Category Archives: Enconomy, Laws and Taxes

What Do They Mean: NSF, UL and Energy Star Rated

While shopping for restaurant equipment, you will find NSF® listed, UL® certified and ENERGY STAR® rated items.  In many cases, people do not always know what these mean. We’ve compiled this list based from the  CFSP (Certified Foodservice Professional) guide and each of their websites to explain everything.

NSF LogoNSF®

What it stands for:  National Sanitation Foundation

Who they are: A non-profit, non-governmental organization, also known as the Public Health and Safety Company™, who describe themselves as the “world leader in standards development, product certification and risk-management for public health and safety.”

Why they are important: The CFSP guide says NSF has the following three purposes for equipment in the foodservice industry:

  1. Assure all equipment meets health standards and passes critical inspection at the facility
  2. Allows manufacturers to apply uniform construction methods to all NSF listed equipment
  3. Provide health authorities throughout the country a “united front or voice” to require basic elements of equipment sanitation

What NSF listed means: In order to obtain the NSF listing, the equipment is reviewed and tested before approval. As there several types of equipment, NSF says on their website they have developed “over 50 voluntary American National Standards under the scope of health and safety” for foodservice equipment.  They look closely at these standards before granting the NSF listing.

Below is a very brief and general overview from the CFSP guide of some of the things NSF looks into (keep in mind there are different standards more specific to different kinds of equipment):

  1. Physical design and construction evaluation for ease of cleaning
  2. Materials (look for corrosion or heat resistance, durability, nontoxic)
  3. Performance
  4. Sanitation effectiveness
  5. Accuracy of control systems

UL Logo

UL®

What it stands for:  Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.

Who they are: UL is an independent, non-for-profit and non-governmental organization who describes themselves as “a global independent safety science company offering expertise across five key strategic businesses: Product Safety, Environment, Life and Health, University and Verification Services.”

Why they are important: With over 75 years of experience, the CFSP guide says the UL listing evaluates gas, electrical and sanitation safety on cooking, refrigeration, food processing and food prep equipment. They look at the most current standards and follow up after approval to ensure standards are maintained. A very brief overview of their mission on their website is below, view their full list here. They:

  1. Promote safe working environments
  2. Support the production and use of physically and environmentally safe products to prevent or reduce loss of life and property
  3. Advance safety science

What UL listed means: To receive the UL listing, companies will have received the proper testing for a specific product based on their over 20 safety standards. UL has worked with many organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), National Electrical Code (NEC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to determine and maintain current standards. The CFSP guide also adds the UL listing can also be reviewed for custom built equipment as well. To read how the entire process to make a product UL listed works, click here.

Are products with the UL Sanitation mark also NSF listed? According to the Underwriters Laboratories, they are accredited by the American National Standards Institute to certify products to NSF standards. This applies to food equipment, drinking water chemicals and products, and swimming pool equipment. For more information on UL products being NSF listed, check out this Code Authorities — EPH FAQs article. You can also review the “UL Food Program: Acceptance of the UL Mark” which includes information about the UL sanitation classification mark.

Energy Star LogoEnergy Star®

Who they areEnergy Star® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency.  They have created a partnership with the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and the U.S. Department of Energy that uses methods to protect the environment with energy efficient products and practices.

Why they are important: Energy Star® rated products are able to give a solution to some of the high energy costs and environmental issues.  “Energy Star® provides a trustworthy label on over 60 product categories (and thousands of models) for home and office,” their website states. They also deliver technical information and tools to help make decisions for energy efficiency and play a key role in the latest technological advances. They have also put together a guide titled “Putting Energy into Profit” specifically for restaurants.

The Energy Star® website states their label was created to:

  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy
  2. Make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features and comfort

What Energy Star means:  Energy Star® says “products can earn the Energy Star® label by meeting the energy efficiency requirements set forth in Energy Star® product specifications.”  These specifications have been/are established by the EPA, based on key guiding principles on this website.  According to the CSFP guide, if a product is Energy Star® rated, a manufacturer must be able to show they meet the minimum energy efficiency criteria for that particular product category.

**Note: Certain Energy Star® products qualify for Federal tax credits, for more information click here.

Shop Central

We offer more than 400 ENERGY STAR® qualified products designed to help your restaurant cut utility costs. Our product consultants can help guide you to the products that are NSF and UL listed to ensure you are meeting health standards in your foodservice establishment. For more details call 800-215-9293 and be sure to visit our website for our entire line of food service equipment and supplies.

 

*Edits made by Carlisha Carr

Fuel Up to Play 60 at Your School!

As summer slowly winds down, many families begin to prepare for another fun-filled school year for their kids. But what if your family and friends had the power to make your child’s school even better than it already is? Teaming up with Fuel Up to Play 60 can help not only your school, but also other students!

Fuel Up to Play 60

This fun program was developed to encourage the youth to eat healthy and be more active, and by being physically active and well-nourished, kids become better students in the classroom. A balanced diet, including eating a healthy breakfast every day, helps students get the important nutrients to succeed with their academic performance. Adding in physical activity has shown to help students improve their self-esteem, cognitive function and test scores.

Schools and students that participate in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program have the opportunity to earn rewards and prizes, and the students that help build the program at their school can possibly benefit even more, making it a win-win for everyone!

Educational professionals, school adults and parents can also help out with Fuel Up to Play 60! The program gives adults tools to help meet the school’s goals and supports you trying to make your school a healthier place. Fuel Up to Play 60 requires at least one Program Advisor – an adult who will engage with and empower students to help incorporate the program within the school and encourage others in the community to get involved.

Benefitting Schools

How exactly does Fuel Up to Play 60 benefit sch

Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture

Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture

ools? Fuel Up supports your school’s wellness policy and helps meet national health and physical education standards. “At the same time, the program aligns with other healthy school national goals and initiatives – all of which share the goal of reducing childhood obesity,” the website explains. “As an added bonus, Fuel Up to Play 60 can also get teachers and staff eating healthy and moving more.”

There are six steps towards getting your school started with Fuel Up to Play 60. Click here to learn all about them!

Funding Opportunities

If your school is in need of funding to get Fuel Up to Play 60 started, there are grants available for qualifying K-12 schools. Up to $4,000 is available for those enrolled in the program to kick start healthy changes. For schools to qualify, your school must participate in the National School Lunch Program and have a registered Program Advisor for Fuel Up to Play 60.

To get started with the program, the Program Advisor and your school’s Fuel Up team will need to choose one Healthy Eating Play and one Physical Activity Play from the 2014-15 Playbook. The School Wellness Investigation will help you determine which play will work best for your school.

Remember, the final deadline to register and apply for funding for this school year is Wednesday, November 5th, 2014.

Looking for tools and resources to use for Fuel Up to Play 60? Click here!

Incorporating Healthy Nutrition to the Menu

When your school is granted funding for Fuel Up to Play 60, you can use that money to improve your kitchen by shopping at Central! Vitamix products are perfect for school kitchens because of their efficiency and durability. Vitamix’s blenders can be used for food prep, drinks and smoothies and much more. Vitamix blenders are constructed out of quality materials so you can be sure it will last school year after year. You can create smoothies, ice cream, grate cheese, shred carrots and more!

Need Help?

If you’re looking for more information on the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, find all the resources and other information by clicking here. Need help on finding the right Vitamix blender for your school? Contact one of our helpful Product Consultants by chatting live or calling them at 800-215-9293.

Overcoming Roadblocks to Food Donations

Last week, we talked about steps that can help your kitchen achieve zero food waste through planning and optimization. But what about the 96 billion pounds of food waste that we create but do not serve? Today, we will look at what your kitchen can do with that prepared food waste that remains at the end of your day.

Roadblocks to Donation

You may have already thought about donating your surplus or unused prepared food to a local food bank or other charity – but thought it was too difficult, risky or cost effective. With the help of some non-profit organizations, whose intent is to simplify the process, and a law specifically written to protect your good intentions, there are now fewer reasons not to turn your excess waste into a positive for your community.

Donation Process Infographic from FDC

Steps to donation outlined on http://foodtodonate.com

Creating a program is not as difficult and time-consuming as one would think. There are organizations that exist to help. One is the Food Donation Connection based out of Knoxville, TN. Through their website, foodtodonate.com, potential donors can find local organizations in need and helps facilitate the ongoing communication to ensure all benefit from the exchange. They can also help coordinate the tracking and transportation through pick-up agencies. The FDC receives no federal money, but funds itself through the food donors who pay a small percentage of the tax benefits received through the donation process.

According to 2013 numbers, the FDC helped 14,592 foodservice locations donate 36 million pounds of food to 7908 hunger relief organizations. Many large chains are involved in the program, including Yum! Brands and Darden Restaurants. Some recipients of this donated food include Feeding America, City Harvest (NYC), The Salvation Army and Boy & Girls Clubs

Legal Liabilities

Another common roadblock is the potential liability of donating food. Where does the food safety liability lie once it leaves a restaurant’s care? In 1996, the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was signed into law to clear this legal point and encourage more donations. The bill protects the donor and the recipient agencies in most cases outside of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. With the national law enacted, all donors in the U.S. have the same language that protects them from civil or criminal liability.

Covered food includes products that “meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other conditions.”

Benefits to Donation

Aside from the pride a business can take in helping the nearly 30 million Americans at risk of hunger, and the goodwill created by letting your customers know you support your community, there are fiscal benefits as well.

Many businesses can benefit from tax breaks linked to their charitable food donations. The FDC explains several laws that may be used come tax time. Most are based on the fair market value of the donated food. You should always talk with your Attorney or Tax consultant, but the largest benefit of food donation is helping to divert your portion of the 96 billion pounds of food waste currently being sent to our local landfills. By overcoming some of these large roadblocks, there is little reason not to do your part.

Helpful tools from Central

Whether you decide to donate through a facilitation organization like the FDC, or work personally with a local organization, you’ll probably need to invest some additional food pans, and storage or transportation containers. The FDC uses Cambro Camwear and Camcarrier products that Central carries everyday at competitive prices.

school food service grant

School Food Service Grants and Scholarships for 2014

School Food Service Grants

What better way to improve your operation than with a school food service grant? Funding, assistance and free money will help to improve an operation.  Below are a few school food service grants for schools in the United States. Check your local area for additional grants, information and resources.

Food Service Equipment

On Dec. 18, 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would award $11 million in grants for schools to upgrade their equipment to serve healthier meals and be more efficient. He acknowledged schools have already done a great job of serving healthy meals but recognizes the equipment has to be up to par to continue to improve efforts. The USDA did not post links to applications, but advised schools interested in grants reach out to their state agency for more information.

school food service grantsFarm to School

Schools that would like establish relationships with local farmers and provide fresh produce to students and staff are eligible for the “Farm to School” school food service grant. The USDA awards up to $5 million for this grant to help with training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships and implementing farm to school programs.

School Nutrition Association Conference

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has three school food service grants available for their members. This assistance will help them attend the SNA National Conferences and there are three scholarships available:

Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools

The Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools initiative provides school food service grants to increase salad bars across the country.  Their vision is to enable every student with the choice of healthy fruits and vegetables. Salad bars are awarded based on a rubric of combining scores for the potential impact based on the district’s free/reduced percentage, application date and readiness to implement the program.

restaurant industry

Restaurant Industry Recap and Outlook for 2014

Restaurant Industry Year in Review

It was an interesting 2013 for the restaurant industry.  The Restaurant Performance Index, RPI, rounded out fairly strong for the year; better now than a few months prior.  The RPI is the National Restaurant Association’s monthly composite index which tracks the state of the industry and predicts the outlook. Any score above 100 is good news for the industry.

“The Current Situation Index stood at 100.9 in October, up 1.0 percent,” the National Restaurant Association said. “A majority of operators reported higher same-store sales, and two out of five reported stronger customer traffic.”

restaurant industry

This is a four month high which came after a 0.2 percent dip in August.  Much of the year was fairly flat as customers did not increase the amount of restaurant visits, based on NDP Group research.

Quick service restaurants, QSRs, took the lead of the restaurant industry this year, which isn’t news for the foodservice industry.

“Visits to QSRs overall, which were up one percent in the year ending September compared to a year ago, was a growth area for the industry in 2013,” they said. “QSR fast casual continued its growth trend this year with traffic up eight percent in the year ending September 2013 compared to same period a year ago.”

Looking Ahead for the New Year

According to the December 2013 RPI report, the outlook for the new year is positive.  The National Restaurant Association spoke with Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of their Research and Knowledge Group, who said restaurant operators are optimistic for 2014 despite a mixed economy.

NDP Group also forecasts 2014 being a better year for the foodservice industry and have predicted visits will be up by a one percent and there will be a three percent spending gain by the end of the year. QSRs especially will have a better year as today’s society demands quick service.

Restaurant goers will still be cautious, said NDP Restaurant Industry Analyst, Bonnie Riggs. But despite proceeding with caution, their forecast for traffic and dollar growth will grow in 2014.

restaurant industryChanges with Gratuity and the Affordable Care Act

On Jan. 1, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) set automatic gratuities as service charges.  These charges will be taxable just as normal wages would be and can be used as a payroll tax withholding.

“Today, automatic gratuity added on bills is considered as a tip for servers, and it’s up to them to report it as income,” explained the San Francisco Business Times in an earlier article. “The practice is usually done to ensure servers working large tables at a restaurant or working at high-end restaurants with big check averages get properly compensated.”

This change from the IRS was supposed to happen in June 2012, but was postponed to allow restaurant owners to prepare for the changes.

Restaurants will also have to make some adjustments based on the Affordable Health Care Act too.

“Businesses must begin monthly accounting of employee hours to determine their status under the law and whether they will be required to provide health insurance to their full-time workers in 2015,” said Restaurant Business.

These measurements will be the deciding factor for businesses in 2015.

restaurant sales

Restaurant Sales Outlook for the Holiday Season and Preparedness Tips

Restaurant Holiday Season Economic Outlook

Will restaurant sales and the hospitality industry see positive growth during the 2013 holiday season? It looks that way as an increasing amount of retailers are kicking off the holiday season by opening doors earlier than ever before on Thanksgiving.

restaurant salesFollowing Black Friday, which is quickly turning into “Black Thanksgiving,” stores will extend hours increasing the time shoppers are out. In turn, this may raise the chances of consumers dining out and help boost restaurant sales.

“New research from the National Restaurant Association found that 33 million Americans will rely on restaurants for all parts of their Thanksgiving meals this year,” reported QSRWeb. “In addition, 46 million Americans are expected to dine out while shopping on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday.”

This positive outlook is music to the ears of restaurant operators  as the industry has experienced a small slump over the last few months with a decreasing Restaurant Performance Index (RPI).

The National Retail Federation, NRF, anticipates the 2013 shopping season to be positive thanks to October growth. Not only did sales increase for retailers, but the United Press International reported a one percent increase in bar and restaurant sales (for October) based on a US Census Bureau study.

In a press release, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said consumer confidence has risen, which he credits in part to lower gas prices.  A higher employment rate and an increase in personal income are a few of the other factors.  This fresh outlook and increased confidence may just be what the restaurant needs.  The holidays are usually a great opportunity with increased shoppers, limited time offers, unique campaigns and more.

restaurant salesPrepare, Prepare, Prepare

Restaurants need to be at the top of their game over the next couple months as consumer expectations are high. A few ways to prepare to help maintain positive restaurant sales are:

  • Keep schedules organized: Make sure management and employees are on the same page when it comes to schedules.  Back-up plans should be put into place if someone calls in. 
  • Replace failing equipment: When equipment stops working, sometimes a service call can take days to resolve. Take some time to have issues looked at and order new equipment is necessary. Central has thousands of products that qualify for same-day shipping if ordered before 5 p.m. EST. (There are many of those products that qualify for free shipping as well).
  • Stock up on extra supplies: When employees are rushed, there is an increased chance of items breaking or getting lost. Take some time to review your essentials (dinnerware, glassware, flatware, serving utensils, etc.), see how many you need and order additional if necessary.
  • Consider seasonal help: If your restaurant typically sees a large increase in sales, consider hiring extra help to take care of the smaller yet essential tasks such as rolling silverware, putting away dishes, bussing tables, etc. This will allow staff to keep up with an increased demand.
  • Ensure employees are aware of all specials: It may seem obvious but take some time to make sure your employees are aware of all specials and limited time offers.  Often times if employees are new, or if you are a part of a larger chain, there may be coupons or specials customers bring in that staff has never seen before creating a delay and possibly an unhappy customer.
BPA

BPA: Should Your Restaurant/Foodservice Buy BPA-Free Products?

bpaBPA—What is it?

Some foodservices and restaurants strive to have BPA-free supplies, while others don’t even have that on their radar.  Are foodservice supplies that contain this chemical really something to be concerned about?

BPA is the abbreviation for bisphenol A.  According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s an industrial chemical that has been around since the 1960s.

“BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.  Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles,” said Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., on the Mayo Clinic’s website.  She added “most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.”

BPA will leach out chemicals, most commonly when heated up.  For instance, food in a container heated up in a microwave, a water bottle left in a hot car or washing items in a dishwasher may leach the chemical into the product.

Is It Dangerous?

Sources such as the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Centers for Disease Control and the National Toxicology Program aren’t sure how serious the effects may be and more research is being conducted.  However, they say human exposure is widespread. This has been enough to raise some red flags and has encourage scientists to do more research.

Studies have found most people only have low doses in their system, which many sources haven’t found to be harmful. But other studies say human development and reproduction, certain types of cancers, etc. may be linked to BPA.

Many regulatory agencies say BPA is safe, however, states such as Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Washington have banned the use of it.  It’s also pending in other states.  Then on a global level, France will ban the use of BPA effective July 1, 2014.

How BPA Relates To Restaurants and Foodservices

bpaMany products in the foodservice industry are constructed of polycarbonate that may contain BPA.  To possibly determine if a container has BPA, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) said to look at the bottom of the product for a recycle code. Codes three and seven may contain BPA.

One of the most common tasks in a restaurant or foodservice is heating up an item, which for plastics containing BPA, is how the chemical can leach into the food. This provides a direct correlation between the two.

NIEHS advises to use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot food and liquids, however, many foodservice equipment and supply manufacturers are going BPA-free.

Many suppliers such as Rubbermaid and Cambro have acknowledged the potential threat of BPA and have been rolling out BPA-free products.  In fact, Rubbermaid announced they would have a BPA-free product line that began July 1, 2012.

How Central is Raising Awareness

Since many of our manufacturers have created BPA-free supplies, we are sure to call it out whenever possible.  If you shop on our website or through our catalog, anything that doesn’t contain BPA is noted in the copy.

health care reform

Health Care Reform and Your Restaurant or Foodservice

Health Care Reform

Health care reform has been a hot topic in the foodservice industry for quite some time with 2014 being a pivotal year. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, all Americans will be required to have health insurance, with open enrollment starting on Oct. 1, 2013. This means all employers, no matter what size company, must inform employees about availability prior to October 1.

There are many important dates regarding health care form in the next year, which can all be found on the National Restaurant Association (NRA)’s Health Care Implementation timeline.

Please consult your tax adviser regarding all questions on how health care reform may impact your restaurant or foodservice. Also, if you are attending this year’s NRA Show, note there will be a Health Care Knowledge Center at booth 6250 where experts will be available to answer your questions. There will also be two information sessions to help cover the basics.

health care reformSmall Business vs. Large Business

Small businesses (less than 50 full-time employees) will not be impacted as much as large businesses (50 or more employees) because they won’t be required to offer health benefits or pay federal penalties. That doesn’t mean they’re in the clear, though. They will be subject to insurance reforms, according the the NRA’s “What You Need To Know.” Some small businesses can take advantage of a tax credit if they choose to offer health care.

Large businesses is where it gets more in depth because on Jan. 1, 2014, they all “must offer affordable coverage of minimum value to all employees who average 30 or more hours a week in a given month and their dependents,” said the NRA. If they don’t, they will have to pay a penalty. This is where “Play or Pay” comes into affect.

Play or Pay

When it comes to large businesses and health care reform, some who choose not to offer coverage will face penalties. Quarles & Brady have put together an extensive guide explaining everything related to “Play or Pay.”

“An employer who is subject to the employer mandate, but declines to offer coverage to full-time workers, would face penalties if at least one employee receives subsidized coverage through the premium tax credit on the exchanges,” the NRA explained. They added penalties are $2,000 per year for each full-time employee with the first 30 employees being exempted. “If a subsidy-eligible employee buys coverage on the exchange because the employer’s plan is not ‘affordable,’ the employer must pay a penalty equal to $3,000 per year for each employee receiving a subsidy.”

When it comes to the actual meaning of “full-time,” the Iowa Restaurant Association explained “full-time is not the same as full-time equivalent.” Their informational guide (page two) provides a calculator for businesses to determine what counts as “full-time equivalent.”

For more information on “Play or Pay,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality and Kronos put together an informative webinar specifically for restaurants that goes over this issue, and everything health care reform related. (Sign up and watch the webinar).

health care reformImpact and Moving Forward

Every restaurant or foodservice will be impacted by health care reform individually. Some employers say it will barely affect their establishment at all, while others are struggling to get everything together.  The businesses that are struggling may choose an option that will affect others such as cutting employee hours, raising prices or just taking the brunt of the situation.

Truly there are so many aspects to health care reform so the best thing to do as an employer is become educated, talk with your tax adviser and do what is best for your business.

Below are articles and resources to help you become more informed about health care reform and your restaurant or foodservice:

Please comment below about how health care reform will impact your business.