Exciting New Updates in MenuMax

Nutrition Updates in MenuMax

We are excited to announce a few new nutrition updates to help better your experience with MenuMax. With so many ongoing changes with nutrition and labeling regulation, it is our goal to provide a service that makes all back-of-house operations easier for you. We have updated ESHA data as well as our Nutrition Label generator.
Nutrition Update in MenuMax
ESHA Nutrition:
  • Includes the latest USDA release
  • Includes additional new products
Nutrition Labels:
  • Follows new guidelines
  • Adds Vitamin D and Potassium
  • Updates the footnote to define what “% Daily Value” means
  • Makes it easier for your customers to make informed choices
We are always striving to ensure MenuMax meets your BOH needs to help your restaurant run more successfully.

“What’s Hot” for Menu Trends in 2018

New for 2018

Washington, D.C. — Today, the National Restaurant Association releases its annual survey of 700 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation – to predict food and beverage trends at restaurants in the coming year. The annual “What’s Hot” list gives a peak into which food, beverages and culinary concepts will be the new items on restaurant menus that everyone is talking about in 2018.

According to the survey, menu trends that will be heating up in 2018 include doughnuts with non-traditional filling, ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes, farm/estate-branded items, and heritage-breed meats. Trends that are cooling down include artisan cheeses, heirloom fruits and vegetables, and house-made charcuterie.


  1. New cuts of meat (e.g. shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, Merlot cut)
  2. House-made condiments
  3. Street food-inspired dishes (e.g. tempura, kabobs, dumplings, pupusas)
  4. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
  5. Sustainable seafood
  6. Healthful kids’ meals
  7. Vegetable carb substitutes (e.g. cauliflower rice, zucchini spaghetti)
  8. Uncommon herbs (e.g. chervil, lovage, lemon balm, papalo)
  9. Authentic ethnic cuisine
  10. Ethnic spices (e.g. harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, shichimi)
  11. Peruvian cuisine
  12. House-made/artisan pickles
  13. Heritage-breed meats
  14. Thai-rolled ice cream
  15. African flavors
  16. Ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes (e.g. tacos, teriyaki, sushi)
  17. Donuts with non-traditional filling (e.g. liqueur, Earl Grey cream)
  18. Gourmet items in kids’ meals
  19. Ethnic condiments (e.g. sriracha, sambal, chimichurri, gochujang, zhug)
  20. Ancient grains (e.g. kamut, spelt, amaranth, lupin)


  1. Hyper-local (e.g. restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items
  2. Chef-driven fast casual concepts
  3. Natural ingredients/clean menus
  4. Food waste reduction
  5. Veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine (e.g. fresh produce is star of the dish)
  6. Environmental sustainability
  7. Locally sourced meat and seafood
  8. Locally sourced produce
  9. Simplicity/back to basics
  10. Farm/estate-branded items

“Local, vegetable-forward, and ethnic-inspired menu items will reign supreme in the upcoming year. Guests are implementing these trends in their own lifestyles and want to see them reflected on restaurant menus. In response, chefs are creating more items in-house and turning to global flavors,” said Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research at the National Restaurant Association.

“Chefs strive to strike the right balance between offering consumers what they want to eat now and guiding them toward new and exciting culinary frontiers,”said ACF National President Stafford T. DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC. “ACF chefs dedicate countless hours to continuing education and professional development to stay at the forefront of culinary innovation, allowing them to respond to and redefine diners’ expectations in an ever-changing foodservice landscape.”

The National Restaurant Association surveyed 700 American Culinary Federation members in October – November 2017, asking them to rate 161 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on menus in 2018.

For complete survey results, additional trends to watch, video and downloadable graphics, visit www.restaurant.org/foodtrends.

Giving back: Find charitable opportunities for your restaurant

There are many charities worthy of your time and commitment, but you should pick one or more organizations that feel right. The first step is to decide which charitable activity fits with your restaurant. Consider these options:

  • Look for existing community events that you can support. Many communities hold “Taste Of” events for which the local restaurant association, chamber of commerce or nonprofits organize to provide a fun-filled day of food and entertainment to benefit a particular cause or charity.
  • Ask your customers for inspiration. For example, you might hear about a local charity that they regularly support. Your customers can act as a link between you and the community, and they feel that businesses have a responsibility to give back.
  • Identify a meaningful cause. The most successful community programs and partnerships are ones that have special meaning to you and/or your employees.
  • Watch the news, and read local newspapers. Restaurants often donate food to emergency-aid workers and community residents after a disaster. You can also find out about community festivals and other events where your restaurant could provide food.
  • Donate part of your sales to hunger-relief programs or find a benefit in your area. Supporting anti-hunger initiatives and programs that address food waste are logical fits for the restaurant industry. Nearly one in six children in America lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. To get involved in the nationwide effort to end childhood hunger, go to the Share Our Strength website to find a fundraiser in your area.
  • Donate surplus food to a food bank. If you don’t have leftovers, consider this a special service. Use your buying power to purchase large quantities of food at wholesale prices and/or cook extra food to donate. For more information about food banks in your area, check out Feeding America.
  • Designate a percentage-of-sales day. Many restaurants select a day to donate a percentage of sales to a given charity. You could poll your customers to find which charities they support and ensure your selection resonates with them.
  • Work with your local schools. You could sponsor a local school and provide students with special luncheons and prizes in exchange for reaching attendance and coursework goals. You could also provide apprenticeship opportunities to interested students.
  • Host a holiday celebration for people at risk of hunger or others in need.

Check out these tips from the National Restaurant Association.

Spice up your fall beverage program

With cooler weather comes fun fall flavor opportunities. Take cues from the season’s popular produce and craft beverages that evoke autumn’s essence. Read these ideas for healthful fall beverage inspiration:

  • Apple cider. Create your own signature apple cider that’ll keep guests coming back for more. Rather than just simmering apple juice and spices, try including washed, whole oranges in the stockpot as well. Remove the oranges before serving, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
  • Warm juice toddies. To invent a nonalcoholic toddy appealing to all ages, play around with combining various juices – cranberry, pear and apple, for example – with spices or citrus zest. Bring the ingredients together over a simmer, and consider refrigerating the mixture in a covered container overnight to deepen the flavors. Reheat before service, and top off with a baked fruit skewer.
  • Spiced fruit smoothies. Lightly dust apples or pears with a spice mixture, such as a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, and bake until slightly softened. Remove, let cool, and combine with apple juice, frozen Greek yogurt and ice cubes in a blender.
  • Punch. Looking for another custom cold drink option? Dream up a festive punch. In a stockpot, simmer orange and cranberry juices with a seasonal spice blend and a citrus peel with no pith. Briefly boil, then let cool and strain. Refrigerate the liquid in a covered container, and serve chilled with ice. Add pitted sweet cherries for pops of flavor and color.

Avoid gluten-free glitches

From the loading dock to the table top

To ensure an item is gluten-free, restaurants should implement protocols from the time they order ingredients from their suppliers until the time the food sits in front of the customer.

Restaurateurs need to assess their situation when designing protocols. “The procedures to prevent cross-contact depend on your operation, menu, products, equipment, risk assessment and training level of employees,” notes Beckee Moreland, director of the Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training Kitchens program.

For more information about serving gluten-free cuisine, reference the Manage My Restaurant articles from the National Restaurant Association below:

Keep close tabs on your restaurant labor costs

According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Restaurant Operations Report, labor costs make up a third of sales in a typical restaurant. This means that any increases in labor costs can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

To cut down on unnecessary spend, make data-driven staffing decisions. Excellent customer service and staff retention are always top priorities, and your staff are on the front lines of the customer experience. Equip your employees with information they need to perform well, and strategically place them in roles where they are needed and feel passionate.

Here are four ways to optimize your labor costs:

  • Compile data. Get granular with it. Dive deeper than simply identifying your restaurant’s peak service periods. Look for any overtime trends in your restaurant, and then determine how to get those numbers down without negatively affecting your operations.
  • Avoid over- or under-staffing. Too many staff standing around the dining space can be off-putting to guests, and not enough staff in front- or back-of-the house can lead to bottlenecks and frustrated customers. Analyze your data, and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Stagger departures and arrivals. Instead of setting block schedules that have singular arrival and departure times per shift, consider spreading out scheduled clock-ins and -outs by about 15 minutes for select positions. This can help eliminate the chance of not having enough employees on the floor.
  • Simplify your scheduling process. According to the NRA’s 2016 “Mapping the Technology Landscape” research, about a third of restaurants currently use digital scheduling tools. When schedules are available online, employees can reference them from wherever they are, as they wish; if they’d like to make a change, they can request the modification within the scheduling tool. If the change is approved by the manager, all of the scheduled staff can view that change, which eliminates confusion about who’s working and at what times.

Read the original post here.

9 ways to maximize menu profitability

Too often, restaurant menus have catchy descriptions, gorgeous photos and an attractive layout, but are missing a key ingredient: They aren’t driving profitability.

Certainly, you should have a visually appealing menu that matches your restaurant’s brand. But beyond doing that well, it’s important to use the menu to your advantage financially.

By using key performance metrics, both financially (such as product mix and profitability) and operationally (such as speed of service, quality and SKU utilization), you can better understand what items are good candidates for menu features, deletion or product re-engineering. This approach also takes emotions out of the picture.

With this in mind, here are nine tips to help maximize your menu:

1.     First and foremost, take stock of your current menu offerings. Use point-of-sale data to understand demand for items and how the product’s volume compares to its overall profitability (price less theoretical food cost).

2.     Promote and feature items that are profitable and wide-reaching. For example, a profitable item that has a polarizing taste profile may never become highly popular, even if it’s pictured on the menu.

3.     In addition to customer reach, ensure that the product can be executed easily (speed of service) and consistently (quality). And, more importantly, it needs to be something that embodies and represents your brand. This may be the first experience for that guest, and it may be your only chance to convert that guest to a regular user.

Read the full article here: http://www.nrn.com/menu/9-ways-maximize-menu-profitability

5 key metrics to running a profitable restaurant

Running a restaurant is no easy feat. We can only act on what we know, and too many operators don’t know what they don’t know. To keep costs down while getting the most out of every hour, meal and cover, you need to know what drives important deliverables like repeat purchases, faster turn times and high tickets.

It comes down to a combination of the tastes of your guests and staff performance. These aspects aren’t easy to guess, and they require a look at several key metrics. Not only does this data need to be made available to managers, but it also needs to be easy to understand (and acted upon) to make the most of every shift.

1. Historical sales trends: Historical sales trends show how your sales today compare to the previous day or the same day last week, month, quarter or year. This type of detailed data is important to record and save daily to understand whether business is trending up or down. It’s one of the most effective ways for a restaurant to forecast and plan.

Reacting quickly can only be done when enough information is gathered to proactively strategize. For instance, running a huge promotion during the Phoenix summer won’t be as effective as it will during the winter, when the snowbirds return. Trending sales data lets you understand exactly what’s popular when — and why — well in advance.

2. New vs. repeat guest breakdowns: Another important metric to track is new vs. returning customers. Converting a new customer is difficult, and the lifetime value of each needs to be as high as possible to create the most return for your marketing and advertising budget. When you know how much business comes from repeat guests, you’ll better understand how to drive loyalty in a cost-effective way.

Every restaurant needs regulars to make its menu items the talk of the town and drive new business. According to a recent study by the National Restaurant Association, repeat customers make up 71 percent of sales at quick service; 68 percent at fast casual; 64 percent at casual dining; 63 percent at family dining; and 51 percent at fine dining. No matter how much you spend on marketing, it can’t compete with a customer recommendation.

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.nrn.com/operations/5-key-metrics-running-profitable-restaurant

Offer hydrating menu options this summer

For restaurant guests looking to beat the summer heat, serve hydrating, stand-out specialties that can become your seasonal staples. Experiencing culinary brain freeze? Play with classic and complex flavor profiles and track what resonates most with your guests.

Here are a handful of ideas that can inspire your tastemakers:

  • Popsicles. Made with 100 percent fruit juice, water, fruit and even spices like ginger, popsicles can appeal to all age groups. Before freezing for a few hours, consider pouring your mixtures into uniquely-shaped molds to make your presentation even more appealing.
  • Shaved ice. For a light, scoopable dessert, pour juice over finely shaved ice. Select serving vessels – tall glasses, elegant bowls, portable cones – that fit the atmosphere of your restaurant.
  • Slushies. In a blender, incorporate ice, juice and fruit until the concoction is almost liquefied. Top off with a fruit skewer that complements the beverage’s flavor.
  • Infused waters. Slice fruit and submerge it in a large, covered vat of water. Place in the refrigerator and serve refreshingly cold. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 What’s Hot chefs’ survey, infused waters are a top 10 beverage trend.

Read the full article here: http://www.restaurant.org/Manage-My-Restaurant/Food-Nutrition/Nutrition/Offer-hydrating-menu-options-this-summer

Suggested gratuities inch up to an 18-percent minimum

Is the 15-percent tip going away?

Among a growing number of restaurants that print a suggested gratuity on guest checks, it appears to be.

The trend was highlighted last week, after news emerged of a California Restaurant Association campaign being tested among restaurants in Palo Alto, Calif.

The goal is to raise awareness about the economic challenges restaurants face, said Sharokina Shams, the CRA’s vice president of communications.

On guest checks, the participating restaurants are printing the statement: “We love our guests … FYI: On average, for every $1 spent eating in the USA, about 95 cents goes to food, the place and a GREAT staff!”

Read the full article here: http://www.nrn.com/operations/suggested-gratuities-inch-18-percent-minimum

Re-engineering your kids’ menu? Try these 8 healthful tips from the NRA

Get input from parents and children to design kids’ meals that are nutritious, satisfying and tasty. The payoff: options that appeal to children are good for your sales.

Three participants of the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program share how they developed winning kids’ meals. Discover best practices from Arby’sApplebee’s and bd’s Mongolian to get started:

Make sure your menu evolves to keep pace with kids’ changing tastes. Applebee’s started with what seemed fun for kids and added a few “stealth healthy” options, says Darin Dugan, senior vice president of marketing and culinary. “We approached the new menu by asking what kids and parents wanted and let that steer our development,” Dugin says. “The result has been very encouraging.”

Find out what consumers are looking for. Applebee’s studied kids’ preferences through focus groups, surveys and in-restaurant testing. The result: a menu that offers a breadth of choices and healthy options that kids want to eat. Today, it offers 10 Kids LiveWell-approved meals, which Dugin says are popular with guests.

“We’ve learned to listen to guests, whether they’re kids or adults,” he says. “Use those insights to engineer a menu that meets their needs in creative ways.”

Match what parents feel good about serving their children with food their kids will eat.  Like Applebee’s, Arby’s conducted focus groups and quantitative research to find out what customers were looking for. During the 10-month testing process, the company discovered parents weren’t necessarily looking to count calories for their kids, but they wanted wholesome options to choose from, says Debbie Domer, director of brand marketing.

For example, parents said they wanted more fruit, so the 3,400-unit chain added apple slices to the menu. It also added a salad and turkey and cheese sandwich to the kids’ menu and switched to low-fat milk, juice and bottled water as default beverages.

While Arby’s still sells more kids’ meals with curly fries than apple slices, the changes are paying off. “It’s getting good response from a sales perspective and positive feedback from moms who are happy with our new offerings,” Domer says. “We feel we’re making a real impact with our consumers.”

Read the full article here: http://www.restaurant.org/Manage-My-Restaurant/Food-Nutrition/Nutrition/Re-engineering-your-kids’-menu-Try-these-8-healthf

10 legal issues for restaurant operators to watch

Article originally published by Nation’s Restaurant News

With the election of Donald Trump as president, labor-related stress that restaurant operators have experienced in recent months may soon relax. However, new federal, state and municipal regulations will impact operators in 2017. Regardless of federal policy, restaurants will face uncertainty when it comes to employment and regulations.

Here are 10 legal developments that should be front and center for operators this year:

1. Overtime

In early 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor published a final rule updating regulations governing the exemption of executive, administrative and professional employees from the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This rule doubles the annual salary threshold that generally determines who qualifies for overtime pay under federal law, from $23,660 to $47,476.


The rule dramatically impacts restaurants with mid-management employees. It was scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 1, 2016, but in late November, a federal judge in Texas blocked the rule nationwide, after 21 states joined to file a lawsuit alleging that the new overtime regulations were an unconstitutional exercise of power.

Additionally, Trump has nominated Andy Puzder as secretary of labor. Puzder, formerly CEO of CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., parent to Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, is an outspoken critic of worker protections enacted by the Obama administration. A labor department under Puzder is unlikely to take a favorable view of the new overtime rule, and it is likely to be scrapped or significantly revised.

2. Minimum wage

Wages are always a pressure point for restaurants. While some states and municipalities have recently increased the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour. Early in his campaign, Trump suggested that he would support a federal minimum wage increase to $10 per hour. But it is more likely that the Trump administration will leave the issue to state and local legislatures, rather than push Congress to act at the federal level.

Many states are acting on their own to boost the minimum wage, which has a significant impact on the restaurant industry. For example, effective Jan. 1, 2017, the California minimum wage increased to $10.50 per hour for employers with more than 25 employees. Employers with 25 or fewer employees are not subject to the increase until 2018. The statute provides for annual increases until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour for large employers in 2022, and for small employers in 2023.

3. Marijuana and the workplace

In November, California voters approved Proposition 64, legalizing the recreational sale, possession and use of marijuana. This has raised several immediate questions about what, if anything, employers should do, and whether Prop. 64 created any new employee rights.

Ultimately, Prop. 64 does not generate new concerns for California employers that did not already exist when the medical use of marijuana became legal (Prop. 215). Following the passage of Prop. 215 in 1996, employers were faced with issues concerning drug testing, possession or use of marijuana at the jobsite or during working hours, dealing with employees possibly under the influence, and what the employer legally could or could not do upon discovering that an employee was using marijuana for medical purposes while working. Generally, Prop. 64 does not change the current legal landscape in the employment area.

Many employers have a mandatory drug testing policy, and legalization complicates this process somewhat, as the presence of a legal drug in someone’s system prior to starting employment is not necessarily an indicator of their propensity to abuse illegal narcotics or to be intoxicated on the job. Similarly, such a common pre-work screening could violate an individual’s privacy regarding a medical condition.

But this is nothing new, as the same concerns existed after the passage of Prop. 215. However, employers may wish to re-communicate workplace policies to employees, as they specifically relate to marijuana use in light of Prop. 64, so that employees do not mistakenly assume that workplace policies changed with the passage of the proposition. Violations of marijuana use policies should be documented, and, like all employee information, considered as a whole when determining an employee’s current and future status with the company. Employees who feel aggrieved are apt to seek recourse, and while an employer may have a sound basis for a termination, it is best to avoid giving a former, or even a current, employee, a pretext for seeking representation.

4. Joint-employer liability

The National Labor Relations Board decision in the Browning-Ferris Industries case, which is currently on appeal, has created a wave of issues in the restaurant industry, including conflict between franchisors and franchisees over which is liable when lawsuits arise, as well as increased liability when working with contractors.

In its highly controversial BFI decision, the NLRB revised its test for the joint-employer doctrine, dramatically easing the criteria for a company to be considered a joint-employer. For many decades, the traditional joint-employer test focused on governance, wage and supervision decisions, and “direct and immediate” control. The test excluded “limited and routine” oversight and supervision, because “hiring, firing, discipline, supervision and direction” were not considered essential or meaningful to the employment relationship. Under the new standard, a finding of joint-employment is much broader, and only requires that a business exercise “indirect” (or potential) control over workers. Hence, under the new test, a company may not only be held liable for its own labor violations, but also for those of the other entity.

The BFI case is relevant not only to franchisor/franchisee relationships, but all relationships in which tasks and responsibilities are outsourced. The recent joint-employer rulings affect all companies that outsource any aspect of their business. This includes contractors, suppliers or even outsourced cleaning or IT work. All of these business relationships can now be subject to review under the new joint-employer standard.

Unfortunately for restaurant owners, the appellate court is unlikely to adjudicate the matter until later in 2017, thereby ensuring that joint employment will remain a critical labor issue in the interim. It remains to be seen how the appeal will play out in the courts, and to what extent the Republican administration will relax this joint-employer standard.

5. Predictive scheduling

In November 2014, San Francisco became the first U.S. jurisdiction to pass predictive scheduling legislation. Seattle and New York introduced similar laws in 2016. Another bill has been drafted, but delayed, in Washington D.C., and a California statewide bill was advanced early in 2016, only to be tabled by the state senate. It is safe to say that this is becoming a trend, and one that restaurateurs must watch closely.

A recently introduced New York bill, for example, requires quick-service employers to schedule a majority of expected shifts and publicly post a workplace schedule two weeks in advance. It also forces employers to provide additional compensation when workers are required to accommodate last-minute changes to their schedules for reasons within employers’ ability to plan or control. The bill purports to address problems created by the practice of “clopenings,” or shifts that require employees to consecutively work closing and opening shifts with fewer than 10 hours between.

Although the New York legislation would only affect quick-service restaurants, we may see efforts to extend the reach of the law to other restaurants in New York City. As operators work to stay competitive, regulations like the one proposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio place further strain on the industry. Such bills dramatically limit management’s flexibility in an industry that already must be creative with scheduling in order to meet demand and control labor costs.

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.nrn.com/workforce/10-legal-issues-restaurant-operators-watch

Assess your buys to manage food costs

Originally Posted by the National Restaurant Association

Restaurant operators finally got some relief from increasing food costs in 2015, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast. However, this was the first decline in wholesale food prices in six years, leaving overall food costs elevated. Try these strategies to boost your bottom line.

  • Feature affordable quality. Track food prices; on the individual commodity level, the USDA expects declines in beef and eggs this year after sharp increases in recent years, according to the NRA’s 2016 Forecast. Meanwhile, beef prices are expected to continue their rise. Review your menu and recipes for affordable alternatives. For example, use pollock or swai rather than the more costly Atlantic cod, recommends Bruce Reinstein, chief operating officer for Consolidated Concepts, a purchasing partner that focuses on supporting multi-unit restaurants with leveraged buying and consulting. For meats and poultry, consider less expensive cuts, like chickens thighs, which pump up your profits while going easy on customers’ wallets.
  • Review your produce specifications. Too often, restaurants pay more than needed for produce because they’re not selecting the most appropriate variety and grade for their use, says Consolidated Concept’s Reinstein. For example, a restaurant might automatically specify No. 1 grade avocados. “But the real difference between No. 1 and No. 2 grade is how the avocado looks on the outside; it has no effect on the inside,” he says. “If you buy No. 2 grade, you’re going to save money and still have the quality.” Consolidated Concepts offers a produce management program that includes monitoring specifications and negotiating contracts.
  • Join a purchasing group. Because of their sheer volume of purchases, large chains often negotiate favorable deals. “The only way an independent restaurant can compete with the chains in terms of food costs is to join a purchasing group,” says Linda Lipsky, a Broomall, Pennsylvania-based restaurant consultant. Collective groups, such as Dining Alliance, Consolidated Concepts’ sister company, let independents gain purchasing power by pooling their procurements.
  • Compare apples to apples. When bidding out items, be careful that you’re making a true comparison between items. For example, if you’re comparing the prices for a case of tomatoes, factor in any differences in yield, urges Reinstein. Just because one vendor offers a case for less, doesn’t automatically make it a better deal.
  • Get set to prep. Consider doing more prep work in-house, rather than buying items already cut and prepped. Instead of purchasing precut 4-ounce chicken breasts, you’ll pay less per pound for pieces that randomly weigh 4-6 ounces, points out Lipsky. So, by trimming the excess chicken in-house, you’ll also trim food costs. Don’t throw away those savings by trashing the chicken trimmings; incorporate them into other dishes like a Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken. Conduct a make/buy analysis to determine where this approach makes sense for you; don’t forget to factor in labor costs.
  • Lock in prices. By signing a contract, you can shield yourself from surging prices, due to extreme weather conditions and other unpredictable factors, says Reinstein.
  • Don’t let your crew eat your profits. Minimize costly order errors by training your front-of-the-house team on how to accurately record and check guests’ orders and your back-of-the-house team on time and temperature indicators of readiness. Discard any items sent back to the kitchen and record them as waste.
  • Remember the 80/20 rule. As a general rule, about 80 percent of your food costs come from 20 percent of your items, says Reinstein. Negotiate good deals on these core items, he advises, but don’t overlook the other items. “I’ve seen restaurants that grossly overpay on the other 20 percent.”
  • Root out hidden costs. Beware of hidden costs like freight charges, says Reinstein. Be sure to negotiate these upfront. Audit your invoices to ensure that you pay for only what you receive and that no extra charges are tacked on.

Ben E. Keith Company Acquires MenuMax

Fort Worth, Texas - Ben E. Keith Company has acquired MenuMax, a recipe and menu management software company that provides innovative solutions for the foodservice industry. The sale was complete on November 1, 2016 and terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

MenuMax offers a fully automated cloud based recipe and menu management system that assists in organizing and planning menus, calculating food costs and nutrition, maximizing efficiency and increasing operator profit margins.

“The MenuMax solutions will strengthen Ben E. Keith’s customer-centric digital platform as we continue to improve our suite of applications for our customers,” said Jim Ashley, Chief Information Officer at Ben E. Keith.

Ben E. Keith will continue to service its current MenuMax customers, as well as offer and expand the brand and services for all foodservice users throughout the industry.

“In today’s environment, the foodservice operator is looking for innovations to help manage their operations, and with this addition of MenuMax to our portfolio of services, we feel it is a great opportunity for us to help in this area.  We continue to be known as the home of the independent operator and it is our responsibility to make sure we provide every tool available to help them grow their business,” said Ron Boyd, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

About Ben E. Keith Foods:

Established in Fort Worth, Texas in 1906, Ben E. Keith is the nation’s eighth largest broad line foodservice distributor and operates today with eight divisions shipping to fourteen states throughout the country.

For more information about Ben E. Keith contact:

David Werner, Vice President, Marketing. 817-759-6826. wdwerner@benekeith.com

Could higher minimum wages help casual dining?

This post is part of the On the Margin blog. Originally posted by Nation’s Restaurant News

Casual dining is still struggling, and that’s especially true for the bar-and-grill segment that dominated the sector for so long, as the 4.1-percent decline in same-store sales at Chili’s last quarter demonstrated.

Could higher minimum wages change that?

Several states are in the process of raising their minimum wages, promising to increase labor costs for restaurants across the country.

But a lot of the labor at restaurants is in the form of waitstaff, who in most states are paid lower wages because they receive tips, although a few states do not have any such tip credit.

Casual-dining concepts could therefore avoid some of the labor cost increases that their counterparts in the quick-service sector will have to deal with.

That could, at least in theory, help casual dining close the cost gap with higher-end quick-service concepts.

Casual dining has been in decline for a decade. One of the reasons is the need to provide that tip of 20 percent to a waiter or waitress, which increases the cost of dining.

Because they don’t have tip-credit workers, fast-casual and quick-service concepts might have to raise their prices at a higher rate. If customers ultimately see the price differential between the two has diminished, there could be a theoretical point where they return to casual-dining concepts.

“Raising the minimum wage could actually  benefit casual dining,” said Larry Miller, co-founder of the monthly MillerPulse survey. “They’re not going to feel the brunt of the increase in the minimum wage.”

Of course, there are many other reasons why casual dining has been in decline. For one thing, the brands are simply older, and customers like trying new things. In addition, time constraints have hurt the chains, especially during the crucial lunch daypart.

To be sure, casual dining certainly has labor-cost concerns, like overtime regulations, healthcare and recruitment. And casual-dining concepts on average spend more on labor than limited-service chains.

Higher minimum wages could push limited-service restaurants to use technology more aggressively to offset labor and make their businesses more efficient. As it is, McDonald’s and Panera Bread are toying with kiosks that, while not specifically a labor issue at the moment, could quickly evolve into one if labor costs increase too much.

There might be less potential for the casual-dining segment to offset labor costs with technology. Tabletop tablets that have become popular at so many chains could evolve into ordering technology, but ultimately those concepts are about service.

Nevertheless, there could be some very minor and very early evidence that casual dining is erasing the gap with quick service: According to Miller’s survey, casual-dining restaurants outperformed quick-service concepts in two of the year’s first three months.

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze