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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.

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

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

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.”

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7 Tips for Printing Restaurant Menus

7 Tips for Printing 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.

7 Tips for Printing 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.

7 Tips for Printing 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.

7 Tips for Printing Restaurant Menus

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

Cant Eat Here: Is Your Restaurant Sending the Right Message to Guests With Dietary Restrictions?

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.”

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Menu Calorie Count Debate

Menu Calorie Count Debate

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.

Menu Calorie Count Debate

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

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

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

Photo Credit:Brewtally Insane!

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

What the Studies Say

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

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

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

What Does This Mean For You?

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

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

What the People Say

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

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

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

What Does This Mean For You?

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

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

Should There Be Another Study?

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


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

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Ice, Ice Baby – Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice?

Ice, Ice Baby   Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice?Ice is like origami paper.

Okay not really, but it can be made into many different shapes and forms. Each shape has a purpose and is ideal for specific needs due to size, melting time, etc. All commercial ice machine brands manufacturer cube, nugget and flake style ice, but some have patented forms too.

Cube Ice Makers

Whether you need 100 lbs or 2,000 lbs of ice, you can certainly find a cuber that will fit your needs. There are two types of cube ice machines: undercounters and modular cuber heads. Undercounters are perfect for back bars, convenience stores, motels, or really anywhere with critical, but minimal ice needs. Modular cuber heads require an ice bin or an ice dispenser to store the ice. These are commonly used in restaurants, resorts and healthcare facilities. Cubers make the following ice forms:

Full Cube

Full Dice, Medium Cube

Square (approximately 1” x 1” x 1”) cubes that cool drinks quickly due to their large surface area. Food Service establishments, bars, and hotels feel this style is perfect for their business because it gives drinks and cocktails visual appeal and melts slowly.

Half Cube

Half Dice, Small Cube

Half as big as a full cube and shaped like a pat of butter or Starburst candy, this shape fits tightly in glasses leaving less room for liquid which can keep costs down on high markup drinks. The half cube is commonly used in restaurants with self-serve fountain drink dispensers. It dispensers easily with infrequent clogging leaving little room for unexpected maintenance.

Crescent Ice

Hoshizaki is famous for their crescent ice form which looks like a half moon: one side is rounded while the other is flat. This shape resists clumping and catches your eye as it sits in cocktails. Similar to the half cube, this form is ideal for self-service beverage stations.

Gourmet Ice

Top-Hat Ice, Clear Ice, Octagon Ice

Large, slow-melting ice form are ideal for classy mixed drinks. This type of ice measures approximately 1” x 1 1/8” x 1 ¼” and shaped similar to a Rolo chocolate. This cube is crystal clear and comprised entirely of water due to its unique freezing process – the air is completely eliminated during the freezing process making it an elegant touch to beverages. Gourmet ice is ideal for catering, banquet halls, resorts and full service bars looking for a “wow” factor to add to cocktails.

Flakers

Flake Ice

Shaved Ice, Crushed Ice

This ice form resembles small chips of ice and comes in an array of sizes. It is soft and slow melting and versatile for ice displays and healthcare facilities. Seafood markets often use flake ice for displays to avoid spoilage, and hospitals find it necessary for beverages because it is chewable. Therapeutic establishments say it’s ideal for treating injuries because it can be easily molded over wounds.

Nugget Ice Makers

Nugget Ice

Sonic Ice, Pearl Ice, Cubelet Ice, Chewblett Ice, Pellet Ice

Named for its small, soft, and unique cylindrical shape, this enjoyable ice form is perfect for fountain beverages, smoothies, blended cocktails, salad bars and heathcare facilities. Sonic is famous for using this ice type, but it is becoming more and more popular in fast casual food service establishments.

Types of Ice by Brand Ice, Ice Baby   Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice? Ice, Ice Baby   Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice? Ice, Ice Baby   Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice? Ice, Ice Baby   Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice? Ice, Ice Baby   Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice? Ice, Ice Baby   Why Are There So Many Different Types of Ice?
Scotsman Medium Dice Small Dice Gourmet Ice Flake Ice Nugget Ice
Ice-O-Matic Full Cube Half Cube Flake Ice Pearl Ice
Manitowoc Full Dice Half Dice Flake Ice Nugget Ice
Hoshizaki Crescent Ice Top-Hat Ice Flake Ice Cubelet Ice

 

And here’s a great home recipe for making ice – just make sure you follow instructions exactly (and read the comments for recommendations).

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Servers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations

It’s inevitable, people love to complain. They love to complain about the weather, their hair, their weight, etc. Well, let me be your punching bag! In fact, I would love to hear your complaints.

  • If you work in a restaurant, what makes you unhappy?
  • If you’re a restaurant customer, what didn’t you like about your dining experience?

I am going to do my best to inform restaurateurs how to create a better atmosphere for everyone in the FOH.

Servers’ Top Workplace Frustrations

  1. Crappy TippersServers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations
  2. Side Work (e.g. Roll flatware, set tables, etc. – pre/post shift while getting paid $4.76/hour to avoid hiring an employee who gets paid minimum wage)
  3. When customers lay out their cell phone, iPod, sunglasses, etc., on the table and don’t move them when the server is trying to deliver food
  4. “Please wait to be seated” (e.g. Don’t walk into a restaurant and sit wherever you please unless there’s a sign that says “Please seat yourself”. The workload needs to be balanced among all servers and tables are often reserved.)
  5. Lazy Managers (Note to all managers – when you see your staff is busy, lend them a hand! Help run food, deliver drinks, bus tables and show your support!)
  6. “The customer is always right” – B.S. (Here’s a video to show that the customer is, in fact, not always right http://youtu.be/KMGWnKfGsDM)
  7. Double Standards (e.g. Servers don’t get a free meal but bussers and kitchen workers do… What the heck!)
  8. Paying for walkout customers (It’s not always the server’s fault when a customer walks out on an unpaid bill. What if the server was going above and beyond by bussing or running food to another server’s table?)
  9. Campers AKA the diners who never leave
  10. Coworkers (e.g. Suck-ups, brown-nosers, lazy workers, those who don’t return favors – not working for you when you picked up a shift for them)

Customers’ Top Server Frustrations

  1. Introduce themselves by name/nicknameServers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations
  2. Touch you and think they are doing a friendly gesture
  3. Say everything that you ask about on the menu is “really amazing!”
  4. Talk about specials without mentioning the price
  5. Take your plate or drink away before you’re finished
  6. Tell you to wait for “your waiter” when you need something
  7. Squat, take a knee or sit down at your table
  8. Try to upsell you on everything
  9. Make you feel like a criminal because you just ordered drinks, or just dinner, instead of seven courses and four bottles of wine
  10. Ask if you need change

Now that I’ve highlighted each audiences frustrations, lets see what they agree on

  1. Cleanliness of the establishment (sitting area, dining room, bar and bathrooms)
  2. Food cooked to perfection (customers don’t like telling the wait staff to bring back a meal because it’s under cooked as much as servers don’t like bringing food back to the kitchen staff)
  3. Chip-free dinnerware and glassware
  4. Politeness (smile, be thankful and create a positive atmosphere)
  5. Food and drink presentation (food should make servers proud and customers excited)
  6. Determining if the bill needs to be split before ordering menu items
  7. Comfortable room temperature
  8. Mood lighting and music
  9. Readily available children’s seating
  10. Boucebacks (Allow servers to offer customers an incentive to come back again to create repeat business)

Let the vent session begin!  What’s your biggest restaurant gripe?

Also see: The 20 most annoying things servers do at restaurants

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Awesome Fried Foods & The Restaurants That Serve Them

Awesome Fried Foods & The Restaurants That Serve ThemThe last post I wrote was on healthy oils, which I would hope anyone that ventures out for a deep fried meal would look into. 

As soon as you start talking about deep frying, people begin telling you the crazy things they’ve eaten that’s been covered in batter and cooked in oil to perfection.  I’ve heard of deep fried twinkies, pickles and Rocky Mountain oysters, but I wanted to see what other inventive, tasty ingredients restaurants are frying up across the nation.

Yet, it’s one thing to write a list about fun fried foods, and another to send you on an adventure across this fried-food nation to discover restaurants serving up some of the best fried foods in the country!

1. State Fair of Texas – Dallas, Texas

Not technically a restaurant, but once a year you can venture down to the State Fair of Texas, known for its fried foods, and taste some of the most extreme fried foods ever invented:

  • Main Courses: Deep Fried Butter Balls, Chicken Fried Bacon, Fried Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwiches, Fried Chicken Skin, Fried Frito Pie, Fried Mashed Potatoes
  • Beverages: Fried Coke, Fried Kool-Aid
  • Desserts: Fried Cookie Dough, Deep Dried Bubble Gum

And this isn’t even the full list of fried goods – just the tip of the frying oil!

2. Sodolak’s Original Country Inn – Snook, Texas

You may have heard that everything’s better with bacon, but what about deep fried bacon?  Sodolak’s Original Country Inn has been serving up chicken fried bacon since the early 1990’s and claims to have invented the dish.  I’ve read numerous comments on this tasty dish, from people feeling guilty after eating it to completely delighted; either way, it definitely makes a mark on the map of fried food musts!

3. Goodson’s Café – Tomball, Texas

Chicken fried steak isn’t exactly a new dish on anyone’s menu, but when it comes to a restaurant claiming to serve the best, it’s definitely worth the drive!  Sticking with the great state of Texas, “Ma” Goodson’s chicken fried steak recipe has been known to bring people to Goodson’s Café from miles around since 1950 – now that’s a good recipe!

4. Dyer’s Burgers – Memphis, Tennessee

Have you had your vitamin “G” today?  That’s lingo for Dyer’s famous burgers that are cooked in the restaurants secret sauce… grease that dates back to 1912!  Yes, the thought of old oil may sound a bit off, but it’s made Dyer’s burgers world famous – and hey, they have been serving up the same burger recipe for more than a 100 years now.  There’s got to be something impressive about that burger!

5. Bruce’s Bar – Severance, Colorado

If you don’t know what Rocky Mountain oysters are, you might be a bit confused as to why Bruce’s Bar has so many bulls hanging around – and no, I’m not talking about the bikers.  Either way, these tasty oysters are served all-you-can-eat style, or frozen, so that you can take them home for later.  Their Rocky Mountain oyster recipe has been serving happy oyster lovers for well over 60 years now!

6. Fat Cat Café – Grand Lake, Colorado

The first time I tasted Scottish eggs was at a small town restaurant called Fat Cat Café, and those delicious eggs have kept me a loyal customer over the past few years.  Besides the more than 50 menu choices on the weekend breakfast buffet, the drive over beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park is always worth it!

7. Chip Shop – Brooklyn, New York

And when you just can’t decide what it is you want fried, the Chip Shop in New York is the only place to go!  The Chip Shop opened its doors in 2001 and promised to fry up anything their diners wanted; that is, until they fried an orange and it exploded – so, no juicy foods (they obviously haven’t discovered Rocky Mountain oysters yet).   Other than that, they’re list of deep fried foods are untouchable by most: hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, oreos, pop tarts, sushi, whole pineapple and much more.

For more information on commercial fryers, visit Tundra’s main website.

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FOH vs. BOH: 12 Tips to Ease Tension

FOH vs. BOH: 12 Tips to Ease TensionOh the woes of being a server: the fast paced rush, the kitchen yelling at you for what  your customers have ordered, the table of people that are mean to you and make you want to cry and the co-worker who is always telling you how to do things better!  It seems the woes never end!  One of the biggest influences on a shift can be how you and the BOH interact with each other.  Thankfully, this is an area that you have more control over then you may realize.

I asked 100 chefs to offer their advice to servers to create a more pleasant and respectful relationship between the two houses.  Here is what they said.

  1. Use your expediter to communicate.  Your Expediter is the liaison between you and everyone in the kitchen.  Don’t attempt to talk to chef’s on the line for any reason. Problems or modifications should be discussed with the Expediter. They will take it from there.
  2. Run food!  Everyone in the kitchen has taken great pains in preparation and the creation of dishes that sit on the line waiting for anyone with time to deliver them.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your table, your section or not, it is a paying guest’s food; plated and ready.  Any call for “food runner” should be met with a sense of urgency.
  3. Don’t take things to heart.  Thick skin is the order of the day.  Don’t take any immature, stupid or sharp comments personally.  Sometimes it’s not that easy but what is said during a busy rush is best not taken as a genuine insult.
  4. Hush on your tips.  Don’t boast, bitch or talk about the gratuities you have received or not received. While it’s fine to talk to your FOH peers about the money you make that conversation should be a private one and does not extend to the kitchen.
  5. Don’t use your cell phone.  While you are at work you should be focusing on things that need to be done or attended to: cleaning, guest’s needs or running food, not planning your time after work.
  6. Don’t use perfume or cologne at work.  People come out to eat to smell food, look at food and eat food.  The smell of perfume, while pleasant, has no business competing with the natural smells of the food.
  7. Make sure your order is correct.  It begins with what the guest says they want and ends with them receiving what they said they wanted.  The tricky part is everything in between.  Make sure you write down what the guest says, correctly and legibly, and put effort into putting that correct information into the computer system.
  8. Have a solution, know what is needed.  If you bring a dish back to expo from a guest, make sure you know what needs to be done to fix the problem right now.  Don’t explain the whole situation to expo…they don’t care, not at that moment.  What they care about is fixing the problem as fast as possible.  Clear and direct dialogue is key. “Table 1, seat 1: cook this steak up to mid-well, please” or “Table 6, seat 3: Please re-heat this risotto, it’s too cold.” are great ways of communicating.  The chef doesn’t need any back story, not right now.
  9. Say Please.  Please!  These are basic manners.
  10. Say Thank You. Thank you!  You were taught this since you were a kid.
  11. Buy a round.  Not all the time but if you have had an exceptional night thanks to a great kitchen team, it never hurts relations to buy them a drink.  They’ll remember and they’ll be grateful.
  12. Greet and bid adieu.  Saying hello to everyone when you come into work is a friendly and a nice introduction to a shift. There are often many servers that come in at a certain time and yet it is rare that any of them will actually go out of their way to say hello to the kitchen team. Often times they (the kitchen team) have been at the restaurant all day working; a friendly greeting is always welcome.  A genuine good night is always thoughtful as well!

Alright, here is where I ask you to check out my website: http://iamwaitress.com. The 427,826,211 person to visit it will win a billion dollars, maybe it will be you!

Jennifer Anderson is a server, certified Sommelier and FOH trainer/re-organizer.

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Conserve & Control: Portioning Out Your Precious Resources

Picture your next outing to a new restaurant or eatery. Mouths watering, you and your dinner companions order the same large entrees based on similar tastes and growling stomachs. As your succulent steaks make their way to the table, you notice your friend to the left has a small spoonful of potatoes overshadowed by an over-sized steak.  On the opposite side, your friend to the right sheds a tear when he sees his small piece of beef half hidden behind a heaping wall of potatoes. While you’re plate looks just right, you chuckle at how disproportionately different the three meals are, and how each of you paid the same price.

Now extend this imaginary dinner outing to the typical guest experience at your own establishment. Are the two uncannily similar? From an operational standpoint, how can you calculate margins and accurately tally expenses when each plate sent out is proportioned differently? The short answer is, you can’t.

Controlling the portions you provide your customers is an easily overlooked but extremely important way to cut costs and preserve your restaurant’s margin. Amid the hustle and bustle of today’s high-energy commercial kitchens it’s essential to have a tried-and-true method of keeping the portions your staff dishes out exact.

One place to weight watch when it comes to portions is proteins. Outfitting your kitchen with the right restaurant equipment is important, and a quality portion scale is a greatConserve & Control: Portioning Out Your Precious Resources way to keep an eye on what is probably the most expensive item on your entrée plates. Pop that protein onto a portion scale to quickly and easily stretch your product as far as it can go.

Starches, veggies, and soups are highly susceptible to varied portions.  What is shrugged off as an additional carrot or extra green may be adding up to cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year! The simplest way to take control of these portion sizes is to utilize a handful of portion measuring utensils. Using a specific disher, Spoodle, Loon, or ladle for certain food items, and always using that same sized utensil, will help you avoid over serving.

Water use is often undervalued and overlooked. Restaurants use a lot of water, it’s a fact. From washing dishes and tables to cooking and serving guests, water output eats up a nice chunk of your monthly budget whether you realize it or not. An excellent way to save, and also help your establishment be greener, is to watch your water. Here are 5 sensible tips to help you do just that: 

Fix leaky faucets – don’t let that drip drain your budget!

Wash full racks only – it’s a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often a member of your staff starts a half-filled rack through the washer.

Use a foot pedal for hand washing sinks – foot or knee pedals are a great way to avoid waste. They not only give your staff a sanitary way to operate the sink, but also shut off automatically to instantly help you save.

Landscape with conservation in mind – water outside can be as costly, if not more, than water inside. Keep that in mind when you’re adding a flower garden or line of decorative shrubs to the outside of your establishment.

Train employees – without the help of your employees your conservation plan is just a plan. Make sure each employee knows where your business stands when it comes to conserving.

Conserve & Control: Portioning Out Your Precious ResourcesBONUS: Spread the word –people love to hear when steps are taken to be more environmentally conscious. If you’ve made changes to how you do things, and these changes have a positive effect on the surrounding community, don’t be ashamed to toot your own horn and let people know!

So when it comes to portion control it’s time for you to be in control. As a basis for calculating your restaurant’s profitability, portioning out your product is essential to keeping your margins low and your plates consistent. Effective portion control is easier than you think and is a good way to accurately assume where your expenses will sit each month. Without a proper portion control method in place you end up gambling with these assumptions, and in the restaurant industry it’s often these kinds of gambles that can make or break you. Why not sway the odds in your favor as much as possible?

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