Tag Archives: menu

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


Menu Marketing: Driving Sales, Add-ons and the Customer Experience

How to Write an Effective Menu

Whether you run a fine dining room, local sports bar or the concession stand at the ballpark, you need a little menu marketing to maximize sales. Your physical menu tells the story of your business and sets the expectations for level of service, food quality and even how the customer will tip. What does your menu say about you? Even if you have been open and serving for years, marketing consultants agree that a revamped menu with great food descriptions can increase your revenue over 10%. We’ve compiled some simple tips to help you make the most of your menu.

You menu design and copy say a lot about your establishment.

You menu design and copy say a lot about your establishment. (J. Kapusnak, foodiesfeed.com)

The Psychology of the Meal

For most establishments, you are trying to convince your customer to part with as much of their money as possible when dining with you. Here is where the psychology comes into play. To increase your per capita spending, experts suggest:

  • Do you need dollar signs? You see it at upscale dining restaurants all the time. But the Culinary Institute of America determined that prices without a “$” or the word “dollars” saw sales increase over 8%. It’s not spent money if there are no dollars!
  • When ala carte is important, separate the categories. You will encourage customers to eat more when appetizers, soups and salads each have their own section. Similarly, use a separate dessert menu.  If a customer eyes a delicious ending on the main menu, they may decide to not add a delicious appetizer at the beginning.
  • Put your most profitable items where the eyes naturally wander. Place those items in the first two positions at the top of a section, or as the last item. Most customers ignore the middle of the menu no matter what it contains.
  • Design is king. Draw attention to your specialty items by boxing them in, but don’t confuse your customer with too many or misleading pictures of your menu items. Make sure to leave ample amounts of ‘white space’ to keep your customer from becoming overloaded with information. Realize that customers usually look first at the center section of a three section menu or the right side of a two section menu. Make sure there is something that catches their eyes in those positions.
  • ‘Combo Meals’ can work in any environment. While you may not want to call the Filet Mignon a “#5 Value Meal,” people do like simple decisions to be made for them. Advertise your signature dish with a complementary signature side and maybe even a dessert and watch the customers gravitate to it. It’s not about the bundle savings (usually there is not any), it’s about making the ordering decision easy.
  • Create a popular dish by pairing it with a symbol. That ‘Chef’s Choice’ label wasn’t added because the chef loves his Chicken Parmesan – he loves the profit margin on it. Customers are drawn to labels because of a perceived prestige and will usually pay a premium to enjoy it.
  • Finally, use your words to build excitement in your food. But, that is so important that it deserves its own section.

Choose Great Words to Your Describe Food

What does your menu say about your place?

What does your menu say about your place?

You know that how you describe your menu items effects your customer’s buying decision. The right descriptive words can make and ordinary meal more extraordinary. As a simple example; how much more appealing does a Big Mac sound than a ‘double cheeseburger with special sauce’? Try adding some adjectives to uniquely describe your signature dishes or maybe incorporate some local flair or place names to your signature dishes. Powerful adjectives and descriptions could include: Aromatic, Caramelized, Fire-grilled or Grilled Whole.

Powerful adjectives can also make your signature dishes seem like exclusive experiences that cannot be found in any other restaurant. Be creative and memorable when turning your everyday appetizer into a special event. Surveys have also shown that customers are willing to pay a premium price for something they perceive as exclusive or ‘better here than anywhere else.” Plus, this makes it difficult to price compare your dish to a competitor’s similar one. You can raise your price point (and profits) with a few simple words.

Of course, if your restaurant has a theme – be sure to incorporate those quirks into both the names of your dishes and the descriptions. Don’t go overboard though. Be sure your dish names and descriptions accurately and concisely describe the food.  Nobody really wants to have to ask “what’s in the chef’s house dressing?”

Sell your Daily Specials with a write-in board.

Sell your Daily Specials with a write-in board from Central.

Finally, menu marketing isn’t just limited to for-profit establishments. On the School Nutrition Association’s website, they suggest renaming menu items to make them more appealing and thematic. One suggestion was to rename the lunchroom staple fruit salad ad “Fastball Fruit Salad” to promote a healthy and active lifestyle.

Tools of the Trade

Once you decide what to write about your food, you’ll need an equally appropriate way to display your menu. Turn to Central Restaurant and our large selection of menu covers, laminators and card displays and holders. Too casual for menus? Our Product Consultants can help you find the right menu or marker board to help you get your message across.  Give us a call at 800-215-9293 or start a live online chat with one of our educated consultants right now.

5 Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Trends

The foodservice industry is constantly evolving.  One minute we’re focused on one thing, then six months down the road something new pops up.  In our 2011 “end of year” foodservice trends and predictions review, quite a few trends have really stuck such as mobile ordering devices, local food and double-sided menus (menus that separate healthy and unhealthy, such as McDonald’s recent “Favorites Under 400“).  Then there are other trends we haven’t heard much about such as plate shapes.

So as you can see, a lot can change in eight months.  Here are some of the latest trends, and we hope you will share what you are seeing in our comment section below.

Pop-Up Restaurants

Food trucks aren’t the only form of mobile food, pop-up restaurants are too.  A pop-up restaurant is a temporary dining experience that can be used for a chef to try out different menu items, a landlord wishing to rent out space during downtime or a dining experience for an event such as the pop-up Goodness, which lasted the duration of New York’s fashion week in February.

However Intuit doesn’t say pop-ups are anything new, because they have been around for quite a long time.  They are starting to show true staying power though.  Perhaps it’s because  it’s cheaper to start a pop-up than to open a restaurant, it’s a great way to test out an idea or maybe there is something to be said for the power of social media to draw customers.

Upscale Kids Menus

Quinoa, black bean and corn salad, stuffed zucchini boats, pesto pasta, apple oat balls and felafel wraps are just five of the 54 winning entries of the first Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on August 20.  Just to reiterate, these ideas weren’t whipped up by professional chefs with years of experience, but just children.  With the new USDA guidelines for schools and an overall push for better eating habits, restaurants have started to pick up on revamping kids menus and provide out of the box menu ideas.  For instance Applebees offers a grilled chicken sandwich with a variety of sides (the side advertised being broccoli) and Ruby Tuesday offers kids chop steak with broccoli and white cheddar mashed potatoes.  These menus are much more advanced compared to the days of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and macaroni and cheese.

Gen Y Changing the Game

A recent Food Management article looked closely at Packaged Fact’s  “Collegiate Gen Y eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report” and it appears that college-aged Gen Y’ers (18 to 22) are starting to define new trends in food.  According to Food Management, it’s because of the way they are exposed to new foods and they predict these trends will stay because the foodservice industry will have to adapt once all these students enter the workforce.

The report found students “are nutritionally minded, crave flavorful foods, look for comfort and indulgence and need speed and convenience.”  Some recent foods or trends that have been introduced in college foodservices have been going meatless, chickpeas, different fruits and vegetables, Asian cuisine, comfort foods (such as Italian or Mexican) and foods one can eat while on the go.

Awareness of Food Allergies and Diet Restrictions on Menus

This section isn’t necessarily a trend, but restaurants are starting to pay more attention to food allergies and dietary restrictions and take them more seriously.  Even as far back as a couple years ago, people weren’t thinking about gluten-free.  Today?  Several restaurants include gluten-free items on their menu.  But food allergy awareness extends further than the menu.  In the back of the house, restaurants have to ensure people with severe food allergies remain safe.  Many restaurants have put procedures in place while others are still learning and take food allergies on a case by case basis.  To help, manufacturers of foodservice products have begun to create products to help with food allergies, such as San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone cutting boards.  Then when it comes to just health or dietary restrictions, restaurants are including nutritional information or helpful guides to help diners make informed choices on the food they eat.  For instance noting an entree is low calorie or low fat.  Others may let customers know an item has a low amount of sodium.

Local and Sustainability

Consumers are really starting to care more about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, what the animals they may consume are eating, etc.  Over the last couple years there has been a rise in locally sourced food.  This rise went as high as restaurants going “hyper-local,” where they grow their own food.  It provides customers with a fresh product while keeping it in a community.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum where people and/or restaurants care about where their meat comes from and what the animal is eating.  There are some individuals that can tell a difference in taste between a grass fed cow and corn fed cow.  In a Forbes article, they said people “can now buy specialized breeds, meats raised on different diets, and those without antibiotics or hormones in just about every major city.”

What changes are you seeing in the foodservice industry? Restaurants, schools, etc.?  Please share below!

A Deeper Look At New USDA Guidelines for Schools

In last Tuesday’s blog, Central looked into schools serving meals three times a day—and it really shows just how times have changed.  Thanks to a rough economy, many children eat over half to all of their meals at school during the week.

In general, “the school meal” has been a hot topic, perhaps really kicking off in 2010 when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed and First Lady Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move! campaign.

It’s been a few years since those initiatives have been put in place and with anything, there are always changes and revisions.

On January 26, the USDA released new guidelines to improve nutritional quality.

To summarize, schools will have to offer more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, provide fat-free or low-fat milk, limit calories based on age and reduce saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.  Also, every three years school lunches will be reviewed to ensure they are consistent with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  (Further detail of changes reviewed later on in this blog).

Schools will have to start to implement these changes on July 1, 2012—which kicks off a three year phase for all of the changes included in the document, “Nutritional Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.”

At a whopping 80 pages, this document is no quick read and is a lot of information to sift through. Because there are so many revisions, the USDA isn’t leaving schools in the dark.

On March 1, the USDA released a very informative (and shorter) document, “Questions & Answers to the Final Rule, “Nutrition Standards in the School Lunch and Breakfast Programs,” which focuses on specific changes piece by piece.

It’s not surprising the very first question is, “Why is USDA setting new meal patterns and dietary specifications for school meals?”

Well, the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was a huge step in school nutrition because it was the first change in the last 15 years.  So, going back to the concept that “times have changed,” they really have.

In this chart by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the rise in childhood obesity is clear.  From 1963 to 1970, four percent of six to 11-year-olds were overweight, and 5 percent of 12 to 19- year-olds.  There were subtle changes from 1971 through 1980, and then there was a big jump from 1988 to 1994 when the rate jumped to 11 percent for children between the ages of six and 19.

Today? Almost every one out of three children is overweight.

With many children getting many if not all of their nutritious meals at school, the USDA knew it was time for some changes to be made.

To go into further detail, the USDA lists the following as the main differences to the old rules and the new ones:

  • Food planning based on age and grade group
  • Fruits and vegetables now two separate food components
  • “Offer vs. Serve” approach, to have students choose at least a half a cup of fruits or vegetables
  • Weekly grains ranges along with a daily minimum requirement—and by the third year, all grains served must be whole grain-rich
  • Only serve unflavored or flavored fat-free milk or unflavored low-fat milk
  • Minimum and maximum calorie levels
  • Two intermediate sodium target reductions, then a final one
  • Limit trans fat and saturated fat
  • Three year administrative review cycle

Currently, the new guidelines do not affect meals for children with disabilities or children in pre-kindergarten.

The three year administrative review cycle will start during the 2013-2014 school year.

The new changes and guidelines are extensive. But documents like the “Questions & Answers on the Final Rule” help to simplify. 

Here is a list of some helpful resources from the USDA, be sure to find all of them here:

Also, don’t forget to check out our blog from Tuesday March 19 about schools serving three meals per day.