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Local Produce: A Fresh Marketing Approach

Fresh. Organic. High-quality.

These are a few ideas associated with local produce. They are also three reasons why your restaurant should invest in the local food movement today. Not only will you improve your ingredients but you will also communicate that your restaurant supports the surrounding community and is aware of what diners want.

Thousands of restaurants nationwide are embracing this trend and investing in local produce. According to a study from the National Restaurant Association, 90% of fine-dining establishments offer some form of local produce on their menu.

But this trend is not limited to upscale restaurants. The NRA also reported that 63% of casual dining, 56% of family-owned restaurants, 45% fast-casual chains and 28% fast food restaurants have all invested in local produce. Two examples of restaurants that already use local produce are Chipotle and McDonald’s.

Here are some of the reasons a local produce campaign will market your company to customers.

Support of the Local Community

This is very simple; investing in local farming shows you are part of the community. This may be the most beneficial marketing point for investing in local produce. People like to support their local community and when they see a company doing the same they will return the favor and help support that company. Communities tend to take care of a company they can call their own and investing in local produce will make your restaurant one of those companies.

High-Quality Ingredients

Using local produce also means using high-quality ingredients. The quality of industrial farmed produce suffers because it is mass-produced. Locally grown food is sustainable and isn’t exposed to the pesticides, hormones and harmful farming practices factory farms frequently use.

Some factory farms do not rotate their crops, like sustainable farms do, but instead they will continue growing on the same land repeatedly without giving the land a break. This practice reduces the nutrients and minerals the crops contain. Another example of harmful industrial practices is rBGH, an artificial growth hormone that is used in milk production on some factory farms. If you are buying your produce locally from a farm practicing sustainable methods it will be higher quality and your customers will appreciate this.

Giving the Public What they Want

Bon Appétit Management Company, a large food service provider that makes $350 million worth of food purchases per year, recently demanded a food and farm bill that would change harmful farming practices and improve food quality. The company supply’s kitchens in 31 states and made it clear that they would no longer buy from farms that did not meet their food standards.

Bon Appétit  is not alone in their demand for higher quality food.  American diners are becoming more interested in the quality of their food and knowing where it is coming from. In a national poll last year 78% of people said they believe making healthy food more affordable and accessible should be one of the main objectives in the new farm bill.

These are just a few of the advantages to supplying fresh local produce in your restaurant. Diners will appreciate and respond to your investment in sustainable produce. So make a bold statement today to improve your brand image along with your ingredients and buy locally.

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NRA Announces 2009 Kitchen Innovations Awards

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) has announced the 2009 winners of their annual Kitchen Innovations award, which recognizes cutting edge advancements in improving the efficiency of commercial kitchen appliances and tools.

Some highlights from this year’s list include:

NRA Announces 2009 Kitchen Innovations Awards

Advanced Composite Materials’ Silar Microwave Flatstone. This composite ceramic insert is designed for commercial microwaves.  It creates even heat distribution throughout the unit, meaning foods that normally require long oven times can now be cooked quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality.

As a result, a fresh dough pizza can be cooked in three minutes using this flatstone in a commercial microwave.

Eneron, Inc. Turbo Pot. This innovative stock pot drastically improves heat transfer through aluminum fins on the bottom of the pot that cut cooking times and energy usage in half.

The Turbo Pot has been tested by Fishnick, an organization dedicated to improving energy efficiency in the commercial kitchen.  Their findings show the Turbo Pot can significantly reduce energy usage while still maintaining the durable quality needed for commercial cookware.

Halton Model-based Automated Regulation of Exhaust Levels (MARVEL). This automated ventilation system controller automatically adjusts ventilation fan speeds depending on restaurant equipment usage and exhaust air temperatures.  The result is an automated system that conserves energy during slow times while safely removing smoke and heat automatically when the kitchen is busy.

Somat Company eCorect Waste Decomposer.  Reduce food waste by 90% with this compost machine.  Less waste means less expense for trash removal and boosts a commercial kitchen’s green credibility.  This machine is easy to maintain and doesn’t require any special additives or enzymes to work.

These product innovations are great examples of how technology is being leveraged in the food service industry to increase efficiency and therefore profit margins in the fiercely competitive world of food service.

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The Boy Wonder Chef

The Boy Wonder ChefAt the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago earlier this month, Greg Grossman, a promising new chef, impressed show participants with his cooking demos.  He has open invitations to work in the kitchens of some of America’s top chefs, including Grant Achatz and Eric Ripert.  He also has a book and a TV show in the planning stages.

Those accolades are great for any hot new chef, but in Greg Grossman’s case, that isn’t the most amazing thing about him.  The most amazing thing about Greg Grossman is that he has achieved this much success and recognition at 13 years old. Grossman grew up on Long Island in a well-to-do family, and he was exposed to culinary excellence from a very young age.  He was soon dabbling in his family’s kitchen, trying to recreate the fine dishes he tasted while dining out with his family.  By 11, he had his own catering business.  And now, at 13, he is poised on the edge of celebrity chefdom. As everyone is saying these days, keep an eye on this kid.  He is going places, and I’m sure we will all be hearing a lot more from this boy wonder in the near future.

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Card Check Unionization Bill Stirs Up Controversy

Card Check Unionization Bill Stirs Up ControversyThe list of opponents to the Employee Fair Choice Act (EFCA) is a long who’s who of business in the United States, including the Chamber of Commerce, nationally known corporations like Home Depot and Walmart, and most notably for those in the food service industry, the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

What is EFCA? It’s a law that would allow employees to form a union at a place of business if a majority signed a card voting for unionization.

Current legislation requires that a secret ballot administered by the company must result in a majority vote for unionization.

Many small businesses would remain unaffected by the new legislation, since the minimum requirement for unionization is a business with $500,000 in gross annual revenue or at least 3 non-supervisory employees.

What’s the big deal? Well, both sides claim that coercion is the problem.

Business owners, including many in the restaurant industry, represented by the NRA, claim that employees will be coerced into signing card checks for unionization by union activists, especially since the card signing occurs in public.

Union supporters say the coercion that goes on currently under the secret ballot procedure is the real inequity in the system.

They say businesses routinely intimidate and even fire employees that push for unionization leading up to a secret ballot vote, and even though these practices are illegal, the penalties are not very harsh and are not regularly enforced.

Needless to say, Democrats support this legislation and Republicans oppose it.  President Obama spoke in favor of this bill on the Senate floor last year and its passage was a routine campaign promise last fall.

EFCA already passed the House of Representatives last year on a strict party line vote but could not attain cloture in the Senate.

With Democrats ever closer to the magic number of 60 in the Senate, the Employee Fair Choice Act is looking more and more like it will become law, probably within the first six months of this year.

The NRA’s opposition to this bill is explained as a defense of worker’s rights to a secret ballot.  They also say that EFCA will hurt small businesses.

With the passion on both sides running high, it’s hard to say who will benefit the most from this bill.  Both proponents and opponents claim to be defending workers’ rights.

In the food service industry, the leading association has taken a tough stand against this bill, but that doesn’t mean everyone agrees with the NRA.

The reality is that most restaurants will remain unaffected by this legislation because of the minimum requirements for unionization.  The ones most at risk, like national chains, are the most vocal opponents driving NRA action.

Tell us what you think about card check legislation!  Leave a comment below.

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