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Not Your Typical Concession Stand

Who doesn’t love a good concession stand? Whether you’re at a baseball game, fair, carnival or concert, concession stands are a must. People expect to see concession stands at events and probably salivate like Pavlov’s dog over the classic staples for hours leading up to their arrival. Hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, soft pretzels, sno-cones, cotton candy, you name it, these tasty goods are exactly what a concession stand is all about! Here are some concession stand recipes with a twist that will take your customer’s taste buds on a while ride.

Grilled Hot Dog with Mango Chutney and Red Onion Relish
Not Your Typical Concession Stand
1 (9-ounce) jar mango chutney (such as Major Grey’s), any large pieces chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard plus additional for serving
8 beef hot dogs
8 hot dog buns, opened

Directions: Mix chutney, onion, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon mustard in bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill hot dogs and buns until heated through and grill marks form, 2 to 3 minutes per side for hot dogs and about 1 minute per side for buns. Transfer buns to plate. Place 1 hot dog in each bun. Add mustard and relish; serve.

Walking Tacos
Not Your Typical Concession Stand
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6-8 little sweet peppers or 1 green and 1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
Pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 Cup Salsa
1 small can tomato paste
1 Cup warm water
3 cans of beans, drained (black, pinto and red kidney)
1 can black olives sliced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp hot sauce
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Pinch of Kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and garlic salt (to taste)
1/2 Cup fresh chopped cilantro
Bags of Fritos or Doritos
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Jalapenos or green onions

Directions: Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté onion and peppers for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add ground beef, salt and pepper. Cook until browned. Drain if needed. Pour in tomatoes, salsa, and tomato paste then stir to combine. Add 1 Cup warm water to thin out slightly then add in beans, olives, chili powder, cumin, hot sauce, lime juice, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Start with a pinch and continue to add salt to your liking. Add chopped cilantro and reduce heat to low to simmer until ready to serve. When ready, open bags of Fritos or Doritos. Spoon in chili, cheese, sour cream and jalapenos. Stick a fork in it and eat!!

Mango Strawberry Snow Cones
Not Your Typical Concession Stand
Ice
2 mangoes, peeled and chopped
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 lime juiced, plus wedges for garnish

Directions: Fill a food processor with ice. Process until the ice is very fine, like snow. Add the mangoes and strawberries and pulse to blend. Pile the crushed ice into dessert glasses or dishes and squeeze over the lime juice. Garnish with lime wedges; serve immediately.

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LEAN Act Gaining Popularity In Congress

The Labeling Education and Nutrition, or LEAN Act, is gaining sponsors and votes in the United States congress.  The legislation would create a national standard for labeling menu items across the entire food service industry.  Consumers overwhelmingly support menu labeling, with some polls showing a 75% majority in favor of nutrition information on menus.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) and its offshoot, the Coalition For Responsible Nutrition Information (CRNI), support the LEAN Act and are lobbying congress for its passage.  As more and more municipalities and states have passed menu labeling laws, restaurateurs, and especially national chains, have recognized the need for a national standard that will eliminate the growing patchwork of local laws.

The biggest issue many restaurants have with menu labeling is the complicated and sometimes expensive process of analyzing the nutritional values of menu items.  Each ingredient must be separately assessed for its nutritional value, and even slight variations in portions can alter the numbers.

Traditionally, ingredients were analyzed in a laboratory, which usually translated into a lot of time and money to get each ingredient’s nutrition information.  Recently, some companies, like MenuCalc, have compiled databases of ingredient nutrition information from USDA labs, eliminating the need for expensive laboratory testing.

No matter what, menu labeling is coming, and restaurants are going to have to deal with that reality.  A vote on the LEAN Act is expected during this session of congress, and we could see a national standard for menu labeling by as early as next year.

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Menu Labeling Law Being Considered in Congress

The movement to accurately label menu items with nutrition information is gaining ground at a remarkable pace.  In 2008, the state of California, the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and two counties in Washington and Oregon passed legislation requiring restaurants to provide nutrition information to their customers.

20 more cities, counties, and states currently have similar laws on their dockets.

Studies have shown that 75% of consumers favor mandatory menu labeling in food service establishments.  Consumers are already familiar with nutrition labeling since it became standard on food products, and most want the same information when they dine out.

Critics cite the cost of analyzing menu items for their nutritional content as being prohibitively expensive for most small and mid-size food service businesses.

They also say menu variety will disappear because once a recipe is analyzed for its content, it cannot be changed even slightly since this will alter nutrition information.

However, the NRAsupports menu labeling legislation, but has chosen to lobby for a national bill that will preempt the growing patchwork of local and state laws regulating menu labeling and set a single national standard for menu labeling.

Menu Labeling Law Being Considered in Congress

The LEAN Act is currently being considered in Congress

The Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act was introduced in 2008 and sets a national standard for restaurant menu labeling.  It is supported by the NRA and the Coalition for Responsible Nutrition Information (CRNI), an NRA-led advocacy group.  LEAN is currently in front of Congress and awaits a vote.

As restaurants in places like California begin the process of evaluating their menu nutrition information, a new industry has sprung up around nutrition.

One of those companies is MenuCalc, a San Francisco based organization that has compiled a huge database of laboratory analyses of common food ingredients.  Restaurateurs can use this information, which is accessible through the web, to create their own menu nutrition data.

No matter what, menu labeling is probably a trend in the food service industry that is beyond the point of no return.

It’s likely that in 10 years nutrition information will be as common on menus as Nutrition Facts labels are on food products today, and that leaves restaurateurs two choices:

Analyze and post nutrition information for their menu items today, or put it off for tomorrow.

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Hot Restaurant Trend: Menu Nutrition Labeling

Nutrition labeling is nothing new in the food industry.  Nutrition Facts have become ubiquitous on everything from milk cartons to candy bars.

But up until recently nutrition information on menus was largely absent.

That’s changing, and places like California and New York city have already passed legislation requiring nutrition information be displayed on menus.

Complying with new regulations is a compelling reason to begin recipe analyses, but it shouldn’t be the only reason why you start labeling your menu items with nutritional information.

Providing nutrition information creates customer loyalty and gives healthy menu claims credibility.

In an increasingly health conscious society, consumers want access to nutrition information.  The advent of nutrition labeling on grocery products has made them familiar with nutrition information and restaurants that have tried labeling have received an overwhelmingly positive response.

And menu labeling is a great way for you to market healthy menu choices because customers have all the information they need right in front of them.

Conducting recipe analysis will help you improve ingredient choices and streamline food preparation.  The process of analyzing the ingredients and preparation process you use for each recipe on your menu means you can reassess how you prepare menu items.

Often better ingredients can be employed to improve a recipe’s nutritional value.  Simple changes in food preparation methods can also improve nutritional value.

Perhaps most valuable to restaurateurs is the standardization of the food preparation process.  Small changes in how food is prepared, like variations in sauce and ingredient amounts and cooking times, can drastically change the nutritional value of a menu item.  Recipe analysis means you must prepare menu items the same way every time to maintain accurate nutritional labeling, and this has the valuable side effect of improving kitchen efficiency and reducing waste.

Laboratory Analysis vs. Database Analysis

Restaurateurs have two choices when deciding how to analyze their menus: a laboratory analysis of nutritional content or the computer database analysis of recipe ingredients based upon previous laboratory analyses of those ingredients.

Laboratory analyses are conducted by an independent laboratory, where each ingredient in a recipe is studied and it’s nutritional value calculated through testing.

This method is:

  • Generally used for standardized products with large distributions
  • Used by many large chain restaurants
  • Necessary for fried food products, because the variations in cooking times and the fat absorption qualities of individual foods require case-by-case analysis
  • Typically do not provide nutritional breakdowns of individual ingredients in a recipe, making it more difficult to adjust preparation methods and ingredients to achieve more healthy combinations
  • Requires a standardized food preparation method to ensure the accuracy of the analysis.  Slight variations in food preparation or ingredient amounts
  • Is much more expensive and time consuming than a database analysis

Database analyses collect the results from lab tests already conducted on a wide range of common recipe ingredients, eliminating the need to pay a laboratory to conduct a new test.

Access to database analyses:

  • Are much more affordable and less time consuming than lab analyses
  • Yield breakdowns of different recipe elements like sauces and condiments, giving you a more accurate picture of the nutritional content of each menu item
  • Allow you to adjust recipe ingredients and preparation methods to improve nutritional content and market claims like low sodium, fat free, etc.

Hot Restaurant Trend: Menu Nutrition LabelingMenuCalc is an online tool that uses database analysis to calculate the nutritional value of your menu’s recipes instantly.

You can do the analyses yourself using their wizard style interface and also get help from their experienced staff to create accurate menu labeling for your business.

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