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Archive | Food Service

There are thousands of topics to discuss around food service, these are just a few that our authors have written about.

What is FDA Food Grade Caulk?

What is FDA Food Grade Caulk?FDA food grade caulk is a food safe sealant that comes in a variety of colors: clear, aluminum, white, black and red. This sealant’s primary purpose is to keep moisture out of unwanted places, and since it doesn’t cause food borne illnesses when it comes in contact with food and drinks, it’s the preferred caulk for kitchen and restaurant appliance repair, including sinks, ice machines and stainless steel walls.

The different colors of FDA food sealant help with different types of repairs:

  • When sealing an ice machine or ice dispenser we recommend using the FDA Food Sealer in Clear. Sealing around the entire ice machine base will ensure no liquid will leak out and possibly collect in unwanted areas.
  • White and Black fit in standard caulking guns and are able to stand-up to a wide range of temperatures: -85º to 400º F.
  • Stainless steel is a popular building material in residential and commercial applications. The Aluminum Colored FDA Food Grade Caulk is the perfect solution for patching nail holes, gaps or cracks in stainless steel appliances.
  • If your application requires sealing an area where there will be high temperatures, we recommend using the Red FDA Silicone Caulk. The Red Silicone Sealant can withstand a max temperature of 400º F and will fit in most standard caulking guns.

FDA food caulk is NSF listed and U.L. recognized making it safe to use around all food operations. Food safety in restaurants is taken very seriously by health inspectors and the FDA – using the right tools for the right applications will keep your restaurant in good standing.

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Where To Turn When Your Commercial Oven Craps Out

The holidays are a time for freshly baked treats, slow-cooked meats, and all-around oven-infused goodness. Whether you’re celebrating as an at-home enthusiast or busy restaurant operator it’s safe to assume your oven sees more than its fair share of use this time of year. From heavy-duty restaurant ranges to the above-average home oven, buying the right piece of equipment is essential when it comes to keeping those fires burning during with oven season.

With so many options out there, how does the average consumer find the oven they need without wading through hundreds they don’t? Well, we’re taking a quick look at some manufacturers we stand behind, and wholeheartedly recommend, if you’re in the market for a new oven or commercial range.

Where To Turn When Your Commercial Oven Craps Out

Southbend

With a “reputation for consistency and durability, even in the busiest kitchens”, Southbend is “recognized as a global leader in heavy-duty, commercial cooking equipment” which is a fancy way of saying their restaurant equipment is quality and built to last. From fryers, steam cookers, and broilers to ranges, ovens, and sectional equipment one could easily equip an entire kitchen using Southbend pieces;. in fact, their sectional equipment is meant for just that.

For over 100 years, the company has been building innovative products with, energy saving methods, and safety in mind. This means 100 years of improving upon design and ensuring that working equipment is the last thing the end user worries about when crafting those culinary creations.

The variety of their offerings coupled with the ability to completely customize back of the house line-up has prompted establishments (be they restaurants, supermarkets, or institutional food service operations) to outfit their kitchens using Southbend equipment. With five domestic manufacturing facilities and two abroad, Southbend prides itself on its ability to supply the food service industry worldwide.

SHOP SOUTHBEND PRODUCTS

Where To Turn When Your Commercial Oven Craps OutImperial

Remaining a family-owned company since taking those first few steps in 1957, Imperial’s mission is to continually supply the globe with top value, high-quality food service equipment. Their state-of-the-art manufacturing process and highly skilled employees ensure that each piece of equipment is kept to high standards and produced to please. From order entry to construction completion, Imperial prides itself in lowering production costs while creating top-quality equipment for all your kitchen needs.

Their Green Tech ranges, in particular, boast an ability to add 20% efficiency to range-related operations (from 40% efficient to 60% efficient), and these energy and environmentally conscious pieces hold heat in while reducing wasted energy. For the always-on commercial establishment, those where a wide range of cooking and holding equipment are used constantly, any piece that can dramatically cut down on energy costs is always a welcome addition.

Their energy-efficient practices paired with game-changing innovations puts Imperial on the list of go-to vendors that establishments around the world rely on daily.

SHOP IMPERIAL PRODUCTS

Turbo Air (Radiance)Where To Turn When Your Commercial Oven Craps Out

An industry leader in refrigeration equipment, Turbo Air may be the last manufacturer you’d expect to address your oven needs. But, the company has branched out and delved into cooking equipment, bringing with them their commitment to quality. Radiance opens up the world of heating equipment to a company that’s strong suit has always been making things cold. Where their refrigerators, freezers, prep tables, and keep-it-cold kitchen essentials are what they’re recognized for, the Radiance side of Turbo Air’s operation proves that these cold kings are no one-trick pony.

Passing the industry’s most recent safety, performance, and energy efficiency standards, Radiance equipment gives you the ability to stand under the Turbo Air umbrella when equipping your commercial kitchen. From freezing your foods to cooking them up just right, Turbo Air and Turbo Air’s Radiance have you covered!
With a philosophy of “innovative everyday” and the mindset that “your success is Turbo Air’s success” the company continues to create energy conscious and industry-leading equipment and accessories.

SHOP TURBO AIR’S RADIANCE PRODUCTS

 

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Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your Revenue

Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your RevenueThe restaurant industry has been struggling for what seems like an eternity now. While you may have a great restaurant concept, a handful of high-selling menu items, and a substantial dinner rush there are always ways to diversify and grow your revenue.

Cut food costs. Make a descending dollar report. A fancy way to say “find the 10 foods you spend the most on every month,” a descending dollar report itemizes where the largest portion of your food expense is going. Have a discussion with your distributors and see if there’s a comparable product, or even a better one, that you can get for less. Don’t be afraid to cut ties with a distributor who’s costing you more money than you need to spend.

Invest in bulk storage to find additional available discounts. If you use your buying power to navigate the roads to the best deals, and invest time in detailing your inventory process to avoid spoilage, you can and will save money.A few cents for every pound purchased turns into significant savings in the long run.

Give employees power to make you money. Sometimes your biggest expense, properly trained employees have the ability to be your greatest asset. Being the face of your restaurant your employees are essentially the windows through which customers view your establishment. Give your staff the tools and know-how they need to please. The key to doing this is excellent, ongoing training. Constantly update and review procedures with all employees. Help your staff feel comfortable enough to offer suggestions, and have conversation-style performance reviews in which you set goals and give incentives for performing well.

A well trained employee has a greater chance of lending a helping hand, upselling menu items, and impressing customers. As a result, happy customers tend to buy more, enjoy their experience, and come back the next time their appetite calls. Remember, training is an on-going process and it’s important to set a good example.

Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your RevenueDIY equipment repairs. Being able to service and maintain your restaurant equipment can be a huge money saver. Each piece of equipment in your kitchen serves a purpose, and when one of those pieces doesn’t function well it can affect your entire operation. Additionally, expensive labor and parts costs paid to outside repair companies can add up quickly. Take time to learn the ins and outs of how your equipment works, what’s most likely to fail, and how best to fix what fails when it does. You’ll be surprised how much money can be saved by employing a little know-how and some elbow grease.

Technology can help reel in customers. Consumers are exploding personal information into digital space at ridiculous speeds. If you’re not doing the same with your restaurant you may be behind the curve. Finding menus, shopping for happy hour deals, and recommending hot spots to friends are all ways potential customers search and share when it comes to the restaurant industry. You need to be part of the conversation, and the obvious way to get a word in is by having an intuitive, attractive website. Don’t have a website? You need to get one.

Make sure you feature a current, printable menu, and provide your address, driving directions, and phone number on every page. Butdon’t be content just having a website. Today’s most popular eateries have additional technologies working in their favor like an established e-mail list, social network sites that encourage participation, and wireless avenues of advertising like text messaging.

Diversify your income. Navigating the ever-twisting current that is your revenue stream can become dangerously safe in its monotony. Conducting business as usual can leave you blind to rapids ahead, and without a revenue inlet to steer towards you could find yourself quickly dashed against the rocks. To help avoid unseen obstacles it’s a good idea to branch out and include as many income opportunities as possible.Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your Revenue

  1. Add retail items – Customers enjoy creative apparel referencing your restaurant. Selling hats, t-shirts, and wrist bands is an inexpensive way to outfit your customers while getting the word out.
  2. Make your food more accessible – Try offering a take-out or delivery option for your more popular items to accommodate customers who don’t want to dine in.
  3. Host special events – Serving corporate functions and big parties requires special pricing and menu options, but catering to the needs of large gatherings is an excellent way to sell out your space and take advantage of seasonal holidays.

Within a constantly changing landscape, the food service industry is a precarious place to stay stagnant. As doors close left and right new innovations are thrown from windows like confetti, littering the industry with pop-up restaurants, food trucks, unexpected tastes, and evolving palates. While riding the waves of change might not always be the best bet when it comes to your restaurant, it’s safe to keep that metaphorical surfboard in your closet for when the right wave rolls your way.

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What’s Hot: Drink Trends for 2013

What’s Hot?

In addition to surveying chef’s about hot food trends for the New Year, The National Restaurant Association (NRA) surveyed 195 professional bartenders to uncover hot drink trends for 2013. It wasn’t surprising that producing and buying local is a top trend for drinks, similar to food, including onsite barrel-aged drinks which top the charts. Other top drinks include food-liquor/cocktail parings and micro distilled/artisan liquor.

Here Are The Top 20 Drink Trends For 2013:What’s Hot: Drink Trends for 2013

  1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
  3. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
  4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  5. Locally produced spirits
  6. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
  7. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
  8. Regional signature cocktails
  9. Beer-based cocktails
  10. Locally produced beer
  11. Food-beer pairings/beer dinners
  12. Salt (e.g. flavored, smoked, regional)
  13. House-made lemonade/soft drinks/tonics
  14. Cask beer/ale
  15. Wine on tap/draft wine
  16. Organic cocktails
  17. Cocktails on tap
  18. Craft beer
  19. Signature cocktails
  20. Shrubs

Hot Trends by Category

And here are top alcohol trends by category…

Spirits

  1. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  2. Locally produced spirits
  3. Bitters
  4. “New Make” whiskey
  5. Mezcal

Cocktails

What’s Hot: Drink Trends for 2013

  1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  2. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
  3. Regional signature cocktails
  4. Beer-based cocktails
  5. Organic cocktails

Beer

  1. Locally produced beer
  2. Cask beer/ale
  3. Craft beer
  4. House-brewed beer
  5. Gluten-free beer

Wine

  1. Wine on tap/draft wine
  2. Locally produced wine
  3. Non-traditional/less popular wine varietals
  4. Organic wine
  5. Argentinian wine

Ingredients/Garnish

  1. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
  2. Salt (e.g. flavored, smoked, regional)
  3. House-made lemonade/soft drinks/tonics
  4. Flower syrup/essence
  5. Spices

Mixology Themes

What’s Hot: Drink Trends for 2013

  1. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
  2. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
  3. Food-beer pairings/beer dinners
  4. Molecular gastronomy/mixology
  5. Food-wine pairings

Additional Trends

1. When the bartenders were asked to segment customers into categories it was surprising how equally split the groups were:

  • 36% of customers are traditional – always order simple drinks, like draft beer and house wine
  • 32% of customers are adventurous – always try new and trendy drinks
  • 31% are cautious explorers – generally order standbys, but sometimes try trendy items

2. Because over 30% of customers were categorized as adventurous, it was great to see how the bartenders felt about specialty/culinary cocktails:

  • 67% said that it’s a good way to build business and attract new customers
  • 26% said they are fun to make because they have to be more creative
  • 1% said they are a challenge because they take longer
  • 1% said customers rarely order specialty cocktails

3. In addition, more than half (51%) said they are seeing more guests dining at the bar, rather than being seated at a table (compared to two years ago).

4. The last question bartenders were asked was “What’s the hottest technology trend in bars/restaurants for 2013.” The same question was asked to more than 1,800 professional chefs in the top food trends survey, and the outcome of each survey was remarkably different:

The chef’s response:

  • 27% said tablet computers (e.g. iPad) for menus and wine lists
  • 25% said smartphone apps for consumers (e.g. ordering, menus)
  • 19% said mobile/wireless/at-the-table payment options
  • 13% said social media for marketing/loyalty programs
  • 11% said smartphone apps for chefs/restaurateurs (e.g. recipes, measurement converters)
  • 4% said QR codes on menus, marketing, etc
  • 1% said other

The bartender’s response:

  • 40% said social media for marketing/loyalty programs
  • What’s Hot: Drink Trends for 201329% said tablet computers (e.g. iPad) for menus and wine lists
  • 14% said smartphone apps for consumers (e.g. ordering, menus)
  • 6% said smartphone apps for chefs/restaurateurs (e.g. recipes, measurement converters)
  • 5% said other
  • 4% said mobile/wireless/at-the-table payment options
  • 2% said QR codes on menus, marketing, etc

What’s Not Hot

Of the 123 drink items ranked by bartenders, these received the highest scores for waning trends:

  1. Hard lemonade
  2. Non-alcoholic wine
  3. “Skinny”/lower-calorie cocktails
  4. Dessert/candy-flavored cocktails
  5. White sangria
  6. Frozen cocktails
  7. Light/reduced calorie beer
  8. Kosher wine
  9. Boxed wine
  10. Bacon

2013 Food Trends

Now that you’re caught up with the hottest drink trends for 2013, take a gander at what’s hot in the food world for the New Year.

What’s Hot in 2013 Video

For more information from NRA on hot trends for 2013, check out this video!

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10 Foods to Avoid Serving at Your Catered Event

What to Avoid

You’ve done your research, negotiated costs, picked a venue, planned and organized the party timeline and sent out invitations for the big event – phew, the last step is to plan the menu. You probably have a good idea of how to make the menu stand out, and what your guests will enjoy, but did you know there are foods that should be avoided when it comes to catering?

10 Foods to Avoid Serving at Your Catered Event

Here’s our list of top 10 foods to avoid at catered events.

  1. Odor offending foods. Anything that causes bad breath or bad bodily functions should be avoided at large gatherings, including, garlic, onions, cabbage, beans, curry and overly fishy foods.
  2. Mess Making Foods.  Sure, chicken wings and spaghetti are delicious, but unfortunately, these types of foods can be messy. We recommend offering foods that are tasty, yet easy and mess-free.
  3. Dairy Rich Foods. Today’s culture experiences a variety of food allergies, and  dairy sensitivity is one of the most common ones. Dairy rich foods can lead to bloating, gas and cramps – all symptoms you want to avoid at a party. Avoid offering too many creamy dishes, ice cream, etc.
  4. Gluten Rich Foods. Gluten doesn’t effect everyone in a negative way, but it is another type of food that is known to cause bloating and cramps in many people. Make sure to offer plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits for guests that may be affected by gluten.
  5. Extremely Spicy Foods. Just like any other food sensitivity, people have different spice tolerances. When serving food to large groups it’s safer to keep things simple and mild. And if you must add extra-heat, try serving it on the side!
  6. Raw Meats or Eggs. The last thing any host wants to cause is food poisoning. Avoid serving raw meats or eggs of any kind. Make sure the foods being served have been safely handled by the caterer.
  7. Heavy Foods.  Whether you’re celebrating a marriage, graduation, birthday or corporate event you certainly don’t want your guests falling sleep after the meal. We suggest avoiding heavy foods like mashed potatoes, casseroles, turkey and carbohydrate-rich foods.
  8. Fried, Greasy Foods. Foods like pizza, French fries, donuts, fried chicken and other fatty foods slow digestion, leaving your guests feeling sluggish and tired.
  9. Artificially Sweetened Beverages. Most diet sodas and sugar-free drinkscontain sugar alcohol which can be hard to digest, leaving party guests uncomfortable, bloated and lethargic. We recommend offering water, natural teas, lemonade and (in moderation) red and white wines.
  10. Too Much Alcohol. Enjoying a couple of alcoholic beverages at any celebration can put the entire party in a great mood, however, one too many can lead to disaster. As a host we recommend not making the bar or alcohol serving station center stage. Always offer healthy drinks and water.

As a party host, it’s important to know your guest profile and guest preferences to allow for the ability to create an appetizing, exciting menu for all to enjoy. Incorporating seasonal/fresh items, selecting a menu that fits the event and anticipating special dietary needs will ensure a successful celebration.

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What’s Hot: Food Trends for 2013

What’s Hot?

The National Restaurant Association surveyed over 1,800 professional chefs to uncover hot food trends for 2013. By a long shot, locally sourced/grown foods top the charts with healthful kids’ meals not far behind. Other hot trends include new cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major), ethnic breakfast items (e.g. Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes) and food trucks (which continue to pop up and thrive in all corners of the nation).

 

Here Are The Top 20 Food Trends For 2013:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafoodWhat’s Hot: Food Trends for 2013
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Healthful kids’ meals
  4. Environmental sustainability
  5. Children’s nutrition
  6. New cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
  7. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  8. Gluten-free cuisine
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals
  11. Farm/estate branded items
  12. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
  13. Non-traditional fish (e.g. branzino, Arctic char, barramundi)
  14. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
  15. Fruit/vegetable children’s side items
  16. Health/nutrition
  17. Half-portions/smaller portions for a smaller price
  18. House-made/artisan ice cream
  19. Black/forbidden rice
  20. Food trucks

 

Hot Trends by Category

The top 20 give you a great, broad overview of the New Year’s trends, but there are also top trends by categories that represent sections of a traditional restaurant menu.

Appetizers

  1. House-cured meats/charcuterieWhat’s Hot: Food Trends for 2013
  2. Vegetarian appetizers
  3. Ethnic/street food inspired appetizers (tempura, taquitos, kabobs, hummus)
  4. Amuse-bouche/bite-size hors d’oeuvre
  5. Flatbread appetizers

Sides/Starches

  1. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
  2. Black/forbidden rice
  3. Quinoa
  4. Red rice
  5. Pickled vegetables

Main Dishes

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. New cuts of meat (Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
  3. Sustainable seafood
  4. Non-traditional fish (branzino, Arctic char, barramundi)
  5. Half-portions/smaller portions for a smaller price

Desserts

  1. House-made/artisan ice cream
  2. Bite-size/mini desserts
  3. Savory desserts
  4. Deconstructed classic desserts
  5. Dessert flights/combos

Breakfast/Brunch

  1. Ethnic inspired breakfast items (Asian-flavored syrups, Chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
  2. Traditional ethnic breakfast items (huevos rancheros, shakshuka, ashta, Japanese)
  3. Fresh fruit breakfast
  4. Prix fixe breakfastWhat’s Hot: Food Trends for 2013
  5. Chicken and waffles

Kid’s Meals

  1. Healthful kids’ meals
  2. Whole grain items in kid’s meals
  3. Fruit/vegetable children’s’ side items
  4. Oven-bakes items in kids’ meals (baked chicken fingers, oven baked fries)
  5. Children’s portions of adult menu items

Produce

  1. Locally grown produce
  2. Organic produce
  3. Superfruit (acai, goji berry, mangosteen)
  4. Heirloom apples
  5. Exotic fruits (rambutan, dragon fruit, paw paw, guava)

Ethnic Cuisines

  1. Peruvian cuisine
  2. Regional ethnic cuisine
  3. Ethnic fusion cuisine
  4. Korean cuisine
  5. Southeast Asian cuisine (e.g. Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian)

Ingredients/Other food ItemsWhat’s Hot: Food Trends for 2013

  1. Farm/estate branded items
  2. Artisan cheeses
  3. Ethnic cheeses (e.g. queso fresco, paneer, lebneh, halloumi)
  4. Non-wheat flour (e.g. peanut, millet, barley, rice)
  5. Ancient grains (e.g. kamut, spelt, amaranth)

Preparation Methods

  1. Fermenting
  2. Pickeling
  3. Sous Vide
  4. Liquid nitrogen
  5. Smoking

Culinary themes

  1. Environmental sustainability
  2. Children’s nutrition
  3. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  4. Gluten-free cuisine
  5. Health/nutrition

Beverages

  1.  House-made soft drinks/soda/pop
  2.  Gourmet lemonade (e.g. house-made, freshly muddled)
  3. Organic coffee
  4. Specialty iced tea (e.g. Thai-style, southern/sweet, flavored)
  5. Coconut water

 

Additional Trends

1. Technology touches almost every aspect of our lives, which is increasingly true even in the food service industry. Between the arrival of mobile devices at the table, online reservations, social media and mobile payment methods, technology has infiltrated the food and restaurant industry like never before. That’s why NRA asked “What is the hottest technology trend in restaurants for 2013?

What’s Hot: Food Trends for 2013

  • 27% said tablet computers (e.g. iPad) for menus and wine lists
  • 25% said smartphone apps for consumers (e.g. ordering, menus)
  • 19% said mobile/wireless/at-the-table payment options
  • 13% said social media for marketing/loyalty programs
  • 11% said smartphone apps for chefs/restaurateurs (e.g. recipes, measurement converters)
  • 4% said QR codes on menus, marketing, etc
  • 1% said other

2. Scorching heat and drought in the US, Russia and Europe constricted agricultural production and pushed up prices of key ingredients including corn and soybeans to record highs. The survey asked chefs “How do you best handle the challenge of elevated food costs?”

  • 32% said they would change and update the menu to include different dishes
  • 25% said adjusting plate composition (e.g. increasing amounts of lower priced items while reducing amounts of higher priced items)
  • 24% said they would explore new sourcing options and suppliers
  • 11% said managing food costs in other operational areas
  • 4% said they would raise menu prices
  • 4% said other

3. Healthy eating has been a hot topic for a few years now, and chefs continue to find new ways to integrate healthier ingredients into their dishes. So when the survey asked “Are you making efforts to adjust dishes/recipes to be more healthful, for example, by using more fruit and vegetables or reduced sodium?” the results were not a surprise.

  • 55%, said yes, always
  • 37% said they try but not all recipes are easily adjusted
  • 7% said no and
  • 2% said they don’t know

4. It was also interesting to see where chefs see the dining public trending in the year to come.

What’s Hot: Food Trends for 2013

  • 46% said consumers will be more adventurous, dining out to seek new tastes and foods they can’t make at home
  • 44% said consumers will generally order their favorite food when dining out, but sometimes try trendy menu items
  • 7% said consumers will be more traditional when dining out, only ordering food that they know
  • 4% didn’t know

 

What’s Not Hot

Of the 198 food items ranked by chefs, these received the highest scores for waning trends (and I must add that I agree with all of these).

  1. Froth/foam/air
  2. Ramen
  3. Gazpacho
  4. Fun-shaped children’s food
  5. Mini-burgers/sliders
  6. Flavored/enhanced water
  7. Bacon-flavored chocolate
  8. Flavored popcorn
  9. Fish collars
  10. Desserts with bacon

 

What’s Hot in 2013 Video

For more information from NRA on hot food trends for 2013, check out this video!

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What’s Popular Right Now: 2013 Inventive Catering Trends

Catering involves an immense amount of preparation and planning – there is pressure, tight timelines and long days. Between all of the commotion, caterers have to find a way to stay on top and beat industry competition. We’ve laid out three popular trends going into 2013. Knowing what your customers want ahead of time is going to make you and your business standout.

1. Is that an art display?

What’s Popular Right Now: 2013 Inventive Catering Trends

With media outlets like Food Network and the Cooking Channel, food has become more than just something we eat in order to survive. We are entertained and intrigued by food, which is why; foodie and recipe blogging is one of the fastest growing blog types. Other areas we’re seeing increase in popularity are social sites like Pinterest, which helps to showcase the art of cooking, while creative food displays at weddings, corporate events and parities get people excited about the food they will consume – The old saying goes, ‘you eat with your eyes first’.

2. Locally Sourced Food

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), locally sourced meats secured the No. 1 spot on the top menu trends for 2012. Locally sourced foods have gained popularity over the last few years and for good reason: local food production supports the growth of local communities, creates local jobs and is more environmentally friendly than food produced by large corporations.

The general public is becoming increasingly more educated about food and where food comes from. The desire to eat healthier and boost local economies is only one reason why we don’t see this trend dropping off anytime soon. Caterers have the unique opportunity to work directly with local farms to buy product that are cost effective, fresh and leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

What’s Popular Right Now: 2013 Inventive Catering Trends3. Tasting Menus & Small Plates

Fine dining establishments around the world have perfected the tasting menu concept. Caterers are also getting in on this idea by offering hors d’oeuvre-size dishes with classic and modern spins. Enjoying several different culinary creations is probably the number one reason why tasting menus are becoming popular for catered events. Being able to provide variety and seasonal foods allows more of your guests to be satisfied.

Tasting menus are also great options for hosts with guests who experience food allergies and food sensitivities and small plates can be more affordable than traditional sit down meals, as well as, more flexible. With today’s culture being on the go, small plates and tasting menus allow guests to enjoy delicious foods while socializing.

The Catering Business is Tough

And the competition is keen, that’s why knowing what today’s consumers want (and expect), is vital for winning an event bid. Get to know your local farmers or visit a farmers market, think smaller plates and mini bites, create something pleasing to the eye and you’ll be ahead of the competition going into next year.

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Scrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector Issues

An ever-present aspect of the food service industry is the inevitable visit from the local health inspector. All too often restaurants fall into the habit of just squeaking by when it comes to inspections, doing the bare minimum to pass, instead of regularly putting good food safety procedures into practice. I’m here to give you a few pointers geared towards maintaining a restaurant that keeps food safety, for customers and staff, at the forefront.

Food borne illnesses are suffered by an estimated 81,000 people every year, according to the FDA. Additionally, 9,000 deaths result from preventable food-related illnesses, and food borne pathogens still stand as the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States.

With this in mind, are you doing what’s best for your customers when it comes to serving them foodScrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector Issues

There are 4 acceptable options for storing your “in-use” utensils:

  • In the food with the handle extended out
  • In a dry, clean place
  • In a dipperwell or similar appliance with potable running water
  • Stored in temperatures of 135 degrees F and above, or 41 degrees F and below

As simple as these options are to employ, health inspectors still come across some pretty appalling practices:  knives wedged into grease-filled cracks between restaurant equipment, utensils hung from food-encrusted magnetic strips, or serving utensils in standing water with floating debris. Now imagine this from a customer’s standpoint. Disgusting, I know.

Storage of food service utensils goes hand-in-hand with maintaining the quality of those utensils. Always examine the edges of what you’re using. Cracks, chips, breaks, and frays in any of your utensils can lead to a customer finding something unappetizing in their meal like slivers of wood or metal from handles and blades. While these areas can be difficult to clean, they pose the most threat when it comes to food safety. Check these problem areas as you make your kitchen rounds, and train your staff to do the same.

Aside from properly storing your serving utensils there are a number of steps you can take as a manger or staff member that, when combined, will contribute to better food safety practices. If you make food safety an everyday priority then the next time the health inspector stops in you’ll be ready.

Scrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector IssuesHowever, if you’re just starting to address aspects of your establishment that might not meet the health inspector’s standards it’s a good idea to conduct your own inspections.

Come in unannounced. Surprise your employees on occasion and come in early. Observe how your staff behaves when you’re not expected, and see if there are any food safety issues that need to be addressed.

Use the local health inspection form. Get your hands on a copy of the local health inspection form to help you understand what criteria the inspector will use to evaluate your restaurant. Familiarize yourself with what they’ll be looking for, and regularly monitor the areas you’re having trouble with.

Conduct a thorough walkthrough. Be as objective as you can and approach your restaurant with fresh eyes. This may be difficult, as it’s often hard to scrutinize something you feel strongly about, but it’s exactly what the health inspector’s going to do.

Speak with your employees. Your employees are the front line of your establishment, and are the ones who will (or won’t) adhere to food safety procedures. View your walkthrough as a training experience for new and old employees alike, being specific about what is acceptable and what is not. This way they’re not as on edge when the inspector comes and will already have the know-how to keep things up to code.

Identify problems and fix them. Easier said than done in some cases, identifying your restaurant’s problem areas and coming up with solutions is more than a one person job. Don’t assume that just because you’ve outlined your food safety strategies with your employees that these strategies are being followed. Make it common practice to re-check for violations, and constantly reward employees for quickly correcting mistakes. With a little enthusiasm you can easily avoid sick customers, and worse yet a lawsuit. It’s a team effort, you’re just the captain.

Do yourself, your staff, and your customers a favor and re-evaluate your food safety program. Flush out potential holes, and commend yourself for things you’re doing well. Practicing proper food safety is just that, a practice. It takes constant attention to detail and a determination to not only “beat” the health inspector but to provide a complete picture of sanitary performance.

 

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What’s in the Oil: A Healthier Alternative to Fried Foods in Your Restaurant

What’s in the Oil?

What’s in the Oil: A Healthier Alternative to Fried Foods in Your Restaurant

Fried foods are the well-known rogue of the food industry, and with websites like Live Better America, consumers are becoming more aware of what’s in their food – and they’re making the choice to eat healthier.

Yet, it’s hard to stick to any diet when faced with killer tasting fries next to a well-made hamburger, and, oh, those mouthwatering fried appetizer plates of fried mushrooms, pickles and jalapeno poppers.

But there’s good news here, because those same sites that promote healthy living, are also helping consumers learn about healthy frying. By choosing the right fried oil and ensuring the best oil management practices, you can still deliver healthier fried food options without losing the taste.

Wait, let’s start with oil management, what is that?

Simply put, oil management is the art (and science) of getting the most out of your oil. It consists of choosing the right oil, understanding how oil is broken down, having a fryer with a built-in filtration system (and that recovers temperature quickly), and regularly testing oil quality.
Oil management is one of the greatest resources for any restaurant using a commercial fryer, because the frying oil alone is one of the biggest cost consumptions when it comes to frying; meaning, prolonging the life of the oil saves your restaurant money, $$$. And, making sure the oil is of good quality makes the food taste better, while still offering a healthier alternative.

Now, let’s talk healthy oils!

My grandparents use to cook the best fried chicken, in lard of course, and although mouth-watering and scrumptious, it was also artery clogging. Yet, with advances towards improving oil quality, especially in restaurants, that same fried chicken recipe can still be served-up without worrying about such adverse health concerns.

Some of the most commonly used healthy oils are high oleic canola and low linolenic soybean oils, which have the highest stability and nutrition value of other commonly used commercial cooking oils. Yes, they come with a much higher price tag than what you may be spending on traditional oils, but with good oil management practices, these oils actually last longer, which is where the money saving factor comes in. These oil types also come in shortening form, which is perfect for cookies, muffins and other sweets.

In comparison, partially hydrogenated oils may have a lower price tag and higher stability, but they also offer next to no nutritional value. Yet, unfortunately, there are a lot of restaurant owners that simply don’t care about oil quality, because they feel that they either loose flavor, or pay too much for the oil.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, today’s consumers are becoming savvier when it comes to the foods they eat, and they want it healthy – even when it’s fried. So, you have to ask yourself, if your restaurant isn’t making the switch to healthier oils, is it worth the loss in profit?

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From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your Employees

From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your EmployeesUnfortunately a high turnover rate is not always a positive aspect in regards to the restaurant industry. When it comes to customers, turnover can be great for your revenue. When it comes to employees, if it happens often, turnover can fracture the once-smooth operation of your establishment.

Employee turnover is inevitable, but if you follow a few basic procedures you can maximize your employee retention. Keeping the employees you have, and making the most of their skills and ambitions, can be the key to reducing your costs and increasing your restaurant’s efficiency.

Cast a wide net.  It’s hard to weed out who will cost you more money in the long run if you’ve only got one applicant. Cast that net wide and pull in as many possible candidates, from as many outlets as possible, to increase your chance of finding that golden employee.

Use multiple media.  When it comes to finding a job we’ve come a long way from circling ads in the Help Wanted section of the local paper. Think outside of that Help Wanted box and you’ll be surprised how many places potential employees look for employment. This goes hand-in-hand with casting that wide net. Talk to your current employees and tell them to spread the word. Put that ad in the local paper, but also post it to online job search sites. Let people know you’re looking by looking everywhere!

Screen. Screen. Screen. It’s easy to avoid the embarrassment of interviewing a candidate who’s completely wrong for the position, and also find someone who fits best, if you take the time to evaluate each candidate. Going over a stack of resumes one-by-one may take a while, but it’s definitely worth the time in the long run. Look at what’s important. Relevant job experience, references, and salary requirements can all play a large role in how that candidate operates and if they’ll be able to adapt to the position you’re offering.

Interview. If you’ve screened your candidates well, letting everyone who will work with them weigh in somehow, the interview process should be an extension of that screening. This is where you make sure the person on paper is actually the person you’re interviewing. You may laugh, but all too often people exaggerate their skills to sound more marketable. Make sure to ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. If you do this, and listen actively, you’ll get a feel for how the candidate views the job and also where they are in their life. Are they looking to hop in and out of your position within a matter of months, or are they someone you can count on further down the road?

From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your EmployeesTrain with your best. Now that you’ve found your new employee, make sure that person has access to your very best in terms of restaurant equipment and resources. A well trained employee may take time up front but can end up saving you more time and money in the future. An excellent way to groom your new hire is by having them shadow your top performing employee for a few days. This helps them learn the ins and outs of the job and also shows them what a good employee looks like. Create clear expectations and apparent avenues to achieve those expectations. Nothing costs more, money and time, than a confused employee acting on that confusion.

Be an example. Your staff essentially looks to you for approval and guidance. Giving them cues as to how you’d like things done, or what works best in a certain situation, can help eliminate confusion and garner good behavior. The best way to provide a positive work environment and retain your employees is to set a good example for everyone to follow.

Compensate creativelyTraditionally, compensation strategy has been to pay hourly for your kitchen staff, and have your waitstaff make most their pay through tips. High turnover and inefficient operation have caused some restaurants to rethink how they compensate. Here are two outside-the-box compensation strategies that have worked:

  1.  Salary your waitstaff. You’ll be surprised how priorities change. When you make a living on tips you’re often trying to up-sell and raise check averages, and in doing this top-notch service and customer satisfaction can suffer. On the other hand, salaried servers don’t feel the pressure to keep those tables turning. Instead they’re free to focus on the quality of service rather than the speed.
  2. Share profits with back of house. Most likely your kitchen staff is paid an hourly wage, and those employees will make that hourly no matter how quickly or efficiently they work. An incentive to keeping those in the back of the house productive is profit sharing. Let your kitchen staff earn shares based on how long they’ve been there, then let them share in the profits each quarter. This will help reduce turnover because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want a job that pays out a bonus 3 to 4 times a year? When an employee shares in your success it’s in their best interest to add to that success.

As we’ve discussed, turnover can be the factor that makes or breaks your business. Handling this turnover, and taking appropriate steps to avoid turnover wherever possible, can give you a leg up on your competition. Having a plan for approaching and reaching potential employees, and then following that plan through your hiring process, training, and eventually compensation can be invaluable. It all starts with you!

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