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Archive | Restaurant Trends and News

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

How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Holiday table setting

Historically, the holiday season is a very profitable time for restaurants, and this year promises to be no exception. As a matter of fact, Experian predicts 2013 holiday spending will increase by 11 percent over last year.

So how can your restaurant really take advantage of this season of spending? Let’s run though some smart holiday promotion strategies …

Communicate with your current patrons

Time to put that email list to good use! Email is an easy way—and quite cost effective—to spread the word and bring in customers over the holidays. If you don’t have an email marketing provider, MailChimp is a great option, and they have a free plan that will accommodate the needs of most small establishments.

Table displays (tents, postcards, etc.) are another good option because they take advantage of your captive audience. Also: train hosts and hostesses to mention your holiday hours, promotions, menu items, etc., when answering the phone.

All the work you’ve put into building your social media presence and attracting a following? That effort is going to pay huge dividends during the holidays! Be sure to beat the drum over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, et. al, to get folks excited about your seasonal offerings.

Another idea: a direct mail campaign, while somewhat pricey, can be an effective way to reach potential customers over the holidays.

Connect with folks who haven’t dined with you yet

Have you considered running a promotion on a daily deal site? Sites like Groupon and Living Social have gotten a bad rap lately, and there some truth to the notion that these deals can be great for customers but terrible for small-business owners. However, there’s still a time and place for this marketing tool, particularly if you don’t have a large email list or social media following and you want to reach a big audience quickly. What’s more, if you design the right offer you can certainly make the financials work!

Do something special

It’s the holidays, so business as usual won’t cut it. (Nor will simply changing the satellite/Pandora radio station to Christmas tunes.) If you want to attract customers this November and December, we suggest tapping your creative imagination. Maybe new table displays, a cozy cocktail list, or even a totally revamped holiday menu.

Make sure hungry holiday shoppers can find you

These days everyone carries a smartphone, and they’re using them to find nearby bars and restaurants. According to one study from Nielsen, 64 percent of mobile restaurant searchers convert immediately or within an hour!

Does your restaurant show up when customers search online? Improve your visibility and ensure accuracy by updating your important local directory profiles on Google+, Yelp, etc.

Ideally you have a website that looks decent and displays quickly on a 4-inch smartphone screen, but if you don’t … at least try to position the key info that customers need—your address, phone number, hours, menu link—front and center. It’s hard to hunt for information on a tiny screen! Smartphone users are famously impatient, so don’t make them work/wait for it—because they’ll just tap away to competitor’s site.

Another method you might try is slightly “Minority Report”-ish but could be really effective this year: reach nearby shoppers with geo-targeted ads. Google, Twitter and Foursquare currently offer this service. Why not give it a shot?

Last-minute catering services?

In most cases, larger companies have already made holiday-party plans, but if you’re late to the catering party (so to speak), you might still have a chance to pick up some catering business, because this time of year there are always contingencies—companies that forgot to book a venue (small firms are notorious procrastinators) or catering companies that accidentally double booked themselves. You never know!

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Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

Are you ready to go lead free?

The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act takes effect Jan. 4, 2014. Are you ready?

Under the act, signed by Congress three years ago, “lead free” will be redefined as “not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.”

This is a significant change, folks! The maximum lead content of plumbing products used to be 8.0 percent. When the law takes effect on Jan. 4, it will be illegal to sell or install products that exceed 0.25 percent lead.

If you live in California, Vermont, Louisiana or Maryland, you’re ahead of the curve. These states have already implemented tougher safe drinking water standards with respect to plumbing materials. The new federal requirements play catch up to these states’ regulations.

The Good News

The act does NOT require existing infrastructure to be proactively replaced. But when you eventually need to repair or replace a pipe, fixture or fitting, you’re probably going to have to find a compliant replacement that has less than 0.25 percent lead.

Also, just to clarify, we’re talking about drinking water here. The act doesn’t apply to non-potable-water plumbing systems, such as industrial processing, irrigation or outdoor watering. The law also excludes toilets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers, or shower valves.

What to Look for When Buying New Plumbing Supplies

NSF International and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have responded to the updated definition with NSF/ANSI 372, which will go into effect in October 2013 as certification for the 2014 lead-content restrictions.


Helpful Resources

Want more information about the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and how it might impact your business? These sites can answer your questions.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

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Teen Walks 10 Miles in the Snow to Interview for Minimum Wage Job

Jhaqueil Reagan at Papa Roux's

Photo Credit: AP/Indianapolis Star, Bill McCleery

Let’s face it, it’s tough this day in age to find hardworking teenagers. Doesn’t it seem like teens are more interested in money and materialistic things, but less motivated to work than ever before? Apparently it’s true!  According to a new study on the attitudes and values of high school seniors from the 1970s to now, there’s a growing gap between teens’ desire to work hard and own nice things.

Well, that’s not the case for Jhaqueil Reagan, an unemployed Indianapolis teen. This 18 year old boy walked nearly 10 miles in slush and snow to a minimum wage paying job interview at a thrift store, because he didn’t have enough cash for bus fare.  About half way through the journey he spotted restaurant owner, Art Bouvier who was laying rock salt on the sidewalk after an ice storm earlier that day. Jhaqueil approached Mr. Bouvier asking how far it was to 10th & Sherman. He said “Buddy that’s probably six, seven miles. You’d be better off on a bus especially in this weather.” Jhaqueil just replied, “Okay, thank you,” and kept walking.

Later, when Mr. Bouvier was driving with his wife, he spotted the boy still walking. Astonished, he pulled over and asked him if he needed a ride. Jhaqueil graciously got in the car and proceeded to tell the couple that he was going to a job interview, but didn’t have any money for bus fare. He had already walked 3 miles before seeing Mr. Bouvier.

Mr. Bouvier was shocked. He could not believe a teen was walking 10 miles through slush and snow to a minimum wage paying job interview. He told Jhaqueil that he would double his salary if he worked for him at his restaurant, Papa Roux instead. Jhaqueil accepted and started work the following week.

It’s not every day you find young workers with ambition and motivation like Jhaqueil. In fact, Jhaqueil’s story touched Mr. Bouvier so much that he took it to social media. He posted the story on his Facebook page. Not long after, the story had over 15K likes and 4K shares. Messages of support were pouring in from around the globe.

Fox 59 reported that Jhaqueil’s mother died two years ago and he was looking for a job to support his brothers and sisters. He had to drop out of high school and recently got his GED.

He also told WRTV-TV that he is looking for an apartment closer to his new workplace so he didn’t have to walk as far. However, he will have quite a bit of time to find an apartment because the IndyGo, the Indianapolis Public Transportation authority, provided him with a year’s supply of bus passes!

This is such a great story and the fact that Mr. Bouvier recognized Jhaqueil’s work ethic and dedication gives me butterflies. Papa Roux’s is extremely lucky to have Jhaqueil on their team.

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Convenience Over Quality: Does Age Make All The Difference?

When it comes to fine dining, a casual lunch, or a midnight snack, does the age of certain foods make all the difference?

The discussion surrounding fresh-from-the-ground ingredients and finely-aged wine, appetizers, and entrees is an ongoing one. As ridiculous as it sounds, choosing your side may ostracize you from certain high-brow circles, but deciding to hyperdecant a wine and also enjoy dry aged beef is a personal choice.

That said, knowing what’s on the table when it comes to your options is always a good idea, so here are three instances in which a food or drink’s age can play with the palate:

1. Decanting & Aerating vs. Hyperdecanting Wine

The tricks to enjoying wine are almost as varied as the grapes used in different vintages. Wafting delicate aromas and letting subtle flavors tickle the tongue are common practice, but possibly the most important piece of the wine puzzle is letting the liquid breathe – a process known as decanting.

Technically speaking, decanting is simply pouring a liquid from one container to another, with the purpose of leaving unwanted sediment in the original container. This also allows for aeration and softening of an otherwise bitter or lingering taste.

Pouring wine from a newly-uncorked bottle into a decanter and letting it oxidize for a few hours before service is the traditional method of decanting. In addition to decanting, the process of forcefully pouring wine into a decanter (aeration) quickens the effect.  Decanters for wine and spirits come in a range of designs and sizes, and many boast features that are supposed to improve the evolution from bottle to glass. No matter the size or style, traditional decanters are meant to hold a wine for an extended period of time, while it naturally aerates and softens, and purists wouldn’t have it any other way.

The extreme way of letting a wine breathe, and a fairly new concept, is a method known as hyperdecanting. Hyperdecanting is the process of oxidizing a wine using an immersion or kitchen blender, and it’s turning more than a few heads for its unflinching rebellion to wine etiquette. What’s essentially decanting on steroids, hyperdecanting takes the hours-long process of aeration from traditional decanting and condenses it into quick bursts of bubbles. Infusing a fresh-poured wine with so much oxygen is like pushing the hand on a clock forward, and skeptics of hyperdecanting are often surprised at how well the method works to open up flavors and subdue a bitter bite.

Here’s a video of a wine connoisseur newly converted to the hyperdecanting method:

2. Wet vs. Dry Aging Beef

Fresh-from-the-floor beef is often called “green” in the same sense that fresh-from-the-tree firewood is green. It’s alive, tough, and not quite primed for its purpose. That’s why beef is softened up, broken down, and prepped for your plate through a process called aging. Aging beef allows natural microbes and enzymes to go to work on the meat’s connective tissue and muscle. This, in turn, makes the beef more tender and flavorful. Depending on how you’d like the end result to turn out, dry aging or wet aging beef really boils down to personal preference.

When it comes to beef, dry aging is the traditional method. If you’ve ever seen an entire side of a cow hanging by hooks in a cooler you’re looking at meat being dry aged.  Dry aging calls for beef to be left in a refrigerated area with a constant air flow to help control bacteria, and a temperature ranging from 36 degrees to freezing is considered best practice. If temperature is too high your meat will spoil, and if it’s too low your meat will freeze. While dry aging, a side of beef’s juices start to evaporate, and the more juices lost the more “beefy” the meat becomes as the same amount of muscle fiber now has less water. Keeping humidity up, somewhere around 85 percent, is a good way to save those tasty juices long before you seal them in on a skillet. The weight loss that occurs during the dry aging process is also part of the reason it’s so expensive per pound, and the longer beef is left to age the higher the risk of spoilage and continued weight loss.

On the flip side, wet aging beef retains most (if not all) of the juices from a cut of beef. Unfortunately, what you retain in weight you lose in portion size. The process of wet aging can’t accommodate an entire side of beef, and smaller cuts are vacuum sealed instead. Vacuum sealing/wet aging a piece of beef doesn’t allow it to breathe or dehydrate, as with dry aging, and breaking down in its own blood and juices has been said to cause a stronger, more sour flavor. As unappealing as that sounds, at least 90 percent of all beef bought by Americans has been wet aged, so once again, it’s all about choice and preference. Wet aged beef is less expensive, and the process is faster than traditional dry aging. As with many things, convenience over quality tends to be the argument.

That said, while dry aging is preferred for something like ribs, the method can’t accommodate certain cuts of beef like skirt and chuck steaks. Deciding what works best for your home or restaurant is key.

3. Raw vs. Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables

Simply put, time takes its toll on fresh fruits and vegetables quickly. Leave an apple sitting on a warm countertop for even an afternoon and the fruit starts to look a little worse, and reaching into a week-old produce bag of once-fresh lettuce leafs is anything but satisfying. What’s worse, some fruits and vegetables actually make others ripen faster when paired together; almost as if they’re fighting against you in a war on freshness. As an alternative to constantly buying fresh produce many consumers choose to dehydrate nature’s candy to make it last longer and serve specific purposes. To make an informed decision knowing how the dehydration process affects a food’s nutrients and calorie count is important.

Dehydration is the technique of removing moisture from foods, and when done correctly dehydrating fruits and vegetables can make them last for months and even years. In fact, USA Emergency Supply claims they opened up cans of food 15-30 years old and were pleasantly surprised by the results. Much like wine, the ways to dehydrate foods vary depending on your preference. Sun drying, oven drying, and using a professional dehydrator are all popular methods.

During the dehydration process temperatures are warm enough to remove moisture, but not cook or burn the food. As with dry aging beef, air circulation and humidity are important to preventing a stagnant environment where microorganisms can thrive. If humidity is too high and temperature is too low, you’re essentially ripening fruits and vegetables faster without the benefits of dehydration. If humidity is too low and temperature is too high the outside layer of the food will harden and prevent the inside from drying properly. Sufficiently dried fruits and vegetables should be hard and brittle.

Unfortunately, the heat needed to dry produce also saps some of the nutritional value from your farm-fresh favorites. Vitamins A and C are especially heat sensitive, and you lose a substantial amount (anywhere from 20-50%), simply by dehydration. As counter-intuitive as it may be to the organic mindset, chemical treatments like sulfur dioxide have been used before dehydrating to protect Vitamin A and C, but the treatment destroys Vitamin B1. There are also more natural pre-treatments such as hot water blanching or dipping foods in citrus juice. It seems no matter the method of your pre-treatment you’re going to lose some nutritional value during the dehydration process, and just how much is dependent on the type of produce.

One thing you won’t lose when dehydrating fruits and vegetables is calorie count. The number of calories present in one apple is the same number of calories present in one dehydrated apple, and the same goes for vegetables. With that in mind, measurement makes all the difference, and depending on how you portion your produce you could be doubling or even tripling your caloric intake. For example, one cup of fresh grapes has around 100 calories, while a dried cup of the same grapes (raisins) has over 400 calories. That’s a significant difference! This is great for athletes or outdoor enthusiasts who burn a lot of calories and need to replenish on the go, but it’s bad for the weight watcher who just ate three cups of raisins in one sitting.

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Ah, Beer. The Rise of Craft Beer in America

Craft Brews

Here at Tundra we love beer, and according to the Brewers Association, we’re not alone. There are 2,347 craft breweries across the country, providing an estimated 100,000 part-time and full-time jobs.  These stats are amazing, especially because overall beer sales numbers have decreased across the board… except in craft beer’s case, which saw a 15% increase in 2012! According to Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association:

“Beer-passionate Americans are opening breweries at a rate faster than at any time since the day Prohibition ended for the beverage of moderation. There is nearly a new brewery opening for every day of the year, benefiting beer lovers and communities in every area across the country.”

I’ve learned that craft beer is many different things to many different people.  American tastes are changing, consider coffee, tea, cheese, chocolate, bread, and (yes) beer. American consumers increasingly want choices of flavor in the foods that they buy.

  • Quality: Small and independent craft brewers are known for being passionate and innovative makers of full-flavored beer.
  • Taste: It may be opinion, but craft beer enthusiasts report craft beer simply tastes better than mass produced, mass marketed beer brands.
  • More Alcohol: Craft beers come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing remains the same – they pack the punch! Most craft beers range from 5-10% alcohol by volume. Some craft beers can even reach 20%+ alcohol by volume.
  • Choices: With over 2,000 craft breweries across the country, there are literally thousands of delicious, flavorful craft beers to try!
  • Health Benefits: I questioned this one, but like red wine, craft beer does offer some health benefits (moderation is key). Craft beer contains soluble fiber, B vitamins, a range of antioxidants, and is also a rich source of silicon.

Craft Beer Market Segments

The craft beer industry is defined by 4 distinct market segments: microbreweries, brewpubs, contract brewing companies and regional craft breweries.

  • Microbrewery: A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year with 75% or more of its beer sold off-site.
  • Brewpub: A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on-site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar.
  • Contract Brewing Company: A business that hires another brewery to produce its beer. It can also be a brewery that hires another brewery to produce additional beer. The contract brewing company handles marketing, sales, and distribution of its beer, while generally leaving the brewing and packaging to its producer-brewery.
  • Regional Brewery: A brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels.
  • Regional Craft Brewery: An independent regional brewery who has either an all malt flagship or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance, rather than lighten, the flavor.

Craft beer distributors face uphill battles when it comes to distribution laws, and other post prohibition regulations, but American consumers continue to turn to craft beers. Whether it’s for taste, quality, alcohol content, health benefits, choices, or all five, we expect to see this food service segment to continue to grow through 2013.

Share your comments, what do you love about craft beer?

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50 Honey & Bee Facts

Honey Dipper

  1. There are ancient Sumerian and Babylonian records that date back to 2100 BC that describe honey, but this was only the first record of the sweet stuff.  Historians believe that honey is likely way older than this.
  2. When the Spaniards arrived in the Americas in 1600 AD, they found that the natives had already developed beekeeping.  So, odds are that the practice of humans using honey (for consumption or health reasons) was much more wide spread than records show.
  3. Honey never expires – never!  Supposedly, there was a 1,000 year old jar of honey found in an Egyptian tomb, and the brave soul that dared tasting it said it was delicious.  We’ll take his word for it.
  4. To produce 1 pound of honey, the honey bees have to visit an estimated 2,000,000 flowers and fly an estimated 55,000 miles.
  5. 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey is produced per honey bee during its entire lifetime (which is a short 45 days during the summer).
  6. A bee colony can consist of 30,000 – 60,000 bees, and only one those bees can be the queen.
  7. Each colony has a unique odor so the bees always know where home is.
  8. The worker bees and honey bees are 99% female.  So, what do the male bees do all day?  They’re reserved for the queen, and they’re called drones.
  9. The brain of a worker bee and honey bee tiny, but they have the densest neuropile tissue of any animal.
  10. When the honey bees return to the hive (which they find easily because they have an impeccable sense of smell), they do a little dance to communicate with the other honey bees.  That dance helps the other bees find where the flowers are.
  11. To get the nectar, honeybees pull the liquid from the flower with its long, tube-like tongue.  It then stores the honey in one of its two stomachs.  Think of the stomach as a kangaroo pouch for honey; it makes it not so gross when you read what’s next.
  12. The amount of honey 1 bee can hold can equal her total weight, but to get to this point, she must visit 100-1,500 flowers.
  13. When the honey bee returns to the hive, she opens her mouth and a worker bee comes up and sucks the nectar out of her stomach honey pouch.  The worker bee then chews on the nectar for a while to fill it full of enzymes; in other words, she’s turning those natural complex sugars in the nectar to simple sugars that makes the honey more digestible and keeps bacteria away.  It’s not bee vomit.
  14. Nectar is 80% water, so the bees have to work together to pull some of the moisture out of the chewed up, enzyme goodness; to do this, they spread the soon-to-be-honey over the honeycombs.   This helps the water evaporate much more quickly and leaves a yummy, gooey honey.
  15. A honeycomb always has six sides.
  16. Actually, these bees mean business when it comes to drying out the honey.  They don’t just sit back and let Mother Nature take its course with the evaporation process; heck no, these girls know how to get things done!  After the honey is spread-out over the honeycombs, the worker bees get to flappin’ those wings to help speed up the drying process.
  17. And once the honey is nice and gooey, the girls seal off the honeycomb with a bit of beeswax.
  18. Bees are totally self-efficient.  A colony of bees can eat around 120-200 pounds of honey per year.
  19. 2 tablespoons of honey can fuel a honey bee long enough to fly 1 time around the world.
  20. The queen only eats royal jelly, which is created by the worker bees and helps plump up the queen.  It is unknown if it’s this jelly or because the queen is overly-spoiled, but she lives 50 times longer than any of the other bees.  We need to get our hands on this royal jelly stuff.
  21. Out of about 20,000 bee species, there are only 4 that make honey.
  22. There are over 300 distinct types of honey available in the US.
  23. A typical beehive can produce 400 pounds of honey per year.
  24. That “honey thing” is called a honey dipper (also honey wand and honey drizzler).  If you surf the web you’ll see that many people don’t quite get why a honey dipper is better than a spoon, but for those that grew up with one, they know that it’s the ONLY way to serve honey.
  25. In 1 tablespoon of honey, there are 64 calories, none of which are fat calories.
  26. Honey is the only food humans eat that is produced by an insect.
  27. Honey is the only food that includes everything humans need to sustain life, including water, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
  28. When honey hits our tables, it’s typically 17% water.
  29. Remember we said that honey never expires?  Well, that’s true, but it has to be properly stored.  If moisture is reintroduced to the honey, it can begin to ferment.
  30. 30 years ago, the average honey price was $.30 per pound.  Today, the average price is pushing $6.00 per pound.  Let’s say you stumbled upon grandpa’s secret stash of honey – a 30 year old 50 gallon bucket to be exact.  That bucket of honey was only worth $125 back then, but today it’d be worth $2,500!  Thanks grandpa.
  31. Pediatricians warn against giving children less than 1 years of age honey because there has been harmful bacterium Clostridium botulinum spores found in honey.  These spores can cause botulism in young children because they don’t produce the stomach acids and protective digestive bacteria needed to break down these spores.
  32. 1 cup of sugar can be replaced by ¾ cup of honey.  Just make sure to reduce liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup.  If you aren’t using sour cream or sour milk in the recipe, make sure to throw in a pinch of baking soda as well (this helps reduce acidity levels in the honey).
  33. When making particular recipes with honey, there are additional things to note.  Like jellies and jams should be cooked at a higher temperature and candies should be beaten longer.
  34. But higher baking temperatures are not recommended for most recipes.  To keep recipes from getting to brown, lower the oven temperature by 25⁰ F.
  35. In stored honey, if crystallization occurs, it doesn’t mean the honey is bad.  Just stick the container in hot water until the crystals dissolve away.
  36. But don’t boil it: getting honey too hot can change the flavor and withdraws the pollen that’s naturally present.
  37. Ever heard of mead?  Referred to a lot in older novels, mead is a wine made from honey.
  38. There are a lot of honey fakes out there.  It has been found mixed with sugar syrup, corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, molasses, invert sugar, flour, starch, and many, many other fillers.
  39. To slap on a “Pure Honey” label, manufacturers have to add an unidentified amount of pure honey.  So, the “Pure Honey” could be only 5% pure honey, and the other 95% just fillers, but you’ll still pay the price of expensive honey.
  40. All of those fillers that go into honey have to natural ingredients. They may be fillers, but by law, they’ll always be natural fillers.
  41. It’s rather hard to test for pure honey, but there are a lot of different methods that people have come up with to test for pureness.  Unfortunately, none of these have been proven to be 100% accurate, so make sure you do your research to find out the truth.  Hint, use the Internet to find the real stuff, we thought was a great resource.
  42. To help soothe allergies, take 1 teaspoon of honey per day.  The honey helps your body develop a resistance to pollen, which helps reduce overall allergies.
  43. Skin burns can also be soothed with honey.  Mix an even amount of honey with cod liver oil and rub over the burn.  Keep the burn wrapped up, and change daily.  You should see that the healing process is much quicker.
  44. It’s believed that the use of honey to help heal wounds dates back to the ancient Greeks in 50 AD.  We don’t know how the Greeks knew it had medicinal powers, but medical professionals have found that honey creates a barrier to moisture and prevents dressings from sticking to the wound.  It’s also believed to provide other nutrients and chemicals that help to speed up healing.
  45. Try a teaspoon of honey to help soothe a sore throat or bad cough.
  46. Honey is lower in glycemic than normal table sugar; meaning, it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as quickly as sugar does.
  47. Athletes take honey to help improve endurance, strength, and performance.  During a work-out, a teaspoon of honey can help give you the extra boost needed to keep going.
  48. Athletes that take honey before and after workouts show to have faster recovery time than those that don’t take honey at all.
  49. Ever heard, “…we can put a man on the moon, but we still have no idea how a bumble bee can fly?”  Yeah, that’s not true, sorry.
  50. Bees are being used to sniff out bombs.  Seriously, a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has formed the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project where bees are being trained to detect explosives.

We’re no doctors around here; we just dig into the Interwebs and find all of this fun information.  We tried our best to give credit where credit was due, but when it comes to medical information, you should ALWAYS contact your doctor before following advice you find online.

Other honey articles on the Back Burner:

Chefs Make Their Own Honey
FOOD ALERT: Be Wary of These Controversial & Fake Foods

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Should Social Media Be Used to Shame No-Shows?

Twitter No-ShowsHave you ever been so upset with no-show diners that you’ve wanted to shout your anger from the rooftop? Well, you’re not the only one. Some restaurants have started to slander no-show customers publicly through social media – using customers full names!

Have you heard of Red Medicine? It’s a hip Beverly Hills dining establishment serving Vietnamese cuisine, with a trendy twist. It’s an establishment that is tough to get into without a reservation and, even then, you may not be eating until 9:00PM (did I mention it’s trendy?). Recently, Red Medicine took a bold move and showed their anger for no-shows, all with the help of social media.

According to The Eater, who reached out to restaurant manager Noah Ellis about the daring posts, no-shows cost restaurants a lot of money and Ellis was at his wit’s end that weekend. He used Twitter as an outlet to express his frustrations.

Red Medicine Twitter No-Show

Ellis later explained that no-shows have always been a problem for restaurants, primarily because the situation becomes difficult when a restaurant is forced to overbook to ensure it stays filled:

“Invariably, the assholes who decide to no-show, or cancel 20 minutes before their reservation ruin restaurants for the people who make a reservation and do their best to honor it. Either restaurants are forced to overbook and make the guests (that actually showed up) wait, or they do what we do, turn away guests for some prime-time slots because they’re booked, and then have empty tables.” – Noah Ellis

He mentioned that they tried to go down the “no overbooking” route a year ago because they presumed that they would be able to recover from no-shows, but would inevitably ruin a few experiences along the way… especially when guests are waiting for more than half an hour for their table. Ellis said:

“I remember a handful of times where those guests who had to wait were celebrating something, or were a younger group who brought their parents from out of town to show them the restaurant; we felt terrible. So we made the conscious decision to eliminate the ghost tables and set our turn times to a realistic length for making reservations.”

“We tried taking a credit card with every reservation, but it hurt our business; there’s a contingent of people who just won’t put down a card, regardless of if they plan on coming or not. The ticketing systems are interesting, but we do most of our business a la carte, and I’m also not sure that we have the consistent demand to justify it. We could do walk-in only, but then if you’re celebrating a special occasion, having a meeting, or trying to have a nice night out, it sucks to not know when you’ll be able to get a table. There’s no winning.”

Ellis was at his boiling point and blew up on Twitter because he didn’t know what else to do, but what else is there to do?

According to The Evening Herald a similar situation came up with Ireland’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, Oliver Dunne. He publicly roasted customers who didn’t show-up for Mother’s Day on his Twitter account.  Need I mention that, that no-show ended up costing him over $1,300?  His tweet sounded something like this:

“To the 30 people who confirmed and no-showed today – well done. I’d say your mother is proud.”

Take a Side

With all of that said, what is your take on no-show diners – how should they be handled? Is it fair to publicly denounce them via social media?  What would be a better solution?

Time to sound off!

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Top Wedding Catering Trends of 2013

Weddings have classically been known as a formal affair with rooms filled with round tables, elegant place settings that include seating cards, and a wedding cake large enough to be seen by everyone.  And even though a few wedding parties still opt for a more formal setting, there are many that have ventured over to the social side.  The idea is to add “foodertainment” to the mix – a perfect blend of culinary visual appeal and taste that allows for guests to mingle, instead of being locked at a table.

From drinks and finger foods to late night munchies, here are a few wedding catering trends that we hope to see more of this wedding season.

1. Creative Beverages

Creative Wedding Beverage Bars

There’s definitely never a lack of alcoholic beverages at most weddings; in fact, the majority of us go for the wedding, but stay for the party afterwards.  Drinking and mingling with friends and loved ones always makes for a perfect night, but when a little fun is brought to the mix, what can go wrong?   A few fun beverage trends  we’ve seen at recent weddings include a bloody Mary bar, bubbly bar (make a custom glass of bubbly, which includes fruit juice and fruit slices), specialty cocktails and a variety of draft brews.

But don’t forget the guests that prefer not to divulge in alcohol for the evening.   We’ve also seen an increase in hot drink stations and water infused stations.

Lastly, when serving food, try recommending a paired beverage – a nice shot of Hefenweizen always goes great with salty finger foods.

2. Finger Foods & Small Plates

Wedding Finger Foods

It’s easier for guests to mingle when they don’t have to sit at a table as they dine, which is why we’re guessing there’s been a huge increase in finger foods and small plates at weddings.  When the caterer offers to walk the room with plated food that can be easily grabbed and munched as guests carry on conversation, the night seems to flow much better – which sets even Bridezilla at ease.

3. Food Trucks & Picnics

Food Truck Wedding

We love this trend, it marries simplicity with great food where you least expect it.  If you would have told us a few years ago that food trucks would be making their way into weddings, we would have likely laughed, but the only thing laughable about this new trend is how much it encourages people to have their own laughs.

Yes, it’s informal, but how fun and easy is it to have a food truck for dinner and another for dessert.  Spread out some beautiful linen on the grass (or on tables) and the entire event can be picnic style.

4. Farm-to-Table

Lyons Farmette Farm Wedding

Farm-to-table isn’t just for residents anymore.  In fact, Lyons Farmette, located in Lyons, Colorado, has seen an increase in weddings that want to take place at the farm (and the wedding party has no issues mingling with the wandering farm animals).  But it’s not just about farm animals here, the culinary experience offers guests the freshest ingredients, while also being able to entertain guests with special dietary needs  – vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and other allergies.

Think about a table in the middle of a farm surrounded with the rustic beauty that the land brings – it’s hard not to fall in love with the setting and food, even if it does involve a few goats and chickens.

5. Chef Stations

Chef Station Wedding

A lot of what attracts people to finger foods and farm-to-table trends is seeing the masterpiece of food on the plate.  It’s not just about the food, it’s an interaction that involves all of the senses, and getting food prepared right in front of you helps improve that experience.  Chef stations offer a great way for guests to be able to ask questions as they watch their meal being prepared.  They also get restaurant quality food that is served hot and fresh.

6. Family-Style

Family Style Wedding Catering

For those brides that still want a sit down dinner, there are always meals that can be served family-style to encourage guests to keep the chatter going.  Family-style catering delivers meals to the table in big dishes that are then passed, and helps to boost guest interactions.

As a word of caution, having big dinner plates and bowls on a table takes up a lot of room – the bride should remember to keep the centerpieces small so the table doesn’t get too crowded.

7. Dessert Bar

Smores Bar Desserts Wedding Catering

Sorry wedding cake lovers, brides are keeping the social train moving right on through dessert time.  We’ve seen some interesting dessert choices lately, like smores bars, frozen yogurt bars, fondue bars, and other extravagant dessert buffets.

But cakes aren’t entirely out the window.  We’ve also seen cake pops, rice crispy treat cakes, cheesecake bars, and mini-cakes.

8. Late-Night Snacking

Late Night Wedding Snacks

Once dinner is done, it’s time to dance the night away, but all of that drinking and dancing leads to late-night munchies.  We love seeing that more caterers are offering to entertain the night-owls of the group by serving late-night snacks, like mini pretzel bites, sliders, meatballs, and other fun finger foods.  And don’t worry about going over the top; keeping it simple is perfect for this hungry bunch!

9. To-Go Bags

To-Go Cake Wedding

Bless those that are able to rock-the-night-away, but not all guests can stay up into the wee hours of the night to experience those late-night munchies, so opt for helping to cater for guests on the go as well.  Think of easy-to-pack foods like trail mix and cookies.  You can have the food pre-packed or setup buffet style so they can dip up their own grab-bag.


For more fun wedding catering ideas, visit us on Pinterest.


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Quick Service Restaurants Take on BREAKFAST!


Remember the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” Research shows this to be true, and it may help control Americans increasing problem with obesity. Aside from the health benefits of eating breakfast (which are all important), there is also a business opportunity for quick service restaurants.

According to QSR, nearly half of all American consumers visited a quick service restaurant for their morning meal last year. With that stat, the market has acknowledged breakfast is on the rise and quick service restaurants across the country are stepping up to meet the needs of their customers.

Consumers are on the go and looking for breakfast options that are portable, save money and save time. If you are the owner or manager of a quick serve restaurant thinking about offering a breakfast menu the future is definitely bright! During the 2007 economic downturn quick service restaurants increased breakfast menu options, which were positioned in the market to attract consumers that would otherwise eat breakfast at more expensive, full service restaurants.

The QSR also said, Subway added breakfast options in 2010, and has since been followed by Wendy’s and Taco Bell. Last year, breakfast sales totaled nearly $25.5 billion and are expected to see growth in the 2% range this year.

Adding a breakfast menu to an already existing quick serve restaurant operation can be easy for food service operators. Simply adding coffee and a few good food offerings, along with opening earlier, is all it takes. Research shows the breakfast sandwich is the most purchased breakfast food item, after coffee of course. Whether using biscuits, bread, buns, muffins, or tortillas, the sandwich leads the morning menu. Alternatively, one-third of breakfast consumers are opting for breakfast pastries, including cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, muffins, Danishes, and scones. All of these food options cater to portability, which is what consumers are looking for. And adding healthier breakfast options like oatmeal, fruit, or low-calorie breakfast bars will cater to the more health-conscious on-the-go consumer.

Convenience is king and breakfast items that are portable are predicted to continue to grow. Independent quick service restaurants in higher density populations should consider entering the breakfast market space. Independent restaurants can build loyalty through convenience, value, and service. Quick service restaurants that effectively market menus to meet what consumers are looking for will generate repeat business and thrive.

If you are an independent quick service restaurant and recently entered the breakfast market; let us know how it’s going for you; we would enjoy hearing your experience!

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Facebook News Feed Redesign – Advantages for Your Business

It’s true, Facebook announced earlier this month that they’re launching a radical news feed redesign! Here are the changes you can expect to see soon:


  • Rich Visual Stories
  • Choice of News Feeds
  • Mobile Inspired Consistency

Currently, the News Feed takes up 40% of page real estate. The rest of the page is jam packed with busy navigation menus, notifications, sponsored ads, recommendations and much more. The content you share easily gets lost in all of the visual noise.

Goodbye clutter. Hello bright beautiful stories. This is what the new Facebook News Feed will look like:

New Facebook Feed

As you can see, the News Feed completely dominates the page with large, eye-catching visuals (similar to Google+) and the left navigation is represented by app icons similar to mobile devices. The right sidebar still contains recommendations and ads, but it’s cleaned up, and again, more visual. You will also notice that Graph Search is implemented in this example which is another big change Facebook is rolling out.

New Facebook Feed 2

Not only will individual posts be larger, but they’re getting a snazzy new redesign! Notice how the image posted by Alicia Keys has white overlay text rather than a snippet of standard text above the image? The reasoning behind the News Feed redesign was to draw more attention to media than standard text.

That’s a huge advantage for restaurants! Imagine all the delicious food photography you can post to captivate fans. #foodporn.

In less than 2 years photos have come to dominate News Feed content. Over 50% of all content on Facebook is visual and the number is growing. This means that users and businesses must pay better attention to what they’re posting, and jump on the visual bang wagon. Facebook posting habits must grow accustomed to the News Feed changes in order to hold onto fans.

Aritcle & Blog Post Links Will Also Change

Currently posts have a small image thumbnail, article title, a short description, and space for users to comment on why they shared the post. The new design offers the same information, but the image is much bigger, the title and descriptions offer more of a newspaper feel and the publication’s logo is printed in the bottom right corner of the post.

New Facebook Feed 3

So, next time you write a blog article do us all a favor and incorporate crisp, relevant images and a catchy article description to entice users to click and engage.

When Someone Adds a Friend or Likes a Page You Will See Something Completely Different Too

The new presentation of the News Feed post when someone likes your page will look bright and alluring. Not only will your profile picture be highlighted but your cover photo and a like button will be displayed. This new design will give users a much better feel for your business, and a large call-to-action button to like your page. Again, what a great opportunity for restaurants to make a lasting impression.

New Facebook Feed 4

Make sure your cover photo and logo have appealing high-quality images that tell a story about your brand and cuisine. Don’t let users think twice about clicking “Like”.

Facebook Check-Ins are Getting Revamped Too

This new layout should help drive more customers to your door! This version is similar to Facebook’s current mobile app that allows check-ins, including maps with images that will pop-up for all check-ins.

New Facebook Feed Check-In

Is all of your location data up to date? If not, it’s time to jump on it!

In a nutshell, Facebook is making visual posts the bread and butter of the News Feed. Now is the perfect time to spice up your profile with bright, striking images and include pictures in your posts whenever possible. If you start making these changes now, you will be ready when the News Feed redesign goes into effect.

Pictures courtesy of Facebook. 

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