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Keep up to date on restaurant and food service industry news and trends, from serious analysis to more lighthearted fare.

Millennials and the Food Industry


© iStockPhoto

The Millennial generation has had a bad rap. Described as “privileged,” “entitled” or sometimes all three, Millennials are typically portrayed as the snotty teenagers of the world. I admit that when I first heard of my Generation Y status being included in this new found Millennial concept I was a bit indignant at having been lumped with that “riff raff” in the first place.

Perhaps I am a millennial after all.

Still, love us or hate us, we’re here. And we’re changing the food industry.

At a recent summit led by Fortune’s Most Powerful Women industry leaders examined the $18 billion dollar market loss shared by the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies in the last five years. The cause? As the purchasing power of Millennials grows, so does the demand for fresh and healthy food. Indicating a clear preference for supporting local, artisanal and organic options, this generation is all about using a smartphone to become more knowledgeable about the food and products they are consuming. So much so, that the concept of having a dossier on your chicken doesn’t seem that far off:

Ace Eat ServeThe preference for high-quality dining options isn’t just for Millennials either—it’s also for their kids. Millennials demand healthier options beyond the stock mac n’ cheese or chicken fingers found on kids menus across the country. And some restaurants are stepping up to the plate. Take Ace Eat Serve here in Denver. On the kids menu you won’t find the traditional grilled cheese, but rather scaled-down portions of dishes like Wok Tossed Rice Noodles, Dim Sum and more. You may find that a simple update to your kid’s menu could be just what sets you apart from your competitors when you’re looking to appeal to this up and coming Millennial demographic.

But here’s the scary news for some companies: millennials have much less brand loyalty and are more willing to engage in different distribution models to find food. What does that mean for your business? It means that if you’re unwilling to meet their needs, they’ll go elsewhere—and fast. In today’s world Millenials have no problems purchasing food or restaurant supplies online (like on Tundra Restaurant Supply’s new mobile-friendly site) or shopping outside of your typical grocery store in order to get exactly what they want. Consumer food values are changing, and manufacturers have few options ahead of them if they wish to stay competitive in the market.

Finally, consider the messaging of your product with this new demographic. This electronic-word-of-mouth era makes social media, independent bloggers and YouTube leaders key in promoting and sharing your brand to millions of ears. And don’t underestimate the impact that Millennials have on their siblings (Gen Xers) or boomer parents—after all, if they can put the entire industry on its head, what about their families? Millennials are a highly influential demographic, and to write them off completely could be a risky move to your business.

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[VIDEO] Trends in Glassware Filmed At Centro Latin Kitchen

Never has the battle between fashion versus function been greater than when picking out the glassware for your restaurant. As an extension of the look and feel of your restaurant, you want your glassware to be stylish yet also durable enough to withstand the daily wear and tear it’ll face. Between customers, bartenders, servers, dishwashers and more, there are (literally) several hands that touch your glassware every day, which means more opportunity for breakage to occur.

centro-latin-kitchenCheck out our new Trends in Glassware video filmed at the soulful (and delicious) Centro Latin Kitchen in Boulder, Colorado. With their open bar concept that bridges both an indoor space and a comfortable outdoor patio, we love Centro Latin Kitchen’s style and innovative take on Mexican Cuisine.


Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Chris Tavano for Tundra Restaurant Supply. And today we’re coming at you from Boulder, Colorado at Centro Latin Kitchen. Today we’re going to talk about upcoming trends in your glassware.

First, let’s talk about stemware, or the lack thereof. Here, we have an Excalibur wine glass by Cardinal. The nice thing about this is that it’s made from fully tempered glass so it’s going to resist a lot of the wear and tear from the nightly grind at your bar. As well as it has a nice feature of a tall body that slightly narrows at the tip to help trap in the aromatics of the wine. Here, we have a stemless wine glass that’s a much more current trend going on in the scene. And the nice thing about the stemless is exactly that—it’s stemless. So there’s a less chance of your bartenders knocking over your glasses. Here, we have the Perfection glass from Cardinal.

Next let’s talk about the versatility of your common glassware. Here, we have something you would often put soft drinks in and here we have something you would often put your mixed cocktails in. However, if you think about it, you can also put your soft drinks in this Islande Hi-Ball glass as well. The nice thing about this glass is that it’s the only glass that features nice, tall sleek sides on the side, as opposed to this one that has a curved belly. Also, you think about portion control. Yeah, you’re a little scared at first of using a smaller glass for your soft drinks—but that can work to your benefit. Smaller portions also means less waste at the end of the day.

As the craft beer trend moves forward, it’s made us rethink our barware with the same, thoughtful care that we do with the brews themselves. As more craft breweries start to use these specialty glasses, we as drinkers start to realize they start to affect the aromas and flavors of the brews themselves. And here we have a Belgian beer glass, the thing that makes it a Belgian beer glass specifically is its unique tulip shape that helps trap the aromatics of the brew.

Next we’re going to show you a fun take on some unique shapes to replace your common pint glass. For instance, we have this shape that resembles your common party cup. Or we also have this uniquely shaped beer can styles. They also come in a chalkboard version. The nice thing about these chalkboard versions is you can help identify specific customers or brews you’re trying to showcase. You can also customize your glasses by customizing them with your logo.

And here we have specialty glasses, like this Excalibur Margarita glass. Unfortunately it only serves one purpose—serving margaritas. As great as that may sound, it unfortunately takes up a lot of real estate with this large bowl on your shelf. So, you’re starting to see a new current trend where a lot more establishments are starting to serve their margaritas in this rocks glass. Looks just as nice, a little more upscale, saves a lot more space and you can even put in this fancy ice cube.

I’m Chris Tavano for Tundra Restaurant Supply, leaving you from Centro Latin Kitchen with a new take on your glassware.


Buy the Glasses

Excalibur Breeze Perfection Stemeless Wine Glass Islande Hi-Ball Glass Excalibur Beverage Glass
Excalibur Breeze Perfection Stemless Wine Glass Islande Hi-Ball Glass Excalibur Beverage Glass
Barware Footed Belgian Beer Glass Beer Can Glass Excalibur Margarita Glass Cabernet Rocks Glass
Barware Footed Belgian Beer Glass Beer Can Glass Excalibur Margarita Glass Cabernet Rocks Glass
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Tap into the “Wine on Tap” Trend

The Kitchen Next Door in Boulder features their own wine blend on tap. | Photo Courtesy of The Kitchen Next Door

The Kitchen Next Door in Boulder features their own wine blend on tap. | Photo Courtesy of The Kitchen Next Door

“And here is your glass of the house red. Don’t be surprised if it’s slightly chilled—that’s normal. Our house wine is served on tap.”

Kitch Whitney Menu-LogoThe Kitchen Next Door is one of many restaurants utilizing wine on tap, otherwise known as “kegged wine.” Featuring their own special blends of both red and white wine varieties, the Kitchen Next Door has been featuring kegged wine since the original location opened in Boulder, CO back in 2011. “At first our customers were surprised to hear we offered kegged wine,” says General Manager of The Kitchen Next Door, Zach Schiffer, “But after tasting how fresh and smooth the wine is, it’s soon become a customer favorite. It’s also great for the environment, which is an important value in The Kitchen Community.”

Why should I offer kegged wine?

Primarily cost and efficiency.

Bottling is extremely costly for wineries, and those costs are translated into the price of the wine. By skipping the bottling process altogether, wineries save about 25-30%, and those savings also get passed down to you—as in profit margins in excess of 25%. Plus with little to no spoilage in traditional wine by the glass programs, you’ll save on waste—not bad, right? Also, consider this—instead of shipping 27 bottles of wine (roughly 120 5 ounce pours), suppliers can ship a single keg, saving the restaurateur big on added shipping costs.

Due to the lower costs of wine on tap, restaurants are enjoying the opportunity of adding higher end wines by the glass to their customers that they would’ve been unable to do so before. Additional offerings creates a well-rounded wine list that makes a favorable first impression to diners. Not only that, some restaurants are even creating their own proprietary blends.

And if those savings to your bottom line aren’t enough to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, kegged wine diverts millions of bottles headed straight to the landfills. So go ahead, give yourself a well-earned pat on the back for doing something good for the environment as well.

Guests have responded positively to the new kegged wine offerings available at The Kitchen Next Door. | Photo Courtesy of The Kitchen Next Door

Guests have responded positively to the new kegged wine offerings available at The Kitchen Next Door. | Photo Courtesy of The Kitchen Next Door

OK, sounds great—but how does it taste?
Like screwcap wine bottles when they were first introduced on the market, kegged wine battles against a long-debated stigma of being lower quality wine that tastes awful. This negative perception from consumers forced restaurateurs to meet expectations by serving bottled wine in the traditional way.

But let’s be fair, the science behind great tasting wine is simple:

1. Start with good wine

I promise I’m not trying to be trite. A glass of great tasting wine begins long before it was bottled—it all starts with the quality of grapes grown, the amount of quality grapes harvested (droughts, excessive rain and other environmental factors greatly affect crops), and the fermentation process.

2. The wine has to be fresh

How many days has an open bottle in your wine by the glass program sat on a shelf? Oxygen dulls the flavor of most wines, and proper storage is key to a great tasting glass of wine.

Storing the wine in the proper environmental conditions prevents over-oxidization or over-heated—all of this is much easier with kegged wine, since it never touches air in the wine-making process. Plus, kegged wine is less susceptible to variations in temperature, so no need to worry about unusual frosts or unseasonably warm transport days.

Wine in a keg versus wine in a box—what’s the difference?
Perhaps the largest challenge you’ll face with kegged wine is the stigma. Though kegged wine has been a European staple for many years, it’s a fairly new concept for the states. Educating the customer is part of the gig

Any preexisting bias your customers had for kegged wine will dissipate quickly after a taste. In fact, I challenge a customer to discern a difference in the wine, aside the obvious chill factor for red wines. Be sure to elevate the customer’s experience by pouring wine in its proper glassware: Wine Glasses
These glasses typically feature wider brims and deeper bowls that allow red wines to breathe. Wine Glasses
These glasses often have narrow bowls that taper towards the top to trap a white wine’s delicate aromas.


Sign me up!
Interested in serving wine on tap for your restaurant? Check out Free Flow Wines and their extensive list of participating wineries to help you get started »

For more information on kegged wine, learn more from Wine Industry Insight and Bottleneck Management.

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What Can You Learn from Homebrewing?

Homebrewing beer requires lots of beer bottles.

Photo Credit © iStockphoto

It’s true that craft breweries nowadays are as ubiquitous as fast food restaurants. But unlike a common retail chain, each craft brewery differentiates itself by showcasing unique flavor profiles of beer. Some specialize in hoppy IPAs, while others like to develop a rich and complex stout reminiscent of campfire s’mores (we’re looking at you Wild Woods Brewery). Like a painter to his portrait, or a chef to his culinary art, the personal attention and thoughtful care in today’s brewing results in a rich, flavorful beverage we can’t get enough of.

In many ways craft brewing has its roots in homebrewing, which gained traction in the early 20th century during Prohibition—where it became a kind of home skill passed through the generations like baking or canning. Brewing beer has evolved into an art, as brewers experiment with different hops, fruits, fermentation periods and more to enhance and develop rich flavor profiles.

And the public loves it!

These new craft beers vary in flavor and aroma, showcasing unique flavors not typically found in regular offerings. Which is why even if you’re not a craft brewer, you should consider hopping on the trend by offering customers a selection of local (and popular) brews to excite and entice them.

But where to begin on this highly popular trend?

Try homebrewing yourself.

No seriously, try it.

You may not become an avid brewer at home, and maybe your first batch won’t elicit much more than a ‘Meh it’s ok’ for taste—but it’ll still be beer. Real, legit beer you made yourself. When it comes to understanding an art like beer, there’s something to be said for getting your hands dirty to truly understand the process. The knowledge and respect (and passion!) you’ll gain from brewing just one batch of beer will translate to your staff, who will become more knowledgeable on products you want to sell.

Let’s get started.

Homebrewing storage closet

Homebrewing is addictive. Don’t be surprised if your closet transforms into a storage room.

What equipment do you need?
The American Homebrewers Association can hook you up with a starter kit sold in your area which includes all the materials you’ll need for making your first batch. But if you’re ready (or have access to) the individual materials, they also have a fantastic list of equipment beginners will need for brewing their first batch of beer.

That list includes:

Now you BREW!
Now the fun part. What do you enjoy drinking? Starting with a flavor you know and love is a great way to get your feet wet in brewing, and then you’ll be more apt to get creative and discover surprising (and delicious) new flavor profiles.

Brewing with malt extract is a great starting point for new homebrewers because the process requires minimal equipment and procedures.

Check out great step-by-step instructions (with pictures!) from the American Homebrewers Association for more »

CAUTION! Brewing can be lethal to your dogs

We know you love your furry friends, so take caution when you brew beer at home. Ingesting hops can be highly toxic to dogs, in which our canine friends may develop a condition called “Malignant Hyperthermia,” in which the body temperature rises uncontrollably. Symptoms include restlessness, panting, vomiting, seizures and more, and can be harmful if not fatal to your pooch. Because brewed (and unbrewed) hops run serious risks to your dog, be sure to never use hops in your compost bin or garden (where other animals including your dog has access) and of course, if you must grow hop plants in your hard be sure to carefully contain the plant should it drop cones to the ground.

Keep hops in a secure location away from your pets, and after brewing place in a sealed bag that goes straight into the trash can.

What’s Next?
The Brewers Association has a wide range of information on their website, featuring helpful articles on everything from marketing to selling your beer. Or for more detailed information and tips for homebrewing, check out the American Homebrewers Association.


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Trends in Glassware

glassware-wineFashion is fickle—I think we can all agree on that. In the last 50 years we’ve witnessed bellbottoms, the powersuit, grunge, hipsters and lumbersexuals. In many ways, fashion trends extend beyond the clothes we wear to the places we inhabit. More restaurants are stripping their interiors to their structural bones, showcasing exposed ventilation, decades old brick walls, and pairing it with warm, rustic tables.

When you open a restaurant, you should probably spend as much (or even more) time on the design than you do on the food. Why? These details are your first impression to the diner and help set an expectation for their meal and dining experience. And even then, diners will drink something long before they have a taste of something from your kitchen.

So what do you do?

Glassware is the easiest way to affect the mood and appearance of your restaurant. Think about it—if you charge $7 for a gin and tonic, what if I told you that you could charge $11 for the same gin and tonic, but served in a more elegant way? Perhaps you serve it in a wide rocks glass to accommodate a single large ice cube, or you add a lemon or lime twist. I’ve even seen some bars add a sprinkling of lavender petals on top of an orange slice to enhance the appearance of their lavender cocktail. Perception is proportionate to value, and you may find diners are willing to pay more if they deem it worth the price.

Let’s take a few familiar industry favorites and find out new ways to reinvent them:

GET Enterprises - 6616-1-2-R - 16 oz Red Pebbled Tumbler

GET Enterprises – 6616-1-2-R – 16 oz Red Pebbled Tumbler

1. Red Tumbler

The classic, plastic red tumbler (like this one from GET Enterprises) has been seen for decades in diners and dives alike. These all-purpose cups are in it for the long haul—and by long haul, we’re guessing you’ve had them for at least 10 years already. Designed to add some color to the table, you may find the red tint also changes the appearance of most beverages to a muddled, brown color.


Instead try…

Cambro - LT16 - Laguna® 16 oz Hammered Finish Tumbler

Cambro – LT16 – Laguna® 16 oz Hammered Finish Tumbler

Clear Tumbler

It doesn’t cost much more, but you’ll instantly transform your patron’s perspective by opting for something more similar to glass. This Laguna Hammered Finish Tumbler from Cambro not only hides water spots and scratches, but it’ll have the same look and feel of glass.

Thinking of spending even a little more? Try the polycarbonate Tom Collins Glass, like this one from Thunder Group. More expensive than the red tumbler, but much cheaper than glass, you’ll have the durability of plastic with the beauty and appeal of glassware.


Cardinal - 15442 - 12 oz Excalibur Margarita Glass

Cardinal – 15442 – 12 oz Excalibur Margarita Glass

2. Margarita Glass

The classic “inverted sombrero” shape of the margarita glass has been synonymous with its potent namesake since at least the 1950s. Still, the margarita glass serves just one distinct purpose—to serve margaritas; this is fine if your restaurant specializes in this popular beverage, but if a margarita is just one of many cocktails you serve, you may find shelf size at your restaurant comes at a premium. Sure some establishments have tried to make this glass perform double-duty by serving guacamole and even shrimp cocktails (we’re looking at you, 1980s), but suffice it to say this glass takes up a lot of shelf space for little return.

Instead try…

Cardinal - 10007 - 10 1/2 oz Cabernet Rocks Glass

Cardinal – 10007 – 10 1/2 oz Cabernet Rocks Glass

Rocks Glass

If margaritas aren’t your main cocktail, or if you’re hoping to give your restaurant an update, try serving the beverage in a double old-fashioned or rocks glass, like this Cabernet Rocks glass from Cardinal).

More and more casual and fine dining restaurants are updating the classic boozy beverage by giving it an elevated look that diners enjoy. Salting the rim is a snap, and you’ve just cut down on your glassware expense.


Cardinal - 71083 - 10 1/2 oz Excalibur Tall Wine Glass

Cardinal – 71083 – 10 1/2 oz Excalibur Tall Wine Glass

3. Traditional Wine Glass
The traditional wine glass is a tried and true favorite, typically consisting of softly-rounded edges and a tall stem meant for holding. Though some say the stem is to prevent dirty smudges from appearing on your glass (which it will), the presence of a stem is actually to ensure that you don’t inadvertently warm your wine.

Although beautiful, a slim, delicate stem makes for a precarious design in a busy, commercial setting. You may have to replace stemmed wine glasses more regularly due to their instability.

Instead try…

 Cardinal - C8832 - 9 oz Perfection Tumbler

Cardinal – C8832 – 9 oz Perfection Tumbler

Stemless Wine Glass

This trendy take on the classic wine glass not only minimizes the occurrence of breakage, but you’ll soon love the versatility of the stemless wine glass (like this Perfection Tumbler from Cardinal Glassware). In addition to red or white pours, you can also give both iced tea and soft drinks an elevated touch when you serve it in these glasses. Just make sure you opt for either fully tempered glass or kwarx so you have something more durable.

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The USA is Lead-Free – but is your restaurant?

Check that your faucets are compliant with lead-free laws.

Check that your faucets are compliant with lead-free laws.

Lead exposure is among the most well-documented toxic contaminant today, and health officials have determined that there is no amount of lead exposure that could be considered healthy.

U.S. Senate Bill No. S.3874 modified the Safe Drinking Water Act (amended in 1986) and redefined “lead-free.” Affecting pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures, S. 3874 requires there is no more than .25% lead when used with wetted surfaces of pipes and its fittings and fixtures. Put into effect nearly 18 months ago, S.3874 requires your business to be compliant.

But this national law shouldn’t be a surprise.

The California Assembly bill 1953 (referred to as “AB1953”) was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, and went into effect on January 1, 2010. The new law re-defined the term “lead-free” to mean “not more than a weighted average of .25% lead content in pipe and fittings.” Products that dispense water for human consumption through drinking and cooking must be lead-free; this affects products such as: kitchen facets, bathroom faucets, bar faucets, glass fillers, pot fillers, bubblers, and supply stops (to name a few).

In addition to AB1953, Vermont passed its own Senate Bill S.0152 mandating that all products containing lead must “clearly and conspicuously post a warning at the point of sale, stating that these products contain lead and shall also provide to each buyer prior to sale information on the risks of lead exposure.”

Manufacturers are already updating their product lines to be compliant with these new laws. As more states follow suit with California and Vermont law, you can expect that your restaurant will also need to be lead-free, even if you’re not located in the California or Vermont areas. Check your plumbing fixtures in front of house (bathroom faucets, bar faucets, etc) and back of house (kitchen faucets) to confirm that you’re AB 1953 Compliant.

Purchase S.3874 compliant parts at Tundra Restaurant Supply >>

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Food Allergies Aren’t Going Away


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

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

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

Types of food allergies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Chefs Creatively Tackle California’s Drought Laws

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


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

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

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

Conserve water now:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Green Is Always in Season

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), “Environmentally responsible practices are becoming the new normal across the industry, as restaurateurs recognize that recycling, waste reduction, and water and energy efficiency are good for their business and our world.”

Amen to that! There are nearly 990,000 restaurant locations in the U.S., and food service is an incredibly resource-intensive endeavor, so when an industry as large as ours decides to go green, the reverberations are huge.

In one particularly impressive case of efficiency savings, Ted’s Montana Grill spent $111,000 to switch to LED lighting, and ended up saving $140,000 in the first year and $250,000 in the second year on electricity bills.

That’s a large example, to be sure, but there are hundreds of small things food-service pros can do to tread a little lighter and reduce their operating costs in the process. Examples include:

  • Serving water by request only (tap not bottled)
  • Using recycled/compostable disposable containers
  • Installing energy efficient hand dryers in restrooms
  • Reducing portion sizes (scales help)
  • Serving sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood
  • Freezing edible food scraps for later use
  • Composting inedible food scraps
  • Developing more vegetarian dishes
  • Cleaning with eco-friendly detergents
  • Sourcing produce from nearby farms (within 100 mi.)
  • Recycling cooking/fryer oil
  • Using linen/cotton napkins instead of paper

Doing Well by Doing Good
Sustainability is more than a cost-saving strategy, however. It’s also a smart growth strategy, especially when you consider that consumers actively prefer dining at establishments that have a clear commitment to preserving the environment for future generations. The NRA’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast found that nearly half of all restaurant-goers are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its energy and water conservation practices alone!

Green begets green, if you know what I mean. In a competitive marketplace, a restaurant’s commitment to sustainability can become a very lucrative differentiator. (See also: Chipotle Mexican Grill)

If your restaurant, bar, cafe or catering company wants to lessen its impact, the NRA has a wealth of resources to guide your efforts. The association’s Conserve program, launched in 2008, helps operators implement conservation practices that are good for the environment and their bottom line. The initiative even provides restaurateurs with a fully customized roadmap to reducing their energy and water consumption. Check it out!

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How Much Should Restaurant Workers Be Paid?

Pay for restaurant workers. It’s an issue that manages to unite us and divide us at the same time.

According to the National Restaurant Association, half of all American adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives, and a third got their first job in a restaurant.

Most of us, in other words, can sympathize with the plight of low-paid restaurant workers because we’ve been there ourselves at some point, or have a friend or relative who struggles to cover basic needs while working full-time in a food-service position.

Divisions emerge when we stop to consider what, if anything, to do about it. Should we raise the minimum wage? Should we abolish tipping altogether? Should we pressure owners to pay their employees a living wage? Or should we let “the market” sort itself out and avoid potentially messy policy intervention?

Traditionally, many restaurateurs at our country’s 980,000 food-service establishments argue that forcing proprietors to pay their workers more will simply result in either less hiring or worse: layoffs. Further, they say that paying workers more would result in higher prices for patrons, who might decide to stay home and cook.

The counter-argument, one that I agree with, is that modestly raising pay standards to keep pace with inflation and other cost of living metrics is not only the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, but will have the added benefit of stimulating more economic activity overall, because compensation isn’t’t a zero-sum game.

After all, folks who work in restaurants like to eat out as much as everyone else! If they’re paid a decent wage, they’ll have the means to patronize local restaurants once in a while.

What’s more, there’s the issue of fairness. Consider the situation in New York City, where nearly two-thirds of restaurant servers live at or below the poverty line. How is this situation OK? This strikes me as a classic example of a market failure ripe for correction.

In the meantime, whether you support change or the status quo, we as patrons can make sure our servers are tipped well, because tips aren’t simply bonuses paid on top of good wages. Without tips—heck, even with them—the far majority of restaurant workers wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.

And if you’re not convinced that your tip makes a difference, check out this powerful video.

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