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Archive | February, 2013

Being Green Means Being LEED Certified

LEED Certified As is the case with most things that are inherently good, the notion of going green has come with a not-so-grand tag-along that’s making the process seem less legitimate. The concept of “greenwashing” – creating, packaging, and selling a few minimal green concepts as a commitment to sustainability – is one that tarnishes the idea of actually going green. In an industry where focus on sustainability can be key to local success, deceptively promoting a half-hearted programs can cause damage industry-wide. This in turn creates negative publicity for an otherwise positive practice, making it difficult for consumers to put faith in a restaurant’s green practices.

Fortunately, companies that are committed to creating honest sustainability have paved the way for those looking to follow suit. The search for standardized credentials to legitimize sustainable businesses has yielded the LEED certification and consumers and businesses alike are finding it valuable. Obtaining a Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification from the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) is a lot like a successful recycling program. Although a long and often demanding process, once put in place and on display the outcome can be extremely rewarding.

So what exactly is LEED? 

According to the U.S. Green Building Council: “LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.”

What does this mean when taken off the paper and put into practice? Essentially, the name of the game is to earn points for the build or remodel of your establishment based on various aspects that can benefit from going green. LEED outlines and examines each of these aspects, and a certification is awarded based on the number of points you achieve out of 110.

Here’s how you play:

  • Sustainable sites (21 points possible): Keeping in mind, and being sensitive to, things like plants and wildlife, water, and air quality when building a new location can earn you major points.
  • Water efficiency (11 points possible): Implementing strategies and making the most of technology that manages your water consumption is important to a successful green effort. If you’re able to cut your establishment’s water use to 20% over the baseline you’ll earn points. The further you can limit your consumption the more points you get.
  • Energy and atmosphere (37 points possible): Energy efficiency, managing your refrigerants to do away with harmful CFCs, and taking advantage of renewable energy are the three areas in which you can earn points in this category. Managing and replacing inefficient restaurant equipment is one way to get started!
  • Materials and resources (14 points possible): In order to maximize your points in this category you need to be conscious of the materials you’re using in your restaurant. Disposable materials made from readily renewable resources are a plus and acquiring those resources from regional providers is a big plus.
  • Indoor environmental quality (17 points possible): The use of automatic sensors mixed with temperature, humidity, and ventilation controls that monitor the quality of your indoor environment can save money and energy. Implementing automatic shut-off and start-up schedules ensures that you’re optimizing different efficiency aspects of your restaurant’s overall environment.
  • BONUS POINTS (10 points possible): It’s possible to gain bonus points in two different ways: 1) remodeling or building in areas that are deemed regional priorities by the GBCI and it can get you up to 4 points & 2) if your project or building shows significant innovation or leadership in design and is worth 6 points.


Point totals: You’re required to earn at least 40 points to receive a LEED certification, but after 40 points it’s possible to earn higher marks. Earning 50+ points gets you Silver certification, 60+ points gets you Gold, and 80+ points gets you Platinum.

Earning a LEED certification is an excellent way to show consumers that you’re not only committed to green efforts on the outside (in your advertising and appearance), but that you’re dedicated in every aspect of your business.

Greenwashing your practices for the short-term gain of customer appeal and media coverage is unwise and will eventually backfire. Getting the credentials should be a no-brainer in the minds of any business owner whose sustainability efforts are second nature. Take the time to earn your LEED certification and make it official!

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Ice, Ice Baby – Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice?

Melting IceIce is like origami paper.

Okay not really, but it can be made into many different shapes and forms. Each shape has a purpose and is ideal for specific needs due to size, melting time, etc. All commercial ice machine brands manufacturer cube, nugget and flake style ice, but some have patented forms too.

Cube Ice Makers

Whether you need 100 lbs or 2,000 lbs of ice, you can certainly find a cuber that will fit your needs. There are two types of cube ice machines: undercounters and modular cuber heads. Undercounters are perfect for back bars, convenience stores, motels, or really anywhere with critical, but minimal ice needs. Modular cuber heads require an ice bin or an ice dispenser to store the ice. These are commonly used in restaurants, resorts and healthcare facilities. Cubers make the following ice forms:

Full Cube

Full Dice, Medium Cube

Square (approximately 1” x 1” x 1”) cubes that cool drinks quickly due to their large surface area. Food Service establishments, bars, and hotels feel this style is perfect for their business because it gives drinks and cocktails visual appeal and melts slowly.

Half Cube

Half Dice, Small Cube

Half as big as a full cube and shaped like a pat of butter or Starburst candy, this shape fits tightly in glasses leaving less room for liquid which can keep costs down on high markup drinks. The half cube is commonly used in restaurants with self-serve fountain drink dispensers. It dispensers easily with infrequent clogging leaving little room for unexpected maintenance.

Crescent Ice

Hoshizaki is famous for their crescent ice form which looks like a half moon: one side is rounded while the other is flat. This shape resists clumping and catches your eye as it sits in cocktails. Similar to the half cube, this form is ideal for self-service beverage stations.

Gourmet Ice

Top-Hat Ice, Clear Ice, Octagon Ice

Large, slow-melting ice form are ideal for classy mixed drinks. This type of ice measures approximately 1” x 1 1/8” x 1 ¼” and shaped similar to a Rolo chocolate. This cube is crystal clear and comprised entirely of water due to its unique freezing process – the air is completely eliminated during the freezing process making it an elegant touch to beverages. Gourmet ice is ideal for catering, banquet halls, resorts and full service bars looking for a “wow” factor to add to cocktails.


Flake Ice

Shaved Ice, Crushed Ice

This ice form resembles small chips of ice and comes in an array of sizes. It is soft and slow melting and versatile for ice displays and healthcare facilities. Seafood markets often use flake ice for displays to avoid spoilage, and hospitals find it necessary for beverages because it is chewable. Therapeutic establishments say it’s ideal for treating injuries because it can be easily molded over wounds.

Nugget Ice Makers

Nugget Ice

Sonic Ice, Pearl Ice, Cubelet Ice, Chewblett Ice, Pellet Ice

Named for its small, soft, and unique cylindrical shape, this enjoyable ice form is perfect for fountain beverages, smoothies, blended cocktails, salad bars and heathcare facilities. Sonic is famous for using this ice type, but it is becoming more and more popular in fast casual food service establishments.

Types of Ice by Brand Full Cube Ice Half Cube Ice Crescent Ice Gourmet Ice Flake Ice Nugget Ice
Scotsman Medium Dice Small Dice Gourmet Ice Flake Ice Nugget Ice
Ice-O-Matic Full Cube Half Cube Flake Ice Pearl Ice
Manitowoc Full Dice Half Dice Flake Ice Nugget Ice
Hoshizaki Crescent Ice Top-Hat Ice Flake Ice Cubelet Ice


And here’s a great home recipe for making ice – just make sure you follow instructions exactly (and read the comments for recommendations).

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Restaurant Designs From Jeff Katz & The Tundra Design Group

Frasca in Boulder, ColoradoThe Tundra Design Group is a talented team that provides design services to owners, operators, developers, and design professionals involved in restaurant, hotel and resort food service facilities worldwide.

With restaurants including Frasca, Mountain Standard Vail, The Kitchen and Hapa Sushi on his resume, Jeff Katz has perfected the art and science of restaurant design. I recently sat down Katz, Vice President of Tundra Design Service, to learn the latest from him on his teams recent design projects.

Katz and his team designed, planned and completed kitchen and restaurant designs across the country, their impressive list includes:

  • Northside Coffee & Kitchen is nestled in the famous Vail Valley. Northside specializes in breakfast and flavorsome coffees not to mention they offer the only donuts in town! Northside offers a full bar and extended menu in the evenings.
  • Mountain Standard Vail is a fresh, pioneering restaurant. This rustic and relaxed tavern aims to set a new standard in the Vail valley by using an ancient form of cooking via the most primal cooking methods: over an open and live wood fire.
  • 5 Star Burgers combines gourmet burgers with some of the best wines and beers. With locations in New Mexico, Colorado and Missouri, USA Today recently rated 5 Star Burgers as one of the best burger restaurants in the country.
  • Pizzeria Locale is a contemporary pizzeria inspired by traditional pizzerias of Naples, Italy. Located on the trendy Pearl Street in downtown Boulder, Colorado, Pizzeria Locale is quickly becoming a foodie favorite.
  • Amante Coffee is the exclusive North American importer of Ghigo family coffee, the most popular coffee and espresso in Northern Italy. Based in Boulder, Colorado Amante is committed to bringing a piece of ‘old world’ charm to its customers. Amante offers a sleek yet comfortable ambiance.
  • Hapa Sushi has four convenient locations in the Denver Metro area where you can always satisfy your sushi cravings. Hapa’s menu is based on traditional Japanese cooking fundamentals, which are then amplified, muted, or mixed with influences from many different styles of cooking until they are something completely new.
  • The Kitchen is a community based restaurant where they are committed to environmentally-friendly practices and working with local farmers and ranchers.
  • Ace Restaurant is a Ping-Pong hall, fostering social gatherings, playfulness and healthy competition. Ace serves Asian inspired dishes that encourage sharing, drinking and hanging out.
  • Frasca Food & Wine is a neighborhood restaurant that is inspired by the cuisine and culture of Friuli, Italy. Frasca has continuously been ranked No. 1 by 5280’s Top 25 Restaurants to dine in the Denver Metro area.

Jeff Katz and his team choose projects that inspire, imagine and create tantalizing dining experiences. Whether they are creating a local neighborhood burger restaurant or designing a five-star fine dining experience, once you visit a Katz restaurant you not only see the difference, you can feel it.


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Tundra Culture: An Interview with Ryan Lewis, President

Ryan Lewis, President of Tundra Restaurant SupplyHere at Tundra we have team members that have been here since the company started in 1993, and team members that have worked in almost every department.  It’s a place that breathes fun and expression; in fact, it’s written in the values.  But these are only a few attributes that can be considered part of our culture.

I recently sat down with Ryan Lewis, President of Tundra, to interview him on the culture here at Tundra (including hard to answer questions that may have made him squirm).

1.    If you could describe Tundra’s culture in three words, what would you say?

Team Members. Experience. Connectedness.

2.    If you were going to give public tours of Tundra, what stops would you make?

Generally I’ll show them the photo board, I’ll show them the values on the walls, and the kitchen – it’s kind of social in there.  I think just standing in the showroom and experiencing the open nature of our office space is nice to show too, like how the big glass windows connect to outside and to the warehouse.  I think it’s important to show the way we all communicate and how we care for balance like with the Turtle room where people can rest and relax if they want to.

In general, I don’t think it comes down to a specific location though – it’s an energy.  Locations are attributes, but that doesn’t create culture. At the end of the day, culture is the look on people’s faces, the smiles, the comfort.  My goal is for people to come to work and have them be extensions of themselves, be able to express themselves.

3.    If the local paper were going to run a four-page article on Tundra’s culture, what would be impossible not to include?

Our values are absolutely imperative because that’s the framework.  I want people to express themselves fully, but it has to be within that set of values – that’s what ties everything together.  And our mission statement – it’s about our customers, and our success depends on theirs.  That’s critical too.  Our Culture Crew – we have a formalized group of people that focus on our team members experience.  All of these would be important.

4.    What’s the best part about working in this environment that someone wouldn’t be able to see from just a walk around the office?

It’s what creates that environment and the focused effort into it – the team members and customers experiences.  It can’t just be about the bottom line.  We care about making sure people are engaged, and if they aren’t then why?

We allow people to (within reasonable guidelines of course) work the way they want to work, dress the way they like, bring their dogs to the office.  It’s important to have a certain level of flexibility.

I really like the Megaphone, and we read every single one of those team member suggestions in our Culture Crew meetings.  We’ve gotten a lot of great ideas from that to help move the culture forward.

I try to make it to all of the Culture Crew meetings.  I tried to suggest that maybe I shouldn’t be in them so that it was more organic, but even as the members of the crew change, they always tell me that they feel that it’s important for me to be there, so I am.  For the Megaphone it’s anonymous, I want people to feel like they can be authentic and talk about opportunities here at Tundra.  I know it’s uncomfortable to talk about some things and make suggestions, and this gives people an outlet to still be able to communicate, and most peoples responses are very sincere and honest.

We can always do a better job though, there isn’t a finish line.

5.    What are the most common complaints team members make about Tundra’s culture?

I hear that the company is too focused on the bottom line or making money.  And I also hear that team members want more money and more bonuses.  It’s usually focused around compensation and finances.  You know, we are a for profit business, so sometimes its sort of low-hanging fruit when the team members are upset about something: not everyone is into the flexibility we have here, like dogs at work.  It’s one of those things that you’ll never make everyone happy in any one category.

But that being said, I can’t reiterate enough that we focus on every single team member; making sure we read each and every one of those suggestions at those culture meetings and listening to every team member.  When you have 130 people you’re going to have unreasonable suggestions from time to time, but I always try to go into matters with eyes and ears wide open.

6.    How would you describe your ideal workplace environment?

For people to come in here with an understanding of the values of how we operate and the mission that we’re trying to accomplish.

I would hope that our team members feel that they are fully an extension of themselves here – that they are living up to their fullest possibility everyday.  That they are fully engaged, feel safe and are able to communicate effectively between peers, customers, management and vendors.  Good communication is key.

Really the values are the vision of the culture – express yourself, have fun.

7.    What does it take for someone to be successful here?

I think people need to be authentic.  You know, people that come in here and start looking for a role, looking to be told what to do, given specific agendas and expect a routine wouldn’t really fit in that well here.  We need thinkers, people that challenge the status quo and aren’t afraid to express their thoughts.

8.    How are team members recognized for going above and beyond?

We line them up every Friday afternoon and throw water balloons at them.  No, I’m kidding.

I think this is another area that there’s definitely no finish line – we can always do a better job here.

But we do have the Star Card, where peers and managers can acknowledge a team member.  And at the end of the month there’s gifts given out for people that get these cards turned in.  I like to think it’s an iterative process.  It’s the culture saying, “Hey, nice job.”  This is more informal in that sense, but we do have a bonus program too that’s based on company and individual performance.

9.    Given that you adjust for each team member (because each person is different), what would you say your preferred management style is?

Controlled chaos.  No (laughing).

You know, I’ve asked people that about me, because I don’t necessarily, consciously try to follow a certain way, but I do like to look at the end goal.  Let me know if anything gets in your way.  Let me know if I can support you, or if I can accelerate your pace.  Let me know if you need anything, but otherwise, use your peers, use the company, use the resources you have.  I’m not going to manage how you get there.  Stay within the values, understand your end point, and let me know how I can support you or move hurdles.

10.    What do you love best about the culture here?

The community; I think the people that get the most out of our culture come here to work among friends, to be part of a community.  It’s more than a job.

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Presidents Day Slider Puzzle

Presidents Day Fun Fact: President’s Day is not the official name of the holiday we call by that name. It’s really Washington’s Birthday. This holiday was celebrated during George Washington’s lifetime but it didn’t become a federal holiday till 1885. It is celebrated as George Washington Day in Virginia.

Puzzle Difficulty: Easy 3×3

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What are Restaurant Consumers Spending Money On?

Restaurant ConsumersAccording to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), food service sales are expected to hit a record $660B this year! Consumers are spending money in all areas of food service, which is great news if you’re a traditional restaurant owner, quick-service restaurant operator, caterer or bar and tavern owner. The food service industry will not only be serving up delicious food for consumers to enjoy the NRA also predicts the food service industry will outpace the overall economy job growth.

Consumers Are Looking for Technology

Quick-service restaurants and caterers will fuel much of the commercial restaurant sector, and bars and taverns will follow a close second. Restaurants are always looking to satisfy the needs of consumers, and leveraging new technologies, including mobile order ability, mobile reservations and mobile payments, are on the top of consumers’ minds when choosing a place to dine.

Culinary Trends Driving Consumer Spending

In addition to technology, culinary trends will also drive consumer decision making when it comes to choosing a restaurant. Locally sourced meats, seafood and produce are – once again – on the list of top culinary trends predicted by chefs of the NRA. Kids nutrition also remains a priority as restaurants act to take a role in stemming the tide of childhood obesity. Gluten-free and allergy conscious menus are hot this year – with more and more consumers becoming educated on what they eat. Along the lines of locally sourced foods, environmental sustainability placed 4th on the ‘What’s Hot in 2013’ forecast.

Beverage experts in the food service industry predict barrel-aged drinks, food pairings with cocktail or liquor and ‘culinary’ cocktails featuring fresh ingredients will drive growth. Locally produced spirits and micro-distilled liquors are also expected to be popular in 2013.

As the economy continues to recover, consumers are starting to spend more money, but they are becoming more and more clear on what they want from their dining experience. They may be hungry or ready to go out on the town, but they are also very aware that they can make a choice where they want to spend that money. Creativity, innovation and a technology driven mindset will attract new and (help keep) existing consumers.

It is up to your restaurant to make the change to peak their interest – are you ready?

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Trust & Service: Building Customer Relationships One Guest At A Time

Server Build Customer ServiceServer Build Customer Service

There’s no question about it, your servers are the face (and essentially heart) of your restaurant. They’re the windows through which your customers view how you run your business. This being true, it’s important to equip your servers with the skills and tools needed to make you money while leaving the best impression.

Servers can, and probably should, be some of the most well trained employees you have on staff. This doesn’t mean they should know the ins-and-outs of all your restaurant equipment,  but the traditional “would you like ____ with that” is no longer the convention… and customers are catching on to this selling tactic.  Plain and simple, they’ve come to expect more from their dining out experience. If you train your servers to follow a few simple concepts when making their rounds, and give them the opportunity to upsell without seeming pushy, you’ll be impressed by how well they assess the needs of your guests.

Evaluate customers individually.

Being able to approach each customer from a fresh standpoint, without a set routine that treats them all alike, can mean the difference between providing an enjoyable evening and coming off as inattentive. Are the customers in your section out on a romantic date, looking to be left alone, but well taken care of? A group of party-having friends wanting new drinks regularly? Or a familiar face coming in for daily breakfast and coffee? Servers should be able to actively evaluate the air and attitude of guests in their sections, adjust their serving style appropriately and provide the service that’s expected.

Recognize regularity.

Is that gentleman sitting at the end of the counter a first-time customer, or has he been coming in every day for the past year? Train your servers to recognize the regulars and invite the newcomers to become regulars. Whereas your daily customers have heard your specials explained before, new customers need that information to understand what you serve, how it’s served, and if they’ll enjoy it when they’re plate comes. Again, being able to adjust accordingly can mean all the difference.

Understand priorities.

Going hand-in-hand with recognizing your regulars, understanding the different reasons why customers walk into your restaurant, in the first place, can give your servers an edge when it comes to making an impression. Some guests stop in for a quick bite before heading home, while others make a night of eating out (and are looking to spend hours in your establishment). Servers who engage with customers, and understand individual priorities, tend to provide the best service.

Go with the flow.

Servers need to know how to pace themselves depending on which kind of customer they’re serving. Keeping a customer waiting for their check, stopping by too often to offer drink refills, or simply interrupting guests when they’re placing an order are all ways servers can overstep and misjudge a customer’s needs.

Gathering information from guests, and evaluating that information appropriately, is a crucial part of the hosting process – its part sociology and part psychology. Creating a relationship with a customer that goes beyond the crass “here’s your meal, where’s my money” approach is often effortless, but building trust can be diligent work. However, trust lets servers be more helpful when providing suggestions, creates a comfortable atmosphere, and ensures a positive experience. Customers who feel comfortable and well served are known for ordering more from the menu, taking advice when it comes to dishes they haven’t tried yet and leaving bigger tips.

But avoid the flip side of the trust coin. Never let an established relationship be taken advantage of for the sole purpose of monetary gain. Twisting trust that’s been built up over time, even if that time is the course of the night, can leave customers feeling exploited. Exploiting your customers can be a quick road to bad business and bad word of mouth, and in this industry word of mouth can mean everything.

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Mardi Gras Slider Puzzle

Mardi Gras Fact: In addition to celebrations in New Orleans and Rio, other famous celebrations of the day take place in Baranquilla in Colombia, Port-of-Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, Mazatlan in Mexico and Quebec City in Canada.

Puzzle Difficulty: Easy 3×3

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Is Your Restaurant Using Web Analytics?

Google AnalyticsHere at Tundra we’re lucky enough to have an in-house web analyst, Emily Pearson, whose sole job is to dig into analytics data and report trends so that we can better run our business; and me being the search engine optimization (SEO) specialist here, I’ve worked with analytics data for many years as well and have found it to be essential for any business with an online website.

Having analytics on a site is crucial, yet I’ve seen numerous restaurants and food service vendors not using this incredible tool – a tool that is easy to install and free (that’s right, free) called Google Analytics.

Why Do Websites Use Analytics?

Let’s take a step back and start with why it’s so important to have website analytics installed on your site.  Imagine being able to get an inside view of what people are doing once they come to your site… what pages they visit, how long they interact with the site, are they looking at new promotions, how did they get there in the first place?  This is what analytics allows you to see.  When you change a page on your site, add promotions, start a new social media campaign, you want to be able to measure your success rate, right?

This is only the tip of the iceberg: there are thousands of useful things that analytics can tell you about your website, but you can only get that data from putting the code on your site.

How Does it Benefit Restaurants?

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar is in the middle of promoting Oyster Month – a month long celebration that includes eating lots of yummy oysters and raising money for Veterans Expeditions.  And I’d imagine that they’d want to see how many people are clicking from the homepage to the oyster month page, and where people are going after that. What else may they want to measure?

  • How many people are clicking on that navigation button at the top of the site?
  • Once they get to the page, what are they doing, where are they going?
  • How many people have clicked through to the sponsorship page?
  • How long are people staying on the oyster page?
  • Where are people coming to get to this page:
    • What city are they viewing it from?
    • How did they find the page, i.e. social media, organic traffic, referring traffic, etc?
    • If there are PDFs, how many people are downloading them?

And these are just a few things that they could track for this campaign. 

But what about things outside of promotions, what else would a restaurant want to track?

  • What keywords are people typing into the search engines to get to your site?
  • Are the visitors to your site mainly from your local area, or from a broader audience?
  • How do visits to your site change over time – is it growing or shrinking?
  • How high is your bounce rate?  If it’s too high, that could mean people aren’t finding the things they want when they land on your site.
  • How many of your visitors are new visits vs. returning visits?
  • What’s the visitors favorite thing to read on your site?
  • How many links are sending traffic to your site?

The bottom line is, if you don’t know how people are interacting with your website, how can you successfully grow your online presence?

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