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Author Archive | Greg McGuire

Tundra & The Future Leaders Of The Food Service Industry

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

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

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

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

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10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue

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

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

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

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

Download It Now!

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

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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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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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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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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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Is Your Restaurant Exhaust System Sucking Up Money?

Is Your Restaurant Exhaust System Sucking Up Money?The exhaust system in your kitchen is one of those essential pieces of equipment that you must have in order to operate.  And if your hood is like the ones in most restaurants, it has two settings: “on” and “off.”  When your line is operating at full tilt during the dinner rush, the “on” setting is probably perfect, quickly sending heat and fumes straight from your cooking equipment outside.  But what about afternoons or during light lunches?  You probably still have the ventilation on but your equipment is not creating nearly as much exhaust.

I don’t have to tell you how much energy that hood exhaust in your kitchen is using.  Here’s a few tips on making sure your restaurant exhaust system is running as efficiently as possible:

Get the system rebalanced. Your exhaust system needs some regular maintenance to run at optimal levels.  If too much smoke is building up in your kitchen, or if the system seems like it’s on overdrive all the time, a rebalancing by a trained technician is in order.  A rebalance ensures the system is keeping the kitchen safe but not sucking up too much energy by working too hard.

Maximize suction. If you’re paying to run your kitchen ventilation system, it might as well be pulling as much of the stuff you don’t want in your kitchen as possible.  To maximize smoke and heat capture, make sure your cooking equipment is pushed all the way up against the wall underneath the hood.  This prevents clean air from getting sucked up from behind the equipment and puts the maximum amount of hood over your line.  And if your hood doesn’t have side panels, you can install them easily and cheaply.  Side panels help trap smoke and fumes, making the exhaust system more efficient.

Install a demand ventilation control. If you really want to save some money on kitchen ventilation then a demand control is for you.  It senses the cooking volume in your kitchen and adjusts fan speed accordingly.  A ventilation control can reduce kitchen exhaust energy usage by 30% – 50% and can be either ordered with a new exhaust system or installed on an older unit.Is Your Restaurant Exhaust System Sucking Up Money?

Clean and maintain hood filters. The hood filters are the metal squares in the exhaust opening of your restaurant’s exhaust system that catch the grease in air as it gets sucked out.  The hood filter plays an important role, since grease buildup can become a dangerous fire risk.  As time goes on hood filters become saturated with grease and should be cleaned.  The dirtier the filter, the harder your exhaust has to work to suck air through them.  Also make sure they are installed correctly (with the baffles, or ridges, in the vertical position) and that there are no gaps between them.  Replace damaged filters immediately.  Click here for a complete guide to hood filters.

If you happen to be designing a new kitchen, you should account for a few factors in order to maximize ventilation efficiency:

Group heavy cooking equipment together. Whatever you’re going to be cooking with the most should all be right next to each other underneath the hood.  If you have a single heavy cooking appliance, like a charbroiler, and other lighter cooking equipment, it’s a good idea to separate the heavy piece from the lighter pieces and give it a dedicated high volume exhaust.  This allows you to run the lighter equipment under a hood that doesn’t have to be on full blast all the time.

Create a big overhang. While 4 feet is the industry standard, 5 or 6 feet of hood will capture more smoke and allow you to run your restaurant exhaust system more efficiently.

Making the kitchen ventilation system energy efficient not only saves you money, it ensures that the exhaust is capturing the maximum amount of smoke and fumes and getting them out of your kitchen.

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Restaurant Grease Management: How Traps Will Save Your Butt

Restaurant Grease Management: How Traps Will Save Your ButtGrease is an inevitable byproduct of your restaurant’s kitchen.  Unfortunately, grease doesn’t disappear when it gets washed down the drain.  Instead, it tends to build up and stick to the sides of pipes and drainages, just like cholesterol in diner’s arteries.

And just like cholesterol, that buildup over time can cause some serious problems.  Best case scenario, your kitchen smells like a rotting cesspool.  Worst case, you floor drains start spouting the soupy mix that can only be created when the drains of your dishwasher, pot filler sink, and pre-rinse sink combine.

The resulting food safety nightmare would make any health inspector shudder.  The damage is usually measured in the thousands of dollars.  You definitely don’t want that to happen in your restaurant.

Local codes usually require some sort of grease management system for commercial kitchens.  Otherwise cities end up with thousands of dollars worth of damage to municipal water lines.  But just because someone stuck a grease trap in the cellar 20 years ago doesn’t mean your restaurant is safe from the doomsday scenarios I lined out above.

Effective grease management means committing to an ongoing process that is usually unpleasant and never in the cleanest parts of your kitchen.  Some tips to make sure grease waste isn’t creating problems in your restaurant:

Evaluate your grease output.  Some restaurants produce more grease than others, plain and simple.  If you already have a grease trap system, check it once a week for a month and see how quickly grease builds up to the point where a cleaning is needed.  If you don’t have a grease trap, install one right away, then check it regularly to see how often it’s going to need to be cleaned.

Grease traps work by using a series of baffles to prevent grease from flowing from one end of the system to the other.  Since grease is lighter than water, it collects at the top of the trap.  Sooner or later so much grease will collect that it starts to flow over the top of the baffles, and the trap ceases to trap grease.  You want to clean your system well before this happens.

Use this information to formulate a regular cleaning schedule.  You might also want to rotate the poor sucker who gets this thankless task.  You may want to install smaller undersink traps on the biggest grease producing drains in your kitchen that are more accessible than the main trap, which makes cleaning easier and reduces the likelihood of plumbing system damage.

Many restaurants use a professional service company to clean and care for their main grease trap.  This can get expensive, but depending on the size of your establishment and the amount of grease you produce, it could be a worthwhile investment.  Some services even convert the grease they recover from your trap into biodiesel, adding a renewable element to the process.  It’s probably still a good idea to use undersink traps to supplement your main system even if you use a cleaning service, since this will reduce the frequency of their visits.

In general grease traps are pretty indestructible, especially if you clean them regularly, but eventually they will need to be replaced.  Look for damage to the baffles in the trap and cracks or excessive gunk buildup in the inflow and outflow pipes.  Canplas grease traps are one of the best in the business and my personal recommendation if you’re in the market for a new one.

The most effective way to manage grease in any commercial kitchen is to be proactive about it.  Don’t wait to clean traps and don’t assume the problem will take care of itself.  Otherwise your restaurant might look like this:

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