eTundra Categories

Archive | In The Restaurant

Working in a restaurant? Then these articles are probably perfect for you! From server issues to recipes for the cook, these are some of our favorite In The Restaurant finds.

Food Allergies Aren’t Going Away

food-allergies

As many as 15 million people in the USA (and 17 million Europeans) have some kind of food allergy.

As a restaurant owner, it’s crucial that your kitchen and staff have a process in place to indicate safe food-handling instructions for diners with food allergies. States like Massachusetts and Rhode Island require restaurants to display a food allergy awareness poster featuring the eight most common food allergies (developed by FARE) to protect diners.

But a poster is just the beginning. Many restaurants are requiring additional employee training that instructs staff how to handle customers with food allergies; everything from food preparation (and which utensils are used) to where ingredients are stored are crucial to preventing cross-contamination and keeping diners safe.

Types of food allergies

Most likely you’re familiar with these eight common types of food allergies:

  1. Milk allergy
  2. Egg allergy
  3. Wheat allergy
  4. Peanut allergy
  5. Tree nut allergy
  6. Fish allergy
  7. Shellfish allergy
  8. Soy allergy

Diners suffering from these allergies are typically able to find a menu-substitute to meet their needs, but if you’re fond of butter and cream-based sauces, be cognizant of a substitution for those with a dairy allergy.

Also be wary of cross-contamination, particularly for those with nut-based allergies like tree nuts and peanuts (yes, two different allergies). Nuts may emit a fine powder that could affect other ingredients in your pantry, so take care with their storage. Also clearly denote (and inform staff) which salad dressings might contain nuts (like cashew powder)—salad dressings are a hidden culprit as many diners don’t consider nuts are in them!

What is the difference between a food allergy versus a food intolerance?
A food allergy causes an immune system reaction that may affect various parts of the body and range from mild to severe or life-threatening. A food intolerance, however, tends to be less serious and instead affects your body’s digestive system.

‘Gluten-free’ has become marketing buzzword that’s put on everything from specialized pastas to homemade polish-style latkes at your local farmer’s market. Still unsure of what gluten actually is? Don’t fret, you’re not alone:

Gluten is in fact a protein found in wheat and related grains (like barley and rye). It’s what gives your pasta and bread dough elasticity and shape. Most diners who opt for gluten-free options are either gluten intolerant, or suffer from Celiac disease, an immune reaction to eating the protein gluten. In fact, a new study shows that nearly two million Americans have celiac disease, making it four times more common now than it was 50 years ago.

 

How do you prepare for diners with allergies or food intolerances? Do you have a special menu or are you prepared to customize your offerings?


Shop Tundra Restaurant Supply’s line of allergen-safe purpled-designated kitchen products »


Continue Reading

Chefs Creatively Tackle California’s Drought Laws

When Mother’s Day looks like this in your state…

blog-post

4 inches of snowfall on May 10th in Louisville, Colorado.

…it’s hard to imagine other parts of the country are facing the most severe droughts on record. California is entering its 4th year of drought, which has depleted snowpacks, rivers, and lakes. Last Tuesday, May 5th, the California State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation requiring an immediate 25% reduction in overall potable urban water use; that 25% is anticipated to save more than 1.2 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months.

The National Restaurant Association reports that quickservice restaurants consume 500 to 1,500 gallons of water a day, with full-service restaurants clocking in at an astonishing 5,000 gallons. Water conservation should be a priority for your restaurant, whether or not you’re located in an area with government-imposed sanctions. Why? Because issues concerning water and other valuable resources affect the industry as a whole, so it’s good to plan ahead and utilize best practices now. Here are a few ways that you can start practicing water conservation (from The National Restaurant Association).

Conserve water now:

  • Serve water to guests upon request
    How often are you dumping out an entire glass of water simply because a guest left it behind and you need a fresh product for the next party? Those 16oz add up quick over a shift.
  • Run dishwashers only when full
    Seems like common sense, but wait to wash those dishes until you can’t even fit a spoon in there.

Long-term investment: Energy Star-rated equipment
Next time you need to replace your refrigerator, dishwasher, combi ovens or other equipment, make sure it’s Energy-related. Energy-efficient equipment can save you thousands of dollars a year.

You can also get creative
As reported by Eater, California chef John Cox, executive chef of Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn, got creative in his water efficiency—he replaced his restaurant’s dish sprayer with an air compressor. “Sierra Mar uses approximately 3,500 gallons of water per day,” Cox says. He continues on his Facebook page, “One of the single largest uses is for spraying off dirty pans and dishes before loading them into the dish machine. That spray handle uses close to 1,000 gallons of water per day.”

The air compressor reduces the sprayer use to 80%, or saves nearly 800 gallons of water a day.

The video, which he shared on his Facebook page, is an appeal to other restaurants to follow suit as an easy way to conserve water.

chef-video-thumbnail

For more information on how to set up your own “Kitchen Compressor Hack” visit Chef Cox’s blog here »

Is water conservation a priority at your restaurant? What are ways you conserve water in your kitchen?

Continue Reading

Should Restaurants be Required to Have Changing Tables in the Men’s Restroom?

Where to Change the Stinky Diaper?

California recently tried to pass two bills that required businesses to have diaper changing tables in both restrooms – men’s and women’s. The bills were both vetoed, as the California Governor, Jerry Brown, felt that the decision to have diaper changing tables should be left up to the business owner(s).

Even with a veto, these bills do raise questions on the requirements of diaper changing tables in the men’s room in private businesses, especially family-friendly restaurants. I’ll let you give us your own thoughts in the comments below, but here are a few reasons why we think you should have changing tables and a few reasons why we understand you don’t.

Why You Should Have Diaper Changing Tables

  1. It’s only fair to have a changing station available for both parents.
  2. Because some people are totally fine with changing diapers at your restaurant dining area tables.
  3. If you are a family-friendly establishment, your parent patrons are expecting to see a diaper changing table – yes, even in the men’s room. Seriously, someone already made a site to help parents find changing-table-friendly-restaurants.
  4. They’re really not that expensive.
  5. Koala makes stylish models to fit your decor.
  6. Some areas have very extreme temperatures that make it difficult to change a baby in the car. Having a spot to safely change the baby makes for happy parents.

Why You Don’t Have Diaper Changing Tables

  1. Traditionally, there aren’t diaper changing tables in the men’s room. How have dads been changing diapers up until now? No reason to break something that isn’t broken.
  2. Because some people like to try to sit on the changing table, thus breaking them. You’ve already replaced them 4 times and now you’re taking a stand.
  3. They’re ugly/they don’t go with the decor.
  4. They’re gross – these things are nastier than the toilet seats!
  5. It’s not a requirement; it’s a courtesy.
  6. There are potential liability issues.

Tell us what you think about diaper changing tables being required in a restaurant.

Continue Reading

How to Clean Pizza Pans

Scrubbing Hard to Clean Pan

Pizza pans are a great investment, especially when you know they’ll last you years to come; that is, if you know how to take care of them. Overtime, they start to get grease build-up (that thick brown layer) and become sticky or tacky to the touch. This is actually a polymerizing process of the oils – a varnishing, if you will. But alas, those pans aren’t destined for the garbage – just add a little elbow grease and time to get them back to new again! Here are a few suggestions from our friends at American Metalcraft for getting those pizza pans back in working order.

Method #1

What You Need

Get to Cleaning

  1. Start by boiling a gallon of water with 2 cups of vinegar. If you can fit more than a gallon of water in your sink, just remember that you’ll need 2 cups of vinegar to every gallon of water.
  2. Once it reaches a boil, pour the boiling water and vinegar into a large, plugged sink.
  3. Add your pizza pans to the sink. If your sink is too small to fit the entire pan, just rotate it a few times as it soaks.
  4. When the water cools down to the point you can stick your hands in it, go ahead and sprinkle the pan with baking soda and scrub with a scouring pad until it comes clean.
  5. Clean the pan as you normally would – soap and water – then rinse.
  6. Re-season the pan with vegetable oil.

Method #2

What You Need

Get to Cleaning

Carbon-Off is for tough, stuck-on stains, and works to dissolve grease and carbon build-up.

  1. Spray the pizza pans with Carbon-Off.
  2. Let them soak for 5 minutes.
  3. With the scouring pad, start scrubbing the pans until all of the build-up starts coming off.
  4. Clean the pans as you normally would.
  5. Re-season the pans with vegetable oil.
Continue Reading

New Payment Technology: What You Need To Know

Apple Pay

Recent data, compiled by Statista, estimates there were more than 153,000 quick service restaurant franchise establishments actively operating in the United States in 2013. In an era of such steep competition, serving great food isn’t enough to attract or retain customers. To build customer loyalty and consistent purchase patterns, food service businesses must cater to the entire customer experience, including accommodating the latest payment technology. Here’s a look at recent evolutions in payment technology, and how they’re changing the way customers want to be served by restaurants.

Mobile payment options at the point of sale. An estimated 58 percent of the American population now has a smartphone, and the masses are quickly becoming accustomed to on-demand, nearly instant results. By plugging a dongle (small device that a payment processor provides) into the jack of a smartphone or mobile device, for example, wait staff can quickly swipe a customer’s credit, debit, or gift card to complete a secure transaction tableside or while they wait in line to pick up an order.

Self-serve mobile payment. Mobile devices empower consumers to “self-serve” in a way that meets their needs at any given time and in any context. Their expectations of the same type of control are seeping into their restaurant experience too. Data compiled by Statista reveals that 43 percent of consumers’ ages 18 to 34 have used a smartphone to pay for a meal. Thanks to advances in near field communications (NFC) technology, the idea of waiting in a checkout line, or even interacting with a person at the cash register to pay, will soon be extinct. For example, Subway recently introduced its Softcard app, which uses NFC technology to allow Subway customers to “tap” their mobile device in the restaurant to complete payment while they wait for their sandwich to be prepared. To incentivize use, Subway is offering consumers a small discount on their purchase when they use the app to pay, and soon, plans to incorporate its rewards program into the app for easy redemption.

Apple Pay. It’s only been a month since Apple Pay was announced to the public, but thanks to partnerships with leading restaurant brands (including Subway and McDonald’s), it’s likely to impact the food service industry and consumer expectations of the payment technology restaurants use. Unlike mobile wallets of the past (like Google Wallet), Apple Pay combines partnerships with credit card issuers, financial institutions, retailers and restaurant brands in tandem with NFC-enabled communication to provide enhanced data security. Sensitive credit card data isn’t transmitted or stored on a consumer’s mobile device, the restaurant’s servers, or Apple’s. Consumers complete purchases on Apple Pay (set to release in late October) by holding the device near an NFC-enabled card reader, and using their fingertip to authenticate.

Branded apps. A 2013 study conducted by The National Restaurant Association revealed that 46 percent of consumers surveyed say they would use a restaurant’s app to place an order and pay, if the option was available to them. Thanks to food service industry leaders like Starbucks, which reports that 14 percent of its transactions now take place with its mobile app, consumers are increasingly familiar with using branded apps to order, redeem and earn rewards, and pay directly from a mobile device while in a restaurant.

The key to branded app success? Convenience. With Starbucks app, for example, consumers can manage and replenish available funds from a smartphone, and using a bar code, baristas scan the device to accept payments at the point of sale. The company recently added the ability to tip hours after the transaction and to “shake” the app to quickly find the card the customer wants to use for payment.

Continue Reading

Cleaning Behind Heavy-Duty Restaurant Equipment

Restaurant Kitchen & Heavy Duty Equipment

I’ve watched too many TV shows on restaurants that fail to clean under their heavy duty equipment, that it seemed fitting to write a post on exactly how easy it is to clean in a place that may seem hard to reach. Not only is it absolutely disgusting to ignore cleaning underneath and behind kitchen equipment, it violates health laws. Working with our friends from Dormont, here’s a list of how to move that heavy equipment out of the way for easy cleaning.

Moving Equipment for Cleaning

  1. Before moving anything, make sure the equipment is powered off.
  2. Your equipment should have casters or Stoveshoes, either of which will easily help move the equipment away from the wall. Stop the equipment when the cables (electric, gas, etc.) become taut.
  3. Reach behind the equipment and unplug the electricity cord.
  4. You’ll also want to shut off the gas supply at this point. The valve can be found on the main gas line. The valve needs to be turned to the off position.
  5. To disconnect the gas line, pull back the sleeve of the quick-disconnect coupling (on Dormont lines). Take care with the coupling and electrical cord, as dropping it on the floor could cause damage to these parts.
  6. Detach the restraining cable – the cable that prevents the equipment from rolling or being pulled too far away from the wall.
  7. At this point the equipment should be disconnected from the wall and can easily be moved out of the way, which makes cleaning a bit easier. Don’t forget about the wall while cleaning – it needs to get scrubbed too.
  8. When cleaning, make sure that no cleaners or detergents get into the electrical outlet, gas line (coupler), or the quick-disconnect coupling.

Reattaching Equipment After Cleaning

  1. Make sure none of the lines you are reattaching are kinked. If they are, simply untwist them.
  2. Reattach the restraining cable.
  3. Reattach the quick-disconnect coupling by inserting the plug end into the coupler.
  4. Turn the gas valve back to on.
  5. Re-plugin the electrical cord.
  6. Carefully push the equipment back into place, making sure one of the cords get twisted up and they aren’t being run over by the equipment.
  7. Light the pilot, if need be, and turn the equipment back on.
Shop Dormont
Continue Reading

6 Tips on Boosting Your Restaurants Most Profitable Items on the Menu

Server at Restaurant

Profit margins are notoriously slim in the restaurant world, but boosting the volume of drinks and desserts you sell can be one of the simplest ways to generate more profit from every customer served. Here are six simple ways to sell more of the items that stand to put the most cash back into your restaurant.

1. Package your meals appropriately.

Offering some meals in a prix fixe format can be a symbiotic tactic you can leverage to sell your most profitable items in a way that feels like a value to the customer. Additionally, custom menus encourage diners to try profitable items that they love, but wouldn’t typically consider without the “package” deal, including a specialty cocktail, dessert or dessert wine.

2. Redesign your menu.

Effective menu design is an art and science; the images and layout you use to “tell a story” while guiding the diner’s eye where you most want it to go is a key piece to selling more of the items you want. Because the upper right corner of the menu is generally where the eye travels first, your most profitable items should be featured there. If you can avoid indicating prices (or at best, can minimize the level of attention they get on the menu), you also stand the best chance of convincing customers based on imagery and language, versus price alone.

3. Tweak your language.

Revamping the language you use to relevantly appeal to your customer’s motivations, needs, and desires can have a significant impact on your ability to sell profitable items. In fact, Brian Wansink, professor and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University estimates that using descriptive terms on your menu can boost sales by as much as 27 percent. Likewise, training wait staff to approach profitable items as a sales-oriented conversation versus a closed-ended question (“Do you want to hear our specials?”) can change the outcome of the order, too.

4. Give a complimentary “introducer.”

Boosting your profits by offering free food may seem counter-intuitive, but when you offer complimentary items like freshly baked bread, chips, or olives, they ideally make people want to order something even more profitable as an accompaniment. You establish a “win-win,” e.g. tasty basket of chips and salsa presented alongside your mouth-watering margarita menu can act as a natural food pairing.

5. Make the customer feel valued.

Free food on the table doesn’t just appease a hungry customer, it can make them willing to order at a certain threshold at your restaurant in exchange for your generosity — especially if the “freebie” is perceived as high quality. In a Freakonomics podcast about free appetizers, Cornell University professor Michael Lynn supported that theory, stating that “by giving away free items you’re increasing the appeal of what you have to offer to the public.”

6. Create a feeling of celebration.

Wansink also explains in the Freakonomics podcast that diners have different mental scripts based on the dining occasion, and will typically “perform” appropriate to that script and corresponding “consumption norms.” For example, because desserts and drinks typically accompany special occasions and celebrations, a diner who may not typically order dessert may do just that when the meal is for a special occasion, simply due to social norms. You can boost the likelihood that diners consider your profitable drinks and desserts by leveraging celebrations to your advantage. Train servers to ask if a special occasion brings diners in, and suggestively sell based on that response. (For example, a recently engaged couple will likely respond to champagne, while a couple who just found out they’re having a baby girl will likely respond to the opportunity to indulge in cake with pink icing.) In addition, you can create a lively and celebratory atmosphere supported by appropriate music, scents and sounds that generally make diners feel like they want to stay longer for dessert and drinks.

There may be limits to the prices you can negotiate with your suppliers, or the price you can command for various items from customers without hurting demand, but there are many small yet mighty tactics restaurant owners can leverage to drive profitable drink and dessert sales. With the collective impact of these small changes, you can have a significant impact on your bottom line, and the brand image you form for your restaurant in the customer’s mind.

Continue Reading

Who Uses Soap On Cast Iron?

Cast Iron Pan

In the residential kitchen, we’re all quite aware of the 3 forbidden rules when it comes to cast iron:

  1. Never, ever use soap!
  2. Never, ever soak it in water!
  3. Never, ever let water rest on it after being cleaned!

Depending on who you talk to, and how big their love for cast iron is, there could definitely be some rules added to this list – never use metal utensils, throw out rusted pans (this one hurts my heart a little bit), always season new pans, etc.  However, whether it be a frying pan, oven to table ware, or griddles, almost all of these rules are different when it comes to using cast iron in a restaurant.

Restaurant Use of Cast Iron

If you scour the web for help with taking care of cast iron in a restaurant, resources are very limited, and almost all of the information you find is for home cooks.  However, all of these forbidden rules aren’t the same in the commercial kitchen, because there are health code regulations that don’t allow for a pan to be simply wiped clean and re-used.

If you’re one of those home cooks, prepare to be blown away by what we’re about to tell you.

Wiping a pan clean or using salt to scrub the left-over bits away is not the way to properly clean cast iron after being used in a restaurant.  In fact, as far as the health inspector is concerned, the same holds true for cast iron as with any other pan: it has to be ran through a 3-sink basin with detergent/rinse/sanitizer in order to be properly cleaned for re-use.  As in most commercial kitchens, the detergent that is required to be used is specifically for what’s being cleaned; e.g. pots and pans has their own detergent, just as flatware has a particular pre-rinse formula.  If you think about it, it makes sense to clean cast iron like this, to ensure the seasoning of the pan doesn’t turn rancid – risky and scary.

So, want to know how restaurants get away with not following all of those forbidden cast iron rules?  They use those pans so many more times than that same pan would ever be used in the residential kitchen and they’re stored in a very hot environment, which basically helps them season themselves.

Now, that’s not to say that in the commercial kitchen other rules aren’t followed to help maintain a nice seasoning, which includes doing the first initial seasoning and wiping the pan down with vegetable oil or lard before storing (which a lot of residential users do as well).

With that said, because there is health code obstacles in the way of using cast iron in the food service industry, many cooks have started using hi-carbon or black steel pans to get a close substitute without having to worry about violating health code.

Continue Reading

The Cost of Cash Only

Pay CashSticking to a “cash only” system may seem like the simplest way to run your business and ensure consistent cash flow, but when you don’t offer customers the opportunity to use other forms of payment, including credit and debit cards, you miss significant opportunities to build your business. Here’s a look at the cost of operating a “cash only” food service operation, and why opening your mind to additional forms of payment can lead to more revenue and profitability.

Your customers spend less when they pay with cash

You may not like the idea of payment processing fees that are required in order to accept debit or credit cards, but such costs are minimal compared to the potential improvement in your average order sizes. As cognitive scientist Art Markman, Ph.D., explains in a Psychology Today article, people tend to be less price-sensitive when they pay with credit, compared to parting with tangible cash. He also cites a study specifically conducted for the restaurant industry indicating that when customers see a major credit card logo when paying for their order, they tip more than they would in the absence of a card logo.

You’ll lose most of your potential audience

Javelin Strategy & Research estimates that just 23 percent of transactions will involve cash by the year 2017; The Huffington Post reports that 81 percent of money spent in full-service restaurants is now done by way of credit, debit or prepaid card. In response to customer demand around payment options, it’s estimated that 92 percent of restaurants now accept credit cards. Operating with a “cash is king” mentality presents a barrier to reaching the majority of your potential market and is an inherent competitive disadvantage in the eyes of the customer — despite your best efforts to provide exceptional service, food and prices.

It’s not as tough to accept credit as you think

If the perceived cost of accepting credit and debit cards is the reason you’ve maintained a “cash only” position, many options tailored to suit the needs of small businesses and startups now exist in the payment processing space. Accepting credit cards no longer requires bulky equipment or long-term contracts. In fact, accepting credit cards may allow you to transition to a less cumbersome point-of-sale alternative than you currently use for cash, such as a “dongle” — a small device that plugs into the jack of a smartphone or tablet. Though merchants who accept credit cards do incur payment processing fees ranging anywhere between 0.95 percent to more than 2 percent per credit card transaction, those rates are significantly less costly than the lost opportunity a cash only model presents. If you’re truly concerned about your ability to absorb the costs of accepting credit cards, you can also mandate policies around minimum purchases required to pay with a credit or debit card, and/or raising menu prices slightly to make up for the additional processing costs.

You take on unnecessary operational burdens and risk

A cash-only model may seem like the easiest way to handle income, but it presents operational inefficiencies with inherent costs, including the time and fuel expenses associated with driving to the bank to make manual deposits, the risk of human error in giving customers the wrong amount of change for a purchase, and possible theft. Many payment processors now deliver electronic payment for credit card purchases directly to the merchant’s bank account in as little as 24 hours.

You can’t give customers convenience

When you only accept cash, transaction processing tends to be longer, adding to wait times, and inconveniencing customers to the point that they may choose your competitor out of convenience. Additionally, there’s a cost associated with that customer who places an order, only to discover that he or she can’t pay for the order once it’s ready because he or she didn’t realize you’re a cash only restaurant.

Cash is no longer king in the collective consumer mind, even for small purchases like coffee and snacks. Though accepting credit and debit cards does present a cost you may not bear with a cash-only business, the fees are minimal compared to the lost opportunity you face today, and will continue to battle, as cash becomes a less and less popular form of payment over the next few years.

Continue Reading

Kitchen Tricks: How to Cut Iceberg Lettuce [Video]

Iceberg lettuce is a salad staple and whether you’re prepping large salads for a buffet or just trying to get the kids to start eating vegetables, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself cutting a lot of it. Use this trick to save yourself some time in the process!

Before taking action from the content or resources published here, we request that you visit and review our terms of use.

 

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Chris Tavano for Tundra Restaurant Supply, and in today’s episode, I’m going to show you how to cut through Iceberg Lettuce in a much more efficient manner. Here’s the old fashioned traditional way we would just cut through a head of Iceberg Lettuce. Probably cut in half of some sort, split the halves, try to identify where the core’s at. That way we can rip out this core whether you cut it out or you rip it out with your hand. There’s obviously a lot of manual work right here. Then you can finally start cutting your lettuce for your salad.

However, I’ll show you a quick and easy step to get that core out of this Iceberg head. See the core right there? Slides it right out. Now you can start chopping away on your lettuce. I’m Chris Tavano for Tundra Restaurant Supply. Here’s to a better mise en place!

Continue Reading