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Why Going Green is Good for Business

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), learn why going green is good for your restaurant in this article from Food Service Warehouse by Monica Parpal. Typical restaurant owners and operators have a lot on their plates–literally. From keeping track of labor expenses to managing food cost to ensuring customer satisfaction, the restaurant owner is always concerned with ensuring the restaurant’s success. One way to mark this success is by measuring the restaurant’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Going green is one of the most important movements affecting commercial food service operations today. Going green can be one of the smartest operational decisions you can make for your restaurant, as it not only reduces consumption and draws environmentally-conscious customers, but actually saves money for your operation in the long run.

Save Profits As a restaurant operator, chances are you know exactly what expenses are bogging down your profit and loss (P&L) statement. What you may not know is that going green can actually save money for your restaurant. By reducing consumption and changing some daily behaviors, your operations can move from guzzling energy to saving money. Going green involves many transitions, especially in a commercial environment where electricity, gas, water and disposable products are used in vast quantities on a regular basis. Use the following guidelines to protect the environment as well as your profits:

Invest in energy-efficient commercial kitchen equipment. Purchase ENERGY STAR® qualified commercial kitchen equipment whenever your old equipment wears out. With efficient equipment, your operation will consume less energy and less water without sacrificing quality. In fact, the money you save in utility bills is often enough to recover the cost of the equipment itself.

Establish a start-up and shut-down schedule. Your commercial kitchen equipment may be constantly powered on, running up a high energy bill even during your slowest hours. Develop a schedule that educates kitchen staff when to turn on and when to turn off the equipment to help minimize lost profits.

Switch to energy-saving restaurant lighting. A simple to way reduce energy usage and cut down on monthly expenses is to replace your conventional light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent lighting. These bulbs produce less heat and more light, putting the energy dollars where they count the most.

Retain Customers
In a 2008 National Restaurant Association survey, 62 percent of consumers polled stated that they would prefer to dine at an environmentally-friendly restaurant if given the choice. Making earth-friendly changes in your operation requires a great effort on your part, but that effort is crucial to gaining the allegiance of almost two thirds of American diners. Customers today are conscious of their choices as well as that of the businesses where they spend their time and money. Operating an environmentally-conscious restaurant is a key strategy in keeping your business going strong in a future of strained resources and educated diners. As an owner or operator, be sure you consider your customers’ opinions and values. Communicate your own values by making the choice to go green.

Conserve Resources
Restaurants pollute the earth’s atmosphere and water resources every time they open their doors for business. In fact, studies show that commercial kitchens use over twice the energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. By taking steps to make your restaurant more environmentally friendly, you will reduce your operation’s negative impact on the environment and improve your commitment to a healthier atmosphere.

Use green cleaners in place of conventional cleaners. Green cleaning agents are preferable when it comes to their impact on the environment, meaning that they do not contain harmful chemicals which can contaminate water resources and harm wildlife.

Reduce your restaurant’s water consumption. Although water is relatively inexpensive, overuse has already begun to affect the global demand for clean and safe drinking water. Install a low-flow pre-rinse spray valve, reuse water when possible and simply reform daily operational behaviors in the commercial kitchen to begin conserving water.

Cut Down on Waste.
Restaurants produce an egregious amount of waste. From wasted food product to empty food containers, most restaurant operators can stand to reduce their garbage output by implementing a recycling program, composting food scraps and using biodegradable materials.

Restaurants benefit from going green by saving more money, retaining eco-conscious customers and conserving resources at the same time. Going green is a smart move for your operation in many ways. Consider implementing these behavioral and equipment changes that will profit your restaurant as well as the environment. To learn more about how MenuMax can help you cut down on food waste, call us at 1-877-MENUMAX or visit www.MenuMax.com.

Recipe of the Week: Pea and Parsley Soup with Golden Caviar

A soup course may be old-school, but it never fails to delight, putting any special-occasion meal right over the top. The smooth, sophisticated pea and parsley soup is an homage to the season. It gets body from creme fraiche and a salty snap from orbs of golden caviar. See the recipe from MarthaStewart.com.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped onion (from 1 large)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 cups shelled fresh English peas
  • 4 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 2 bunches)
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • Golden caviar, for garnish
  • Pea shoots (optional), for garnish

*Soup can be cooled completely and refrigerated up to 1 day; gently rewarm over medium-low heat.

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and 2 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

  2. Step 2

    Add broth and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in peas and return to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and creme fraiche. Puree soup in a blender, working in batches, until very smooth. Transfer to a clean pot and stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm until ready to serve. Divide soup among bowls and garnish with creme fraiche, caviar, and pea shoots.


Toolkit issued to reduce industry’s food waste

In this recent news article from the National Restaurant Association, they announced that the Food Waste Reduction Alliance has released its first-ever best practices guide for restaurateurs, manufacturers, and retailers, offering solutions on reducing food waste at their businesses and diverting it from landfills across America.

Released April 16, the Best Practices and Emerging Solutions Toolkit is the brainchild of the Alliance, which is spearheaded by the National Restaurant Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute. The group, established in 2011, is working to tackle food waste challenges within the food sector, and the toolkit is a first step in helping operators, manufacturers and retailers reduce food waste at the source.

“We are proud to be a leading partner in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance’s efforts to reduce food waste in this country and believe this toolkit will help operators to better understand and tackle the issue of food waste head on,” said FWRA co-chair Laura Abshire, the NRA’s director of sustainability and government policy. “This guide will provide our industry with the strategies and solutions needed to prevent, reduce and divert food waste at their various businesses.”

“Our goal for the toolkit is to elevate the issue of food waste within the sector and enable more companies to take action by sharing key learnings and model practices gleaned from organizations who are at the leading edge of this issue, said Gail Tavill, vice president, sustainable development for ConAgra Foods and one of the toolkit authors.”

According to the FWRA, approximately 80 billion pounds of food waste are discarded in U.S. landfills each year. One of the group’s goals is to get more foodservice providers to donate their unused food to those who need it most.

“The sad truth is that while all of this food is going to waste, 37 million Americans struggle to put enough food on the table to feed their families. The safe, edible food that is diverted from the waste stream to food banks through model practices showcased in the toolkit make a positive social impact on communities across the country by providing sustenance to those in need,” said Karen Hanner, director of manufacturing product sourcing at Feeding America and a contributor to the toolkit.

The best practices compiled for the toolkit came from more than 30 member companies including Darden Restaurants and contract foodservice provider Sodexo. They include:

  • tactics for overcoming obstacles to food donation such as liability and supply chain issues
  • emerging solutions and new technologies for recycling food waste, including energy production opportunities
  • strategic planning to avoid food waste generation

It also features a getting started section that shows companies just beginning to consider food waste reduction strategies how to:

  • conduct waste characterization assessments
  • establish standard operating procedures, and
  • develop collaborative relationships with partners from the anti-hunger community, waste management providers and other stakeholders

This toolkit will educate restaurateurs on the issue of food waste and show them how they can improve their businesses simultaneously,” Abshire said. By providing real-life examples of what others are doing to solve the food waste issue at their businesses, operators will see that starting a composting program or conducting a waste audit at their restaurants doesn’t have to be daunting or difficult.”

For more information on the FWRA or the toolkit, go to www.foodwastealliance.org. To learn more about sustainability practices in the restaurant and foodservice industry, visit the NRA’s Conserve site at Restaurant.org/Conserve. For software to help you manage your food cost and inventory, visit www.MenuMax.com.

Recipe of the Week: Easter Ham

This week’s featured recipe is Bourbon Baked Ham to help you prepare for the Easter holiday coming up Sunday, April 20th, brought to you by TasteofHome.com. Check out our Pinterest board for more great Easter recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 bone-in fully cooked spiral-sliced ham (7 to 9 pounds)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Directions

  1. Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Score the surface of the ham, making diamond shapes 1/2 in. deep. Bake at 325° for 2 hours.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients; cook and stir until smooth.
  3. Brush ham with some of the glaze; bake 20-25 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 140°, brushing occasionally with remaining glaze.Yield: 15 servings.


Last Minute Easter Ideas for Restaurants

One of the busiest weekends for restaurants is rapidly approaching – are you prepared? In this article from The Central Blog, written by Emily Rollins, learn about how you can make the most of Easter this year.

Easter brunch is an extremely popular option for families not wanting to cook a meal themselves, so line up your knives and polish your glassware to be prepared for a profitable weekend!

Menu Ideas
First things first – what food will you serve? Guests will typically come wanting their classic favorites such as ham, green beans, potatoes and more, but it’s also smart to try to incorporate some new ideas. This can be an exciting time to test the waters with new menu options because your restaurant will be so packed. You can find a wide variety of new Easter recipes on our Pinterest board.

Décor Ideas

Now that the food is covered, think about the ways you can decorate to really make it feel like an Easter gathering. Easter has a different meaning to certain people, so stick with basic decorations such as eggs and baskets filled with candy or flowers. Colorful spring flowers will add a welcome pop of color to each table, and eggs and candy will appeal to your younger customers. You could have an egg-decorating event at your restaurant too and use those eggs as decorations. Place Easter-themed wreaths on your entrance doors to give off the holiday feel as soon as your guests walk in. If your customers have made reservations with names, you can print off special menus with their names printed on them and a holiday greeting to make customers feel extra special. If you don’t feel like printing off a bunch of new menus, you can print off festive name tags on colored paper for each table.

Activities
If you’re lucky to have a large amount of outdoor (or indoor) space, hold an Easter egg hunt for your young customers. Not only can everyone can partake in this family-friendly activity, it promotes your restaurant’s name as a possible spot to each brunch and have fun at the same time. Speaking of the little ones, have some coloring pages available that can preoccupy kids’ time. You can even use their artwork as decorations once they’re done! Even better, surprise your young customers with a visit from the Easter bunny himself, giving out candy or treats! Who says Easter is just for the children? Give out eggs filled with coupons or a discount off of your next meal for your adult customers. This allows for a lasting impression with your guests and a chance for them to visit your restaurant again.

Promotions
It’s crunch time when it comes to Easter gatherings, but there will always customers looking for great options at the last minute. The fastest way to get your word out there is to post on social media outlets and your website. You can update your cover photos and even post a preview of what the Easter menu will be. You can also post flyers up on community bulletin boards, around grocery stores and more. Last but certainly not least, have your servers remind customers about your Easter services. If you know your menu ahead of time, tell them and have them share what delicious offerings will be served. Promoting a Easter weekend service is great advertising for your restaurant. New customers can venture out and see what you have to offer, while returning ones will have another reason to keep coming back.


9 Food & Beverage Trends for Spring

What new foods and beverages will your competition be focusing on this spring? And, more importantly, what will your customers be expecting? You can’t see into the future, but you can still get an idea of what trends will be this spring. Learn about the hottest food and beverage trends for this spring in this article from buzztime.com. From meatless meals to super foods, here are nine trends you’ll be seeing soon.

1. Less beef.

You might want to cut back on your beef-centric entrées. The rising price of beef means that more and more restaurants will be offering fewer steaks, roasts, and burgers.

2. More vegan and vegetarian meals.

Rising beef cost has another side effect…more vegan and vegetarian meals. With customers becoming healthier and caring more about sustainable meals, restaurants will be offering more meatless meals.

3. Hot dogs.

But it’s not all about being meatless! The classic hot dog will be making a resurgence on menus. But think beyond mustard—today’s hot dogs have more upscale toppings, like kimchi and chutney.

4. Red velvet.

For customers who feel like being indulgent, red velvet will be the way to go this spring. Restaurants are getting in on the trend by making everything red velvet, from milkshakes and cocktails to pancakes and doughnuts.

5. Juice.

Consumers’ interest in health and their increased appetite for vegetables means that fresh juice is bigger than ever. This extends from restaurants to bars to designated juice bars.

6. Deep-fried vegetables.

Just because customers are eating more vegetables doesn’t mean they necessarily want to be healthy! To make vegetables like brussels sprouts more palatable, many restaurants are deep frying them to serve as appetizers or sides. Look for fried green beans, fried green tomatoes, and fried pickles.

7. Super foods.

This is yet another trend that’s powered by health conscious customers. Although you may already have seen super foods like kale, quinoa, and pomegranate, look for newly popular super foods such as teff and cauliflower.

8. Single concept restaurants.

Forget long, complicated menus with millions of different dishes. The trend now is to perfect one thing and stick with it. Single concept restaurants—i.e. those that do just burgers, fried chicken, or hot dogs—are heating up.

9. Sriracha.

The Thai-style chili sauce is no longer just a hot sauce. As it gains popularity, it’s finding its way into mayonnaise, potato chips, and even chocolate for unique desserts.

If you want to get a leg up on your competition, keep an eye out for these nine trends this spring. Are you planning on implementing any on your menu? Read more on buzztime.com.

Need help organizing your recipes? See what MenuMax can do for you. With tools for inventory, nutrition analysis and food costing, MenuMax is your all-inclusive solution to help run your restaurant more efficiently. Contact us today at 1-877-MENUMAX or max@menumax.com.

Recipe of the Week: PB&J with a Twist

In honor of National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day (today), check out this great recipe for a PB&J wrap, being called the “NEW” Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup(s) peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoon(s) apple butter
  • 4 (10-inch) sandwich wraps, such as flour tortillas or lavash
  • 2 tablespoon(s) apple jelly
  • 1 apple, cored, halved, and cut into thin slices
  • 8 slice(s) crisp, cooked bacon

Directions

  1. Assemble the sandwiches: In a small bowl, use a spoon to mix the peanut butter and apple butter together.
  2. On a clean work surface, lay the wraps and divide the peanut-butter mixture among them, spreading it equally on 1/2 of each wrap. Spread the apple jelly evenly on the other half of each.
  3. Place 4 or 5 slices of apple on the peanut-butter mixture and 2 strips of bacon on top of the apples. Fold the tortillas into wrap sandwiches.

Check out the collection on Delish for more great PB&J recipes.

Spring Cleaning Part Two

In this article from Business Financial Services, Jose Terrier discusses the important of refreshing and resetting your outlook on restaurant management. Spring cleaning can be much more than a fresh coat of paint. For small businesses, spring cleaning can include delving into your operations to see what you can improve or tightening up your operational procedures.

For restaurants especially, the hectic and never-ending cycle of serving customers all week long can be so intense that it seems impossible to pause and see the bigger picture. But, this is why spring cleaning is so important. Here are three big areas you might not automatically associate with spring cleaning:

  • Analyzing food and beverage inventory and costs
  • Revamping or replacing menus
  • Reviewing your food safety procedures

Food and Beverage Costs

Restaurant owners and chefs say that two of the most stress-inducing words in restaurants are “food costs.” Industry experts say that real stress comes when you use gut feelings instead of actual calculations to figure your monthly food costs. On rrgconsulting.com, Restaurant Associates NW President Chuck Gohn says that the best gauge of food cost comes from your own analysis of your inventory, recipes, sales mix and price structure. In other words, feelings and guesswork are taken out of the equation.

It’s not necessarily an easy process, and can, in fact, be trying. But the key, Gohn says, is having a system in place for identifying all ingredients, having current inventory prices and tracking your menu sales mix. Luckily, what was once a tedious manual process is now streamlined by a variety of user-friendly software programs such as MenuMax, that let you make updates with a few keystrokes. Initially, of course, you need to find and enter all the relevant data. But once you have, you will have a database of valuable information, including inventory usage, purchase trends and profitability of individual menu items.

If you are looking for a way to easily monitor inventory, manage recipes and provide up-to-date analysis of food cost and nutrition content, see how MenuMax can help.

John Nessel of the Restaurant Resource Group talks about the necessity of periodically physically counting your food and beverage inventory to ensure accurate cost reporting and in turn, accurate profit and loss statements. After all, Nessel says, along with labor, food and beverage costs are your largest expenditures, with an estimated (median) by experts to be 33 percent of total sales! But while labor costs are relatively fixed, food and beverage costs are variable and controllable.

Nessel says that doing a regular inventory count is an absolute must for having an accurate picture of your food and beverage costs. And, it’s the key to the very important distinction between food costs and food purchases:

  • Food costs are the total food purchases necessary to generate the food sales that you recorded for a specific time period.
  • Food purchases (what your accounting system will produce if no inventory adjustment is made) simply tell you how much food you bought during the month.

Only when you make the inventory counts and record the adjustments every month will your P&L statements give you an accurate representation of your food costs. Nessel further recommends tracking food and beverage costs by category (food, beer, wine, liquor), which he says will give you even better quality information and make it easier to spot problem areas.

Menus

The website allfoodbusiness.com says that your menus are among the top four things your guests spend time looking at and consciously thinking about. Even so, relatively few restaurant owners put much energy or strategy into their menus, failing to realize that as part of the “face” of your restaurant, menus say a lot about your establishment.

But this can be rectified in a few steps. Your menus can be transformed into effective communication tools by making them unique and personalized; removing pictures and dollar signs; and training servers to complement the menus.

Restauranteur-turned-restaurant professor David Pavesic, Ph.D, FMP, does a deep and fascinating dive into the psychology of menu design. Understanding these principles, he says, can make your menus your “silent salespeople” that can actually increase check averages and guest loyalty.

Because the menu functions as your restaurant’s business card, it should reflect your overall brand image. But at the same time, the menu can be a powerful tool that can directly influence what your guests will order and how much they will spend. In other words, there is a direct connection between your menu and your sales revenue.

Pavesic draws on a variety of published research in detailing virtually every aspect of menu design, from what sizes work best in certain type of environments to how your guests’ eyes and brains react to different kinds of fonts.

Food Safety Procedures

Your guests take it as a given that your employees are following proper food safety procedures. But most have no idea how many of these procedures there are and how rigorous restaurants must be in their standards. Smallbusiness.chron.com offers an overview. Generally, food safety can be broken down into these specific areas:

  • Shopping
  • Storage
  • Preparation
  • Thawing
  • Cooking
  • Serving
  • Leftovers
  • Refreezing

As a restaurant owner, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the FDA’s recommended safety system (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), which is based on seven principles that cover every step of food storage and preparation.

But restaurants are a dynamic industry. Change is constant in the face of employee turnover, incorporating new equipment, and introducing new menu items. This simply means that having food safety procedures in place is just the beginning. There also needs to be a system in place for regular review and updating of the procedures internally as well as keeping up with industry developments.

Case in point: food allergies. More and more of your guests seem to be suffering from (or are aware they have) food allergies. Research shows that there is a group of major allergens that causes 90 percent of all food allergies. This list includes, but is not limited to, milk, eggs, certain fish, certain nuts, wheat. Notifying customers of the presence of certain allergens has been shown to be an effective way to cut down on reactions.

Another area that’s evolved in recent years is cross-contamination, and a new understanding of the potential for spreading bacteria and illness has resulted in new standards for food prep and food storage.

The FDA maintains a series of fact sheets on safely handling food that are accessible and user-friendly. Get them here.

Spring Cleaning Checklist

Springtime offers restaurant operators the opportunity to wipe away winter grime, prepare for summer traffic and perform essential deep cleaning tasks to revive floors and other hard surfaces. To help restaurants and foodservice operations conduct a thorough spring cleaning of their facility, read through this helpful checklist issued by Cintas of all the necessary restaurant spring cleaning tasks.

“Studies routinely show that guests prefer clean floors and will not return to a restaurant they do not perceive to be clean,” said Brian Garry, Senior Director of Foodservice, Cintas. “From the front to the back of the house, restaurants owners and operators can complete nine effective cleaning tasks to ensure they make a favorable first impression amongst travelers and summer guests.”

Cintas recommends restaurants complete the following spring cleaning checklist to prepare for summer:

  1. Deep clean carpets in dining areas. While daily vacuuming and spot removal is an essential component to keeping carpets in optimal condition, deep cleaning carpets removes dirt and debris that cannot otherwise be extracted. Hot-water extraction carpet cleaning systems remove residue left behind by other cleaning systems and reduce the amount of downtime required.
  2. Restore grout lines. With tiled hard floor surfaces, grout lines often harbor bacteria and dirt, causing it to discolor and darken. This is particularly evident in entryway areas where patrons congregate and track dirt. Regularly deep cleaning and restoring grout lines will limit the amount of dirt that accumulates and keep gout lines looking their original color.
  3. Steam clean tiled floor surfaces. A high-pressure steam cleaning system effectively removes dirt and soil from tile and other hard surface substrates. This type of process also reduces the amount of chemicals required in the operation. This is a great advantage for hard surfaces where leftover chemical residue can leave unsightly marks.
  4. Give restrooms a facelift. Like most guest areas within a restaurant, restrooms can also suffer from winter wear. Dirt and organic material can build up on floors, fixtures and common touch points throughout the restroom, causing surfaces to dull and blight. Using a high-pressure, chemical injection washer, thoroughly deep clean all restroom surfaces, including walls, floors, commodes, light fixtures and soap and towel dispensers. This removes grime and buildup, restoring floors to like new conditions.
  5. Roll out the mats. With spring rain showers on their way, now is the ideal time to review the current matting program and make sure mats adequately cover entryways and other high-traffic areas in a restaurant. Mats not only help reduce the risk of slips and falls, but they can also help improve worker productivity, build the restaurant brand, limit wear patterns and prevent dirt from entering a restaurant. A proper matting program will also integrate regular laundering and deep cleaning for maximum effectiveness.
  6. Implement a mop cleaning program. Mop heads are often breeding grounds for dirt and bacteria. Implementing a mop cleaning program can make sure that the task of cleaning mops is not overlooked. Dry and wet mops should be cleaned at least once a week, if not more frequently. This helps ensure that mops contribute to a clean rather than dirty floor.
  7. Set up a maintenance schedule for your drains. Whether located in kitchen areas, restrooms or in the front of the house, drain lines can harbor potentially harmful bacteria or food sources for familiar summer insects such as gnats. Perform regular drain line maintenance to reduce soil buildup and thoroughly clean drains.
  8. Sanitize and clean hard-to-reach surfaces. While food preparation and cooking areas receive regular attention, spring is a good time to clean all of those untouched areas throughout a restaurant, including the tops of refrigerators, behind fryers and beneath cupboards.

“Common winter products such as ice melt and sand can wreak havoc on hard and soft floor surfaces, eroding floor finish and penetrating carpet fibers,” said Dave Mesko, Senior Director of Marketing, Cintas. “Without the proper deep cleaning and maintenance program, common surfaces throughout the restaurant can suffer long-term damage which results in unexpected costs.”

Read the full article here>>

Green vegetables to star on spring menus

In this recent article from Nation’s Restaurant News, Fern Glazer reports the rising trend of arugula, spinach and kale as chef’s top picks for spring ingredients. It’s still winter outside, but spring vegetables will soon appear on restaurant tables. This year, some popular spring vegetables will show up in the center of the plate instead of just as salads or sides.

Among the vegetables most likely to take the spotlight are leafy greens such as arugula, spinach and kale, which have all grown on menus over the past five years, according to the Chicago-based research firm Technomic Inc.’s “Category Close-Up: Vegetables” report.

The report found that spinach was mentioned on menus more than 20 percent more in 2013 than it was in 2009, and that arugula was mentioned nearly 55 percent more often than in 2009. Kale, possibly the trendiest vegetable over the past two years, was mentioned 380 times more often in 2013 than four years earlier, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor.

Given the popularity of Southern fare, mustard greens may also start to appear more frequently, according to the Chicago-based research firm’s vice president Darren Tristano.

At Supper, a farm-to-table restaurant in Philadelphia, diners have grown more interested in vegetable dishes, leading chef–owner Mitch Prensky to increase the number of them on his already veggie-heavy menu. Beginning in April, Prensky says he’ll add more main dishes where he “treats vegetables in a meaty sense,” such as Swiss chard pie, charred romaine lettuces and barley or amaranth with beets, crème fraîche and mustard greens.

“Vegetable cookery is fun; there’s so many more options,” said Prensky. “[Spring greens] open up a whole bunch of doors for us creatively.”

At Found Kitchen and Social House in Evanston, Ill., chef Nicole Pederson is committed to putting vegetables center stage. On the current menu, black kale shines in a saag with smoked tofu, sweet potato, turmeric and coconut milk. In another dish, mustard greens and spaghetti squash complement braised pork.

Even Brennan’s of Houston, best known for its Creole seafood- and meat-focused fare, is making vegetables a more integral part of its menu, starting with an early spring introduction of a shifting vegetarian menu.

“We’re changing it up, putting more focus on vegetables,” said chef Danny Trace.

For March, the all-veggie section includes several entrees with popular leafy greens, such as baby arugula, mustard greens and collards. Trace says he looks forward to incorporating more spring vegetables into the menu, including beet greens, cucumbers and dinosaur kale.

In late February, kale went from salads and sides to featured main dishes at b.good, the Boston-based fast-casual chain. New to the menu and already best sellers are the white bean and rosemary bowl with organic quinoa, kale, sautéed veggies, wild mushrooms, beets, cannellini beans, Parmesan cheese and a red pepper vinaigrette, and the toasted almond and ginger bowl with organic quinoa, kale, sautéed veggies, tamari almonds, bean sprouts, mint and a toasted almond-ginger sauce. The chain, which has been growing its own produce at two of its restaurants for several years, is now exclusively growing kale to meet the demand. Co-founder Jon Olinto hopes to harvest about 5,000 pounds of kale this spring, summer and fall.

Other chefs are playing with lesser-known spring vegetables that may one day soon proliferate on menus, such as dandelion greens. For example, at newly opened Flight in Washington, D.C., chef Bradley Curtis is offering a twist on a classic Lebanese fattoush with dandelion greens, romaine, cucumbers, watermelon radish and heirloom cherry tomatoes tossed with sumac and pomegranate dressing.

For more recipe trends check out our Pinterest page and use MenuMax to organize and safely store your recipes online.

Pouring Profits: Millennials & Adult Beverages

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, the topic of adult beverages is at the forefront of the minds of foodservice professionals. In this article from the National Restaurant Association, Donna Hood Crecca, Senior Director at Technomic, Inc. explains how quenching the Millennial generations’ thirst for adult beverages can build traffic, sales and loyalty for your restaurant.

Americans between the ages of 21 and 34 are an interesting lot, something of an enigma. Here’s what we know about them:

  • Known as Millennials, this generation numbers more than 68 million and is the largest since the Baby Boomers. It’s also the most diverse both in terms of ethnicity and life stages.
  • The Millennial cohort currently has the lowest level of employment and is the lowest-earning generation, yet is expected to have the highest spending power of any generation due to its sheer size.
  • Millennials are projected to be the most highly educated of any American generation, and not just in terms of formal education; Millennials are globally aware and constantly processing reams of information made available by the internet.
  • Raised on gourmet coffee and the internet, Millennials are knowledgeable about food and drink; they’re demanding patrons, seeking a unique experience, customization and authenticity. They like to explore and discover new flavors and products.
  • They are frequent users of foodservice, yet are financially pressured, so are looking for value and promotional pricing. In fact, 54% seek out low prices so that they can visit restaurants more often, according to Technomic’s research.

How can restaurant operators attract and satisfy a generation that’s knowledgeable about food and beverage, demanding of the experience and also looking for value and attractive pricing? The answer can be served up in a glass. Based on what we know about Millennials, here are five ways to attract and engage this dynamic and demanding generation through your drink program:

Mix it up. When in restaurants, Millennials prioritize adult beverages and look for variety. More than two-fifths of Millennials (46%) surveyed for Technomic’s Trends in Adult Beverage (TAB) reports look for restaurants to offer a variety of beers, one-third (32%) prioritize wine variety and half (50%) prioritize variety in spirits and cocktail offerings. Older Millennials (25-34 year olds) over index for prioritizing beer and wine variety. Creating adult beverage selections that present variety appeals to Millennials’ desire to explore.

Quick learning curve. Millennials are unlike any previous generation in their knowledge of adult beverages, and are thirsting for more. They’re adopting wine at a younger age than their parents did, with many interested in working their way through various varietals and regions. Although vodka is their favorite spirit, they’re imbibing rum, tequila and whiskey as well, diving into the different aged and flavored expressions of these spirits. Observers credit Millennials with driving the craft beer and cider trends. Satisfy their interest in spirits, wine and beer by ensuring bartenders and service staff can speak to the flavor profiles, production methods and origins of your drink list’s various offerings with authority.

Focus on flavor. While it’s true that Millennials have a sweet tooth, evidenced by the growth of dessert-flavored vodkas, sweet is often an entry point into an adult beverage category. The Millennial flavor portfolio is much broader than one might expect, typically ranging from sweet to spicy, and flavor often drives their drink selection. In wine, Millennials gravitate to sweet reds and Moscatos, but will also move into more complex varietals and styles with some guidance. Calling out the flavor nuances in various whiskeys on your drink menu alerts them to intriguing elements such as hints of spice, tobacco and vanilla that will pique their interest. Millennials do look for seasonal beers, but will also seek out hoppier IPAs or other more assertive styles.

Showcase what’s new at the bar. Compared to other age groups, Millennials are most likely to try a new drink, according to Technomic’s research; while 8% of the general population tried a new drink on their most recent occasion, 18% of younger Millennials (21-24) and 12% of older Millennials (25-34) did so. Differentiate your restaurant by offering innovative new cocktails involving the latest flavored rum introduction, the latest limited-edition beer or a recently released wine. And be strategic about how you present the new offering, as the power of suggestion works with Millennials. The following are the top factors influencing Millennials’ decision to try a new adult beverage:

  • Menu descriptions, promotions and POS materials
  • Sample from the server or bartender
  • Suggestions of their cohorts or the bartender/server

Do all this – at an attractive price. Here’s where it gets tricky. Millennials have the least discretionary income but are demanding in the flavor and experience department. To satisfy both, engineer your drink menu carefully. Provide a variety of products and flavors with an eye toward driving high-volume/high-profit beverages while also offering unique libations that set your drink program apart from the restaurant across the street. Be strategic in your drink promotions (adhering to local regulations regarding such promotions). Millennials are often on the look-out for special events, special drinks and special pricing. One way to create that triple play is to develop a new cocktail involving a recently introduced spirits product, one whose roll-out is being supported in consumer and social media by the supplier. Keep the drink fairly simple to control your costs: focus on showcasing the flavor of the new spirit, perhaps pairing it with a familiar but low-cost mixer, but add a unique garnish for an interesting twist. Price it attractively. Where legal, look to the wholesaler or supplier for promotional support of the drink on the menu or via POS materials, or even of an event tied to the new drink that will drive traffic into your restaurant and promote trial. Such programs signal to Millennials that your restaurant is a place to have new experiences and try new things, and to do so at a great price point.

Millennials are a challenging generation, but with the right offering, its members will embrace one of the more profitable sections of your menu – adult beverages.

Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include numerous publications and digital products, as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the foodservice industry. Technomic’s Trends in Adult Beverage (TAB) database tracks more than 3,000 adult beverage brands and its BarTAB report analyzes the adult beverage trends in restaurants, bars and other licensed establishments.

To learn more, visit the National Restaurant Association. To gain control of your inventory, food cost and nutrition analysis contact us at 1-877-MENUMAX or max@menumax.com.

Making Brunch Profitable

Are you looking to break into the breakfast daypart? In this article from Full-Service Restaurant Magazine, written by Marlee Murphy, you can learn more about how to make the “brunch” hours more profitable for your restaurant. While breakfast has become a lucrative daypart at many fast-food concepts and is, of course, a mainstay among family-dining brands like IHOP, Denny’s, Bob Evans, Waffle House, and Cracker Barrel, very few full-service brands in the casual-dining or upscale-dining segments have embraced morning menus.

Chef Anthony Russo of Houston-based Russo’s Restaurants believes many brands shy away from brunch for fear of waste or extra cost. However, Russo says this is a mistake. The company’s brand, Russo’s Coal Fired Italian Kitchen, which has 25 locations in the U.S. as well as international franchisees, has witnessed significant growth since adding a weekend brunch menu. Russo says the key to avoiding waste is simply using ingredients already in the kitchen.

“We have a great variety of Italian entrées that use zucchini, squash, Portobello mushrooms, Feta cheese, and goat cheese. These are staple items that we already have on our menu,” Russo explains. “There’s no additional food cost there, we’re just using what we have and being creative with our menu items.”

Russo uses these ingredients to create one-of-a-kind Italian omelets, frittatas, and breakfast pizzas. Applying already-in-stock ingredients, the kitchen is able to offer between 20 and 25 items on its brunch menu. Russo’s Coal Fired Italian Kitchen also offers mimosas to complement the breakfast dishes.

“Really the only thing that went up [cost-wise] was buying the eggs,” Russo says. “We do mimosas [because] a little Prosecco with orange juice is pretty simple to make, and that’s something we already carry.”

Russo also notes the importance of fresh, never-frozen ingredients. Consumers can tell the difference between a meal cooked fresh, exclusively for them, and one that is heated up. Overall, Russo says consumers respond positively to brunch menus because it gives them greater variety.

“We have two menus—our Saturday-Sunday brunch menu and our dine-in menu—that we give out at the same time so they have a choice,” Russo says. “They like the variety of choices when they come in.”

A suitable, thoughtful location is essential for making brunch cost-effective. Russo strategically places restaurants with a brunch possibility. For instance, he likes to establish the store in a neighborhood of churches or other organizations that foster a brunch crowd.

“Start with seven or eight items,” Russo encourages. “Then you can go from there. See if your market supports it.”

You can go one step further by using a plate costing tool such as MenuMax to learn how much your breakfast menu options cost so you can set prices accordingly. To learn more, call us at 1-877-MENUMAX or email max@menumax.com.

When, Where & Why to Source Winter’s Favorite Fruits

In this recent article from FSRmagazine.com, Amelia Levin writes about the benefits of using seasonal winter fruits in your menu items. Though local sourcing gets all the hype, seasonal sourcing is just as important for quality, taste, and the environment. It’s easy to forget that citrus fruits—though available year round—reach their tastiest during the winter months. And from an eco-conscious standpoint, sourcing citrus seasonally helps preserve natural growing conditions and maintain healthy soil.

“Citrus fruits thrive in areas with warm to hot summers and mild winters,” says Joan Wickham, a spokesperson for Sunkist, which collects fruits from thousands of family farmers.

Come January, California’s citrus bounty explodes with different oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. As the season progresses through February, March, and April, more distinct varieties of these fruits—such as Valencia oranges, white grapefruit, pixie tangerines, and honey mandarins—are ready for harvest, Wickham says. Southwestern climates like Arizona also cater to citrus growing, and Texas is known for the sweeter taste and juiciness of its Red Star and Rio Star (pink) grapefruits.

Juicy Facts

Citrus flower buds begin to form in early winter and develop through late winter and spring. After bloom, fruit develops from five to 18 months, according to Wickham. Typically, citrus fruit is then picked by hand, put into bins, and hauled to packinghouses, where it is cleaned and prepped for delivery.

When sourcing, Wickham suggests looking for fruits that are firm and heavy with bright, colorful skins. Avoid bruised, wrinkled, or discolored fruit, which could indicate the fruit is old or has been stored incorrectly. For best results, store citrus in the cooler, or freeze the juice and zest for long-term storage. Dehydrated zest stores like spices.

Chef Paul Virant of Vie and Perennial Virant in Chicago looks to pickling, candying, and charring, as well as jam-making and compote-making to preserve his citrus. Using two parts salt to one part sugar and a handful of herbs, he pickles lemon rind for four months, later pairing the delicacy with vegetables, roasted poultry, and seafood.

“The natural acidity of fruits like mandarins, Meyer lemons, blood oranges, and kumquats combined with wine, honey, vinegar, and spices make a perfect complement for richer foods,” he says.

As for what will be most popular in 2014, Wickham has her picks for this year’s trendy citrus. Cara Cara oranges, a type of seedless navel grown in California’s San Joaquin Valley, are high on the list because of their distinctive pinkish-red color, an exceptionally sweet flavor, and a tangy, cranberry-like zing. Another best-seller, the Gold Nugget variety of mandarins, is deliciously sweet with a bumpy rind and a bright orange, seedless interior.

The popular Meyer lemon will continue its streak, thanks to sweeter, less-acidic juice and rind. Wickham wouldn’t be surprised if more chefs reach for seedless lemons, similar to Eureka and Lisbon varieties, to skip the preparation hassle.

Other lesser-known citrus fruits are also gaining ground, says Wickham. Zebra lemons—pink on the inside with a yellow and green striped rind—are prized for a slightly less-acidic flavor. Pummelos, or Chinese grapefruit, are slightly milder in taste than grapefruit, but more aromatic. Minneola tangelos, easily identified by their knob-like stems and deep red-orange color, have a tart-sweet flavor, peel easily, and have few (if any) seeds. Orange and maroon-colored Moro blood oranges are known for their rich, orange and raspberry-like taste.

Loaded with vitamin C for cancer prevention and muscle rebuilding, citrus fruits also come packed with quercetin—a powerful, anti-inflammatory phytochemical found in green tea.

Grapefruit has been labeled a nutrient-packed superfood, providing antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that promote heart health and healthy skin. In fact, Wickham points out, research has indicated that Millennial women have increased their consumption as a result of the superfood image.

Read more about how these winter fruits are trending on menus.

Preparing for Valentine's Day

According to a recent article from Nation’s Restaurant News, written by Ron Ruggless, Valentine’s Day falls just a heartbeat behind Mother’s Day among restaurants’ busiest days of the year, and with it comes operational heartaches.

In years past, the National Restaurant Association has estimated that as many as 70 million people will dine out on Valentine’s Day, surpassing No. 3 Father’s Day, No. 4 New Year’s Eve and No. 5 Easter.

The Feb. 14 holiday falls on a Friday this year, raising the potential for a tsunami of love-struck guests, from bastions of high-dollar fine dining to the kitsch of White Castle.

“What’s the saddest day of the year for a restaurant that has all four-tops?” asked Sherri Kimes, Cornell University professor of services operations management, referring to the challenges of accommodating the wave of two-person parties on Valentine’s Day.

“What are you going to do? Tell the next couple that walks in that, ‘There’s a lovely couple over there at that table, would you like to join them?’” Kimes said.

Operators can prepare for the onslaught of two-by-two parties, starting by estimating how many two-tops they expect.

Using data from prior-year holidays, “What a restaurateur should do is estimate the percentage of parties that will come in as parties of two and multiply the number of seats in the restaurant by that percentage,” Kimes said. “That will give the number of seats that should be provided at two-tops.” To calculate the number of tables, divide that number by two.

“Let’s say a restaurateur estimates that about 80 percent of parties on Valentine’s Day come as couples,” Kimes explained. “Her restaurant has 200 seats: 80 percent of 200 equals 160 seats should be at two-tops.” Divide 160 by two, she added, and the operator should budget 80 two-tops.

The Valentine’s Day two-top percentage depends on the type of restaurant, Kimes said.

“I’ve seen some fine-dining restaurants where it’s 90 percent [two-tops],” she said, adding with a laugh, “and there are no singles.”

Kimes advised operators to acquire more two-top tables if possible by switching out four-top and larger tables with two-tops rented, borrowed or on hand for the occasion.

“You might have some in the back, or maybe you can borrow some,” she said. “If you don’t have a lot of two-tops and you are taking reservations, you might want to be giving preference to the larger parties if you have the excess demand.”

Tables that allow seating flexibility are crucial to restaurant planning, Kimes said, as other holidays, such as Mother’s Day, pose the opposite challenge of Valentine’s Day: a demand by large parties and bigger tables.

Valentine’s Day also offers the potential for significant upselling, even before guests enter the door, Kimes added.

“You can have special Valentine’s Day menus that may be a little pricier, because people want something special,” she said. “You also have the possibilities for add-on sales for flowers or something like that. When the restaurant takes a reservation, it might be worth asking questions about doing extra things. Customers might value that and, of course, would be willing to pay for.”

In 2011 the NRA surveyed member restaurants and found the best guest responses to special menu items, prix fixe menus, celebratory beverages or desserts, flowers or candy, and entertainment or music.

Even quick-service chains can tap into the action. For the past 20 years, 400-unit White Castle has brought romance to its locations by turning them into “Love Castles,” providing tablecloths, candles, tableside service and reservations on Valentine’s Day. Last year, more than 20,000 guests dined at the chain on the holiday.

“It’s become huge for us. It’s a great expression of our commitment to make memorable moments everyday,” said Jamie Richardson, vice president for government and shareholder relations at Columbus, Ohio-based White Castle System Inc., adding that team members enjoy the day as well.

“We’re already 90-percent full for our reservations this year in our Chicago stores,” Richardson said. “We may have to expand our Valentine’s Day hours.”

Looking for ways to promote your restaurant this Valentine’s Day? Check out these 10 tips to help inspire you. If you are looking for some recipes to spice up this romantic holiday, check out our Pinterest board.

Technology on the Menu

In a recent article from Nation’s Restaurant News, National Restaurant Association consumer research reports that over half of U.S. adults (63%) have used restaurant-related technologies. When asked what they’d done in the past month, those surveyed were most likely to have looked for a restaurant location and directions on a mobile device and also to have viewed menus, ordered food, or made online reservations on a computer. When it comes to the technologies consumers would use if offered, the same two top the list: looking up a restaurant location and getting directions and using a computer to view menus, order, or make reservations.

TABLET TECHNOLOGIES
It was recently reported that Applebee’s intends to install 100,000 tablet computers in more than 1,800 locations nationwide by the end of 2014. Julia Stewart, CEO, DineEquity (Applebee’s’ parent company), said customers had been telling them for some time that they don’t like waiting for a check and that tablets will present the company with a unique opportunity and competitive advantage. This technology will allow customers to pay at the table, order, and play games, giving Applebee’s another way to engage and communicate with their guests. Similar devices are being used by other casual dining restaurant chains, including Chili’s, Red Robin, McDonald’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings. While upscale and white tablecloth operators are continuing to evaluate the use of tablets, some are having success using tablets for their wine lists. “Our Fleming’s WiNEPAD has helped customers engage with wine, discover new ones, and get advice on pairing with food,” explains Craig Sheppard, National IT Training Coordinator, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, hq Newport Beach, CA. “It’s helped increase satisfaction and sales.” Rocky says BR Guest has been looking at an iPad wine list but is concerned that it might increase time between table turns as guests become fascinated by it; however this has not been an issue at Fleming’s, according to Craig.

MOBILE PAYMENT
While not in the pipeline currently, Rocky says that BR Guest has been looking at mobile payment options, even though their guests are not screaming for it. “Right now it’s like the ‘wild west’ – there is no standard yet. There are some handhelds and a bunch of apps, such as LevelUp and TabbedOut. Some of these technologies interface directly with POS systems and use the same credit card payment ‘pass thru’; some do not interface and are their own credit card processors or use third-party processors.”

LOCATION INFORMATION
“We recommend looking at your restaurant listing on Google+ Places to confirm the information listed is correct and that you’ve added as much to the listing as possible (menus, photos, etc.). Then use that same information as a template for all other directories such as Urbanspoon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Bing,” advises Chris. Steve Brooks, Director of Information Services/Business Analyst, Tumbleweed, Louisville, KY, says they’ve hired a company for about $65 per store to clean up their online presence – checking maps and addresses, opening and closing times, etc. “This way we know customers are receiving correct information when they’re searching for us.” Chris says services like Yext update and sync geodata and content automatically for $50-$100/month. “If you’re doing a good job of regularly updating menus and photos, that’s a great value.”

BACK-OF-HOUSE OPERATIONS
Another way the restaurant industry is evolving in through the technology being developed for BOH management. MenuMax is a leader in recipe management, food costing and nutrition analysis. The tools you need to efficiently operate your restaurant are available through this cloud based application. The user-face enables you to store your data online so that is accessible from any computer with an internet connection. MenuMax helps reduce waste and control costs by keeping an accurate count of inventory and up-to-date food pricing. For more information visit www.MenuMax.com or call 1-877-MENUMAX