks has never been easier.

Now I know what you’re thinking: these cocktails can’t possibly be of the same quality as fresh drinks made right at the bar. Not so fast! Drinkers have given these large batch cocktails good reviews. Customers at Mercadito Restaurants in Chicago and Miami reportedly preferred an almost week-old batch of kegged margaritas to those that were made fresh at the bar. The theory behind this is that the ingredients have more time to sit and blend together making the cocktail taste better.

Restaurants that already started using these keg cocktails have some methods that will help keep the drinks fresh and tasting as good as new. Tavernita in Chicago serves up to six on-tap cocktails at a time and currently practices a few different preservation methods to keep drinks fresh.

Tavernita stores large batch cocktails in 50 gallon containers that are pumped with carbon dioxide to keep the drinks fresh. The restaurant also attaches cocktail kegs to agitators that periodically shake the large batches to keep the cocktails mixed well.

Quick service is not the only advantage to keg cocktails. Enabling bartenders to get drink orders out faster large batch cocktails also free up more time for customer service. Serving specialty cocktails in large pre-mixed batches allows bartenders to offer samples to customers as well. Cocktail samples are very rare and could give your bar a unique advantage over the competition.

Get on board with this trend before everyone else does. Keg cocktails are an innovative way to improve your service and offer something drinkers have likely not seen before.

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Restaurant Glassware: Use Style And Function To Sell More Drinks

Restaurant Glassware: Use Style And Function To Sell More Drinks

Every restaurant takes good food presentation seriously – after all, no one wants to eat something that doesn’t look absolutely delicious.  You carefully place garnishes, make sure the entrée has the proper color, and serve everything on a stylish plate with matching silverware.

So why aren’t you paying the same amount of attention to your bar presentation?  Top mixologists from around the country agree the glassware you use can be just as important as the drink inside the glass.  And just like that perfect presentation you obsess over in the kitchen, first impressions can be everything when it comes to selling drinks from the bar.

This is especially true for specialty drinks.  So many restaurants have introduced their own specialty drink menu that it isn’t even a hot trend anymore; it’s the norm.  However, you may not be maximizing your drink sales if you don’t have the presentation down right.

Consider two main factors when selecting restaurant glassware:

Style.  Everyone knows what the standard drink glasses look like.  Communicate the originality of your drinks by using glass styles that are a little different.  You can also differentiate your offerings by mixing up the style of glass you use for each type of drink.  The idea is to make the customer feel like they’re not just getting another mojito, they’re getting your special version that can only be ordered in your restaurant.

Function.  Thick stems and wide bases are key to the success of any good glassware.  Don’t let style get so out of hand that the glass doesn’t perform its basic duties properly, namely, holding and dispensing drinks!  Many bartenders also favor thick bases to their glassware because once it cools, it can preserve the temperature of the drink for a longer period of time.

Stocking up on a good variety of stylish yet functional glassware is just another subtle way you communicate to your customers just how good the drinks are in your restaurant.  And while true success lies in making a good drink, good glassware is part of the foundation for any successful bar.

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6 Cool Ways to Use New Technology in Your Restaurant

6 Cool Ways to Use New Technology in Your Restaurant When you think of a restaurant you don’t normally think of modern technology. Usually these businesses are manually run and operated. Restaurant owners typically rely on outdated computers or old-fashioned books to manage their business.

Times are changing. In this day and age of cutting-edge technology there are far more efficient ways to compile information and manage your company. Apple’s iPad is a device that can help your restaurant jump out of the stone and make your operation much more efficient in the process.

The iPad can help you and your staff track and manage daily activity, helping to increase efficiency and profitability.

This technology is also attractive to your customers. People love what’s new and cool and by integrating iPads into your restaurant’s operations your business will be described in this way.

By employing iPads in your restaurant you can improve many different parts of your business including customer loyalty, inventory tracking and marketing.

Customer Loyalty Program

Go cardless with your loyalty program. An iPad in your restaurant will allow you to discard your current program and revamp customer interest in the process. Instead of burdening customers with the task of carrying around a loyalty card and bringing it with them every time they come in, allow them to simply enter their email address into your restaurant’s iPad to access their loyalty program. This will increase customer participation and also give your restaurant a more modern feel as a bonus.

Manage Your Budget

Bring your spreadsheets straight to your fingertips. An iPad will offer spreadsheet programs that you can use to manage your budget. Other computers will do this as well, but iPad is sleek and transportable which will allow you to work on the go. Make this information very easy to take with you to meetings, presentations or to your home. Budget information will also be very easy to transfer to other devices with an iPad.

Track Your Inventory

The iPad is a great device to use to compile information. Similar to managing your budget the iPad allows you to manage inventory information on the go. This can be very helpful for inventory. You can take this portable device with you while surveying the storage room. You can even take pictures of inventory items with your iPad and add them to the database!

Improve Your Menu

iPad provides you with the technology to make your restaurant’s menu more interactive than ever. You can take high-definition photos of menu items and display them to customers. This is a great way to improve customer service and satisfaction by displaying exactly what they are ordering before they make their final decision.

Take Customer Orders

Providing servers with an iPad to record customer orders is a great way to make your service more efficient. The device helps to eliminate the human error involved in the customer order process by allowing servers to send order directly to the kitchen. Also as mentioned earlier an iPad will allow your servers to display high-definition photos of menu items to diners as they make their final menu decisions. An added incentive to this is the modern presentation your customers will notice.

Improve Your Marketing

iPad will also help improve your restaurant’s marketing. It offers an easy way for customers to provide their contact information. Placing an iPad by the front of the restaurant gives customers an opportunity to sign-up for email marketing and promotions while they wait to be seated or place their take-out order. Give customers incentives to offer this information in the form of coupons, deals and specials.

Now is the time for your restaurant to integrate technology into its everyday business. This will improve your restaurants functionality and presentation. Invest in an Apple iPad today and help develop every facet of your restaurant’s operation.

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3 Mouth Watering Cocktails Guaranteed To WOW Your Customers

We really mean it! These cocktails are off the charts with delicious flavor and eye catching presentation. Before you know it your whole bar will be sipping on these scrumptious beverages!

3 Mouth Watering Cocktails Guaranteed To WOW Your Customers

Chambord Raspberry Mojito

2 oz Rum

½ oz Chambord black raspberry liquor

6-8 Fresh mint leaves

2 Lime wedges

½ tsp Sugar

Club soda

Directions: Add sugar, mint leaves, lime wedges and a splash of club soda to a tall glass. Muddle until sugar is dissolved. Add ice to the glass. Add rum and Chambord. Stir to mix. Top with a splash of club soda.

3 Mouth Watering Cocktails Guaranteed To WOW Your Customers

Blood Orange Margarita

1 ½ oz Tequila (silver or gold, based on your preference)

1 oz Grand Marnier

1 ½ oz Simple syrup

1 oz Fresh lime juice

1 ½ oz Blood orange juice (about 1 – 2 oranges)

Salt, sugar & lime/ blood orange wedges for garnish

Directions: In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and grated orange zest. Rub together with your fingers until combined and fragrant. Rim the ridge of your glass with a lime wedge and dip in blood orange sugar mixture. Fill the glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, Grand Marnier, simple syrup, blood orange and lime juice with ice, and shake for about 30 seconds. Pour over ice and squeeze in lemon and orange slices.

3 Mouth Watering Cocktails Guaranteed To WOW Your Customers
The Silver Berry

5 Blueberries

Splash of St. Germain & Canton

1 ½ oz Silver Tree Vodka

Ginger Beer

Directions: Muddle blueberries with a splash of St. Germain and Canton. Top with ice and fill with Silver Tree vodka. Strain over new ice into a red wine glass and fill with ginger beer.

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Food Safety Update: Time To Get Your Management Certified

The food service industry is buzzing right now about a report released by the Food and Drug Administration last week revealing the results of a food safety study the FDA conducted over the past 10 years.

What’s the big deal? The FDA found that “a certified food protection manager was correlated with significantly higher compliance levels with food safety practices,” according to Nation’s Restaurant News. In fact, food service establishments with a full-time certified food protection manager were 12% (70% to 58%) more compliant with food safety practices than those without. That’s a pretty large number.

What’s this mean? The FDA will almost certainly modify their Food Code recommendations to include a full-time food protection manager for all food service establishments. That doesn’t mean a mandate for every restaurant in the country – the Food Code is voluntary and different states and cities adopt different parts of the code.

However, a new food safety standard has been set, and there’s no reason for you to sit around and wait for this to become a requirement, which many industry experts expect in the next few years. Needless to say, there is some legitimate concern among restaurateurs that payroll costs are going up in the face of these new recommendations and any future mandates. The last thing you need is another full-time employee doing something you’re already supposed to be doing, right?

So what can you do? Get your management certified. The upshot of these new recommendations is that the FDA has found a fairly simple way to significantly improve your food safety program: train someone well and then make them responsible for managing food safety in your restaurant.

While it’s not entirely clear what a “certified food protection manager” is, there are already courses out there like Serve Safe’s 16 hour training session that will pass muster for now. If all of your restaurant’s managers pass a similar course, then you’re already playing ahead of the game.

The fact of the matter is, if it has been statistically proven to improve food safety compliance, then getting your management certified is a worthy investment.

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Choosing a POS System That Best Fits Your Restaurant

Choosing a POS System That Best Fits Your RestaurantWhen choosing a POS system for your restaurant, there are many things to consider. One must choose the system that will best suit the needs of the type of restaurant in question. However, every restaurant needs a terminal that allows them to place orders for food and drinks that are then transferred to a kitchen where the orders can be carried out.

The first criteria one must keep in mind is finding the right POS system that best suits their type of restaurant, including:

  • Fine dining and casual table service
  • Nightclubs which provide limited amounts of food or none at all (drinks only)
  • Quick Service Restaurants (fast food)
  • Pizza takeout and delivery.

Each of these types of restaurants are in need of some sort of POS system.

In addition to the stations themselves, the owner must choose a database that will store the data that is needed on a day-to-day basis. The majority of professionals dealing with POS systems would agree that their preferred type of database for restaurants is the SQL, Structured Query Language.

The advantage that SQL provides is the ability for the operator to experience as little data corruption as possible. Stability is something that should come expectedly, and without question, when purchasing a quality POS system. There should be no need for repairs here and there to correct issues with failure and/or corruption.

When purchasing a POS system, it is also very important that the terminal updates any changes within seconds, without the need for rebooting or manually giving commands.

A crucial aspect of the POS system is the printer.

It is imperative that the chosen system operates with a dedicated print server. This server ensures that at any time a printer becomes offline or runs out of paper, the job will within seconds be rerouted to a backup printer. Before buying a POS system, one must be aware of the time it takes to reroute a job. If minutes pass by before a problem is detected, customer satisfaction could decline due to the lack of timeliness in processing an order. In the restaurant industry, timing is everything.

System restoration is an integral part of the POS system that will keep your business running smoothly.

In the event that something should go wrong with your POS system, there must be a plan within to restore itself. Remote backup is crucial for single station restaurants. You must ask your provider if they can rapidly deploy new hardware with a backup copy of all data, including all open checks, since there is only one station. If the restaurant has multiple stations, they should be networked together for ultimate redundancy. If one unit fails, the rest will continue operating as if nothing happened.

Finally, there is one last thing to ensure before deciding on a POS system that best fits your restaurant’s needs: make sure that the system is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant.

Whether the business is brand new or has been in operation for a number of years, it is imperative that the owner finds the POS system with all the essentials that best fit the needs of the restaurant, ensuring customer satisfaction.

Curtis Stevens is a sales rep for Gotmerchant.com, a point of sale provider that offers a free POS system.Choosing a POS System That Best Fits Your Restaurant

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Troubleshooting Commercial Refrigeration Problems

Keeping product out of the danger zone and ready for preparation on the line is one of the most important tasks facing any commercial kitchen, and your Troubleshooting Commercial Refrigeration Problemscommercial refrigeration units play a critical role.

Maintaining and fixing the refrigeration units in your restaurant can be expensive, which is why it’s all the more important for you to be able to fix common issues that come up quickly without wasting a lot of time waiting for help.

Here’s a list of common commercial refrigeration issues and how to address them:

Did this troubleshooting guide help you?  Is there something that we missed here that will help others?  Leave a comment below and share your experiences fixing commercial refrigerators!

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Tundra Is Feeding America This 4th of July!

Tundra Is Feeding America This 4th of July!Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity.  Their mission is to feed the hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and to increase awareness in the fight to end hunger in America.

Give A Meal is a promotional campaign sponsored by Feeding America.  The goal is to provide meals directly to families in need – and for 1 in 6 Americans, that need is very real every day.

The 4th of July has always been about remembering the foundations upon which this country was built.  And a pillar of that foundation has always been the view that America is the “land of plenty” and the “land of milk and honey.”  Tough economic times have shaken that foundation, and that’s why Tundra is supporting Feeding America this 4th of July – to help restore the promise of a plentiful bounty to all Americans.

Help Tundra feed America this 4th!  For every order we receive online between now and Thursday, July 5th, we will donate 8 meals to the Give A Meal initiative sponsored by Feeding America.

There’s never been a more urgent need for basic necessities for struggling American families.  Together we can help make a difference this 4th and get back to something America has also been known for: generosity.

Happy 4th of July!

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Have You Joined The NRA’s Conserve Initiative?

Have You Joined The NRAs Conserve Initiative?The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Conserve Initiative is designed to give restaurateurs the tools they need to start implementing sustainable, environmentally conscious practices in the food service industry.  As quoted from the Conserve Initiative’s website:

“The National Restaurant Association’s Conserve initiative is designed to initiate and inspire actions that improve a company’s bottom line, but also are good for people and the planet.”

The Conserve Initiative website contains news stories about leaders in restaurant sustainability, tools for improving the efficiency and minimizing the environmental impact of your restaurant, and links to important partner sites like government-run Energy Star, which is focused on energy efficiency.

A skeptic might ask: “Why all the hubbub about environmentalism all of a sudden?”  As the NRA points out, some basic realities are confronting the average restaurant owner every day: utility and energy bills eat up 2.5% – 3.4% of gross revenue.  Poll after poll consistently shows that American consumers place value on products and services that are marketed as “green” or “environmentally friendly.”  Food in your restaurant is no exception to this.  And finally, the food service industry is one of the largest in the United States.  The industry as a whole should take the lead on an increasingly important cultural issue.

Here on The Back Burner, I have written extensively about ways to improve energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in your restaurant.  The NRA’s Conserve Initiative is just another resource in the greening efforts your restaurant can actually profit from engaging in.  And that remains the salient point here: focusing on so-called “green” initiatives and strategies in your restaurant can actually save you money!

So what are you waiting for?  Go green and be happy.

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