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20 Ways You Can Support National Preparedness Month

20 Ways You Can Support National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month. Established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and supported by thousands of organizations nation-wide, the campaign for awareness focuses on safety and emergency preparedness. While the effort is geared more toward disaster preparedness, it’s also a great reminder regarding safety in general. That means there’s no better time than now to audit your personal or commercial kitchen, and we here at The Back Burner want to make doing just that as easy as possible.

We’ve compiled a list of articles, excerpts, and instructions regarding identifying trouble areas in the kitchen, keeping and properly caring for food and customers, understanding commercial safety certifications, being restaurant-ready for a natural disaster, and so much more. Click around below, share your safety thoughts in the articles you find interesting, and help Tundra Restaurant Supply support National Preparedness Month this September!

Have a Food Safety Program

A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety – You’re one-stop-shop for understanding the seven principles of the HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points). If you’re looking to start or modify your own food safety program this is a great place to begin.

Scrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector Issues – A visit from the health inspector has the potential to make or break a restaurant, and getting ahead of the inspector by giving your establishment a constructive scrutinizing is the best way to avoid those health inspector woes.

Color Code Your Food Safety Program – Cross contamination is a quick way to cause an allergic reaction or spoil certain foods, and color coding your food prep station helps keep the kitchen in line.

Making the Grade: Should Restaurants Post Food Safety Info? – Join the conversation surrounding making health inspection grades public. Is it good or bad for business?

Food Safety: Controlling Insects and Pests – Keeping your kitchen and customer’s legs free of insects and pests is a must. Here we take a look at a few ways to keep those crawly critters out of your commercial kitchen.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Managing Temperatures – Temperature may be the most important factor affecting your food. Luckily, it’s also the one you have the most control over. Learn a little about proper temperature management by understanding the basics.

Is Your Food Safety Program This Hardcore? It Should Be – Take a quick peek behind the curtain at how some of the big boys manage their food safety. While being a large corporate entity, McDonald’s made news for its food safety by focusing on the little things.

Focus on the Little Things

Food Service Gloves: Pros and Cons – Food service gloves, while often essential, can create a false sense of security. We take a look at some common materials used in your go-to gloves, the pitfalls of putting on a pair, and the pros of keeping your digits clean.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Proper Hand Washing – Speaking of keeping your digits clean, taking some time to train employees or remind yourself how to properly wash your hands in the kitchen can help keep contaminants and other undesirables away from a customer’s plate.

How to Calibrate a Thermometer – It was mentioned above that monitoring temperature is extremely important, but it’s impossible to properly monitor temperatures with an incorrectly calibrated thermometer. Learn how you can, and why you should, keep your thermometers calibrated.

Contaminated Ice: Key Tips to Keep Your Customers Safe – Surprisingly, ice is often overlooked when it comes to cleanliness. From machine to glass, the ice your serve can easily become contaminated.

Food Safety Tips: Safe Seafood – Keeping seafood safe means different things to different people. In the kitchen it means avoiding sickness and serving up quality product, and it’s easy if you know how.

Dirty Restaurant Restrooms Say Dirty Kitchens to Many Customers – Another often-overlooked area in the restaurant, the restroom says a lot about your commitment to cleanliness, and customers take notice when yours aren’t up to snuff.

Taste & Food Safety: 2 Reasons to Clean Your Beer Taps – Letting those sud super soakers (our fancy name for beer taps) ferment in their own way by attracting bacteria is terrible.  Learn how to properly clean your taps to preserve taste and customer health.

Restaurant Floor Matting: Safety First, Comfort Second – Floor matting may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking restaurant essentials, but dropping a few mat squares in high traffic or heavy standing areas can help in terms of safety and comfort.

Be Prepared

Is Mayhem Knocking at Your Door? – Being restaurant-ready for a natural disaster can mean the difference between a destroyed dream and manageable mayhem. Be prepared for weather disasters by following a few simple steps.

Are You Ready For Flu Season? – Cooler temperatures, clogged noses, and general dreariness caused by the flu are just around the corner. Are you and your restaurant ready to combat the cold?

Why Employee Benefits are a Food Safety Issue – When it comes to cold and colds, employees are bound to succumb to the former and get the latter. Being prepared with proper employee benefits could help both management and employees alleviate the stress caused by coming in sick.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Shop for Suppliers – Before food even reaches the kitchen you need to be in control. That means not settling for a supplier or cutting corners and sacrificing quality for price. Know and trust your food suppliers.

Understanding Common Safety Certifications – The equipment in which you cook comes in different shapes, accommodates different sizes, and comes stickered with various certifications. Knowing what those certifications mean, and looking for the right ones when purchasing your equipment, can save you time and trouble.

This compilation article is only scratching the surface. Keeping your establishment, employees, and reputation clean and safe requires full commitment to a food safety program and accompanying practices. That said, September is the perfect time to start. Support National Preparedness Month with Tundra Restaurant Supply!

 

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Convenience Over Quality: Does Age Make All The Difference?

When it comes to fine dining, a casual lunch, or a midnight snack, does the age of certain foods make all the difference?

The discussion surrounding fresh-from-the-ground ingredients and finely-aged wine, appetizers, and entrees is an ongoing one. As ridiculous as it sounds, choosing your side may ostracize you from certain high-brow circles, but deciding to hyperdecant a wine and also enjoy dry aged beef is a personal choice.

That said, knowing what’s on the table when it comes to your options is always a good idea, so here are three instances in which a food or drink’s age can play with the palate:

1. Decanting & Aerating vs. Hyperdecanting Wine

The tricks to enjoying wine are almost as varied as the grapes used in different vintages. Wafting delicate aromas and letting subtle flavors tickle the tongue are common practice, but possibly the most important piece of the wine puzzle is letting the liquid breathe – a process known as decanting.

Technically speaking, decanting is simply pouring a liquid from one container to another, with the purpose of leaving unwanted sediment in the original container. This also allows for aeration and softening of an otherwise bitter or lingering taste.

Pouring wine from a newly-uncorked bottle into a decanter and letting it oxidize for a few hours before service is the traditional method of decanting. In addition to decanting, the process of forcefully pouring wine into a decanter (aeration) quickens the effect.  Decanters for wine and spirits come in a range of designs and sizes, and many boast features that are supposed to improve the evolution from bottle to glass. No matter the size or style, traditional decanters are meant to hold a wine for an extended period of time, while it naturally aerates and softens, and purists wouldn’t have it any other way.

The extreme way of letting a wine breathe, and a fairly new concept, is a method known as hyperdecanting. Hyperdecanting is the process of oxidizing a wine using an immersion or kitchen blender, and it’s turning more than a few heads for its unflinching rebellion to wine etiquette. What’s essentially decanting on steroids, hyperdecanting takes the hours-long process of aeration from traditional decanting and condenses it into quick bursts of bubbles. Infusing a fresh-poured wine with so much oxygen is like pushing the hand on a clock forward, and skeptics of hyperdecanting are often surprised at how well the method works to open up flavors and subdue a bitter bite.

Here’s a video of a wine connoisseur newly converted to the hyperdecanting method:

2. Wet vs. Dry Aging Beef

Fresh-from-the-floor beef is often called “green” in the same sense that fresh-from-the-tree firewood is green. It’s alive, tough, and not quite primed for its purpose. That’s why beef is softened up, broken down, and prepped for your plate through a process called aging. Aging beef allows natural microbes and enzymes to go to work on the meat’s connective tissue and muscle. This, in turn, makes the beef more tender and flavorful. Depending on how you’d like the end result to turn out, dry aging or wet aging beef really boils down to personal preference.

When it comes to beef, dry aging is the traditional method. If you’ve ever seen an entire side of a cow hanging by hooks in a cooler you’re looking at meat being dry aged.  Dry aging calls for beef to be left in a refrigerated area with a constant air flow to help control bacteria, and a temperature ranging from 36 degrees to freezing is considered best practice. If temperature is too high your meat will spoil, and if it’s too low your meat will freeze. While dry aging, a side of beef’s juices start to evaporate, and the more juices lost the more “beefy” the meat becomes as the same amount of muscle fiber now has less water. Keeping humidity up, somewhere around 85 percent, is a good way to save those tasty juices long before you seal them in on a skillet. The weight loss that occurs during the dry aging process is also part of the reason it’s so expensive per pound, and the longer beef is left to age the higher the risk of spoilage and continued weight loss.

On the flip side, wet aging beef retains most (if not all) of the juices from a cut of beef. Unfortunately, what you retain in weight you lose in portion size. The process of wet aging can’t accommodate an entire side of beef, and smaller cuts are vacuum sealed instead. Vacuum sealing/wet aging a piece of beef doesn’t allow it to breathe or dehydrate, as with dry aging, and breaking down in its own blood and juices has been said to cause a stronger, more sour flavor. As unappealing as that sounds, at least 90 percent of all beef bought by Americans has been wet aged, so once again, it’s all about choice and preference. Wet aged beef is less expensive, and the process is faster than traditional dry aging. As with many things, convenience over quality tends to be the argument.

That said, while dry aging is preferred for something like ribs, the method can’t accommodate certain cuts of beef like skirt and chuck steaks. Deciding what works best for your home or restaurant is key.

3. Raw vs. Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables

Simply put, time takes its toll on fresh fruits and vegetables quickly. Leave an apple sitting on a warm countertop for even an afternoon and the fruit starts to look a little worse, and reaching into a week-old produce bag of once-fresh lettuce leafs is anything but satisfying. What’s worse, some fruits and vegetables actually make others ripen faster when paired together; almost as if they’re fighting against you in a war on freshness. As an alternative to constantly buying fresh produce many consumers choose to dehydrate nature’s candy to make it last longer and serve specific purposes. To make an informed decision knowing how the dehydration process affects a food’s nutrients and calorie count is important.

Dehydration is the technique of removing moisture from foods, and when done correctly dehydrating fruits and vegetables can make them last for months and even years. In fact, USA Emergency Supply claims they opened up cans of food 15-30 years old and were pleasantly surprised by the results. Much like wine, the ways to dehydrate foods vary depending on your preference. Sun drying, oven drying, and using a professional dehydrator are all popular methods.

During the dehydration process temperatures are warm enough to remove moisture, but not cook or burn the food. As with dry aging beef, air circulation and humidity are important to preventing a stagnant environment where microorganisms can thrive. If humidity is too high and temperature is too low, you’re essentially ripening fruits and vegetables faster without the benefits of dehydration. If humidity is too low and temperature is too high the outside layer of the food will harden and prevent the inside from drying properly. Sufficiently dried fruits and vegetables should be hard and brittle.

Unfortunately, the heat needed to dry produce also saps some of the nutritional value from your farm-fresh favorites. Vitamins A and C are especially heat sensitive, and you lose a substantial amount (anywhere from 20-50%), simply by dehydration. As counter-intuitive as it may be to the organic mindset, chemical treatments like sulfur dioxide have been used before dehydrating to protect Vitamin A and C, but the treatment destroys Vitamin B1. There are also more natural pre-treatments such as hot water blanching or dipping foods in citrus juice. It seems no matter the method of your pre-treatment you’re going to lose some nutritional value during the dehydration process, and just how much is dependent on the type of produce.

One thing you won’t lose when dehydrating fruits and vegetables is calorie count. The number of calories present in one apple is the same number of calories present in one dehydrated apple, and the same goes for vegetables. With that in mind, measurement makes all the difference, and depending on how you portion your produce you could be doubling or even tripling your caloric intake. For example, one cup of fresh grapes has around 100 calories, while a dried cup of the same grapes (raisins) has over 400 calories. That’s a significant difference! This is great for athletes or outdoor enthusiasts who burn a lot of calories and need to replenish on the go, but it’s bad for the weight watcher who just ate three cups of raisins in one sitting.

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Understanding Common Safety Certifications

When searching for a new piece of equipment, or similar food service necessity, consumers often look for recognizable safety certifications to help sway their decision. Aside from the sought after “Made in the USA” stamp of authentication, certain common safety certifications are like gold stars on possible purchases. Trekking the extra mile as a manufacturer to get these gold stars goes a long way in the eyes of consumers, and there are a handful of well-known, third-party certifications that make all the difference.

Below I’ll walk you through the following common safety certifications (ordered by most recognizable to least recognizable:

  • NSF
  • ANSI
  • UL
  • CE
  • CSA
  • ETL
  • Energy Star

Disclaimer:  Some safety certifications are not required by law, depending on your state or city’s stipulations. Be sure to check with your local municipality to determine what certifications are absolutely necessary before making a purchase.

NSF

Understanding Common Safety Certifications

The NSF mark is the most widely recognized safety certification decorating food service equipment today. Assigned by NSF International, a certifier “dedicated to being the leading global provider of public health and safety-based risk management solutions,” the NSF label promises consumers that a particular manufacturer has passed highly detailed safety requirements as outlined by the not-for-profit organization. This includes a product assessment of design and construction, a material evaluation of anything that comes in contact with food, and even performance testing where applicable. Additionally, manufacturers who are awarded an NSF certification have their facilities audited unannounced to ensure compliance.

One caveat when it comes to NSF certifications: Often manufacturers will label a piece of equipment with “Certified to NSF standards,” stating that the unit meets NSF requirements, but no official NSF testing has actually taken place. Always looks for the NSF mark to be 100% certain.

ANSI

Understanding Common Safety Certifications

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and its certification often goes hand-in-hand with the NSF mark. Granted, the two are completely separate entities, but many consumers see an ANSI certification to be on par with one from NSF. Like NSF, ANSI has been creating and maintaining nationally recognized norms and guidelines regarding food service products for decades. The company’s ANS (American National Standards) have provided ratings, dimensions, test methods, performance and safety standards, and terminology to hundreds of industries.

UL

Understanding Common Safety Certifications

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certifications cover not only product safety, but also testing of systems and services. While the UL mark is often associated with safety, the company specializes in setting standards with which to gauge and validate performance, sustainability, and environmental health. Following the ANSI continuous maintenance standards, the basic UL Listed mark deals solely with safety, but there are a handful of other well-known UL certifications that pertain to other regions and specifications. These include the C-UL (Canada), Classified UL, Gas-Fired UL, UL EPH, Water Quality Mark, and Plumbing Mark.

CE

Understanding Common Safety Certifications

The CE marking (formerly the EC marking) was set forth by the European Commission and signifies that a product conforms to European laws or directives in regards to safety, health, and the environment. The marking is required to facilitate trade in the European Economic Area. What sets the CE Marking apart from many other certifications is that CE conformity is usually done through self-declaration as opposed to a formal inspection. Additionally, a CE Marking does not ensure compliance with North American safety standards in any way, and additional certification may be desired by US consumers.

CSA

Understanding Common Safety Certifications

A standalone CSA mark from CSA International indicates that a piece of equipment or product is primarily certified to Canadian standards. That said, if a CSA mark is surrounded by “C” and “US” or has a “NRTL/C” label underneath the symbol the product is certified to both US and Canadian standards. The certification focuses on safety and/or performance, and CSA International boasts that its mark covers applicable standards from ANSI, NSF, UL, CSA, and others.

ETL

Understanding Common Safety Certifications

Like the other certifications on the list, the ETL mark is a third-party certification that confirms proof of compliance with certain standards. The ETL mark is appointed by Intertek when a product has been tested and approved to be in line with their electrical, gas, and other safety standards for North America. The company says it tests to UL, ANSI, CSA, ASTM, NFPA, and NOM (Mexico) standards.

Energy Star

Understanding Common Safety CertificationsAn Energy Star stamp of approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) voluntary program is a little different than your common safety certification. Being Energy Star approved means a piece of equipment, establishment, or operation meets specific emission and energy output standards. The program’s goal is to help reduce energy consumption as well as limit pollution and improve energy security. Earning an Energy Star rating ensures that a manufacturer has tested their product in an EPA-recognized laboratory and have subjected themselves to “off-the-shelf” verification testing every year.

A Few Other Reads

As mentioned above, depending on your local laws regarding state and city requirements, some safety certifications may not be necessary. Always consult your local municipality and health advisory regulations before deciding NSF, ANSI, UL, CE, CSA, or ETL certifications are something you don’t need.

Here are a few resources to help you along the way:

NSF Standards

NSF Product and Service Listings

UL Safety Standards

CSA Marks & Usage Guidelines

Earning the Energy Star Label

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Commercial Ice Machine Cleaning Made Easy

Commercial Ice Machine Cleaning Made Easy

It’s officially summer and with the season comes extra reason to re-evaluate just how clean your commercial ice machine really is. You can plan on sun-cooked-patrons filling their drinks with ice during the summer months, but nothing ruins that refreshing beverage like dirty ice from an over seasoned machine.

Have no fear! Cleaning an ice machine is easier than it seems. Here are some general cleaning instructions:

Cleaning the Ice Machine

  1. Consult your ice machine manual for specific cleaning instructions and power switch locations, as not all ice machines have the same design.
  2. Open ice machine door to access internal components.
  3. Ensure ice machine is turned off and clear evaporator grid of any remaining ice.
  4. Turn on ice machine clean mode.
  5. Add nickel-safe ice machine cleaner to trough as it fills with water.  Amount of cleaner used is specific to your brand and model of ice machine.
  6. Let machine run through clean cycle.
  7. To sanitize ice machine, repeat clean cycle with sanitizer instead of cleaner.
  8. Once cleaning cycle is complete, turn machine from CLEAN to OFF mode.
  9. Remove internal components (water curtain, water trough, and water distribution tube), and clean with a mild detergent.
  10. Clean inside of ice machine with cloth, water, and mild detergent while internal components are removed.
  11. Replace internal components.
  12. Turn ice machine back on.

Cleaning the Ice Bin

  1. Remove ice from bin and either discard or save for reuse.
  2. Remove drain plug and allow any excess water left in bin to drain.
  3. Wash inside of bin with mild detergent. Sanitize and rinse thoroughly.Commercial Ice Machine Cleaning Made Easy
  4. Replace drain plug.
  5. Depending on climate and location, hanging a slime remover stick inside bin may help reduce build-up.

Adding/Replacing the Water Filter

  • If you’re not filtering the water used in your ice machine, you’re letting all kinds of minerals affect the quality of the ice.
  • Be sure the filter you use has a scale inhibitor to help eliminate scale build-up.
  • Replace the water filter of your ice machine every 6 months to 1 year.
  • Replacing a filter is as easy as removing the old one and attaching the new one.

Again, the climate and location you’re in determines how often you’ll want to clean and sanitize your ice machine. In bakeries and breweries, where yeast and particles fill the air, cleaning has to happen almost monthly to keep those particles out of the machine and ice. Be sure to keep these factors in mind when establishing a cleaning and filter replacement schedule.

Clean ice means clean drinks, confidently cool beverages, and happy customers. It’s time to make sure your ice machine is up to snuff and ready to perform this season!

 

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Cooking Shortcuts: Corn on the Cob in a Cooler

Cooking Shortcuts: Corn on the Cob in a Cooler

With summer weather trying to make up its mind and move in full force, the itch and urge to don the short sleeves and spark up the barbecue is strong. If you’re sizzling some steaks for a comfortable night in or covering the grill with a wide array of meats for a family barbecue, simple yet reliable shortcuts are always welcome; that said, a staple of any good backyard barbecue is corn on the cob.

Here’s an extremely easy, and arguably innovative, way to prepare mouth-watering corn on the cob.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 beer cooler
  • As many ears of corn as you’d like
  • Boiling water

How It’s Done:

  • Wash out the inside of your cooler for sanitary reasons (if extremely dirty you can sterilize with boiling water)
  • Shuck, clean, and rinse your ears of corn
  • Pile corn into the cooler
  • Pouring boiling water over the corn – enough to cover ears and then a little more
  • Let sit for 30 minutes
  • Enjoy!

Cooler Corn, as it’s unofficially being called, eliminates the need to keep your eyes on a big boiling pot of water. It’s simple, safe, and completely hands free after the lid closes. Just slide the cooler into a corner while the corn cooks, and go about your business for the next half hour. It’s that easy. Plus, people jumping on the cooler corn bandwagon insist the corn holds well long after the 30 minute mark – this means no sogginess or overcooking.

So, the next time you’re mouth starts watering over the thought of a scrumptious ear of cooked corn, remember it’s as easy as some boiling water and a cooler!

Great video, although I’d recommend wearing shoes when pouring out boiling water!

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Induction Cookware Made Simple

Induction Cookware Made Simple

The notion and method of induction cooking has been making its way into commercial kitchens for a while now. Impressive, attractive induction cooktops have saturated the market, and while the science behind the technology is sound, many consumers are still hesitant to take the plunge. We’re not here to try and convince you to jump on the induction cooking bandwagon, but if induction is the way you’d like to go it’s important to know what type of cookware will work with your fancy new cooktop.

From stock and sauce pots to braziers, steamers, roasting, grill, and fry pans, cookware comes in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and materials. Over time, and through trial and error, many cooks come to trust a particular brand or learn to stick with a specific material. Unfortunately, there’s a possibility you’re go-to pots and pans might not work on an induction burner.

Will It Work On An Induction Cooktop?

  • Stainless Steel
  • Cast Iron

  • Non-Magnetic Stainless Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Copper

Why?

Complex science aside, it’s the magnetism of the material used in a particular pan that’s important. The kiss between an induction cooktop’s electromagnetic coil and the base of a pan is what causes those metaphorical sparks to fly (no actual sparking occurs). With the right material (magnetic stainless steel and cast iron), it’s love at first site.

With the wrong materials (100% aluminum and copper), it’s the cold shoulder from both parties. Most induction cooktops don’t want anything to do with these “bad” metals, and when they are detected, the cooktop won’t even turn on.

The Magnet Test

Induction Cookware Made Simple

One of the most common ways to determine whether a pot or pan is induction ready is to do a magnet test. Unofficially named, but widely accepted, the method to this magnetic madness is easy. Simply take an everyday magnet and press it up against the bottom of a piece of cookware. If the magnet sticks then the cookware is induction ready.

Be sure to test the base of the pot or pan as opposed to the sides. Many cookware designs use different metals sandwiched together for the core/base to create optimum cooking conditions (see below). This core is all it takes to make a pan induction ready.

Induction Ready Aluminum and Copper Pans

If aluminum or copper is your cookware cup of tea don’t rule out an induction cooktop just yet. Some aluminum and copper cookware is created with a stainless steel sandwich on the bottom, and the incorporation of induction compatible materials as a base or core makes all the difference.

An aluminum pan, which is great for heat conductivity and even distribution, is shunned by the induction cooker (and vice-versa). But, once paired with a stainless steel base, the aluminum pan can now let the electromagnet work its magic. The induction burner gets turned on, the pan gets hot and bothered, and tasty little baby foods can be made.

So, when on the prowl for a new piece of induction ready cookware don’t immediately rule out anything copper or aluminum – read the details on the pan, and if all else fails whip out your trusty magnet.

Make Your Own Recipe

Cooking your cuisine using an electromagnet may seem futuristic to some, but for many chefs who have adopted the technology into their back line, it’s a welcome change of pace. Literally.

Induction cooking has been shown to heat pans almost instantly, and boiling water takes a fraction of the time as it would using traditional cooking methods. That said, cooking different foods requires different degrees of finesse, and with any new kitchen toy, the style and design of your tools is only part of the recipe.

Visit our main site to see a list of all of Tundra’s induction cooking products.

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Taking Your Restaurant Online

If you’ve ever asked yourself whether or not your restaurant should have an online presence the short and straightforward answer is yes. In today’s digitally inclined age of smart phones, tablets, and consumer focus on the new and impressive, you can absolutely benefit from building a website for your eatery. Doing so has enormous potential as a marketing vehicle and gives you a number of great ways to promote your restaurant from the outside.

Taking Your Restaurant Online

Get acquainted and start chatting with your customers.

Learning more about your customers is the key to providing them with fantastic service and an all around exceptional dining experience. A simple yet effective way to get to know your customers is to use your website as a hub for customer interaction. Draft a survey asking those who frequent your restaurant what brings them back and what they think could be improved. Provide a spot for customers to join your e-mail list and in doing so provide a little information about their dining habits and expectations. Let your customers know that you’re accessible and open to feedback.

Promote from the outside.

It’s common practice to have your restaurant’s name or logo decorating the outside of your building, or on printed fliers for mailing purposes, but building an accessible website and gathering just a few customer details can open up a whole new world of online promotion just waiting to be utilized. Has that 2-for-1 special been a little disappointing on return? Turn it around with an online advertisement supported through your website and accompanying e-mail list. Offer advertisement coupon codes and meal-specific deals through your website and gauge customer response. Pretty soon you’ll be able to determine which promotions are working for you and which aren’t.

So we’ve focused a little on the value of a good website, but what does a good website look like? Honestly, everyone has their own ideas of what design, image combination, and general atmosphere jives best for them in regards to navigating a website. It would be impossible, and highly ineffective, to try to jam-pack your website with a little something for everyone. Instead, keep a few simple concepts in mind while you’re in the design phase and realize that less can be more.

Here are a few helpful tips:

Get help. Building a website from the ground up, with or without prior experience and know-how, is not only a daunting task but can be seen as a disaster if not done with a degree of professionalism. The amount of time consumers spend online makes it easy for them to spot an amateur site, and if that’s how they view your site chances are high that they’ll view your restaurant in the same light. Additionally, writing and positioning content online takes time. Most small business owners just don’t have the extra time needed to effectively create and maintain a top-notch website.

Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed, where you save in money you’ll end up paying in un-impressed customers and precious time if you decide to tackle this task on your own. Just like you’d have a professional install important restaurant equipment to ensure it works properly, having a professional designer “install” your website can mean the difference between smooth sailing and endless complications. Just because you’re not the one painting the picture doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions on what’s being painted, and even if you do hire a web designer you’ll want to make sure they focus on the following:

  • Flashy can be bad in large doses. Flash elements and players can look good and serve their purpose if used moderately and effectively. Facing the facts, when a customer comes to a restaurant’s website looking to satisfy that grumble in their stomach they want quick, concise information on how they can do just that. If your site is bogged down by page after page of Flash players loading vivid images customers can easily get turned off and look to find food elsewhere.
  • Give customers the goods. Bypassing the flash and providing potential customers with valuable information right when they hit your homepage can do wonders. Make sure you’ve got the appropriate, correct information in all the right spots. Do you have your phone number conveniently positioned on each page? Are detailed driving directions readily available? And above all else, can customers clearly see what food you offer?
  • Guide the way. You want customers to be able to navigate from page to page effortlessly, with as little resistance or sidetracking as possible. A common mistake in trying to provide a lot of extra “valuable” information is building a complex roadway to navigate to get to this information and losing your customers. Make it almost stupid in its simplicity when it comes to navigation and you’ll be happy you did.
  • Don’t stop. It’s not uncommon to come across a website that has obviously not been touched since its creation many years ago. As times change so to should your website, and letting your site get stale can be as bad as letting food do the same. Customers appreciate new content on a regular basis, and believe it or not updated and evolving content increases your visibility to search engines like Google and Bing.

Let’s be honest, if you don’t currently have a website you may already be behind the curve and not know it. With mobile couponing, ways to pay with your phone, and tablet menus well on their way in you can’t afford to not have an online presence. Start small to get your foot in the door, but make sure that first step is building an efficient, money-making website that works for you and your customers.

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Some Like It Hot

Get some pit gloves for pork pulling

Some Like It HotThe pig, when prepared well, is an animal whose meaty bits provide a wide array of scrumptious goodness. While some less-than-appealing parts of this magic meat machine (like the feet, intestines, ears, or jowls) are still eaten around the world, it’s putting pork to the barbecue or slow cooker that causes most meat munchers to salivate on the spot. One favorite method of serving and enjoying a side of swine is pulled pork.

That said, an interesting dividing line between some pork pullers seems to be the temperature of the meat as you’re pulling. While it can be argued that you should be able to pull pork with your bare hands, with no fear of finger burns, many cooks prefer their pork to be nice and hot as they tear it apart. If you’re one who just can’t stand to have cold pulled pork it’s essential to find yourself a nice pair of pit gloves to pull with.

Some Like It HotHigh temperature pit gloves are the perfect way to handle and mangle freshly cooked meat of any kind without having to play hot potato. Whether you’re separating boiled chicken from bone, flipping a full rack of ribs, or digging your digits into some hot pork butt having gloves that are maneuverable and heat resistant is a must. Find a pair of gloves with a high temperature rating and never again worry about singeing a knuckle or burning a fingertip on hot fat.

With summer just around the corner it’s safe to say the barbecue season will soon be in full swing. If you’re more than the casual cook, and find yourself in front of the grill or elbows deep in a restaurant’s barbecue pit on a daily basis, having a quality pair of pit gloves is a godsend. Buy a pair or two that will last you a few years instead of a pair that just doesn’t do the job.

Mouth-watering, dissolves-in-your-mouth pulled pork is a delicious dish, and methods for pulling and preparing pork can be a hot topic from one establishment to the next. Any good barbecue joint will have a preferred madness to their pulled pork method, whether it’s secret rubs or precise cook times, and finding your own sweet spot in terms of what works and tastes best takes dedication. There are countless resources available for dialing in that perfect practice, so mixing and matching on your own time is an excellent way to create something unique.

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Recycling the Notion of Going Green

Recycling the Notion of Going GreenWith green initiatives often perceived as a more expensive way to run your restaurant, the inherent value it provides through the eyes of your customers can easily outweigh monetary costs. If your bottom dollar is what’s keeping you from working environmentally conscious practices into your restaurant, consider green initiatives a piece of your marketing budget and treat them like new opportunities. Customers are on-board when it comes to cleaning up your operation, and fortunately going green doesn’t have to be done through one giant leap in order to impress.

Try starting small with a recycling program.

 Fundamentally, recycling should be the first step when considering going green. It does no good (and sends a mixed message to customers) if you’ve got low-energy light bulbs, but throw all your recyclable materials straight into the trash.

Start small with a determined recycling effort, grooming your employees to properly recycle where possible, and watch it grow into a practiced state of mind. Face it, customers these day are going to be more disappointed to not see the blue bin next to your trash can than knowing you use traditional light bulbs. Advertising and putting into practice steps intended to make your kitchen greener – starting with a recycling program – goes a long way.

  • Get ahead of the curve. Not only does recycling hold value to your customers, it’s quickly becoming a necessary practice. More laws are being geared towards making mandatory recycling programs part of restaurant operations, and implementing yours before it becomes a necessity puts you ahead of the curve.
  • Feel good practice. Believe it or not, recycling actually feels good. While it’s not necessarily a practice that will help pad your wallet, making an effort to reduce the waste your establishment produces and helping to achieve sustainability in your community has an inherently “good” aspect for any business. Your participation can and does make a difference, whether you’re a small-town mom-and-pop diner or a franchisee for a corporate chain.
  • Green restaurant certified. As discussed, recycling can be the first step to fully realized restaurant-wide practices. Taking the next few steps, and acquiring a certification from the Green Restaurant Association, is a great way to show yourself, your staff and your customers that you’re committed to going green.

Spread the word.

If you’re worried about potential green practices tightening the noose around your restaurants neck, take comfort in knowing that customers are often more than happy to pay a little extra for your efforts. Letting people know you’re doing things differently can sometimes be all it takes to attract potential customers into becoming supportive regulars. The key is to spread the word.

  • Train your staff. Don’t be pushy, and definitely don’t make “green” the new go-to word whenever a server has a customer’s ear, but taking time to train your servers in how best to spread the word is a valuable management practice. A simple “oh and by the way all our produce are locally sourced” does wonders.
  • Make it obviously casual. Again, the worst thing you can do after going green is to shove the notion down the throats of your customers. Try posting casual reminders around your restaurant in the form of signs above your recycling bins, Energy Star logos advertising Energy Star rated restaurant equipment, or the words “I’m made of recycled materials” on take out containers. If you’ve got a website, or promote through the local paper, don’t be afraid to include a graphic or line of copy highlighting your new changes.
  • Advertise extensively. Being proud of going green is not a bad thing, and if it drastically changes your operation for the better you absolutely should let people know. Little reminders might not justify the value you feel these changes hold, but creating an advertising campaign is a bold way to say you’ve made improvements and people should pay attention.

Like fire, greening one’s establishment can be started with a single spark and has potential to catch and spread at unpredictable speeds. Though viewed from some standpoints as a damaging budget-biter ready to burn up your income, approaching green efforts consciously, and stoking the flame when and where it’s necessary, can produce valuable warmth and comfort in the form of customer approval, limited waste and an overall sense of purpose. Many aspects of your restaurant need only be tweaked to perform in a more environmentally friendly way – and may not cost you a penny. Take time to evaluate your current process and objectively decide where cutting costs monetarily is costing you more in regards to a bigger picture.

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Some Alien Ways to Enjoy Alcohol

Alcohol is imbibed, often over-indulged in, and equally appreciated around the globe. From a glass of wine with dinner or a pint of self-brewed ale over lunch to the cornucopia of martinis, margaritas, shots, and suds downed during hazy nights on the town, the list of ways in which we enjoy our alcohol is endless.

Some Alien Ways to Enjoy Alcohol

That said, pushing the boundaries of brewing and imagining new ways to mix and ingest liquor and the likes is a pastime humanity has proudly embraced.

Here are a few outside-the-box mixes and over-the-top methods for getting your buzz on:

Some Alien Ways to Enjoy Alcohol

Alien Brain Hemorrhage: This colorful concoction is better seen than ingested, as each ingredient adds a new element to the show, and the curdling affect combined with the red grenadine makes for an alien-looking shot indeed.

  • Fill ½ shot glass with peach schnapps
  • Add 2 tsp Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • Top off with a few drops of grenadine
  • Enjoy

Cement Mixer: This shot is essentially the human counterpart to the Alien Brain Hemorrhage. Remove the grenadine and schnapps and add lemon or lime juice.

Tapeworm: While the two above shots may feel a little strange going down, I imagine this shot is nothing but sadness from the moment it touches your lips.

  • One part vodka
  • One part Tabasco sauce
  • Sprinkle with pepper
  • Top off with dollop of mayonnaise
  • Start crying

Smoker’s Cough: Keep the mayonnaise, but switch everything else out for some Jagermeister. Continue sadness.

  • 1 ½ oz of Jagermeister
  • Add dollop of mayonnaise
  • Sob while wishing you’d mixed a Tapeworm instead

Liquid Steak: The man’s man inside of you will force your brain into thinking you’re drinking steak while sensible human being you once were will wonder why you’re drinking rum with Worcestershire sauce.

  • One part rum of choice
  • One part Worcestershire sauce
  • Mustache comb for instant mustache you’ll grow afterward

Some Alien Ways to Enjoy Alcohol

Prairie Oyster: To anyone to ever mutter “This drink’s good, but what it really needs is a raw egg” …let’s be serious, no one’s ever said those words.

  • One part bourbon
  • Crack egg into glass
  • Add Tabasco for flavor (some add pepper, salt, and Worcestershire sauce – any hot sauce will do)
  • Prep griddle for bacon

Black Death: In Soviet Russia alcohol drinks you. But seriously, why would anyone mix soy sauce with vodka?

  • 1 – 1 ½ shots of vodka
  • ½ oz of soy sauce
  • Shake/mix
  • Pour over ice
  • Enjoy?

Seven Seas: Pirates are awesome, right? I knew a pirate once. Pete. Crackers. Polly. Zzzzzzz.

  • Walk into a bar
  • Ask for a Seven Seas
  • Watch bartender mix the first seven bottles they can grab
  • Start mumbling

Some Alien Ways to Enjoy Alcohol

Bone Luge: This one’s picking up speed around the country and has been said to be quite enjoyable. Some people say that about monkey brains and chocolate-covered grass hoppers as well, so…

  • Order roasted beef marrow bone in an upscale restaurant
  • Take out marrow and put on toast
  • Take your top shelf liquor (something to sip and savor under 80 proof) and pour down bone luge into mouth
  • Shares notes regarding richness and flavor with any hipster within earshot

Vaportini: Who knew you could vaporize alcohol.

  • Order your Vaportini Complete Kit
  • Follow instructions and vaporize your high proof liquor of choice
  • Realize you’re vaporizing alcohol and question your priorities

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