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Author Archive | Greg McGuire

Star Manufacturing: Whatever You Need In Countertop Cooking Equipment

Star Manufacturing has been in the commercial cooking equipment business for a long time.  And their equipment has proven itself in the tough working conditions of commercial kitchens time and time again.  Star is probably best known for its countertop cooking equipment, and accessories like griddles, charbroilers, hot plates and hot dog cooking equipment…

Star Manufacturing: Whatever You Need In Countertop Cooking Equipment

Star hot dog cookers are some of the best in the business

Star Manufacturing: Whatever You Need In Countertop Cooking Equipment

Star charbroilers – radiant, lava rock, electric, and outdoor available

Star Manufacturing: Whatever You Need In Countertop Cooking Equipment

 

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Restaurants Need To Catch Up On Technology

Restaurants Need To Catch Up On TechnologyAt the National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show last month, a lot of restaurateurs were talking about the technology gap in the food service industry.  Big chains like T.G.I.Friday’s and Hard Rock Café have already begun to introduce digital gadgetry into their restaurants as a way to connect with younger customers.  And much has been written over the last year about how the battle for customers has moved online.

But despite these modest gains, food service as a whole lags far behind when it comes to incorporating technological advances into their operations and marketing.  That’s because until recently it was hard for restaurateurs to see the gains in sales that could be tied directly to investments in technology like interactive digital signage or a comprehensive website.

Now the time has arrived where restaurants that don’t make these investments are simply going to be left behind as the Millenium Generation gains more and more buying power and therefore preferences for restaurants with a strong foundation in technology go up.

Technology has the added benefit of improving the efficiency and capacity of your operation, if it’s leveraged properly.  The main problem restaurants encounter is justifying the up-front expenses technology upgrades entail, and this problem explains why many restaurants have not yet made the leap.

Does your restaurant need to catch up?  Check out the seven hottest technology trends in food service.

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How To Sell Your Restaurant

How To Sell Your RestaurantThe time to sell your restaurant may come for many reasons.  Whatever the motives are behind this difficult decision, the process of selling your establishment needs to be handled carefully to make sure you get the right price at the right time.  Achieving that is often the result of a long, tedious process, with many pitfalls along the way.  Some tips to help you through:

Broker or go it alone?  The very first decision you have to make is whether to use a broker to market and sell your restaurant or whether you want to try to sell your business yourself.  Brokers have some great advantages.  They already have a network of buyers, they know where to advertise, and they can qualify potential buyers very well.  The downside of using a broker is they will take a cut of the sale price, usually to the tune of 10% – 25%.  If you go it alone, be prepared to spend A LOT of time fielding inquiries, managing advertising, and qualifying buyers.

Prepare your restaurant for valuation.  In an ideal world, you would have at least a year leading up to the sale of your restaurant to maximize profit and loss statements and make sure equipment and infrastructure are up to snuff.  In the real world, you may have much less time than that.  No matter what your time frame is, a few key factors will bring you the best price for your establishment:

  • Profit.  If your restaurant is making money, then you’re good to go.  Try to minimize expenses in the months leading up to the sale to boost your profits even more.  However, remember that fraudulently inflating profits is a serious crime.
  • Maintenance.  Make sure all your equipment is up to date on scheduled maintenance and that it’s in good working order.  Even if this means replacing that ancient range you’ve been riding for years, you’ll make that investment back when you sell.  Of course, these expenses have to be weighed against your profit statements.
  • Cash or charge.  Decide if you’re willing to finance a deal with a potential buyer or if you want all the cash up front.  Cash up front is much less risky and puts a nice chunk of change in your pocket all at once, but the buyer will expect a discount for paying a lump sum, often in the 20% – 30% range.  On the other hand, if you are willing to finance, you can charge a higher than average interest rate and still get a pretty hefty deposit without having to lower your price.

If you don’t own the building, talk to your landlord!  By far the biggest deal breaker in a restaurant transaction is your landlord.  They must be willing to assign your lease to your buyer for the sale to work.  If you lease, involve your landlord early and keep them involved throughout the entire buyer qualification process.

Qualify buyers.  Prepare a tiered system to filter out good buyers from bad buyers.  Start by getting some references and feeling out their business capabilities and professionalism.  Next ask for financial records that reflect their ability to pay the price you’re asking.  Finally, run them by your landlord if you lease to make sure he/she is willing to assign the lease.

If you have a broker, they will help you with this process.  If you don’t, be vigilant about qualifying buyers before you reveal financial information about your restaurant!  Only show your profit/loss statements to buyers who have been thoroughly vetted.  It’s also a good idea to agree on the price and have the buyer sign a confidentiality agreement before you show these records.  The last thing you want is private financial information getting back to your competitors.How To Sell Your Restaurant

If you’re going it alone, get some help.  If you’ve hired a broker, they will probably require you to get a lawyer and an accountant or they may even provide those services.  If you’re going it alone, get a lawyer and an accountant!  You’ll need the lawyer to prepare the purchasing agreement.  You will especially need a lawyer if you plan on financing the buyer.  You’ll need the accountant to make sure you pay the proper local, state, and federal taxes associated with the sale of your business.  These services cost money, but they are absolutely essential to a successful sale.

Selling a business takes a lot of time and energy, but if you carry it out properly, you should be able to walk away with a fair price for your restaurant.  Making sure you have all your bases covered is the essential ingredient to getting you to a successful closing.

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When Restaurant Equipment Goes Down: 10 Ways To Save

When Restaurant Equipment Goes Down: 10 Ways To SaveKeeping your commercial kitchen humming along is not always an easy proposition.  You use this equipment every day, and sooner or later something is going to give out on you.  If the next step you’re used to taking is picking up the phone to call your service tech, this post is for you.

That’s because if you have the right tools and a little basic knowledge, you can handle the most common equipment failures yourself on everything from ranges to fryers to overhead warmers to faucets.  We’ve written several great guides to help you fix your restaurant equipment yourself.

Check out these posts, and if you have any questions about fixing equipment, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you with and answer!

1.  How To Fix Countertop Warmers

2.  How To Replace Door Gaskets on Refrigeration Equipment

3.  Identifying and Replacing Electric Thermostats

4.  Identifying Commercial Faucets and Parts

5.  Replacing Gas Safety Valves

6.  Converting Gas Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

7.  Can You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts?

8.  Fixing Commercial Fryers

9.  Fixing Commercial Ovens

10.  Fixing Gas Ranges

Being able to handle minor equipment repairs will not only save you money, it will also reduce your downtime, meaning your busy kitchen won’t miss a beat.  Half the battle is having the skills to replace parts.  The other half is being able to get parts fast.  Go here for a complete inventory of restaurant equipment parts.

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Go Green, Save Money, Serve Better Produce

Go Green, Save Money, Serve Better ProduceAs the past few years have shown, produce can be a food safety liability for anyone in the food service industry. Easy spoilage also makes produce a very difficult item to manage on your inventory. On top of all that, produce takes a lot of time and labor to prep.

Yet fruits and vegetables are also a vital ingredient on any restaurant’s menu, and most of you out there have mastered the fine art of serving clean, healthy, fresh produce to your customers on a daily basis. Mastery of that art comes at a price, however. Chemical sanitization, cleaning, and spoilage all cost money and cut into your food margin.

Locally and organically produced produce don’t help your cause any either. Typically local and organic produce spoils faster even though it arrives fresher. And nobody wants their organic produce sanitized with chemicals after arriving through your back door.

There must be some kind of product that addresses all the issues you have dealing with fresh produce in your restaurant.

Well, I’m glad you asked.

The Saf-T-Wash by San Jamar addresses all three of your main food service sanitation concerns when it comes to produce: sanitation, freshness, and spoilage. How does it work? The Saf-T-Wash adds ozone to water and attaches directly to the faucet in your kitchen, allowing you to wash fresh produce and sanitize it at the same time while extending shelf life.

Ozone is a natural element that’s been used for years in the bottled water industry to kill pathogens during the bottling process. Ozone kills at least 99.99% of the major pathogens found in produce within two minutes of exposure, which is significantly more effective than a chlorine treatment. And ozone removes enzymes from fruits and vegetables that cause spoilage, improving shelf life after prep has been completed.

You also don’t have to use as much ozone treated water to clean produce during prep, saving you money on water. In general, treating your fruits and vegetables with ozone treated water is a more effective and efficient way to prep produce for serving. According to San Jamar, the money saved in water and labor savings plus reduced spoilage means the Saf-T-Wash pays for itself in 3 months.

Using the Saf-T-Wash also gives you a unique opportunity to market your restaurant as a green operation to your customers. Despite the economic downturn, studies still return consistent results when it comes to customer attitudes regarding green practices in food safety: consumers want more of it and they like restaurants that participate in green programs. If you’re serving organically grown produce washed with ozone treated water, you’re creating a great opportunity to add value to your restaurant brand in the eyes of your customer. And in an age of price wars and increasingly brutal competition, anything that sets you apart and adds value is something that might give you an extra edge over your competition.

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Food Safety At Turley’s Part 2: Staff Training

Food Safety At Turley’s Part 2: Staff Training

Turley’s restaurant in Boulder, CO

Earlier this week I ventured to get a feel for practical food safety practices in a real restaurant.  Turley’s, an iconic Boulder, CO eatery known for its eclectic menu full of healthy eating and fantastic international flavors, was kind enough to spend some time talking to me about their food safety program.

I sat down with second and third generation Turley family members and managers David and Sandy for an extremely informative chat on practical food safety applications in a working restaurant.  What I soon discovered is that procedures and guidelines are all well and good, but if you don’t promote a food-safe culture through staff training and pure vigilance, all those rules aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Turley’s staff start their food safety education with a S.T.A.R. (Sanitation Training Assistance for Restaurateurs) course through the Boulder CountyFood Safety At Turley’s Part 2: Staff Training Office of Public Health.  The course covers six fundamental food safety concerns: viruses and bacteria, potentially hazardous foods, time/temperature control, personal hygiene, cross-contamination, and sanitization.  Turley’s management are also ServSafe certified.

However, it’s not enough to just teach staff about food safety issues once and then get on with the hectic life of the restaurant business.  “We have goals, not rules,” says David, “And it’s an ongoing thing.  We’ve got to be a food safety driver, because if you’re not willing to commit, the issue just goes away.”

Turley’s keeps food safety front and center by carrying out campaigns on specific topics, starting with the daily shift meetings.  One recent campaign focused on disposable gloves for staff working the line.  Because cross-contamination and hand washing are vital concerns, but also extremely hard for management to constantly police, disposable gloves are required for anybody on the line in Turley’s kitchen.

At first, everyone wore the gloves with few exceptions.  But as time went on, busy kitchen staff sometimes forgot to put on the gloves while prepping food, and the disposable glove policy started going by the wayside.

Turley’s management responded with a campaign, reminding kitchen staff at the shift meetings to wear their gloves at all times on the line, and soon the repetition of the campaign turned glove wearing into second nature for the staff.

David sometimes feels like a broken record, but the harping has paid off, and the management’s commitment to following through on campaigns is a vital follow up to the basic training courses.

Food safety campaigns for the front of the house are a little more difficult because turnover in a college town like Boulder makes training new staff a constant chore.  Turley’s management continues to focus on education, however, and take a mentoring rather than policing approach.  Every shift meeting presents a new challenge and a new opportunity for improving the awareness of the front of house staff.

The evolution theme is probably the most important lesson about an effective food safety program that I took away from Turley’s.  Even as I learned about all the things the restaurant does every day to manage food safety, the management was already looking ahead to the next campaign, and the next strategy.

David is thinking about conducting self inspections: unannounced walk-throughs of the entire restaurant with his health inspector cap on, looking for things that are hard for management in their normal roles to catch.  It’s just one more way Turley’s works to keep the restaurant in top shape for their customers every day.

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Restaurant Management Tips: How To Deal With Employee Theft

Restaurant Management Tips: How To Deal With Employee TheftAs anyone in the food service industry knows, staff turnover is a constant problem.  Hiring and training employees is important but often tedious work, and keeping your team motivated and happy can also be a challenge.  Yet these “human resources” tasks are not nearly as tough to deal with as employee theft.  An employee who is caught stealing presents two problems for your restaurant: first, someone is stealing from you, and second, something in the process of hiring, training, and retaining quality staff has broken down and led to theft.

The problem of losing money to theft should be dealt with first, obviously.  However, dealing with the employee in question must be handled properly in order to minimize the impact of the problem and ensure other employees understand the consequences of stealing without feeling alienated in the process.

Some tips on how to confront an employee who is stealing:

Make sure you have adequate proof.  Account sheets, video surveillance, eyewitness testimony, or a combination of damning evidence is key to leveling accusations at an employee.  You should be able to prove theft beyond a reasonable doubt before you ever confront the employee.  If that requires you to wait a while in order to catch him or her red-handed, then so be it.  When you do have that confrontation, you want to be ready with substantial evidence so the rest of your staff immediately sees your case.

Whatever disciplinary action you take, do it discreetly.  There’s no reason to “make an example” out of somebody by staging a big confrontation in front of other employees.  Bring the employee who has been stealing into a private area, confront them with the evidence, and present the consequences.  If that involves termination, allow the employee to gather their things and leave of their own accord.  There’s no reason to be forceful or aggressive, as this will only allow the employee to gain sympathy by looking persecuted.Restaurant Management Tips: How To Deal With Employee Theft

Hold a staff meeting.  After you have taken disciplinary action, call your staff together and explain exactly what happened, present the evidence you have, and explain the action you have taken.  This will prevent rumors and gossip from driving employee perceptions of what happened and presents you with an opportunity to show the rest of the staff how serious you are about employee theft.

Dealing with the second part of the theft equation isn’t nearly as easy.  Finding the root causes behind the theft and improving prevention is a much more involved process.  And a good prevention program is never going to be 100% effective.  However, that doesn’t diminish the importance taking steps to prevent theft in your restaurant.

Tips for preventing employee theft:

Vet candidates when hiring, train new employees well, and create a positive work environment.  Taking the time to find and train the right candidate will screen most potential problems.  Many operators get into trouble with problem employees because they need to fill positions fast and the hiring process becomes compressed.  When it comes to existing staff, maintain a close but professional relationship that emphasizes teamwork and community.  Employees that have a good relationship with the management and feel like their contribution to the team is appreciated and that they are well compensated for that contribution are much less likely to steal.

Communicate clear guidelines for employee behavior.  This also helps with other staff issues like poor performance, disputes, tardiness/absence, etc.  Make sure your staff receives a clear set of rules that outline exactly how problems will be handled, including theft.   When administering discipline, stick to the rules and reemphasize the standards you have already set.  Consistency will go a long way towards maintaining your employee’s respect and help you manage problem employees more effectively.

Trust but verify.  No matter how good your hiring, training, and employee expectation policies are, you will probably encounter a bad apple sooner or later.  Have systems in place to monitor cash, comps, and inventory.  You should always know exactly how much of each is coming in and going out of your restaurant.  And try to limit the number of people who control or handle all three.  That will make the job of tracking what went where much easier.

Hopefully employee theft is something you rarely have to deal with.  Following the tips above will help make sure it is indeed a rare occurrence.

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Restaurant Replenishment: Don’t Get Caught With Your Pants Down

Restaurant Replenishment: Don’t Get Caught With Your Pants DownEver noticed the paper towel dispenser spinning uselessly in your restaurant’s bathroom, ventured into some dark back storage area to retrieve a new roll, and discovered – to your horror – that replacements were nowhere to be found?

Stuff runs out. Stuff needs replacing. And there are much, much worse things that can (and probably have) happened in your restaurant than forcing customers to return to their table with wet hands.

Ever fired up a fryer a few hours before the dinner rush and watched the pilot poof out time after time?

An even more enjoyable scenario is the fryer burner that refuses to cut out when the oil reaches temperature – making for an oil bomb just waiting to go off.

Common parts and components in all kinds of restaurant equipment will die on you at some point. The worst part is, you can’t just run out to the store and get a replacement. Parts are a whole different animal, and that’s why you should really think about keeping some common parts on hand so your equipment doesn’t leave you hanging out to dry.

Some common parts that are really, really nice to have around:

You can also learn how to troubleshoot and fix common problems with common restaurant equipment by reading these Back Burner articles.

Ever completely forget to change out the water filter cartridge for your ice machine, steamer, or beverage equipment? Nothing beats white scaly mineral deposits building up in your equipment and making beverages taste funny.

Water filters need their cartridges replaced every six months. If they don’t get replaced then minerals in the water don’t get filtered out, and when those don’t get filtered out those minerals don’t get filtered out they leave scale in the water lines of any piece of equipment that uses water, and after awhile that water starts tasting bad.

Even better, that scale can cause breakdowns and void warranties. So don’t get caught with your pants down: replace those water filter cartridges when you’re supposed to.
Ever been in the depths of a busy dinner rush and walked in back to grab a couple water glasses and found a stack of empty glass racks? Have you then proceeded back to the dishwashing area and been forced to grab a couple steamy hot glasses right out of the washer?

Glasses, dishes, flatware, and bar supplies all break, disappear, and just simply wear out. Being short a few glasses is maybe not as bad as an overheating fryer, but believe you me it’s also not a problem you want to have on a consistent basis. Replacing common supply losses is just one more area where you have to be on the ball or you will get caught with your pants down.

Tundra knows how busy you are.
That’s why we’ve developed a simple way for you to make sure simple products are always available. If you buy common replenishment and replacement products from us, we’ll send you a simple reminder a few months down the road, letting you know it’s probably time to stock up again on whatever it is you bought last time.

We’re not trying to be pushy – just helpful. A note in your inbox with a quick link to the products we’re pretty sure you need might be just the thing that saves you from a pants down moment later on.

So keep an eye out for your friendly reminders from Tundra. And definitely don’t get caught with your pants down.

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Green Initiatives: A Rise In Cost Or A Part Of Your Marketing Budget?

QSR magazine published an article recently about new take out packaging for restaurants made from recycled plastic water bottles.  Dubbed The Bottle Box, the restaurants that have used it say it performs just as well or better than normal plastic take out packaging, and that it can be customized with your establishment’s name and logo very easily.  The biggest pitfall of The Bottle Box is the 2% – 5% increase in cost over regular packaging.

Recycled packaging and compostable disposables like corn cups are one of those things that always sounds good in theory, but can translate into some real costs in practice that affect your bottom line.  The Bottle Box is a good example of this.  The standard reaction by any businessman would be: why spend more for something that does the same job as the thing I’m using now?

Well, that’s one way to look at it.

Another approach is to take the relatively nominal increase in cost and view it as an expense in your marketing budget.  How does that work?  Well, instead of just labeling The Bottle Box with your restaurant’s logo, why not advertise the fact that you’re using recycled packaging?

Studies have consistently shown that consumers place a high value on food service operations that take green initiatives, and are even willing to pay a little more for those restaurant’s products.  Just look at the success of Chipotle in the last five years if you need a good example of this.

However, you don’t need to pass all costs on to your customer, and really you shouldn’t unless you have to.  There are measurable benefits to adding something like recycled packaging to your operation.  The key is making sure your customer knows about the initiatives you are taking.

Some tips on how to make sure you’re communicating properly:

Train servers to work green initiative plugs into their spiels.
There’s no better way to communicate with your customer than through your servers.  Have them remind guests about the green things you’re doing in a gentle, non-pushy way that nonetheless firmly implants your initiative in their head.

Post reminders throughout your restaurant. Do you have a recycling program?  Put up a sign that says “We Recycle” above a blue garbage can, if no one ever uses it.  The same goes for composting programs.  Do you use Energy Star rated equipment?  Put up an Energy Star logo where customers can see it.  Do you use The Bottle Box instead of straight plastic packaging?  Tell your customers right on the bag!

Work your green initiatives into your marketing materials. Whether it’s an ad in the paper, a flyer, or a website, don’t be afraid to announce that you’re taking action to make your restaurant greener.  If you’re particularly proud of your greening accomplishments, you may even want to launch an advertising campaign that specifically touts your efforts.

Don’t be afraid to take baby steps!
You don’t have to implement a comprehensive green program for your restaurant all at once to gain some real appreciation from your customers.  Start with simple stuff like a recycling program and green take out packaging.  Tell your customers about it.  Then take on something more involved like composting or sourcing vegetables locally.  No matter how small or incremental your efforts, your customers will appreciate it, and they can’t appreciate it if you don’t tell them.

Taking steps to improve your restaurant’s green image don’t have to be all about raising your costs either.  Many changes can have the dual benefit of making your restaurant more green and more efficient, which really is a win-win.  No matter how you green your restaurant, just make sure to announce it loud and clear to customers.  They’ll appreciate it.  And they’ll eat in your restaurant more often.

Check out a trove of going green tips here.

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Green Restaurant Tips: Use Efficiency Rebates!

Upgrading restaurant equipment to energy efficient models, maximizing water heater efficiency, and  installing Energy Star rated ceiling fans and ventilation, just to name a few green strategies, all mean spending some money before you save some.

For years the obstacle of spending money up front to save money down the road has been one of the major impediments preventing business owners from maximizing energy efficiency.

As energy costs continue to rise, the benefits of investing in energy efficiency has become a more and more appealing venture.

Green Restaurant Tips: Use Efficiency Rebates!

Show me the money! Get rebates for green restaurant practices.

Local and state governments have also recognized the environmental and social benefits of encouraging energy efficiency, and have responded with rebate rewards for businesses that adopt energy efficient practices.

So when you are considering implementing some energy efficient upgrades in your restaurant or commercial kitchen, keep in mind that significant cost can be offset by rebates.

To find rebates available in your area, check out Energy Star’s Rebate Finder.  This is a great tool, however, this rebate finder will only search for available rebates when purchasing new Energy Star rated restaurant equipment.

Federal tax credits are also available for commercial buildings for money spent to make heating and cooling more efficient.  State and local tax credits may also be available, depending on where you live.

Even utility companies have gotten into the act, and many reward energy efficient practices with a rebate on your energy bill.

More and more utility companies are offering rebates for purchasing Energy Star rated equipment and adopting energy efficient practices.  Check with your local utility company and get a full list of rebates available.

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