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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.

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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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What’s in the Water?

Leaky faucet

We are lucky here in the United States: our drinking water is some of the cleanest and safest in the world.

However, water quality isn’t something that should be graded on a curve. Despite having better tap water than most, our water supply isn’t perfect. Far from it.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which sets drinking water standards, regulators are constantly on the lookout for the following contaminants:

  • Microorganisms: e.g. human and animal fecal matter
  • Disinfectants: e.g. chlorine
  • Inorganic chemicals: e.g. lead, nitrates, arsenic
  • Organic chemicals: e.g. benzene, dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Radionuclides: e.g. uranium

Most of the time, concentrations of these contaminants are small enough to be harmless, and regulatory compliance among utilities and municipalities is quite high. Which is encouraging. But …

Research from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group nonetheless paints an unflattering portrait—that’s putting it mildly—of our nation’s water supply. The most unsettling aspect of their analysis? Most of the 300+ chemicals detected in our drinking water are unregulated, which means that public health officials have not set safety standards for them.

Some of these unregulated chemicals include:

  • Perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient known to be harmful to the thyroid gland
  • MTBE, a gasoline additive associated with liver and kidney damage and nervous system
  • Di-n-butylphthalate, a chemical from a group of industrial plasticizers linked to birth defects

Yikes.

A study commissioned by Everpure, a maker of water filtration systems for the food service industry, found that U.S. consumers care deeply about water quality.

Over 65 percent of consumers said that restaurants that filter their water are likely to have better quality food and beverages, and 74 percent said it is somewhat to extremely important for restaurants to filter their drinking water.

A Gallup poll had similar results, reporting that Americans rank water pollution as the number one environmental concern facing the country, with 84 percent saying they worried a “great deal” or a “fair amount” about pollution of drinking water.

Despite these widespread worries, progress still seems slow. For whatever reason, legislators don’t seem as interested in water quality as the rest of us, their constituents. But no one can argue that we’ve come a long way since the summer of 1969, when the Cuyahoga River caught fire and spurred the passage of the Clean Water Act.

Today, we don’t have the image of a burning river to get our attention. Our challenges are, in some ways, more difficult because they’re harder to see and easier to ignore.

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Spotlight: Tundra Restaurant Design Services

Tundra Design Services

Did you know Tundra provides a full menu of restaurant design and renovation services?

It’s true! Led by seasoned designers Jeff B. Katz and Bob E. McLaren, our team has over 70 years of combined experience and a gorgeous and diverse portfolio to show for it. (As a matter of fact, Jeff literally wrote the book on restaurant design.)

Working with your architect and interior designer, Tundra can design your restaurant—front and back of the house—with a perfect blend of form and function.

Our Restaurant Design Process

Whether you are planning a quaint neighborhood bistro or an expansive hotel dining room, every design project rests on the principles of clear communication, close attention to detail, and a spirit of collaboration.

In the initial discovery process, we work with our clients to assemble a clearly written document outlining demographic data, key objectives they want to deliver, the menu they want to showcase, and the facility they want to bring it altogether in. This document guides the design process and ensures that key concepts are integrated and goals met.

Next, in the development stage, our designers complete their comprehensive design program based on your operational plan. This can be used by all members of your design team and helps to define the required spaces, relationships, and design elements for the successful construction and operation of your restaurant.

Lastly, in the delivery stage, we address any unexpected conditions or challenges that might arise throughout the construction process. This is where our experience in construction and our understanding of operational constraints comes in handy. We are able to resolve issues quickly and maintain forward momentum to keep the project on time and on budget.

Looking for a Restaurant Design Quote?

Tell us about your design needs and overall objectives and we’ll get right to work! Our proposals are known for being detailed, accurate and thorough, accounting for taxes and freight.

And since our design team has direct access to the Tundra inventory, as well as long-standing relationships in the industry, we are able to prepare very competitive bids—without sacrificing quality.

To get started, call 888-388-6372, then press 3, or submit a design-quote request online. We’re excited to learn more about your restaurant’s objectives, and offer you a custom quote that matches your goals, concepts and operational needs.

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