Category Archives: Just for fun

Take Your Kid to Work Day

Central Celebrates Bring Your Kid to Work Day

For the second year in a row, Central celebrated the national holiday Bring Your Son or Daughter to Work Day! It was a full house on Thursday, April 27 as Central employees, and their mini-mes, roamed the halls of our Indianapolis office. Fun was had by all as the kids, ranging in ages from four to thirteen, learned more about the foodservice industry and what it takes to run a business.

Many activities were planned to give our visitors the most insightful, interactive experience possible. Such activities included:

  • A meet and greet with the president
  • A Q&A with a panel of Central employees representing all departments
  • Mock interviews with members of our executive and management teams
  • A craft station where they could express their creativity making cards for Riley, one of our sponsored Make-a-Wish kids
  • Picking orders in the warehouse (including a ton of bubble wrapped fun!)
  • An introduction to how Central uses social media, which turned into a social media takeover

There was also an ice cream bar provided by our friends at Sani-Serv/Sesco, and concluded with a lunch catered by the good people at Phoenix Marketing.

Here’s what some of the participants had to say:

“My favorite part about today has been the job interviews because the people running them have taught me a few tips about interviewing.” – Gabe, 12

“What I like most about Central is that everyone is nice.” – Mia, 7

“My dad works at Central. Is job is to go out and fix things.” – Molly, 7

“My favorite part about today has been the interviews and social media! And hanging out with my daddy.” – Darcy, 8

“What I like most about Central is the ice cream!” – Molly, 7

Browse through some of the pictures to experience the fun for yourself!

Riley receiving his cards.

pizza

A Brief, Delicious History of Pizza

Pizza is amazing. That’s fact, not opinion. Pizza is so amazing that there are more than 61,000 pizzerias in the United States and a $30 billion per year industry. Did you know that Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day? That’s three billion pizzas a year!

These days, there has been a certain shift away from the traditional, hand-tossed pepperoni – a classic in its own right – to a more artisanal craft. More and more restaurants are springing up to deliver their unique spins on pizza featuring funky cheeses, a plethora of toppings, new preparation styles, etc. These artisan pizzas, unique to their specific establishments, are a welcome addition to the fan favorite stylings of hand-tossed, deep dish, pan, Brooklyn, etc. Let’s take a moment to reflect on pizza’s origins.

Did you know that people have been putting toppings on flatbread since 500 BC? However, the tomatoes and cheese weren’t added until 1500 AD, thanks to the Neapolitans who started decorating their pies. It wasn’t until 1700 AD that people considered baking bread and toppings together to create a marvelous spectacle we now call pizza.

There are now dozens of different pizza stylings throughout the world, but let’s briefly discuss the popular ones already listed.

1. Hand-Tossed

Hand-tossed is arguably the most traditional styling. The crust is made of standard yeast dough that’s tossed in the air and caught by hand until it flattens out to the right size and thickness.

2. Pan Pizza

Pan pizza involves less hand-eye coordination. This styling involves flattened dough balls pressed into a cast iron skillet or cake pan coated with oil to prevent sticking and a give a crispier crust. The dough rises in the pans before toppings are added.

3. Deep Dish (AKA the Chicago Slice)

Deep dish packs a punch, typically baked in a round, deep pan providing more surface area to fill with toppings. Traditionally served with the sauce on top and the toppings buried beneath, the deep dish is the cheesiest of the mentioned styles and offers more pizza per slice.

4. Brooklyn (AKA the New York Slice)

In stark contrast to the deep dish, the Brooklyn is the thinnest of the styles, requiring two hands to consume. Brooklyn style is prepared in a similar fashion to hand-tossed, only the crust is stretched much thinner.

Let us know which style of pizza has your vote in the comments below. Create your own style of pizza! Browse all our pizza supplies and equipment here.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy our posts on pizza ovens and essential pizza tools.

Concession Stand Must Haves in 2017

Though we lucked out this year with an extremely mild winter, the start of Spring always puts a little extra pep in your step – especially with the start of outdoor sports, festivals, fairs, and so many other opportunities for awesome concession stands. We rounded a few of the must haves for your concession stand in 2017.

  1. Beverage Merchandisers

On a hot day, an ice cold water, sports drink, or soda are prized commodities. Keep the beverages close by for quick sales all summer long.

2.  Snow Cone Supplies

Keep the cold ones coming! Snow cones that is…. a classic summer treat for kids and adults like, snow cones are inexpensive and easy ways to get patrons excited about snack time. Be sure to also offer a variety of syrup flavors and see what clever combinations are made!

3. The Classics

Is a concession stand really complete without offering nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, or soft pretzels? Whether the family is spending all day at the ball fields, or someone missed lunch, it is important to have food options on your menu. Keep your hot dogs at a safe temperature in a hot dog roller/broiler; have a steady stream of freshly made popcorn with a commercial popcorn popper; and keep warm foods easily accessible with hot food merchandisers.

4. Supplies

So now, you have all of your equipment and delicious food, but how do you serve it? Be prepared with all of the cups, bags, straws, and serving buckets you could need! Then, neatly display straws and condiments for customers and workers with condiment stations and servers!

Tip for increased sales: offer a large reusable cup for sale with free refills that entire day or weekend! Change the color of the cups to know who is eligible for refills. We love these cups to do so!

Central’s Munch Madness 2017 Bracket is Here!

Productivity around the country is expected to go down over the next couple of days as it’s tournament time! Everyone is repping their schools as they battle for college basketball supremacy. Here at Central, we thought we’d get in on the fun, so we’re bringing you the Munch Madness tournament, our quest to determine what is the best concession food out there.

Central's Munch Madness

The bracket is divided into four important concession categories: Salty, Sweet, Savory and Deep Fried. We will give you the match-ups in the first round. It is up to you to decide which food moves on to the quarterfinals! Follow us on Twitter throughout the weekend, and vote for your favorite!

Salty Bracket:

(1) Popcorn vs. (4) Peanuts

popcorn

peanuts

(2) Nachos vs. (3) Giant Soft Pretzel

NachosWithBeefAndBeans

pretzel

Savory Bracket:

(1) Hot Dog/Sausage vs. (4) Turkey Leg

Hot Dogsturkey leg

(2) Chicken Tenders vs. (3) Slice of Pizza

chicken strips

Image Credit: FotoosVanRobin/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Pizza Slice

Sweet Bracket:

(1) Cotton Candy vs. (4) Funnel Cake

cotton candyfunnel cake

(2) Sno Cones vs. (3) Ice Cream

sno cone

Image Credit: Milan/Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

ice cream

Deep Fried Bracket:

(1) French Fries vs. (4) Fried Pickles

french fries

Image Credit: Connie Ma/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Image Credit: Connie Ma/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

(2) Corn Dog vs. (3) Fried Cheese

Corn DogFried Cheese

Once again, click here to vote on Twitter, and check back next week for the Quarterfinals!

St. Patrick’s Day Recipes

Pour the green beer, St. Patty’s Day is almost here!

March 17th is a huge day for bars and restaurants as consumers look to celebrate the Irish holiday with green flare and lots of beer. But beer isn’t the only way to get into the Irish spirit. Here are a few traditional (and not so traditional) recipes to unleash your inner leprechaun.

The Shamrock Shake

2 cups vanilla ice cream

1 ¼ cups milk

¼ teaspoon mint extract

9 drops green food coloring

Blend and top with whip cream, chocolate syrup and green, decorative sugar

This delicious, kid-friendly treat is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for many, and sure to inspire the spirit of the holiday.

St. Michael’s Irish Americano

Warm up with this Irish Coffee fitted to the American palette.

1 ½ oz. espresso coffee

1 ½ oz. Irish whiskey

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon heavy cream

6 oz. hot water

Top with whip cream

Irish Stew

A hearty classic. Every Irish household has their own version of this stew. Start with this, and add ingredients to suit your personal taste.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 lbs. boneless lamb shoulder cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black better to taste

1 large onion, sliced

2 carrots peeled and cut into large chunks

1 parsnip, peeled and cut into large chunks

4 cups water

3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 cup coarsely chopped leeks

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add lamb pieces and cook, stirring gently, until evenly browned. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add onion, carrots, and parsnips and cook gently alongside meat for a few minute. Stir in water. Cover and bring to a boil before turning the heat down to low. Simmer for 1 hour or longer, depending on the cut of meat you used and if it’s tender yet.
  3. Stir in potatoes and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes before adding leeks and rosemary. Continue to simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender but still whole. Serve piping hot in bowls garnisheed with fresh parsley.

Guinness and Chocolate Cheesecake

Get that sweet tooth fix with this chocolatey Irish masterpiece.

Ingredients

1 cup crushed chocolate cookies

¼ cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons white sugar

¼ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

8 oz. cream cheese

1 cup white sugar

3 eggs

½ lb. semisweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 cup sour cream

1 pinch salt

¾ cup Irish stout beer (i.e. Guinness)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 oz. semisweet chocolate

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 inch springform pan with butter.
  2. Combine crushed cookies, butter, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and cocoa in a small bowl; mix and press into the bottom of pan.
  3. Place cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer on a low speed until smooth. Add 1 cup sugar and eggs while beating.
  4. Combine chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave until chocolate is completely melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Beat chocolate in cream cheese mixture. Add sour cream, salt, beer and vanilla. Blend until smooth, then pour mixture over the crust. Place the pan into a large, deep baking dish. Fill the dish with water to cover the bottom half of the springform pan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, then turn oven off and leave cheesecake there with the door slightly ajar for another 45 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, run knife along edge of cheesecake to loosen from pan, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  7. Melt semisweet chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. Make chocolate clovers by dropping 3 small drops of the melted chocolate close to one another on waxed paper, drag a toothpick from between two dots outward to make the stem; chill until hardened. Arrange chocolate clovers on top of chilled cheesecake for decoration.

Click here to discover more Irish recipes to bring you luck on St. Patrick’s Day.

You may also like our blog on the history of St. Patrick’s Day.

Customer Rewards Cards

Customer Loyalty Considerations: Pros and Cons of Reward Programs

Any more, it seems nearly all types of businesses offer a customer rewards program. Often, the theory behind implementing a rewards program is to retain current customers, turn new customers into returning customers, and reward loyalty. Here, we outline the pros and cons of starting such a program, and offer some considerations for businesses thinking of implementing their own.

Types of Rewards Programs

There are three popular types of rewards program you’re most likely to come across in today’s market.

  1. The Frequency Program

The classic punch card style. The “buy nine, get the tenth free!” reward system created to inspire regular visits. The pros? It’s simple, low cost, and easy to set up and hit the ground running.

Cons? It’s one more card for customers to carry and remember they have. I don’t know about you, but my wallet is overflowing with these types of cards that I never seem to think about until AFTER I’ve made nine purchases and could get the tenth free, consistently forgetting to have my card punched. I know, negligence on my part, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.

The information you collect with this type of program is minimal. This creates hurdles in the way of future marketing efforts. One of the biggest benefits of loyalty programs is the ability to collect information to tailor promotional branding for your establishment.

  1. The Points Program

Spend more, earn more points, redeem for rewards! We all want that free flight or trip to Hawaii. And like the punch card style, it’s simple, easy to understand, and depending on the reward, can provide an awesome incentive to visit your business frequently. It’s easily customizable to reward customers with bigger prizes for making bigger purchases.

Cons? No instant gratification. Users must wait longer to collect prizes, and maintaining this program takes more effort and organization (keeping track of customers’ points and reminding them of where they stand and how far away they are for prizes).

  1. The Cash Back Program

Also known as the rebate program. Customers can earn money back depending on their purchasing behavior to spend on future purchases exclusively at your business. This has worked wonders in retail (think Kohls Cash), and certainly has a place in foodservice. Who doesn’t love free money, and earning money for purchases can make customers feel good about spending their dollars at your place. Requiring they return to spend their reward is a wildly effective way to turn new customers into regulars.

Cons? Like the points program, rewards take a while to build. This isn’t always a negative, though, as it incentivizes visitors to spend to earn. However, if customers visit infrequently, this type of program may have less appeal.

Bottom-Line Benefits

Loyalty programs have been shown to generate brand awareness and create profitability. It is six times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep one. Rewards programs have been shown to help with customer retention with a steady return on investment. If you are considering starting a rewards program, we recommend checking out this beginner’s guide to customer loyalty.

Foodservice New Year’s Resolutions: Prepping for a Successful 2017

Happy New Year everyone! It’s time to break out the New Year’s resolutions again. While most people look to improve on themselves each year, if you’re a restaurant owner, it’s good to look at resolutions for your business for the coming year as well! Here are some resolutions to consider in order to prep for a successful 2017.

What’s on the Menu?

The start of the year is as good a time as any to change things up, and start looking at your menu. If your restaurant has seasonal menus, start looking at what your Spring menu will be. What’s going to be in season? If your menu is more static, do an audit! If items aren’t selling as well, why not try something new and switch it out? It’s up to you to know what’s working and what isn’t, but don’t be afraid to try! You never know when you’ll hit on the next staple of your restaurant!

Clean Your Equipment

Photo via jarmoluk via Visual Hunt

I know, I know…it can be a hassle to clean equipment outside of simple cleaning duties. Nobody really wants to pull out the condensing unit of their reach-in every month. But going the extra mile and following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions is invaluable to prolonging the life of your equipment, and while we certainly appreciate the business, we want you to enjoy your investment as long as you can! Check out some of our cleaning supplies online and get started!

New Year, New Look

Another resolution to consider is changing out your decor and trying a new presentation for your establishment. We’re not saying you need Robert Irvine from Restaurant Impossible to come in and completely redo your restaurant, but making little changes can bring a fresh approach to things, and also impress your customers! For example, you could change up your dinnerware or flatware to a new pattern. If you have table coverings, changing those up can add a little extra color as well! If your furniture is getting stale, there is a wide variety of really cool colors and designs to check out. Distressed metal has been very popular with its aged look. Variety is the spice of life, so go for it!

Top Photo via Taylor Davidson via Visual hunt