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Too Dim or Not Too Dim: Sound Off On Restaurant Lighting

Too Dim or Not Too Dim: Sound Off On Restaurant Lighting

Photo Credit:Brewtally Insane!

As we sat at West Flanders Brewing Company enjoying some of their delicious brews for happy hour, the lights suddenly went dim.  At first it was hard to focus on small things, like the menu and details on people’s faces, especially distant ones.  This wasn’t anything new to any of us – restaurants dim the lights all the time – but as we struggled to regain focus, we began discussing the potential harm this could do to restaurant profits and how the customers actually feel about it.

What the Studies Say

When you consider that sit down restaurants are quite the opposite of fast-food joints when it comes to music and lighting, there’s definitely a science behind the mood being set and how that mood relates to food; however, finding the studies to say that there is a definite science is somewhat limited.  One study that was done in 2012 by Cornell University found that lighting and music do indeed affect how we eat food, but not how you might expect.

By taking a well-known fast-food establishment and making two different versions – one with brightly-lit lights and up-beat music, and the second with soft lighting and smooth jazz – the researchers were able to offer the same food, but in two different environments.  What they found was that people actually ate less when they were in a more relaxed atmosphere. They may take their time to enjoy their food and drinks, but they don’t order anymore food than they would at a fast-food restaurant.  The researchers (like many of us) expected the exact opposite – they expected people to eat more because with dimmer lighting and softer music, people tend to linger longer.

In hindsight, I should have named this section “What the Study Says,” but that just doesn’t sound as important, now does it?

What Does This Mean For You?

Dimming the lights may cause people to eat less, but if your guests are health-conscious, this is a great way to help them cut calories; in fact, the study showed that consumers ate 18% fewer calories when the mood was set to be more relaxing.

If you’re in the business of strictly gaining profit instead of showing off your culinary talent as well, then fast-food style settings may be the place for you.  But like most chefs, when it comes to their food they’re passionate about the tastes, the blends, the colors, the presentation, etc.  In a fast-food environment you would absolutely be hindering all of your efforts towards making that culinary experience the one you want.

What the People Say

Of course with plenty of places to vent online, there are numerous discussions across the web of people debating the reasons for dim lighting in a restaurant.  The majority seemed to agree that dim lighting was to set the mood – make the dining experience more comfortable.  They felt that it helped to make people focus on what’s in front of them, including the food and their dining companions.

Oddly enough, they also felt that it was almost like a conspiracy theory to help the restaurant gain more profits, because people would eat/order more food (exactly opposite of what the study found).  They also blamed dim lighting on the reason behind coyote ugly – the dim lighting hides blemishes and makes people look more attractive… I knew there was more to this coyote ugly thing than just alcoholic beverages.

The bad news is that many people were complaining that too dim of lights made it hard to read the menu and see the food on the plate.  They also felt that the lower light setting helped to hide bad food: presentation and taste.  And of course, the dim lighting does what it does to my husband every time he watches a movie, makes them sleepy.

What Does This Mean For You?

Well, if your restaurant is trying to make profit off of dim lights, the people are on to you.  They’re also done with biting off their arms because of bad dates they wake up next to.

But you can do something to help them know there is no conspiracy theory.  It can be as easy as adding candle light to the table so it’s easier to see the menu and the food.  You can also invest in some awesome LED lit menus that definitely add some light to the table.

Should There Be Another Study?

The LED lit menus got me thinking – would people order more food if they could see what was on the menu?  Maybe those people in the study actually ordered less because they couldn’t see. Hmm, looks like another study possibility.


Watch out, this video is definitely trying to set the mood up in here.

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Easter Word Search

Fun Fact: Besides chocolate, what other candy pops its head around the corner during Easter time? Jelly beans! An astounding 16 billion jelly beans are made exclusively for Easter. That’s enough beans to fill a plastic egg the size of a nine story building!

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St. Patrick’s Day Word Search

Fun Fact: St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 because that is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that he died on March 17 in the year 461 AD. It is also a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, and a provincial holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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Back Burner Recognized in Top Food Blog Infographic

Coupon Audit recently put together an infographic on the top food blogs to follow in 2012 and named the Back Burner #15!  There were many great food blogs listed (like my personal favorite Door to Door Organics) and we are excited to see that our blog stands with some of the greatest food blogs out there!

Back Burner Recognized in Top Food Blog Infographic

An infographic by the team at CouponAudit.

Thanks for the recognition Coupon Audit!

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Foie Gras

Foie GrasMy husband and I, and our two boys, raise 4 chickens (and a 5th that ended up being a rooster). We wanted to share with our boys what it’s like to raise something that you are responsible for, but that also provides for the family. Every day they go out and collect their eggs, feed and water them, and play with them. They also get to enjoy the fruits of their labor with all sorts of egg recipes!

Did You Just Say They Play With The Chickens?

Yes. In fact, each of them has their own personality, but there’s one in-particular that stands out from the rest – her name is Miss Elsie.

Every time anyone walks outside, she runs to the gate that separates her from our deck and patiently waits for her treats (typically leftover veggies, veggie peelings or warm oatmeal). Even when I forget to bring anything out, she convinces me that it’s worth it to go back in as her friends slowly crowd around her waiting for their treats too.

And Elsie’s the only one of the flock that will let you pet her and hold her (which can sometimes be a messy situation, but you learn how to hold them). It’s really been a fun experience for all of us; to the point that I don’t think we could ever eat them (not sure what we’re going to do when they get older though). I seriously couldn’t look at the chicken on my plate and know it’s Miss Elsie – I think my boys would agree with that notion too.

What’s This Foie Gras Thing?

Now, I suppose I should say that I don’t live in Boulder. I actually live up in the mountains where we can raise chickens if we want. It’s a small town, but I like that lifestyle. And I suppose because of this fact, I’ve never heard of Foie Gras. That was, until I received an email on the ban of Foie Gras in California.

I may be a small-town girl, but I’m also a bit of a nerdy-researcher when it comes to new topics. I engulf myself in things until I understand everything about it – the history behind it, why there’s a ban in the first place, what the farmers think, what the restaurants think, etc. Of course everyone is going to have their own opinion (and this story is mine), but I believe that in order to really be able to form an opinion about something, you should be informed on the subject matter beyond one online article. So I researched it.

I read that article that was sent to me, and they mentioned how the ducks are force fed to enlarge their liver to be 6x what a normal liver should be in a healthy duck, and that “ducks and geese experience fear, as well as acute and chronic stress from the multiple daily force-feedings and the pain associated with them. And force-feeding can cause a number of injuries: bruising or perforation of the esophagus; hemorrhaging and inflammation of the neck resulting from the repeated insertion of the pipe into the throat; and asphyxia caused by food improperly forced into the trachea.” (The Humane Society of the United States).

Foie Gras

What Bertrand Hug Says

The article above concluded with a story from a restaurateur that mentioned how upset he was about the ban and that as a child, he saw these birds on his family farm as happy to receive their force fed meal. Of course I had to read that article too.

Bertrand Hug does a great job letting us know how his life on the farm was in France. He mentions many other animals that were raised on the farm: all of them to help feed the family or earn income for them.

This is a pretty typical life on a farm, and for the most part, I grew up the same way. We had cows and goats for milk and cows and goats for meat. We had chickens for eggs and we had chickens for meat. We grew our own vegetable garden, and did our best to live off the land.

Hug goes on to say that yes, there were birds that were force fed, and the money that came from those fatty livers helped bring in “big money.” I was still cringing as I read up this point, but I suppose I can also relate with his recollection of all the ducks running up to be fed – that’s my Elsie. And that the experience of those ducks being force fed is like a bird that swallows a fish whole. Furthermore, he states that all of those birds were far happier than the other ducks that weren’t force fed. I’m not sure on my stance with this though; I don’t think I could ever force feed Elsie just to plump her up.

A Little History Story

Foie Gras

The history of increasing the size of a goose from force feeding dates back to 2498 BC, where the Egyptian monarchy considered geese to be a delicacy, and the animal was often given as a gift. It was during this time that the first records of fattening a goose came to be; however, I should state that there are plenty of sites that say that the Egyptians may have been fattening the birds so that they appeared plump, which of course was for pleasing the gift receiver.

In the second century BC the term Foie Gras came to be known as a food source, also seen as a delicacy. The Greeks and Romans both attribute themselves for discovering this dish, and thus spreading the popularity of the force feeding to bring it to the table around the world.

Today, France considers Fois Gras a cultural gastronomical heritage and is the leading producer and consumer of both forms – duck and geese.

It was in 1974 that the first ban was enforced for force-feeding animals, which occurred in Norway. Other countries that followed suit included Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Last Thoughts

I grew up on a farm and have a family full of hunters, so yes, we all eat meat. But we believe in the ethical treatment of animals. I couldn’t imagine pumping Miss Elsie full of hormones just to make her eggs bigger, just like I couldn’t imagine pumping her full of food just to make her “plump for eating.” The eggs she lays (as well as the other chickens) are small in comparison to store eggs, just like the organic meat that we get from the local organic grocers is small in comparison to shopping at the normal grocers.  And we’re okay with that.

I don’t follow all of my food from farm to plate, but I do try to make a conscience decision to feed my family with food that I at least know a little bit about – whether that be from the food we receive from hunting or because I read the labels on the food at the organic grocers before I buy it.

I also know that when I go out to restaurants I may not be eating food that was humanly raised (odds are that I’m not), but it is also a choice that I’m very aware of and wish I had more options up in my small town to be able to know that the meats were humanely raised.

I wanted to write this blog post about Fois Gras to get your feedback, not to say what my opinions were, but I found that it was harder to do than I thought.  So, I must conclude by saying that if you are a farmer at a Fois Gras farm, or a restaurant owner that serves Fois Gras, I invite you to take a stance and help teach our audience more about Foid Gras and its best practices.

P.S. As one of my co-workers, Molly, read through this, she mentioned that I should post a picture of Elsie.  But the only photo I had at the time was one that was uploaded to Instagram last year, which was when the chickens were much younger, but it’s still cute!  Elsie’s the white chicken on the left looking at the camera.

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Tundra Restaurant Supply Turns 20!

Tundra Restaurant Supply Turns 20!Back in 1993, Michael Lewis was traveling to Boulder, Colorado from back east and already had a dream about starting a new restaurant supply company.  He was so amped about this new adventure that he scribbled down the mission statement and company values before he even had a name for the company – the company that was later named Tundra Specialties.

Tundra Specialties was born in March of ’93 and started as a parts supplier.  Our first catalog was 10 pages long and only had 245 products listed.  All of our sales efforts were outbound, and Michael signed on Rob Fenton (employee #3 at Tundra) to help him get in front of more people.  Rob would walk from one restaurant to the other letting different restaurant owners and operators know about Tundra and how we were different from competitors – it was all about the customer from the very beginning.  This was the early beginning of Tundra.

Celebrating 20 Years

Today, we’ve grown from a mere 3 employees, to over 135!  Our catalog has grown to include restaurant, food service and plumbing supplies and equipment, and is well over 500 pages.  Our name has changed to Tundra Restaurant Supply and we now proudly sell over 60,000 products!  We have an in-house design firm, are able to accommodate large chain restaurants, and still hold true to our mission statement and values.

To celebrate our 20 years in business, we wanted to thank you – our customers, readers, and loyal fans – for helping us get to where we are today!  Because we truly believe we wouldn’t be where we are without you, we are giving away cash prizes to celebrate!

Again, we thank you for getting us where we are today!

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Continents Crossword Puzzle

Fun Fact: Need an easy way to remember the continents names?  Remember: Erin Ate Nine Sticky Apricots At Aprils…

  • Erin – Europe
  • Ate – Asia
  • Nine – North America
  • Sticky – South America
  • Apricots – Africa
  • At – Australia
  • Aprils – Antarctica

Think you know the continents?  Test your smarts with this fun crossword puzzle:

Continents Crossword Puzzle Game Hints

  1. Home to China and Brazil
  2. This island continent is also its own country
  3. Canada and the United States are located in ______.
  4. With the exception of Brazil, nearly every country on this continent is made up of Spanish-speaking citizens.
  5. The traditional number of continents in the world.
  6. This small continent is home to dozens of countries like France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands
  7. Egypt, Nigeria, the Sudan, and many other countries are found on this large continent.
  8. This frozen continent has no permanent human residents but many researchers work there year round.
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15 Year Veteran Employee, Alonzo Clemons

15 Year Veteran Employee, Alonzo Clemons One of our veteran employees has a gift that has inspired people worldwide.  His name is Alonzo Clemons and he has Savant Syndrome – “a rare, but spectacular, condition in which persons with various developmental disabilities have astonishing islands of ability or brilliance that stand in stark, markedly incongruous, contrast to the handicap (Treffert, n.d.).”

When Alonzo was three years old he had an accident that left him with a disability that harbored his mental capacity, leaving him with an IQ of 40.  It took a while for Alonzo to learn basic things that we all take for granite, like tying your shoes or being able to communicate your needs, but what Alonzo was brilliant at was being able to form a lump of clay into the most amazing masterpieces imaginable.  This gift came almost immediately after his accident, and Alonzo has been perfecting his gift ever since.

At first, Alonzo started his sculptures from looking at photography, which gave them a very 2-dimensional look.  But when Alonzo’s work really came to life was when he started visiting different animal habitats like the Denver Zoo, the National Western Stock Show, and local farms. His sculptures began to be more realistic and precise.

Such works of art, like Alonzo’s first life-sized sculpture called “Three Frolicking Foals,” can take most skilled artists months to create, but Alonzo created this sculpture in as little as 15 days.  He has an amazing photographic memory where he can simply look at what he wants to recreate, and bring his sculpture to life later on without staring at the object or using a photo; in fact, he can even sculpt in the dark.  His works of art have sold for as much as $45,000!

15 Year Veteran Employee, Alonzo Clemons

What’s Alonzo Up to Now?

Today, Alonzo lives by himself, and stays very active in the Boulder community.  He maintains his part-time job here at Tundra – where he’s been working with us for over 15 years – while also working at the YMCA doing ground maintenance.  He also visits the local schools to teach children about his gift and just how easy it is to sculpt (easy for him of course).  He also enjoys power lifting in the Special Olympics, and has been on numerous television shows, including Discovery Channel’s Brain and Intelligence.

Learn more about Alonzo on his website.

Reference

Treffert, Dr. D. (n.d.). About Savant Syndrome. Retrieved March 1, 2013, from: http://alonzoclemons.com/about-savant-syndrome/.

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