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FDA delays menu-labeling requirements

Written by of Nation’s Restaurant News

Restaurants scrambling to comply with upcoming federal menu labeling requirements now have a little more breathing room, after the Obama Administration delayed the compliance date by a year on Thursday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, citing the need for the agency to provide more clarification on the rules amid opposition from supermarkets, has delayed the rule’s implementation until Dec. 1, 2016. The FDA published the rules in November, and previously set a deadline of December 2015.

“Industry, trade and other associations, including the grocery industry, have asked for an additional year to comply with the menu labeling final rule, beyond the original December 2015 compliance date,” the FDA said in its announcement. “The FDA agrees additional time is necessary for the agency to provide further clarifying guidance to help facilitate efficient compliance across all covered businesses and for covered establishments to come into compliance with the final rule.”

The FDA’s move comes two months after a bipartisan group of 32 senators asked the FDA for clarity on the regulations as well as another year for businesses to comply with the rules.

“Businesses, particularly small businesses, will need appropriate time to budget and plan accordingly to meet the rule’s requirements to provide nutrition information to consumers that is understandable and clear, and therefore of the greatest value to consumers,” the senators wrote.

The menu labeling law has been years in the making — it was required as part of the Affordable Care Act legislation that was approved in 2010. The National Restaurant Association was among more than 70 groups that had pushed for the nationwide standard — which the association considers more desirable than a bunch of different state regulations.

“We have been in full support of a nationwide uniform menu labeling standard since the very start,” NRA CEO Dawn Sweeney said in a statement. “This standard makes good sense for the industry and our customers. As we await further guidance from FDA, some of our members are ready to implement menu labeling while others still need more time. We will continue to work with FDA and our membership to ensure a smooth transition for restaurants and consumers alike.”

Many chains have been long preparing for the rules. And many chains have already started complying with the regulations, including Starbucks, McDonald’s and PaneraBread.

But the association had been pushing to include other establishments that are increasingly competitive with the restaurant industry. The rules published in November provided that, requiring that restaurants and “similar food establishments” that include take-out pizza concepts as well as grocery store delis, coffee shops and movie theaters.

Grocers in particular were worried about the law because many of them don’t typically have menu boards for their delis, or they have unique local products that may not have easy-to-determine calories. Grocers are pushing legislation that would free any establishment that gets less than 50 percent of revenues from prepared food from complying with the regulation.

“We’re encouraged that FDA’s commitment will give us more time to at least garner some clarity and answers without feeling rushed to make difficult business decisions in an attempt to comply by December 1, 2015, with regulations that are unclear,” Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, said in a statement. The FMI is a trade group that represents the supermarket industry.

As it stands, the law requires that calorie counts be posted on menus or menu boards at companies with 20 or more locations. The FDA has estimated that the law could affect 1,640 chains around the country, with a total of 278,600 locations.

Complying with the law would cost $1,800 per limited service restaurant and less than $1,000 for a full-service concept, according to the FDA.

How overtime pay proposal could impact restaurants

Written by of Nation’s Restaurant News

Tens of thousands of additional restaurant workers and managers could become eligible for overtime pay under a new rule President Barack Obama proposed Monday that would double the threshold for overtime eligibility.

The rules could significantly impact the restaurant industry and operators’ labor costs. Restaurant operators rely heavily on full-time assistant managers and managers who are salaried and often work more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay. The proposal could make many managers eligible for overtime and force some restaurant owners to alter how they operate.

According to the proposal, which Obama announced in a blog on the Huffington Post, the threshold for overtime pay would increase from $455 a week, or $23,600 a year, to $970 per week, or $50,440 per year.

Nearly 5 million additional workers would be eligible for pay 1.5 times their hourly rate for all hours worked above 40 hours per week. The rule could be in place by next year, Obama said.

“That’s good for workers who want fair pay, and it’s good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve — since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren’t,” Obama wrote.

The restaurant industry has been concerned about potential overtime changes for more than a year, since Obama asked the U.S. Department of Labor to propose revised overtime regulations in March 2014. It would be the first change in overtime regulations in more than a decade.

Restaurants said they are still reviewing the rule and could not comment in detail. For instance, a spokesman for Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver’s said the quick-service operator is still studying the regulation, but that “it will likely increase our labor dollars to get the same coverage.”

Industry trade groups sharply criticized the rules, saying they threatened to block worker advancement up the restaurant career ladder.

“While we are still reviewing the Department of Labor’s proposed overtime regulations, at first sign, it seems as if these proposed rules have the potential to radically change industry standards and negatively impact our workforce,” Angelo Amador, senior vice president of labor and workforce policy and regulatory counsel for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement.

“Supporters of these regulations say they want to increase Americans’ take-home pay, but these sweeping changes to the rules could mean anything but,” Amador said. “More than 80 percent of restaurant owners and 97 percent of restaurant managers start their careers in non-managerial positions and move up with new performance-based incentives. If these regulations stand, that mobility and adaptability of employee schedules, which makes our industry appealing, will be severely diminished.”

The National Council of Chain Restaurants, which is part of the National Retail Federation, said the rule will “seriously impact” chains.

“The regulations being changed today were modernized in 2004 to specifically recognize the unique rule that supervisors in restaurants must perform and the exceptional career advancement opportunities that restaurants provide to hourly workers,” Rob Green, NCCR executive director, said in a statement.

“If allowed to stand, the one-size-fits-all proposal issued today will harm chain restaurant managers’ career advancement, eliminate key management positions, and have a negative impact on customer service and workplace morale,” Green said. “We need policy that encourages workplace advancement and this is a step in the wrong direction.”

Labor advocates have been increasingly concerned that the current rule exempts too many salaried white-collar workers who should be covered because their duties are routine and they have little control over their time.

In its notice of proposed rule changes, the Department of Labor noted that some convenience-store managers and quick-service workers may be expected to work 60 hours a week or more, “making less than the poverty level for a family of four, and not receive a dime of overtime pay.”

The proposed rule change would also automatically update the requirements to distinguish between executives, administrative and professional workers who are exempt from overtime and those workers who are eligible.

For the restaurant industry, the overtime regulations come in addition to other major changes impacting the labor line. That includes requirements that companies provide health care to employees who work more than 30 hours a week — a regulation expected to have an outsized impact on restaurants.

In addition, a National Labor Relations Board classification of McDonald’s Corp. as a “joint employer” of its franchisees’ workers, as well as proposals to increase the minimum wage, also stand as issues expected to cause problems for the industry.

“This is a very unfortunate and consistent pattern that will prevent many employers from hiring more workers and expanding their businesses,” Robert Cresanti, executive vice president of government relations and public policy at the International Franchise Association, said in a statement. “IFA will continue to aggressively oppose this proposed regulation throughout the public comment process.”

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas

See the original article by Aida Behmen on POS

Freedom also means that you can offer whatever you want. Open the door for great fun and extra profits with these 4th of July restaurant promotions ideas.

4th of July is a National Holiday when residents across the USA celebrate freedom and independence of their country, but for you as a caterer it is another good opportunity for additional income and promotion of your restaurant.

Timely organization and restaurant promotions will be simplified if you did a budget plan for restaurant marketing for whole year. If you have some funds destined for this purpose that is great news, but even if you don’t have it you can still do a lot. Keep reading and you will find out how.

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas parade

Timely Organization is Path to Success

Be prepared for crowd and high traffic. What you need to do in June to be ready for this holiday:

  • Review your financial situation and determine the available money for celebration of this holiday.
  • Plan your restaurant offer for 4th of July and stick to your financial plan. Create menu, special offer,promotions and entertainment.
  • Do not let that your best waiter got sick this day or maybe that he or she took day off.  Arrange working shifts earlier and let your reserve staff for assistance in the restaurant be ready. Do not leave anything to chance!
  • Write down list of Items that needs to be purchased.
  • Go to shopping. Get plenty of meat, chicken, hamburgers, beers and soda. Do not forget the holiday props.
  • Decorate your restaurant for Independence Day.
  • Promote your restaurant offer through all available promotional channels.

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas menu

Restaurant Menu for Independence Day

The data show that 41 million of Americans spend Independence Day outside their homes. Then you can certainly make sure that your restaurant should be filled to capacity on this day.
What do your guests want? People are generally very simple creatures and all will agree that their desires are not too big. If you offer good atmosphere, give a little effort into decorations, give a decent salary to your waitera and they will serve their guests with a smile, do not serve old or burnt food to your guests, and they will surely be satisfied and will come back to your restaurant again.

You do not believe that it is so simple? Be free to try!

But what about Independence Day, that famous July 4th when in cities around the USA are organized various social events, parades and gatherings that attract crowds of people. What Americans like to eat this day? What to drink? Maybe the following statistics will help you to create restaurant offer:

  • Every year for Independence Day in the USA has been eaten 150 million of hot dogs.
  • 700 million pounds of chicken has been purchases in the week leading up to July 4th.
  • 190 million pounds of red meat/ pork has been purchased in the week leading up to July 4th.
  • 25 million pounds is the amount of fireworks that have been sold to cities for public celebrations.

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas Menu Ideas

Regarding these data, it is clear that the grilled meat is a favorite food consumed on Independence Day. Highlight the promotional prices of these dishes in the National Holiday offer! To increase sales of targeted products combine grilled meat with most common side dishes, desserts and drinks or create prix fixe menu for this holiday.

Ideas for Independence Day Brunch

Respect the wishes of your guests but keep your menu simple. These food should be gladly found on your 4th of July brunch menu: Juicy burgers, chicken wings and drumsticks, juicy steaks, cleaned crabs, various omelettes, oysters, shrimp, various pastes and biscuits, potato salad and fresh seasonal salad.
For refreshment offer to your guests a refreshing drink like fresh fruit juice, lemonade, iced tea and orange juice. Beer and soda are unavoidable so provide more beer than you can imagine that would be necessary.

Make your grill really hot, spice it with extra spice, make fireworks in your guests mouths! Of course, for those who love it! It is necessary to quench the thirst after all those burgers?
Lure guests with tempting summer desserts such as fruit cakes, waffles with cherry topping, pancakes, ice cream and fruit salad with extra whipped cream. With a little creativity your cakes will become a real cute little patriots as shown in pictures below.

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas Brunch Ideas

Place Grill In Front of Your Restaurant

If your restaurant is located in a busy street where will be holiday parade organized it would be a good idea to set up a small mobile grill to attract passers. Install your grill even a week before the celebration. You can set up it on restaurant parking or in front of your restaurant. Make sure that you are not breaking the law, so check with your local authorities if you need a license to operate in this manner.

Be creative with your grill decorations, use colors of America’s flag, blue, red and white colors should dominate in all elements, paper saucer, drinking glasses, paper bags, flags on toothpicks, straws and napkins. Contact on time your local supplier of holiday props.

Do not forget the kids. Buy several balloons filled with helium that look like cartoon heroes. They are really tested lure for children, and irresistible smell of barbecue will take care of their parents.

Give to kids sweets and lollipops in the colors of the American flag for free. They can be bought at very low prices,or home made and will attract the attention of children. With a little luck their parents will become your guests. Share to passers flyers with information about your restaurant’s offer for Independence Day at stand.

Restaurant Decoration Ideas for Independence Day

Patriotic Flower Arrangement. Any occasion would be more festive with fresh flowers on your restaurant table. Use flowers in America’s colors – red and white, that could be hyacinths, tulips, or Canterbury bell and finish floral arrangement with a blue bow. Present the flowers in a pail filled with sand, that would help to hold the blooms in place and lends the table a casual, beachy feel.

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas flowers

Balloons are always a good choice, if not my favorite. There is something special in place decorated with balloons. Always remind me on my childhood. You can play with them on a million possible ways and put them where ever you want.

Flags should be everywhere, on the walls, flags on hot dogs, cookies or use the flag as curtain or tablecloths. Show your patriotic spirit!

Uniform for your staff should be in combination of colors: red, white and blue. T-shirts and shirts with American characteristics or decorated with flags that can be used as a scarf around the neck, tie or scarf for your hair.

Candles can be a very nice decoration for the table. You will need color for textiles or you may even use color for food and salt that you can paint in blue and red and put it in a transparent glass as the colors of the American flag. Place it in the glass with small scented candles and enjoy in the romantic National holiday atmosphere!

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas decorations

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas

Choose some of these ideas for celebration of Independence Day in your restaurant:

Host popular musicians. With a good selection of music, good atmosphere will be guaranteed and higher turnover will provide additional money to cover the cost of the contractor.
Popular musicians will attract visitors and bring in new guests – their fans that may become your new regular customers.

Organize a charity dinner or lunch party. Fourth of July is the day when we celebrate freedom and equality for all of us and it makes it a perfect day to organize a charity dinner or lunch to help to vulnerable groups in our society like people and children with disabilities.
These parties always attract the local media, and every occurrence in them increases the popularity of your restaurant and attract new guests. This will strengthen the reputation of your restaurant in your community. It will also make you feel good because helping someone is the best thing that you can do after helping yourself.

Tip: Invite to charity party some of influential or popular personalities from political or cultural life to create a buzz about this event and maximize traffic in your restaurant.

Reward your loyal guests. Provide special discounts to your regular customers. Reward them on this day with free drink or dessert of their choice. Be grateful for their loyalty.

Make a partnership with owners of bookstores, beauty salons, cinemas, spas and similar services. Your partners could also be owners of clothes, shoes or jewelry stores. Surprise your guests with discounts for services in these facilities. In this way you create cross-promotion activities, they promote your restaurant and your restaurant promote their goods and services.

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas fireworks

Hire professional photographer, or engage one of your personnel to take a photo camera and capture happy moments and send photos to your guests by email. Take advantage of this opportunity to build or refresh your customer database that can be later used for direct marketing campaigns.

Make a Fireworks for Your Guests

If you want to do something spectacular for this holiday then the idea to make a fireworks for your guests may sound interesting. In any case, do not play with rackets and follow the instructions that will ensure safety conditions during storage, warehousing and activation of fireworks.
If you want to do it by yourself follow these instruction to install and launch fireworks.

  • Check what type of fireworks is legally (allowed) to launch in your city. Call the police or fire station, they will give you adequate and correct information.
  • Find fireworks as desired. Order it at least two weeks in advance. Shipments are often delayed and in this way you’ll ensure getting the shipment on time.
  • Make your show. Draw the schedule for activation of rockets on a bigger piece of paper. Remember that low-intensity firework rockets go closer to the audience and those with high intesity need to be further away from the observer. Make a few plans and choose the best.
  • Wait for complete darkness for the best effects of your firework show. The audience should be at least 50 feet away from the place where you will launch the fireworks.
  • Provide a personnel with a water on both sides of the audience.
  • Make sure you have a lighter. Nothing can spoil a good fireworks as defective missiles that will not start.
  • Enjoy the spectacle with your guests!

Remember: It is extremely important that you any time when working with a flammable substance to make sure you don’t put yourself, other people, your property and the nature at risk of getting burned or set on fire.

4th of July Restaurant Promotions Ideas children parade

Promotion of Your Restaurant Offer for 4th of July

Do not forget to promote your restaurant offer through all available channels.
If you still don’t have profiles on social networks create them and go to action. Start with Facebook, Twitter, G+. Share interesting information, photos and videos that will attract your potential customers. Share content from your website if you have one.

Set billboard advertisement in front of your restaurant door or put jumbo poster on your restaurant windows about your Independence Day party and special offer. These posters need to be attractive and visible for passers, some of them may become your customer.

Let your restaurant shine as one of the stars on the American flag. Be proud on your restaurant, your offer and your team. Do your best and enjoy in the celebration.

Food Cost Fitness: A Case Study

See original article posted by the National Restaurant Association

When restaurant consultant Linda Lipsky came across a client with a whopping 50 percent food cost, the industry veteran set to work slashing expenses. The Broomall, Pennsylvania-based consultant helped the operation reduce its food costs to 34 percent, in line with industry standards. Here’s how:

  • Shopping around. By bidding out its items, the restaurant secured better deals, says Lipsky. Be sure to negotiate with current vendors also, she advises. “There’s not just one set price from vendors,” says Lipsky, noting that some suppliers reward loyal customers who pay on time. With wholesale prices jumping 25 percent over the past five years, according to the NRA 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, many operators are searching for better prices. Nearly nine out of 10 fine-dining operators shopped around for other suppliers in 2014, as did a majority of casual and family-dining operators.
  • Brand management. Lipsky’s restaurant client selectively switched to less expensive brands without sacrificing quality. “Having a branded ketchup on your tables is a quality statement,” says Lipsky. “But does anybody really care if you use a no-name white vinegar in the back of the house?” Likewise, consider less expensive liquor brands for recipes. “In most cases, the alcohol cooks off anyway. Do you really need a name brand?”
  • Proper portion sizes. The operation adjusted its portion sizes, cutting costs while better accommodating guest preferences. “The restaurant had been serving up way too much food—about a pound on a plate,” says Lipsky. “Many people are watching their weight today and are looking for smaller servings.” Simple steps like cutting a fillet from 8 to 7 ounces help control costs, while still leaving guests satisfied, says Lipsky.
  • Product specifications. By specifying a slightly smaller shrimp, the restaurant reduced the cost of making its shrimp salad while maintaining an attractive salad with the same number of shrimp per serving.
  • Meal composition. Lipsky reduced costs by adjusting the balance between main dishes and more affordable side dishes. “Beef up your meals with vegetables and grains,” she advises.
  • Fitted dishware. Large plates led to excessively large servings of pasta, and large bowls prompted staff to serve twice as much of a heavy cream soup as needed. Select dishware that’s appropriate for serving sizes.
  • Appropriate serving utensils. Make sure you’re using the proper serving pieces to ensure that you’re not dishing out more than what your recipes specify. For example, Lipsky’s client slashed its cost for vinaigrette dressing in half by switching from a two-ounce ladle to a more appropriate one-ounce ladle.
  • Freebies. Giveaways like bread and butter can cut into profits. Lipsky advised her client to switch to smaller butter chips that reduced waste.

How to hook top talent

View original article from National Restaurant Association.

Reel in good talent from the labor pool with these steps:

1. Identify what’s a “good catch.” Start by determining what skills and traits are essential. If your restaurant has a set of core values or a mission statement, use that to guide you. For example, Great New Hampshire Restaurants looks to its “Table of Success,” which identifies the company’s six core values, including respect and executing greatness. “A few years back, we decided to define our culture and core values,” says co-owner and CEO Tom Boucher. “We stopped and asked ourselves: What makes us great? We then communicated and integrated these values into as many areas of our business as possible, including our hiring practices.”

Craft job descriptions that list what each job entails. Think about what makes your star employees stand out. “List out all the skills that your good employees have and frame your interview questions around them,” recommends T.J. Schier, president of the SMART Restaurant Group, a franchisee of Dallas-based Which Wich, a fast-casual sandwich chain, and co-author of SMART Restaurant Guide to Recruiting and Selecting.

Consider an initial assessment to screen out unqualified candidates. Schier uses an online questionnaire operated by Snagajob to assess candidates before deciding who to call in for an interview.

When it comes time for the interview, ask questions that help determine whether the applicant is a good match. “Don’t just throw softball questions because you like someone,” Schier says. Start with the basics, like availability, and move on to behavioral-based questions that identify whether the applicant has the skills needed for the specific position. He recommends a two-interview process, with a different interviewer each time.

2. Know where to look. One of the best sources is right under your nose. Ask team members for referrals; consider rewarding them with monetary incentives. “The real value is that they’re getting good people to work aside,” says Tom Tice, a recruiting manager for Seattle-based Starbucks.

Take that approach a step further with “second-interview referrals.” If you have a few open slots, encourage candidates to bring an interested friend to their second interview. Wanting to impress their potential employer, “they’re not going to bring along a slacker,” Schier says.

Tap labor pools that run deep with good candidates. About 250,000 military members exit the armed forces every year, many looking for civilian jobs. Last year, Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 veterans and active military spouses by the end of 2018. They’re a reliable workforce instilled with values like honor, duty and commitment to a common cause.

“One thing we do really well in the military is take care of people, and that speaks well to Starbucks,” says Starbucks’ Tice, a veteran himself. The company works closely with the military’s Transition Assistance Program to recruit talent and has gained traction through referrals within the tight-knit military community.

Social media offers a great platform to reach potential candidates. “Social media links us to our candidates on a human level,” Tice says. He uses LinkedIn Recruiter to post job listings and find talent, Twitter to publicize recruiting events and encourage a dialogue, and Instagram to share event photos, putting a face on the recruiters and forging a connection with candidates.

3. Lure in the winners. When it comes to attracting and retaining good talent, your company culture makes all the difference. Starbucks fosters a “culture of warmth and belonging” and provides opportunities to connect with the community, Tice says. The coffeehouse chain cultivates a team environment, where everyone is a “partner” and has equity in the company. “It appeals to people who want to be part of something bigger than themselves,” he says.

Benefits and incentives also entice top talent. While medical coverage, tuition reimbursement and vacation can be a big draw, don’t forget to promote smaller perks. Starbucks touts that partners get a free pound of coffee each week; Which Wich, specializing in customizable sandwiches, gives team members customized Nikes.

Schier attracts go-getters to his Which Wich units by offering a commission for bringing in catering business. For snagging a large deal, he creates a photo op and awards the team member an oversized commission check. Elated team members often post the photos to Facebook, spreading the word about Which Wich careers. “When you create an environment that delivers the service you want, it becomes a lot easier to recruit the right people.”

The power of promoting from within

View original article from the National Restaurant Association.

When Elana “Lani” Hobson was a part-time fry cook at Jack in the Box in 1977, she never dreamed of rising to senior vice president of operations. Through the years, Hobson climbed the ranks, first within a Northern California unit, then to district and area manager and regional and division vice president.

Inspirational stories such as Hobson’s abound throughout the restaurant industry. Tales of dishwashers, servers and line cooks who ascend to leadership positions are countless. About 90 percent of the industry’s salaried employees start as hourly workers in restaurants, according to NRA research. While that figure includes employees who move from restaurant to restaurant, many operators foster a culture that encourages employees to stay for advancement opportunities.

Movin’ on up

Promoting from within provides employees the opportunity for career growth. But employees aren’t the only ones to benefit. Restaurants gain the advantage of hiring a known entity.

“When you promote someone, you already know their work ethic, that they’re dependable, that they understand your culture, that they’re a good fit,” says Nancy Cross, chief people officer of Mexican Restaurants Inc. The Houston-based company owns 46 restaurant locations under four fullservice concepts and one fast-casual brand.

By promoting from within, restaurants can slash recruiting and training expenses. Managers hired from outside the company typically undergo a 10-week training program, while internal promotions require only five or six weeks, says Cross.

The possibility of an internal promotion offers employees incentives to stick around. “When you start at entry level and move up, you really develop a loyalty to the business,” says Hobson, whose Jack in the Box career spans nearly 40 years.

Career pathways

To help employees find a career path:

  • Create a roadmap for success. Lay out potential career paths from the get-go, as early as the interview or orientation. “The pathways should be clearly defined to avoid any perception of favoritism,” advises Donna Herbel, director of training and development for Minneapolis-based Perkins & Marie Callender’s.
  • Establish stepping stone positions to help employees gain confidence and gradually take on leadership. For example, top-notch servers at Perkins can become certified trainers who guide new hires. From there, they might get promoted to shift leader, then assistant manager, before being named a manager.
  • Point good candidates in the right direction. When she was 18, Hobson’s manager pulled her aside and said she had an incredible career ahead of her — if she worked for it. “My manager saw something in me that I didn’t even know I had at the time,” Hobson recalls.

Today, Hobson encourages general managers to seek that spark in team members. “Look for people who lead naturally, even when they’re not in a leadership role,” says Hobson. “Look for people who show a passion for the business and for taking care of customers. They show pride in the food and in keeping the restaurant clean.”

Remember, management isn’t for everyone. Even team members who excel at their job, might not be management material. “Getting results from a team takes a different skillset than getting results from your own two hands,” says Perkins’ Herbel.

  • Provide guidance to help train and develop promising candidates. Tell team members what you see in them, so they can retain and further develop those traits, Herbel says. Sometimes an employee gets promoted because he or she demonstrates great camaraderie, but they let go of those interpersonal skills when they get into management because they incorrectly think that’s not part of the job.
  • Combine formal and informal training to prepare employees for their roles. Mangers might informally show a certified trainer how to close the restaurant and then provide a hands-on opportunity to practice the skill, Mexican Restaurants’ Cross says. The company also offers a formal two-day training to new assistant managers.
  • Consider tuition-reimbursement to help managers gain a formal education. Jack in the Box footed the bill for Hobson’s undergraduate and graduate degrees in finance. In return, she became more valuable to the company and climbed the corporate ladder.

“Invest in your people,” Hobson says. “If you spend the time with them, they’ll feel cared for and will develop loyalty.”

Get more information about restaurant career paths at America Works Here, and download our latest research on Who Works in the U.S. Restaurant Industry.

As food costs are rising, small measures can help ease pressure

Click here to see the original article from the National Restaurant Association.

About one-third of sales in a typical restaurant goes to food and beverage purchases, making cost management in the kitchen critically important to maintaining profitability.

During the last five years, average wholesale food prices rose roughly 25 percent.  Operators can expect to get pricing relief on several of the major commodities in 2015, including dairy and pork.

Meanwhile, menu prices have not risen at the same pace, putting additional pressure on restaurants’ bottom lines. In fact, food costs are cited as the top challenge by about one-quarter of restaurant operators this year.

When operators were asked which actions they took to manage rising food costs in 2014, common answers included increasing tracking of food waste, cutting costs in other operational areas, raising menu prices and shopping around for other suppliers, according to the NRA’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast.

While restaurateurs can’t control the commodity market, they can control which ingredients to use and how to use them in their own kitchens. Some ways to alleviate food cost pressure are:

  • Closely monitor what food is left on consumers’ plates. If your guests are consistently leaving the same items – like salad garnish, french fries or salsa – you can serve less of it or eliminate it altogether. Not only will this save on costs, but it also helps the environment by cutting back on waste.
  • If you don’t want to change a core menu item completely, consider adjusting parts of it. For example, if one type of lettuce is becoming more expensive, substitute a different type. Or, if the price of milled rice is spiking, use other grains.
  • ImageServe free items only upon request rather than having them on counters or automatically served by staff – for example, condiments, bread, crackers, chips and salsa.
  • Wholesale beef prices climbed in 2014 and are projected to continue to rise in 2015. When planning new menu items, explore underused cuts like shoulder, cheeks and skirt steak, as these are often more inexpensive, but yet full of flavor.
  • Use fresh produce that is in season, as supplies are more plentiful and prices typically lower. Consumers are also attracted to freshness of ingredients, so this can be a marketing opportunity as well.

Serving up the whole animal: Nose-to-tail cooking

Click here to view the original article published by the National Restaurant Association.

Move over, pork chops. Nose-to-tail cooking, in which chefs use the whole animal, continues to be trendy. At Chicago’s Publican, adventurous diners can savor everything from crispy pigs’ ears to pigtail terrine. “There’s only so much you can do with a pork chop,” says sous chef James Lyons. “This lets you be creative and branch out.”


The Publican's Charcuterie plate Photo credit: Mika Sasaki

Chefs named nose-to-tail cooking — along with root-to-stalk cooking (using the whole plant) among the top 25 Tableservice Menu Trends for 2014 in a National Restaurant Association survey. Celebrity chefs such as Chris Cosentino, winner of “Top Chef Masters,” have helped the trend gain momentum by opening the public’s mind and palate to lesser-known cuts of meat, including offal (organ meats).

Going whole hog
The modern nose-to-tail trend emerged about a decade ago with Chef Fergus Henderson’s “The Whole Beast: Nose-to-Tail Eating.” But it’s actually an age-old approach. “Farmers would raise a pig, butcher it in the fall and preserve it to last the whole winter, making use of every part,” says Chef Rob Levitt, co-owner of Butcher & Larder, a whole animal butcher shop in Chicago.

“Nose-to-tail cooking is all about sustainability,” says Levitt, who worked as the chef at Chicago’s Mado restaurant with wife Allie before opening their butcher shop. “A farmer can’t raise a pork chop. A farmer can’t raise a leg of lamb. You have to raise a whole pig, a whole lamb.”

The approach also slashes food costs. By purchasing a whole pig, restaurants get pork chops at a fraction of the market price. “At Mado, we would sell all our pork chops in one night and recover the price for the whole pig,” says Levitt.


Pork Rinds at The Publican Photo credit: Mika Sasaki

He served the remaining parts in a variety of dishes, including pork rillettes, sausage, pork shank and a warm salad with slow-cooked pig’s head atop mustard greens. “There’s very little you can’t use,” he says. “Even the connective tissues enriched our stocks.”

Today’s guests crave the variety that whole animal cooking offers, says Levitt, whose offerings at Mado included beef heart and hanger steak. “Foodies get tired of the same old cuts of meat. There will always be a place for rib eye on the menu, but a large and growing part of the population is trying different cuts.”

Make it an event

Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica, Calif., capitalizes on the whole animal movement by offering a monthly “Morso Della Bestia” or “Bite of the Beast” five-course dinner. Each month spotlights a different animal. The April event started with a salad topped with crispy lamb belly, followed by an appetizer of sautéed lamb offal and an entrée of pappardelle pasta with lamb shoulder ragu. For the main course, the chef carved baked leg of lamb.


Lamb from Locanda del Lagos Photo credit: Emmanuela Cottu

By using the whole animal, there’s no waste,” General Manager Megan Heritage says. “That’s popular in Santa Monica, where there’s a big push to be green.”

The event’s rotating schedule has featured pig, lamb, boar, rabbit, halibut and more. Pig roasts prove to be most popular, so much so that the restaurant is adding a “Dig the Pig” five-course dinner, available any day to parties of 10 or more who reserve in advance.

Nose-to-tail know-how
Go piece by piece. If you’re new to nose-to-tail cooking, start by experimenting with one or two new cuts. Build up your repertoire before taking on a whole animal.

Get a demo. Check out Levitt’s butchering demonstration Saturday, May 17 at the NRA Show in Chicago, in the Foodamental Studio.

Talk with the farmers. You often can get a deal if you’re willing to take whatever parts they haven’t sold. Levitt recommends this approach with beef, because it’s difficult for restaurants to handle whole cows.

Mix things up with a presentation that showcases several animal parts in one dish. The Publican’s “Lamb Bollito Misto” features lamb sausage, lamb chop and rolled leg of lamb.

Watch your wording. Craft a menu that encourages guests to try new items. “Sometimes it helps if you use the Italian name for a dish,” suggests Chef Jonathan Luce of Bellanico in Oakland, Calif. Some guests might find it easier to order “Porchetta di Testa” than “Pig’s Head.”

Train your servers. Teach your staff how to explain your dishes in a clear and positive way. Make sure they’re prepared to talk about the preparation methods and the flavor profile. “You need to have them try it,” says the Publican’s Lyons, “so they know what they’re talking about.”

Capitalize on millennial traits to gain business advantage

Click here to see the original article from the National Restaurant Association.

Take notice of the next generation, and learn to “LIKE” them.

“Millennials present the greatest competitive advantage in our business,” says Kathleen Wood, founder of Suzy’s Swirl frozen desserts and Kathleen Wood Partners. Millennials, those born after 1980, represent a significant portion of the restaurant workforce. In an era of high-tech transactions and strong demand for customer service and convenience, millennials can help older peers navigate the new business landscape.

Wood, who recently spoke at the NRA’s Human Resources Executive Study Group, suggests leaders use her LIKE model – ListenInclude, get to Know, and Engage – to harness millennials’ best traits and leap ahead of competitors. They’re incredibly loyal to the companies they love, so you use these tips to tap their potential.

Listen. Learn their language, Wood says. “Millennials are the most socially connected people we’ve ever met.” They’re interested in social media and technology, and they love to share. “As we move forward, the language of business will be social connectivity. This is what they speak. We’ve got to take this opportunity as leaders of this amazing workforce and really leverage them as our competitive advantage to keep ourselves, our businesses, and our future way ahead of the game.”

Include millennials in business discussions. That allows them to see the big picture through the eyes of executives and leaders. Senior leaders need to be more involved, too. Employees of all ages should learn how to better connect with one another.

Get to know employees by learning more about millennials. They think globally and crave authenticity and transparency. If you understand what they want and expect, the whole team can benefit. “Schedule time to connect on a non-crisis manner,” she suggests. “Reach out, recognize, and acknowledge.”

Engage millennials in everything from problem solving, to product development, to customer service. “When you start to look at your new age resources, you really can start to look at your business in a profound way.”

Consider looking at business through the mobile lens millennials use. “How we train, how we connect, how we engage through the mobile lens — it really does make you think.”

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. “There are going to be times we have to be uncomfortable with not always knowing the answer … It opens you to possibilities.”

Embrace the power millennials bring to the workplace with social connectivity. Stop listening to the possible disasters of Facebook and Twitter, take social media for what it is, and unleash it for its possibilities.

“As leaders, we have so much to give, but we also have so much to get when we learn how to use all our powers together. We also have an inherent responsibility to teach, coach and lead the next generation of leaders, just as the generation before us did. Potentially, our greatest legacy is to pave that path.”

7 Ideas for Your Cinco de Mayo Promotion

See original article posted by Ron Miller on Peach

You don’t have to have a Mexican restaurant to want to capitalize on the fun of a Cinco de Mayo celebrations. It’s right around the corner so if you’d like to do a promotion, it’s time to start planning. Here are 7 things you can do to draw in customers and have your own Fifth of May party!

Cinco de Mayo graphic

1. Add some Mexican entreés to your menu. It doesn’t matter your concept, adding some tacos is easy — anything can be put into a taco shell. If you want to get more inventive, there are a million tastes from south of the border that are worth a try. Tortilla Soup, Red Rice, Chipotle Chicken or try Cochinita Pabil. If you don’t know much about Mexican cuisine, I recommend Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen as a great place to start.

2. Create some specialty margaritas. Margaritas are one of the most popular cocktails in America…and Mexico. Think of the basic rita as a blank slate and be creative. What could you add? Any fruit works but what else? Cinnamon? Ginger? Try googling “Innovative Margarita Recipes”.

3. Bring in some Mexican beers. Mexico is famous for their beer. Ask your supplier what you can bring in on special. Some of the most readily available are Tecate, Sol, Carta Blanca, Dos Equis, Modelo Especial, Victoria, Negra Modelo, Corona, and Estrella.

4. Nothing says Cinco de Mayo the way live music does.

5. Whatever you do, you should start promoting now on social media. Let your fans know that you are doing something special for Cinco de Mayo. Consider getting them involved with surveys and contests.

6. Just because the name implies a one day affair, you don’t have to make it so. Cinco de Mayo can be celebrated all week long! This is an especially good idea if you live in one of the cities that has puts on a big celebration. Your customers may already have plans on the 5th but your party can be ready when they are.

7. Don’t stop with the food. Cinco de Mayo is a full-on cultural event. From costumes to folk dance to crafts, Mexican culture is full of great ideas for your event. What can you do to draw people in besides your great food and a drink special?

BONUS TIP: Come up with some Cinco de Mayo contest ideas: A great party needs some Mexican themed competition:

  • Best Guacamole Competition/Best Salsa Competition
  • How high can you stack tortilla chips?
  • Lip sync contest to Mexican music

Good luck with your Mexican celebration!

Top 5 trends in restaurant side dishes

Original article posted on Nation’s Restaurant by

Photo courtesy of Village Whiskey

Although most of the attention on a plate tends to go to the main course, side dishes can add distinctiveness, visual appeal and health cues. As more restaurants focus on shared and small plates, these items, which require low emotional and financial commitment on the part of diners, can also be a great way to boost checks.

The National Restaurant Association surveyed nearly 1,300 chefs about the top food and beverage trends they’re seeing.

No. 5: Pickled vegetables

Paleo-friendly, generally gluten free, low in calories and distinctive, pickled vegetables are a growing side dish trend. Pictured here is the seasonally changing selection of housemade pickles in mason jars at Village Whiskey, which has locations in Atlantic City, N.J., and Philadelphia.

No. 4: Black rice

This eye-popping, somewhat sticky form of brown rice is sometimes used for desserts in Southeast Asia, but it’s on the rise as a side dish in the United States, where it’s praised for being rich in nutrients, and tasty besides. McCormick & Schmick’s offered it as a side dish last spring with grouper.

No. 3: Quinoa

Chefs interviewed by the NRA say this popular, protein-rich grain from the Andes still has legs. It is being featured this spring in a variety of salads and wraps at 38-unit Green Leaf’s, a subsidiary of Villa Enterprises.

No 2: Ancient grains

Retro items remain trendy at restaurants, and you can’t get more retro than “ancient.” This category of grains, which have been used for millennia, include, among others, millet, teff, quinoa and farro. The last, a variety of wheat that was an important staple in ancient Rome, is pictured here as part of a salad at Tulio in Seattle, which also has shaved asparagus, shaved Parmesan, lacinato kale and stinging nettle oil.

No 1. Non-wheat noodles

As the gluten-free trend continues unabated and pasta remains a beloved part of the American diet, it should come as no surprise that wheat-free noodles was the side dish trend most frequently cited by chefs that the NRA surveyed. Pictured here is rotini made with a blend of white corn, yellow corn and rice, with lamb ragout, rosemary and Romano cheese.

Restaurants ready summer seafood specialties

Original Article from Nation’s Restaurant by

Spring may have recently arrived, but restaurant operators are already looking ahead to summer, which is prime season for many seafood favorites. Rather than just offering those standbys, many chefs are planning to riff on them, and also doing seafood-related interpretations of other summertime classics.

At Greenpoint Fish & Lobster in Brooklyn, N.Y., chef and owner Adam Geringer-Dunn plans to offer a Lobster Corn Dog, a version of the battered hot dog on a stick that better fits his restaurant. Geringer-Dunn dips a whole lobster tail in corn batter, deep-fries it and deep serves it with a tarragon aïoli, providing the flavors of a Maine-style lobster roll in a different format.

“New York City is oversaturated with lobster rolls these days,” Geringer-Dunn said. “We wanted to try and elevate the corndog and make it something fun that people can enjoy again in a different way.”

Limited quantities of the seafood on a stick will be available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

At Talde, with locations in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., chef Dale Talde offers Lobster Bao, an Asian-inspired take on the classic lobster roll made with steamed lobster meat with chile butter inside a bun.

“I was on a kick with lobster rolls and wanted to create one that was more my own style, so I did a bao,” Talde said. “The dish went on the menu last year and people really love it. It now stays on season round.”

Similarly, Lo Spiedo, the Marc Vetri restaurant at Philadelphia’s Naval Yard, is currently offering an Octopus Roll. Chef and partner Jeff Michaud’s spin on the lobster roll features scraps from the restaurant’s grilled octopus dish mixed with mayonnaise, celery, tarragon, lemon juice and parsley, placed on top of a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce in a buttered and grilled Pepperidge Farm top-cut roll.

Also using seafood trimmings to create an innovative summer dish is Gray Gardell-Gross, co-owner and executive chef of 668 The Gig Shack in Montauk, N.Y. Gardell-Gross decided to use the tuna loin trim from his tuna steaks to create Spicy Tuna Taquitos with toasted sesame seeds, avocado and micro greens.

“The thing that really separates the dish is that it always takes you by surprise how light and refreshing it is,” Gardell-Gross said. “It’s a real taste of summer.”

Other chefs are trying to showcase the versatility and deliciousness of some of the less-loved seafood varieties, such as monkfish and skate.

Inspired by the abundance of monkfish in the waters off Montauk, Damien O’Donnell, chef and owner of the summer-only Harbor Bistro in nearby East Hampton, N.Y., will be serving Monkfish and Chorizo Kebabs, accompanied by couscous sautéed with pancetta and tomatoes, and spinach-chipotle-lime butter.

“Monkfish, being as versatile as it is, is capable of being skewered and grilled,” O’Donnell said. “I also like the whole idea because it reminds me of summertime. This is a dish you can prepare on your backyard barbecue.”

Similarly, George’s of Galilee, located across the street from the fishing docks of Galilee, R.I., is offering a roasted, locally caught day boat monkfish with roasted tomato and bacon jam. The preparation will change come summer based on what’s available at the local farmers’ market.

And at Shaker + Spear in Seattle, chef de cuisine Chris Lobkovich has a local-caught skate. He dredges the fish in rice flour and serves it over a cream sauce with raw English peas and foraged mushrooms, and garnishes the dish with raw pea vines. When the skate is gone, Lobkovich is looking forward to serving his favorite bivalve mollusks: razor clams and geoduck. He’s considering Razor Clam and English Pea Soup, a chilled soup of English pea broth, vermouth and fish fumé poured over a salad of raw English peas, razor clam, mint, ginger, radish and beet greens.

5 of the latest restaurant dessert trends

See the top 5 dessert trends from Nation’s Restaurant written by .

Photo courtesy of Trentina restaurant

American diners aren’t just looking for adventure when it comes to savory food; they also want it at dessert, according to chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association. The nearly 1,300 chefs polled for the NRA’s annual What’s Hot survey indicated that guests were looking for unexpected flavors and surprising combinations in their final bites of a meal.

No. 5: Smoked ingredients

Smoking’s not just trendy in savory food. Desserts augmented with a bit of earthy smoke are also in vogue, such as the Black Cocoa Sponge Cake at Better Half in Atlanta. It’s flavored with the Mexican dairy caramel cajeta that chef Zachary Meloy studs with chipotle peppers, which are smoked jalapeños. He serves it with coffee ice cream, the base of which has been given a flavor boost by treating it with a cold smoking gun.

No. 4: Hybrids

New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s croissant-doughnut hybrid, the Cronut, has seen many imitators, such as the Cron’t, pictured, at Donut Savant in Oakland, Calif., not to mention the croissant doughnuts and Dunkin’ Donuts, Jack in the Box and assorted supermarkets. Au Bon Pain has a hybrid of its own in the croisbun, and IHOP has Criss-Croissants, which is croissant dough cooked in a waffle iron. Chefs say you can expect to see more variations on this theme over the course of the year.

No. 3: Savory sweets

Chiles, herbs, salt and other flavors normally found in savory dishes are making their way into desserts, where they add new dimensions to end-of-the-meal dishes, such as pastry chef Peter Schmutte’s tempura fried curry pound cake at Cerulean in Indianapolis (pictured), which is accompanied by peanut butter ice cream and banana orange crémeux. Schmutte said it’s currently outselling his chocolate desserts.

No. 2: Bite-sized or mini desserts

Sometimes the end of a meal just needs a little something sweet, not a hunk of layer cake the size of your head. Miniature desserts also make a nice snack, such as the mini blueberry and strawberry rhubarb pies that Au Bon pain introduced out last May.

No. 1: House-made and artisan ice cream

Chefs say the biggest trend in desserts is house-made and artisan ice cream, which is a relatively easy way to give guests something they can’t get anyplace else. That’s what Vince Griffith, pastry chef of Trentina in Cleveland is doing with his olive oil gelato, pictured here, which is garnished with wood sorrel, almond vanilla pizzelles and Luxardo cherries.

Restaurants upgrade coffee offerings as consumer tastes mature

Coffee is America’s favorite hot beverage, and it’s getting hotter, with new consumers starting to drink it at a younger age and restaurants upgrading their coffee offerings. Learn more in this article from Nation’s Restaurant News, written by .

Coffee by the numbers

According to a study conducted last year by menu research firm Datassential for supplier S&D Coffee & Tea, coffee drinkers 18 to 24 years old started their habit at an average age of 14.7 years. By contrast, people 25 to 34 years old started drinking coffee at an average 17.1 years of age, and those 35 to 44 years old began at an average age of 19.1 years.

Coffee is also getting colder. Iced coffee was offered at 32 percent more restaurants in 2014 than it was in 2005, according to Datassential. Between 2013 and 2014, it jumped by 38 percent in fine dining and 19 percent in fast casual — the segments in which iced coffee offerings spiked the most. However, its presence declined 3 percent in casual dining.

Iced coffee acts as a gateway beverage to other coffee drinks, according to Datassential, especially among young people. Thirty-six percent of 18- to 24-year-old drinkers said they mostly chose iced or frozen coffee beverages when they started drinking coffee, compared with 22 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds and 11 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds.

But young drinkers’ tastes also reached “maturity” — defined as a major shift in coffee drink preferences, often away from sweeter drinks and toward those with more intense coffee flavor — more quickly, the study for S&D found. Members of the youngest age group settled into their preferred coffee taste in an average 3.1 years from the time they started drinking coffee, compared with 4.7 years for 25- to 34-year-olds and 7.6 years for 35- to 44-year-olds. The most popular reasons for the shift were a change in preference for stronger coffee, drinking more coffee at home (where automatic drip coffee still rules), and a change in taste to drinks that were less sweet.

Flavored coffees are also on the decline, according to Dan Cox, president and owner ofCoffee Analysts, a testing lab based in Burlington, Vt. About 42 percent of consumers drank flavored coffee five years ago, he said, and that figure is now around 33 percent.

Specialty coffee — whether espresso-based or premium-brewed coffee — is on the rise, just as iced coffee is. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 45 percent said the coffee they drank most often when they started was regular brewed coffee, compared with 58 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds and 73 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds.

Catching the ‘Third Wave’

“Third Wave” coffee is on the rise.

First Wave coffee is the pre-ground stuff sold mostly in cans in supermarkets. The Second Wave came with Starbucks and the notion that coffee could be more than fuel.

The Third Wave represents a new sensibility in which coffee shops team with small roasters and source premium, typically small-production beans that they carefully brew at the right temperature, using techniques that allow the beans to best express themselves.

“In recent years the third wave coffee movement has grown dramatically,” Datassential reported.

“As more independent coffee shops are dedicated to the artisanal production of coffee, expect more restaurant operators to expand their coffee programs and a greater number of consumers to be able to distinguish between a dark roast Brazilian coffee and a selectively roasted Yellow Catuai from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil,” it said in a report on the Third Wave movement.

Although Datassential found that only 3 percent of foodservice operators currently offer coffee they consider Third Wave (mostly specialists such as Blue Bottle Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters), nearly a third, or 32 percent, see it as a long-term trend, and 7 percent said they’re very likely to add it.

Consumers are more bullish: 30 percent say they’ve heard of Third Wave coffee, and of those, 42 percent said they are likely to try it. Those numbers jump to 50 percent and 58 percent, respectively, among people ages 30 and under.

Although few mainstream restaurants have the handlebar mustachioed, sleeve-garter wearing baristas of Third Wave coffee shops, many are upping their game as they see the importance, especially during breakfast, of a good cup of java, not to mention its profitability.

“The most offensive thing is to see someone roll into your restaurant with Starbucks in their hand,” S&D vice president of marketing John Buckner said.

McDonald’s, which continues to dominate at breakfast, despite a continuing slump in same-store sales over the past year, got the ball rolling in 2009, with the introduction of its McCafé line of premium coffees, including lattés, frozen drinks and smoothies. Burger King at the time had a BK Joe line, which it discontinued in 2010, but it introduced a line of Smooth Roast coffee and latte drinks in 2013. Chick-fil-A upped the ante last August with the introduction of its Farmer-Direct coffee.

The Atlanta-based chicken chain teamed up with Thrive Farmers Coffee, which sources directly from farmers, to offer the only specialty-grade coffee in quick service, defined by its high score with regard to its taste, aroma, body, balance and other factors.

“We reflected on feedback from our customers who expressed that they wanted a better cup of coffee, and we found a partner who brought the added expertise we needed,” David Farmer, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of product strategy and development, wrote in an email.

With its coffee drinkers interested in where their brew comes from, Chick-fil-A set up a website,  The chain also gave away free coffee for a month during “Free Coffee February” — long enough for customers to make it a habit, Buckner observed. The rest of the time, it is priced at $1.59 for hot coffee and $2.29 for 16 ounces of original or vanilla cold-brewed iced coffee.

Cold brewing, in which coffee is made by soaking ground beans in cold water for many hours, is a Third Wave technique that proponents say extracts flavors that are richer and less bitter than conventional coffee. Starbucks introduced it at 2,800 locations in the Northeast, Mid Atlantic and Midwest, as well as select Canadian units in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, at the end of March. Starbucks’ Cold Brew takes 20 hours to make.

Dunkin’ Donuts, meanwhile, has not been taking it easy. Last year, the Canton, Mass.-based quick-service chain introduced its first dark roast coffee, complete with certification from an organization looking to safeguard the environment.

“Our new Rainforest Alliance Certified Dark Roast Coffee was in the works with our coffee excellence team for several years prior to the launch and has long been a part of our strategy to reinforce coffee leadership and support national expansion,” Chuck Kantner, director of brand marketing for parent company Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., wrote in an email.

Dunkin’ Donuts has been expanding on the West Coast, where consumers generally prefer darker roasts than in the chain’s Northeast stronghold.

“Dunkin’ Donuts is part of a very competitive market, with many QSR brands emphasizing beverages and coffee in particular,” Kantner said.

“Our RAC Dark Roast has been especially appreciated since it offers [our fans] the unique combination of a bold, dark roast taste with a smooth finish so characteristic of Dunkin’s coffee — never bitter,” he added.

Dunkin’ Donuts also added almond milk as a non-dairy alternative, while Starbucks began offering coconut milk.

Additionally, Dunkin’ Donuts has expanded its frozen beverage line with the Coolatta Lite, which has 80 percent fewer calories than its regular Coolatta, and with the Frozen Dunkaccino, which is a frozen, blended coffee-and-chocolate drink.

Starbucks, meanwhile, added a new espresso drink, the Flat White, with more milk than a macchiato and less than a cappuccino. Based on the Australian style of cappuccino, it has two ristretto shots topped with a thin layer of “microfoam,” made by aerating milk for three to five seconds — less than for cappuccinos or lattes.

Taco Bell, which has moved aggressively into breakfast over the past year, extended its partnership with Cinnabon, whose Cinnabon Delight miniature rolls it already sells, to introduce Cinnabon Delight Coffee.

Starbucks transformed the world of seasonal coffee with its introduction in 2003 of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The Seattle-based company said it sold more than 200 million servings before the 2013 season began. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are now a holiday tradition at many coffee chains.

Dunkin’ Donuts has also worked to offer seasonal coffees to go with seasonal food, such as a Halloween Pumpkin Donut to go with its Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Last holiday season, Starbucks introduced a new seasonal drink, a Chestnut Praline Latte, while Dunkin’ Donuts introduced a Snickerdoodle Latte and a Sugar Cookie Latte.

Meanwhile, Krispy Kreme introduced a Peppermint Mocha, Caribou Coffee offered a Gingersnap Cookie Mocha for a limited time, and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf had Toffee Nut Latte and peppermint Mocha limited-time offers that were preceded by a Butter Pecan Latte in the fall.

Coffee Bean offers seasonal drinks throughout the year, such as the vanilla and hazelnut varieties it offered over the summer, but other chains carry seasonal limited-time offers, too. Bruegger’s offered sea salt and caramel coffee in late spring.

“The seasons and holidays play a big role in how we approach our innovation process and have resulted in some of our most popular products,” Kantner of Dunkin’ Brands said. “For guests, each season evokes a different feeling of nostalgia … memories of when they first enjoyed the taste of pumpkin pie, fall spices or a rich cup of hot cocoa after an afternoon of playing in the snow, which is why our seasonal beverages and bakery items are so popular among our guests.”

The next frontier

Hot and iced coffee, lattes and flavored coffee beverages are all well and good, but Sam Penix, principal of New York City-based Third Wave coffee shop Everyman Espresso, sees new coffee drinks on the horizon, such as his line of drinks that mimic cocktails, but use coffee instead of alcohol.

“We wanted to start thinking about coffee as an ingredient that can be paired with other things to create a complete beverage that’s balanced and interesting and delicious and complex,” he said.

For example, he makes an Espresso Old Fashioned with a shot of espresso, usually a single-origin variety, bitters, simple syrup and a citrus twist.

The exact type of bitters and citrus vary depending on the espresso he starts with, he said. Currently he’s using a Ramira from Rwanda, which Penix describes as “a sweet and slightly spicy balanced coffee.” He augments the spice with pimiento bitters and finishes it with a lime twist.

Also currently on the menu is an East Village Special, $5, named for a local coffee soda called Manhattan Special. For that he uses a sun-dried espresso with cherry-chocolate notes, tiki bitters that taste of clove and other warm spices, a dropper-full of orange cream citrate, which contains citric acid, and seltzer.

The Second Wind, $5, uses Ramira espresso, lime juice and simple syrup, shaken and served up in a coupe.

“So that’s basically a daiquiri, with the Ramira instead of rum,” he said.

Wage hike debate continues on both coasts

As Seattle began to phase in its $15-per-hour minimum wage this month, pay for hourly workers has been a top issue in other parts of the country, including California, New York and Massachusetts, according to a new article from NRN written by .

In Los Angeles, both city officials and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors are studying a proposed plan by Mayor Eric Garcetti to boost wages to $13.25 per hour by 2017, and to $15.25 per hour by 2019.

Meanwhile, in Oakland, Calif., the minimum wage climbed from $9 per hour to $12.25 per hour on March 2.

New York to raise wages for tipped workers
Seattle’s $15 minimum wage phase-in begins April 1
More restaurant government news
San Francisco will join Oakland in May with a wage increase to $12.25 per hour, in the first phase of a gradual increase to $15 per hour by 2018.

Emeryville, Calif., is also considering a minimum wage increase to $14 per hour.

Some states are also weighing the inequities between tipped and non-tipped workers.

In California, which does not have a tip credit, a bill sponsored by the California Restaurant Association would invalidate local minimum wage laws for servers earning tips amounting to at least $15 per hour.

The state has already approved a minimum wage increase of $10 per hour by January 2016. Under proposed Assembly Bill 669, the wage for tipped employees would remain $9 per hour, as long as they earn at least $15 per hour including tips.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation that would eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers by 2022.

This year, the state’s wage began climbing from $8 to $11 per hour by 2017. Tipped workers will see the wage floor also gradually increase, from $2.63 to $3.75 per hour.

Under new legislation proposed as an addendum to the bill, the wage for tipped workers would continue to climb until the two-tiered system is abolished by 2022.

In New York, however, a proposal by Governor Andrew Cuomo to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 per hour, and $11.50 in New York City, is apparently a casualty of a budget agreement unveiled last week, which has disappointed wage-hike supporters there.

As of Feb. 24, 29 states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25.