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.

How to Clean a Commercial Griddle

Commercial griddle

If you ask 10 professional chefs how to clean a commercial griddle, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.

There are several ways to skin the proverbial cat.

While cleaning methods and materials may differ from chef to chef, the goal is universal: a clean, sanitary griddle that allows for efficient cooking and delicious, unadulterated food.

What You’ll Need

It usually takes 5-10 minutes to properly clean a grill.

Directions

  • While the griddle is hot, pour 1 cup of cooking oil (you can use fryer oil) onto the griddle surface.
  • Scrub the griddle surface with a griddle brick/pumice stone, making small concentric circles—Miyagi style—until the surface is clean.
  • Scrape the oil into the grease trough and discard. Turn the griddle off.
  • Pour (carefully) 1 cup of club soda/seltzer water onto the still-hot griddle. The carbonation helps loosen and lift stubborn grease.
  • Scrub the griddle surface with your griddle brick/pumice stone, making small concentric circles until the surface is clean. Scrape remaining liquid into the trough for discarding.
  • Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar onto the griddle surface, spreading liquid out evenly across the entire surface and not allowing the vinegar to pool.
  • Rub the griddle surface with a rag, making small concentric circles until the surface is polished.
  • Scrape the vinegar into your grease trough and discard.
  • Rub the surface with a rag soaked in cooking oil to polish and reseason the steel.
  • Bask in the warm glow of your newly cleaned griddle.

“How Often Should I Clean My Commercial Griddle?”

If your griddle sees heavy daily use, we advise cleaning it daily. This will prevent flavor transfer, efficiency loss and unsightly burnt-oil-flake contamination.

Shop griddle supplies at eTundra.com:

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

Continue Reading

Routine Restaurant Maintenance Tips

Routine maintenance can help save your time & money in your restaurant.

When restaurateurs, and others, in the food service industry are looking for ways to save money, all too often, those savings can be found in areas that are being neglected in-house. Say, what? That’s right, those big pieces of equipment in your kitchen need to have routine maintenance and cleaning, or they’ll breakdown. In fact, many equipment repair companies prefer to come into a kitchen that has been maintained throughout the year, because it’s easier to do big fixes – which means savings for you too. And once equipment gets to the point that it’s no longer running, you’re already out a lot more than you would have been if you would have kept up with routine maintenance.

When equipment is maintained throughout the year, it lasts longer. Condenser and evaporator coils on refrigeration units will build-up dust and grease, and if the mess isn’t cleaned up on a weekly basis (for most food service businesses), you’ll likely end up with broken equipment much sooner than you desired. And it’s not just the equipment you need to worry about. Of course, that’s where you’ll see the majority of savings coming back to you, but there are plenty of other areas throughout your business that can save you money. Let’s take the chairs and tables throughout the dining room for example, when’s the last time you made sure the screws and hardware were secure? What do you think a fall from a customer would cost you if a chair wasn’t thoroughly checked over at least once a quarter?

Maintenance Tips

These lists of routine restaurant maintenance tips aren’t necessarily a go-to-resource for every business, because every business, like every piece of equipment, has needs specific to the way they operate. However, what you can count on every time, is the owner/ operator manual that came with each piece of equipment. It is this information that will speak directly to the model you are caring for. Can’t find the manual? Most equipment manufacturers have digital copies on their websites for new and discontinued models. Should you need help finding the right manual, give our team a call, we will get you and your equipment taken care of!

DAILY

  • All kitchen equipment should be wiped down including the inside, outside and underneath the appliance. This includes all stainless steel surfaces.
  • Moisture is rusts best friend so it is important to wipe sinks & faucets dry with a soft rag.
  • Beverage machine faucets need to be unassembled and soaked to prevent sugar build-up.
  • Wash down floor mats in kitchen and bar areas to prevent grease build up.

WEEKLY

  • Dust the condenser coils on your refrigeration systems.
  • Clean air-intake openings on convection ovens.
  • Clean shelving panels using a mild detergent and soft cloth.
  • Have a professional cleaning company do a top to bottom cleaning of your restrooms.

MONTHLY

  • Change or clean the filter in your air conditioning units.
  • Clean combustion fans on fryers.
  • Wipe down the ceiling, floor and walls of your walk-in to avoid mold and bacteria growth.
  • Clean dishwasher including washing and rinsing arms.
  • Clean out and wash down prep table units entirely.
  • Inspect gaskets on every piece of equipment, wipe down and replace as needed.
  • Check grease filters for build-up.
  • Check gas hoses for leaks – soapy water works best; where there are bubbles, there are issues.
  • Change glue boards in pest control traps.
  • Re-stock your First Aid kits.

QUARTERLY

  • Tighten all hardware on dining room furniture.
  • Tighten all stall hardware in restrooms.
  • Inspect ventilation and exhaust hoods for loose belts.

SEMI-ANNUALLY

  • Change water filters on beverage and ice machines, combi ovens, coffee brewers…etc.
  • Have AC and heating unit checked by a professional.
  • Calibrate thermostats in appliances, i.e. oven, fryer, refrigerator.
  • Clean and inspect ventilation system hood, duct and exhaust fan.

ANNUALLY

  • Replace your ventilation system exhaust fan belt and makeup air belt.
  • Make it part of the culture of your kitchen to educate your employees! An educated staff can spot the signs and address any issues before they turn into bigger, more costly problems.
Continue Reading

How Parents Can Help Their Kids Be Better Restaurant Diners

Help teach kids be better diners before they eat at a restaurant.

Yes, your child is cute.  Especially when it comes to how cute they are as they run around a restaurant, throw their food on the ground, sloppily smear food all over the table and their mouths, scream at the top of their lungs, and impatiently wait for their meals.  Yes, the entire restaurant is sharing in all of the cuteness that is your child.

And how awesome are you to choose a restaurant that is the completely opposite of kid friendly.  In fact, the menu would probably be more appealing on mommy and daddy date night than it would on family night.  And it’s 9pm, so I’m sure your kids are going to just sit down and patiently wait for their late night meal, all without being irritable; especially, because you forgot to bring them any sort of entertainment as they wait their cute little faces off.

Oh you, you deserve the parent of the year award.  The rest of us will just find one of those restaurants that don’t allow kids anymore.

Behavior Expectations for Kids in Restaurants

If you’re one of those parents that’s up in arms about the recent child ban in restaurants, then you aren’t going to like this post (I should have probably led with this sentence, but the cuteness of your child took over).  Not because I’m going to tell you I’m pro- or anti-kids in restaurants, but I’m going to be honest with why restaurants have gotten to the point to enforce a child ban.

It’s because you need to teach your children dinner table manners before you start venturing out into restaurant dining.

Yes, it’s your fault.  But, you can help your child be a better diner, which will save other restaurant patrons a lot of stress while dining out, and to be honest, you as well.  I’m a parent of two little boys, and I know what dining at a restaurant with children is about.  I know how it can get stressful and how they can make messes, but I also know that there are things that I can do to help them not be a restaurants worse nightmare.

It starts at home.

If your child doesn’t know how to properly use a napkin, including keeping it in their lap or tucked into their shirt, you should stick with a restaurant that you know is kid friendly.  They need to know that milk-mustaches may be fun at home, but not when dining out; that is, unless you’re cool with seeing a grown man show off his milk mustache while dining out – awkward, right?

Have your child ask to be excused from the table.  They shouldn’t be getting up and down throughout the meal.  It’s a time to sit and enjoy each other’s company.  If they are still too young to sit through an entire meal, then just keep working on it.  I have my children ask to be excused, which helps them remember that staying seated is important.

Expand their palate.  Yes, hotdogs and chicken nuggets are kid staples, but if you are going to venture out to a restaurant that you know doesn’t have things like this on the menu, then they need to be willing to try what is available.  For example, The Kitchen Next Door, in Boulder, Colorado, is happy to be kid friendly, but they don’t bother with changing their menu just to suite kids’ palates.  Instead, they offer fun, new things like kale chips, marinated beans, slow roast pork sliders, and beet burger sliders.  If your child would turn their nose up to different foods like this, try introducing new foods at home first.

In the restaurant.

High chair at restaurantPick a restaurant that’s perfect for your child.  If you know they won’t eat anything on the menu, that it’s too late to take them out, or they aren’t behaved enough to not drive other diners crazy, pick another restaurant.  I know you may be craving a certain menu item at a particular restaurant, but you need to be willing to know what restaurants are for date night and what restaurants are for kids dining night.  My husband and I love our local sushi restaurant, but we wouldn’t take our kids in there just yet.  We don’t feel that it’s a good fit for our kids, but hat’s okay though, there are plenty of other restaurants I can take them to, and we can expand their palates for sushi, at home (the bonus with sushi is that it’s also fun to make at home with the kiddos).

And to even think about walking into a nice restaurant late at night, already brings on feelings of anxiety.  Kids are tired, hungry, and irritable late at night.  They’d be much more suited for a quick drive through or dine-in option at that point (think Noodles & Co, Chipotle, Mod Market, etc.).

When you do decide to dine out, bring something for them to do while they wait for their food.  Not all restaurants are going to have things to entertain your child, so take some of that responsibility on.  In this day and age, the majority of parents have smartphones and tablets that will pacify any child, but there are plenty of other fun things that you can bring along to help pass the time.

If your child doesn’t like anything on the menu, odds are you picked the wrong restaurant.  However, it’s nice when kids are willing to try new things.  When we go to a Mexican restaurant, my youngest has no idea what half of the menu items are, but I explain what is in the dish and he’s always sold when I mention cheese; he’s actually tried a lot of things that he ends up loving.

This one’s a given to me, but I’ve seen so many parents just leave messes lying about.  Clean up your messes.  Accidents happen, crumbs fall, and mouths get messy.  I know.  But if you aren’t willing to clean up (or at least help clean up) your own messes, don’t expect someone else to; that’s just rude.

It’s nice to give a helping hand.  Seriously, stacking the dishes, collecting the silverware, and pushing it off to one area of the table is just polite.  I used to waitress and loved when families came in and did this.  It made it totally worth it to serve their table.  I do the same thing when we eat out – almost obsessively – and our servers LOVE it!

If your children can’t keep quiet just yet, pick a restaurant that you don’t have to worry about them being too loud.  I swear by sports restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings, because they have the perfect mix for all of us!  The noise level is always up, so we don’t have to be particularly quiet, and there’s a game on the screen that keeps us all happy.

And finally, set realistic expectations for your child.  If you know they aren’t a good diner at home just yet, don’t expect them to be good diners at a restaurant.  Nothing is worse than a child misbehaving, and frustration levels climbing because he/she won’t listen.  If you know your child will be okay at a restaurant, remind them of their manners before entering, and if they mess up, that’s okay but talk with them about it afterwards.

What Weird Things Do Your Kids Eat?

As I wrote this, I started to think of all sorts of foods that my kids eat that are likely not seen as normal to most; at least, I know I wasn’t eating these things when I was younger.  Here are a few things that our kids beg to eat again and again…

  • Raw Oysters.  Yes, I know they’re pricey, but they are so darn good!  We started by getting a plate for my husband and I for an appetizer, and after the boys tried one, they were sold!  So, now we have to get a much larger plate of them.
  • Kale Chips.  If you haven’t tried these for yourself, you’ve been missing out!  They are super yummy, and, surprisingly, the kids love them!
  • Brussels Sprouts.  I don’t know if this is a weird one, but when I grew up, I thought it was odd that I was the only one of my friends that didn’t turn their noses up at these little cabbage greens.  I suppose that’s why I think it’s odd that both of my boys love Brussels sprouts too!
  • Sushi.  It’s kind of hard for them to roll the sushi, but they have no problem putting all of the ingredients together to make their own roll.
  • Salads.  Instead of putting all of the salad together in one big bowl, I separate each item into smaller bowls so they can pick what vegetable and/or fruit they want to eat.  Even if it doesn’t include lettuce, each of my boys has their own favorite pick that they choose – it makes dinner time fun and healthy!

Continue Reading

Restaurants & Kids

Restaurants that are kid-friendly, and those that aren't.

Yes, I know there are restaurants that cater to kids and restaurants that don’t.  I’m a mother to two awesome little boys – online I call them Max and White Bread – and we typically have to pick our restaurants based on whether the boys are joining Mom and Dad, or not.  So, I know that these “kids in restaurants” posts need to be in three parts:

My original article was going to be on making a more kid-friendly restaurant, but as I started talking about this subject, I learned that people are really passionate about this topic.  And I get it, even as a Mom.

I’ve been in a restaurant with screaming kids, and you think to yourself, “Seriously, are you not going to take your screaming kid out to the car until they are done with their fit?  The rest of us are trying to enjoy our food!”

I’ve also been the parent whose kid is screaming, and I’m like, “Ugh, okay, let’s go outside until you cool off and we’ll start over.”  But I’ve also learned that I can teach my children manners and choose restaurants that are great for them, that are kid-friendly.

We also have restaurants that we refuse to bring our kids too.  Those types of restaurants are for when Mom and Dad are dining alone, and we’re okay with that.

I’ve also been a waitress in a restaurant and know what it’s like to serve a table full of kids – there’s likely to be a mess, a lower bill (hence a lower tip too), and screaming (oh, the screaming).  But again, parents and servers can learn a thing or two to make the entire experience better.

With that, I’ll end by saying that I hope that you get a chance to read each of the articles posted before sounding off.  I know we all have passion in one of these areas, but we all live our own lives and can share compassion for one another – play nice folks.

Continue Reading

How Kid-Friendly Restaurants Can Better Cater To Kids

You got the crayons, the coloring mats, and the fun kids cups, but then stopped there.  There are so many other things you can do to make your restaurant more kid-friendly (yes, more).  Creating a little fun and teaching your servers what being kid-friendly means can really help increase sales in the end.

This doesn’t mean you have to become a fun zone, you can keep your style; just add a little spice, a little flavor, and you’ll turn your restaurant from a place that serves kids meals to a place the kids beg to come back to.  Here are some great ideas that I’ve seen some restaurants do right when it comes to being kid-friendly.

Toys & Games

1. Fun Area & Chalkboard Wall

Fun toys and chalkboard wall help make this restaurant kid-friendly

No, you don’t have to have a complete game room like in the picture above, but these are great distractions for small guests.   I love how this restaurant created a nook in the backend of the building, so that other non-kid diners could still enjoy their meal in peace towards the other end of the building.

The chalkboard wall is easy – some paint and chalk, and you’re set.  You can even wash it clean and do your own doodles on it.  Just remember that little artist might think it’s fun to scribble all over your doodles, so don’t get upset about that.  Also, make sure to get the big chalk so that little ones don’t choke on the small pieces of chalk.

2. Make Your Kids Menu Fun

Make the kids menu fun to help little diners.

Kids like to be independent, and if they can order their own food, well, at least at the beginning of the meal they’ll be entertained/preoccupied if your menus are written for them.  I love this kid friendly menu that blogger Kimberly came up with (she has free printables too), but if you don’t want to waste time cleaning them, just turn them into paper ones to throw away.

And it doesn’t have to be just about the food, include some games, jokes, and fun facts.  I love how The Kitchen Next Door does their kids menus.

3. Restaurant Bingo!

Help the kids have fun in the restaurant with bingo!

These bingo cards are fun and can be changed up a bit to include different items – even branded just for your restaurant.  My kids would sit well past waiting-for-food-to-come time and end up playing right through the meal!

Anyone else notice how dated that phone was?  So 90’s, pssh.

4. Awesome Coloring Pages

Awesome coloring pages for kids in the restaurant that even the adults will like.

I don’t know a kid out there that wouldn’t be occupied with these cool coloring pages; in fact, I think the kid in all of us would have fun coloring these.  Make sure you have fine tip markers for the small areas; although, crayons would be interesting for those young scribblers.

5. I-Spy Bottle

Easy to make I-Spy bottles to help entertain kids in a restaurant.

These neat I-Spy Jars could keep kiddos occupied for hours (well, at least a good 20 minutes)!   The best part about them is that they’re cheap to construct, easy to make, and can be themed around the food you’re serving, i.e. if you serve organic-food-to-farm style food, throw in little veggies (plastic of course), or if you’re an Italian style eatery, find some little toys that remind you of Italy.

6. Shut The Box

Shut the box is an easy game to have on-hand when kids visit a restaurant.

Most of us have heard of the dot game (and I’m not bashing it, it’s still a fun game that we all enjoy), but have you heard of Shut the Box?  My life changed when I learned about this game; seriously, it’s enough entertainment to keep the kids busy until the food comes to the table.  With my kids, we reserve this game for restaurants only so that they don’t bored of playing it all the time at home (mom tip, not necessarily a restaurant tip).

Gracious Servers

7. Snacks, Always Snacks

Great idea to bring out bread ahead of time to help hungry little eaters stay occupied.

Before your servers even take drink orders, they already know if kids are sitting at their table, so encourage them to bring out edibles as they approach the table – bread, crackers, chips, whatever.  When I used to waitress, all I had available to give to kiddos was oyster crackers, but that was enough to keep them occupied until I could get their drinks.

8. Special Requests

Great family dining that also offers American food.

One of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Azteca, has an enormous menu and tons of great food.  They have the perfect environment for us to visit, and they know that there are picky eaters even amongst the adult diners.  Yes, they have an authentic kids menu with Mexican dishes, but they also have Gringo Dishes for those diners that just like chicken (pollo) nuggets.

No matter how much I beg my kids to try a tostada or enchilada, they always go for the American plates.  They aren’t trying to be picky (and they’d likely eat anything we chose for them, if we made them eat another menu item), but kids like things like hamburgers and hot dogs, and sometimes it’s a hamburger and hot dog type of day (even if it is at a Mexican Restaurant).

This was a long tip, but my point was that when it comes to kids, be polite when it comes to special requests.  If your trying to teach them different tastes, I get that as a Mom, but if they don’t want red sauce on their noodles (and it’s not too much to ask), can we just get plain noodles with butter and parmesan?

9. Cook For The Kids First

They are impatient, so kids should be fed as soon as the food is done - Mom & Dad can wait.

I can wait for my food, but the kids get impatient.  As soon as the food is ordered, your servers should be putting high priority on the kids’ menu choices.  Mac and cheese takes minutes to make, so if it’s done before the parents meal, ask them if they want it early… they’ll thank you for it!

10. Don’t Discriminate

Yes, we know that you hate kids in your resturant, but you're kid-friendly, aren't you?

If the restaurant is clearly kid-friendly, you and your servers shouldn’t get upset when kids walk through the door.  If you do, you (or your servers) need to find another job.  Besides, like Andrew Knowlton said, “After all, you’re probably going to be in the same boat as I am in a few years.”

And for the sake of all humanity, please, don’t discriminate against people with special needs.  My son has a disability, I know what it feels like when you stare at us uncomfortably (and how do you think that makes a little boy feel?).  I’m not at your restaurant for you to cater to his needs, that’s why I’m there too – I’ll take care of him.  If you’re curious about what he has, I’m okay with you asking me, just don’t be rude, okay?

Pinterest Fun

A lot of these ideas we were able to pin over on our Pinterest board, “For the Kiddos,” in addition to some fun, kid-friendly recipes.  Have fun pinning!

Continue Reading

6 Tips for Better Plating & Presentation

Plating & Presentation

No questions about it, people eat with their eyes.  Once a plate is sat down in front of a guest they have already passed judgment on how that food is going to taste.  They look at the plating, they look at how the food is arranged, and they look at the flatware and glassware.  They haven’t even tasted the food yet, but they have already formed an opinion on what the food is going to taste like.

At this point, we think you could agree that having some sort of presentation with the tableware is as important as making sure the food tastes good.  But you don’t necessarily have to go overboard to make a great presentation.  Here are our top 6 tips for bringing a little pizazz to the table:

Food Plate & Presentation on Big Plate

1. Use larger plates and bowls.  When there’s a lot of empty space, it helps the food speak for itself.  It puts emphasis on the food, much like a solo artist under the spotlight – all eyes are on them.

Stacked Food Presentation

2. Stack food.  If the food goes well together, try stacking it instead of having everything spread out.  You don’t have to opt for mile-high towers, but a little height looks nice.

Messy Dribbles on Plate

3. Wipe up dribbles.  Unless it’s artfully done, dribbles are distracting and take away from the main attraction.  Wipe up spills and keep the dish clean.

Microgreens Plating & Presentation

4. A dash of color.  Sprinkle on some chives, parsley, or micro greens to add a dash of color to food that may otherwise look plain.

Vegetable Cut Plating Presentation

5. Make the right cut.  Think of other ways you can cut the food.  Doing big chunks of vegetables on a plate looks much different than thinly sliced, peeled, and shredded food.

Spoon Swoosh on Plate

6. Learn to swoosh.  Spoon swooshes are a great way to add a little oomph to a plate.  But take our advice on this one: never, ever touch a swoosh twice (things will get messy if you do).

Continue Reading

Shut The Fridge Door: How Cloud-Based Temperature Monitoring Systems Can Help Save Your Business

Cloud Based MonitoringHow many times as a kid did you hear your mom yell, “Get what you need and shut the fridge door already!”  Well, turns out that mom was right, studies have showed that refrigerator door openings account for 7% of fridge energy use.  Now, think of that number with a walk-in refrigerator that’s average cubic feet is easily more than twice the size of a home refrigerator (yikes, that’s a lot of energy wasted), and what if that same walk-in refrigerator was accidentally left open all night.  Now we’re looking at an entirely different type of loss: lost energy and lost food.

But accidents like this can be prevented.  Cloud-based monitoring systems are quickly changing how restaurant and food service owners are able to accurately monitor temperatures.

What is It?Notif Eye Cloud Based Monitoring

Cloud-based monitoring essentially means that information is sent wirelessly from sensors to an online system, and that information can be accessed from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a computer, tablet, or smartphone.  The information that can be sent is limitless, and is used in many different ways.

For cloud-based temperature monitoring systems, like NotifEye, the information being sent is temperature degrees ranging from -40⁰ to 257⁰F. Sensors are placed in different locations (wet or dry locations) throughout the food service establishment and they gather temperature readings that are then sent to a secure online system.  The data sent over can be viewed anytime of the day, but even more importantly the software monitors the readings and will alert you when a temperature is off, like the refrigerator door being left open, the fryer not keeping oil hot enough, the holding case losing temperature, etc.   Notifications can be sent to you via email or text.

What Kind of Temperatures Could I Monitor?

It’s up to you.  The standards are walk-in refrigerators, freezers, ice machines, and dry storage area, but we found uses for temperature monitoring in just about every area of the restaurant.  What if the heater was set way too high in the dining room and blasting 90⁰F all night?  You could walk in the next day and find out about it, or you could be notified about it as soon as readings are gathered.

Why is it so Important?

There are multiple reasons why it’s important to monitor temperatures on a regular basis. Every year there are thousands of businesses in the food service industry that lose valuable inventory or get fined by the local health department because temperatures are inadequate.  Monitoring temperatures ensures that equipment is running how it should, and saves your business from potential risks.

It helps prevent health violations and harm to your customers, and it helps save your business.

Is it Pricey?

All cloud-based temperature monitoring systems are priced differently, but we’ve seen plenty that are very reasonably priced.  Many restaurant owners that have installed the systems have reported return on investment in less than two years.  And since temperature monitoring seems to be one of the core values in the 7 steps of HACCP, we see it as an investment that could save your business one day.

What Are The 7 Steps of HACCP?

Glad you asked, HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) is a list of seven recommended food safety rules originally written for NASA, but has since been adopted in the food service industry by the FDA and USDA.  The 7 steps are:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis. The hazards are grouped into 3 categories: biological, chemical, and physical.
  2. Identify the critical control points, including cross-contamination, cooking, cooling, and hygiene.
  3. Set up actions to ensure safety is maintained at all of the critical control points defined.
  4. Establish monitoring procedures for the critical control points, and make sure to use the right signs, tools and training materials to make sure they are monitored accurately.
  5. Establish corrective actions for the critical control points.
  6. Set-up recordkeeping procedures to log information, like with flowcharts and temperature checks.
  7. Verify that the system put in place is working: validation, ongoing verification, and reassessment.

By the way, HACCP is pronounced “hassip.”

Continue Reading

7 Tips for Printing Restaurant Menus

Woodtown Bar Restaurant Menus

Printing your menus may be the final step, but don’t let it be an afterthought. Once you’ve invested in a branded design that’s engineered for success, you’ll want to see that quality carried through to the finished product. Visually appealing menus generate more sales, so follow these simple tips to maximize your menu’s payoff.

1. Give Specials a “Special” Sheet

Your unique, fresh items (daily, weekly, seasonal) boost sales and keep customers coming back for more. But listing them on your main menu requires costly reprints, which can cause reluctance to update specials regularly. Display them instead on a small insert to maximize flexibility and minimize cost.

2. Isolate Your Upsell Items

Everyone wants to beef up their bottom line by selling more drinks, desserts and daily specials.

Studies show that these items sell better when presented on attention-getting separate sheets or table tents. But limit the list to 4-7 items; it’s easier for customers to choose when they don’t feel overwhelmed.

Chroma Restaurant Menus

3. Use Photos to Increase Sales

People focus on images first, so telling customers an interesting story with pictures can make your brand more memorable. You might feature black & white or sepia-tone photos of early founders, showcasing a bit of your company history. Casual restaurants might feature pictures of entrées; limiting them to 1 or 2 per page piques interest without cluttering the menu.

4. Order Professionally Printed Menus

The menu is your primary selling tool, and a top-notch menu tells customers you are passionate about every facet of their experience. With professional digital printing, resolution and colors are vibrant, and the quality is far superior to what home/office printers can do.

5. Choose a Clean, Simple Paper

Use a nice sturdy white cardstock that prints well—you can print any background color on it.

Printing on colored paper may seem cheaper, but your fonts, colors and images may look muddy or discolored instead of crisp and sharp. Consider a slightly glossy paper—it will stay cleaner and colors will pop.

Cheyenne's Family Restaurant Menus

6. Get a Press Proof

This is a step you don’t want to skip. Ordering a sample print lets you see exactly how your finished menu will look. Before you submit a big order, take this chance to double-check copy and font size. Is it legible in restaurant lighting? Test it on your staff and customers. Make any changes at no extra cost and then order the full quantity.

7. Consider Having Your Menu Laminated

A laminated menu is more durable while being lighter and easier to carry around than a bulky cover. Laminated menus stay much cleaner and can be gently wiped off, so replacements are needed much less frequently.

Ordering professional printed menus will save you time, and quite possibly money. No need to buy paper or ink cartridges, no time wasted trimming edges or folding! Menu printing services like MustHaveMenus will deliver table-ready menus right to your door. Following these best practices for high-quality printed menus will pay off in bigger tickets and satisfied diners.

Must Have Menus

Continue Reading

Can’t Eat Here: Is Your Restaurant Sending the Right Message to Guests With Dietary Restrictions?

Special Diet Menu Labels

Imagine sitting down at a restaurant and being met with disgust when you question a menu item; unfortunately, that’s what a lot of people with dietary restrictions are being met with when they dine out.  The message here isn’t that every restaurant is this way, but rather that you should think about how your restaurant is making certain patrons feel, and why they are choosing to eat elsewhere.

Examples Are Always Good

My son has tree nut allergies, and I’ve been there when his throat started to close up simply because the person serving the food said that there was absolutely no nuts in any of our meals (we are nut-free altogether, because his allergy is so sensitive), and we trusted them when they said that.  I’ve also seen how the server rolls their eyes when I tell them how important it is to not have nuts anywhere near our plates.

I have friends that are vegetarian and vegan and get the cold shoulder when it comes to being choosy on their menu choices.  They have specific needs and have to ask questions like whether the soup broth is vegetable or meat based, if the grease used was vegetable or bacon grease, and if butter was used to grill the veggies.  And at some restaurants they visit, they know that these types of questions will likely result in a bad dining experience that includes eye-rolling and a Chef that’s less than happy to adjust the menu choice – who wants to eat food from an upset Chef?

I’ve also been the waitress that had to chat with the Chef about what’s in a certain dish, and have the Chef reply, “Just tell them what they want to hear;” meaning, even if the soup has meat based broth, I’m supposed to say vegetable broth.  I’m sure those of you that are vegan or vegetarian are cringing right now – I did when I was told that – but I did the right thing; I told the customer that the soup probably wouldn’t be a good choice for them.  I can’t say this incident happens all the time, but I’m sure it happens more often than not.

Changing Up the Menu

Your restaurant can decide not to serve people with dietary restrictions, but with the way things are going, the number of people with a limited diet is only going to grow and this could be a potential loss in revenue.  Currently, 10% of Americans consider themselves to be Vegetarian, Vegan, or Vegetarian-Inclined, and 7% of Americans have food allergies that fall into the “Big 8”: milk, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, eggs, fish, soy, and/or wheat.  That’s a total of 17% of Americans that must be a bit more cautious when picking what restaurant to dine at, and there are plenty more diets that fall under the “special menu” umbrella:

  • Asian
  • Bland
  • Children
  • Diabetic
  • Gluten-Free
  • Hindu
  • Japanese meal
  • Kosher
  • Low-Calorie
  • Low-Cholesterol
  • Low-Fat
  • Low-Sodium
  • Muslim
  • Passover

…just to name a few.

If you’re thinking to yourself “There’s no way I’m changing my menu to accommodate every new diet that pops up,” I’d recommend taking a look at how other companies are successfully doing this:

People don’t expect you to be everything to everyone, but they are going to do their research to see if dining at your restaurant is worthwhile for them; and believe me when I tell you that there’s site after site devoted to helping people with dietary restrictions find the right restaurants.  Some are national sites, but most are local, and do a great job of keeping up on the latest restaurant openings and where to eat: like Vegan Coloradical, a site that has almost 500 pages devoted to Vegans eating, living, and traveling in Colorado.

He’s Just A Hungry Man

The next time someone walks into your restaurant and asks for a menu choice that’s just a little different than what’s listed on the menu (as my Vegan co-worker said),

“The one vegan who eats at your restaurant isn’t trying to tell you you’re wrong for the way you do things, or the way you eat. He’s just a hungry man looking to grab some food with friends who aren’t vegan.”

Continue Reading

Menu Calorie Count Debate

Calories Menu

Suns out, guns out – beach bods unite!

Now, more than ever, guests are noticing their calorie intake and diet rituals because swimsuit season is right around the corner. But do menu calorie counts truly affect consumer eating habits while dining out?

Menu Calorie Count Law

According to the FDA, menu calorie counts will soon be required. They are supposed to help the USA’s obesity problem, considering Americans eat 1/3 of their meals outside of the home. The proposed rules would require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, as well as bakeries, grocers, convenience stores and coffee chains to post the calorie count for every item on their menu – additional nutrition info would have to be readily available if requested. However, the law does not apply to businesses like movie theaters, bowling alleys, airplanes, or any other business where the primary focus is not food.

Will this new law affect buyer behavior?

So, the question stands, will consumers pay close attention to calorie counts and will they affect food choices? Well, not really.

New York’s chain restaurants have been posting calorie counts on menus since 2008 and several studies have indicated that they have no effect on buyer behavior. The International Journal of Obesity surveyed and collected receipt data from adolescents in low-income areas in NYC and Newark, NJ (for a comparison) before and after the labeling law went into effect.

Conclusion: Low-income adolescents noticed calorie info, but were slightly less responsive than adults. There really wasn’t any evidence showing that the labeling influenced food choice or parental food choices for children in the tested population. They later released a similar study in Seattle, which has comparable results. Many people actually see more value in meals with more calories than not – Yikes!

What should restaurants do?

Until consumer demands change through purchasing habits and educational messages about nutrition are considered, counting calories may not change the score when it comes to counting calories in the USA. However, that doesn’t mean restaurant’s should be out of line with their portions and non-nutritional offerings. News reporters are already slamming restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory and Chilis for inconsistent calorie counts and insane calorie loaded meals. So, here are my suggestions:

  • Post accurate calorie counts – If you’re 100 calories off on your menu it could mean 10 extra pounds packed onto your customer(s) by the end of the year – WOW.
  • Let’s face it, it’s embarrassing to post high calorie items on menus. No one wants to see anything in the quadruple digits. So, my advice is to offer splitting the dish between two or more people or recommend a to-go box and encourage eating ½ the meal at home, rather than all at once. It should be engrained in the server’s head which dishes are served in generous portions.
  • Create a low-cal menu – Having offerings for everyone, including the health conscious, will not only create more business, but positive word-of-mouth advertising too. Get support groups, like Weight Watchers, on your good side!
  • Have options – If you offer a burger and fries on your menu, perhaps it’s a good idea to have beef substitutes like turkey, black bean patties, portabella mushroom caps, or buffalo burgers to lighten the calorie load. You can also offer fruit, salad, or sweet potato fries instead of the typical house fries.

At the end of the day, nutrition does matter and although it’s known many fast food and chain restaurants are unhealthy, the FDA will continue to fight against obesity in American and restaurants are an easy target. Stay ahead of the political debate and offer healthy options.

Measuring Calories With Exercise

Finally, as this topic gains speed people are going to be focusing more and more on the calories in the food, but I also don’t think it’s a bad thing to post something on your website or in the bathroom to remind people that, yes, counting calories are important, but so is exercise.  If they do make a choice to pick a higher calorie menu item, then a nice walk afterwards would do the body good.

After all, who doesn’t want to see chiseled beach bods and bombshells at the beach this summer?

Update: After concluding this post, I found a blog post titled “We Should Measure Our Food In Exercise, Not In Calories,” which was based on a study done that showed consumers choosing to eat fewer calories when given a menu showing how much exercise they should be doing after consuming the said calories.  The study showed that when people were shown a menu item with listed calories, and the amount of time it would take to walk-off the calories, people often made smarter choices when it came to choosing what to eat.

Inline Labels That Translate Calories Into Walking Distance

Goes to show that sometimes it’s more than just calories that consumers need to be reminded about to make healthier choices.

Continue Reading