The latest Nation’s Restaurant News’ MillerPulse survey, which reviewed quick service restaurants (QSRs) and full service restaurants, determined QSRs continue to be in the lead. NRN said “restaurant industry same-store sales improved overall in August, but the gap between the quick service and full service segments continue to widen.” Review the article to view the article and the “restaurant industry same-store sales, traffic” graph.
The standard amount for diners to tip is typically around 15 to 20 percent. However, according to recent findings by the New York Post, New Yorkers are starting to tip more often in the 25 percent range. They spoke with Sarah Fones, who asked a great question–will a 15 percent tip make a restaurant patron look like a “cheapo?” And the New York Post is also discovering many different kinds of places are providing more opportunities to tip workers. The New York Post said two coffee bars in Midtown and the Upper West Side have created the DipJar, which will allow guests using credit cards to tip. This could only make one wonder–if tipping standards have been raised in New York, will that change things for restaurants around the country? Only time will tell.
McDonald’s McRib, a limited time offer many customers wait year round for, usually is promoted in late October. However this year, customers will just have to wait. NACS Online reported the chain has pushed back the release of the McRib to from late October to late December, as it is a time when company sales are slower. NACS Online added McDonald’s will debut two other limited time offers–The Cheddar Bacon Onion Angus Burger and Cheddar Bacon Onion Chicken Sandwich.
The NRA analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and discovered a 0.3 percent increase in menu prices for the month of August. They added there was a 2.8 increase from August 2011 through August 2012. Piggy-packing onto Nation Restaurant News’ recent statistics on QSRs, NRA said “figures further suggest that menu prices in the quick service segment outpaced prices at full service restaurants.” They added those menu prices grew 3.3 percent over the last year.
10 Products to Update Your School Foodservice This Fall
Whether a school cafeteria needs new equipment to help comply with new USDA guidelines, or to just have something more efficient, Central is a great resource. We recently released our “10 Products to Update Your School Foodservice this Fall.” It includes many products and and product categories for schools to review if considering new equipment.
Way to start off with the obvious, huh? It’s true though. Chefs all over the country are firing up their grills now that the warmer months have arrived. “A grill is always a grill, whether you rock a two-foot kettle charcoal number of a gas-fueled beast with more knobs than an airplane cockpit,” said Boston Phoenix writer, Cassandra Landry, in her article, “Six Local Chefs Serve Up Quick Summer Recipe Tips.” Customers enjoy the grill, especially when the weather is nice and there is outdoor seating. There are also customers who simply enjoy the taste of foods that have been cooked on the grill. So if you’re a novice chef eager to learn more, check out Forbes’ “Summer Grilling Tips From Top Chefs” to help get you started.
Food on a Stick
Food on a stick has moved ahead in the world—we aren’t only seeing skewered chicken or shrimp kabobs; restaurants and bakeries are getting creative. One of the biggest trends is the cake pop. The word “pop” makes you think of something like a Popsicle or a lollipop, which is where the idea stems from. It’s literally cake on a stick.
“The cake pop is a mixture of a lollipop and a delicious cake, which creates a classy dessert for everyone to enjoy,” said Lianne Khatcherian in the blog, “Cake Pops: Delicious Dessert Trend.” And as a side note, cake pops can provide great portion control and will also help your customers not ingest as many calories (unless of course you make them otherwise). However, while cake pops seem to be a huge trend, you can do all kinds of things with different foods on sticks. The big idea here is to be creative. In the blog “12 New Ways To Use Toothpicks & Fun with Finger Food,” while they provide many other uses for toothpicks, the end of the blog has neat pictures with different ways people have put food on sticks. They make for great appetizers, side dishes and desserts.
Grain salads aren’t anything new, but according to Bon Appetit, they are a summer menu trend for 2012. “This summer, we’re loving whole grains. Not just for the nutritional boost they bring to the table,” the site said, “but for the backbone they give these bright, toss-together salads.” When it comes to grain salad recipes, they vary. There are all different kinds. Do a quick Google search on “grain salads” and each result will be different. Some include grains with lettuce, while others add grains in with fruit or nuts.
Want to try a grain salad out and have some fun? Check out Fine Cooking’s Create Your Own Grain Salad. It’s kind of like a virtual version of a “make your own salad” restaurant, only with grains. You pick and choose your ingredients, and then it provides you with a recipe to try it yourself! So if you’re looking for ways to change up your restaurant’s salad menu, grain salads may be the way to go.
One of the ways chefs can get creative is taking advantage of what’s in-season and creating menus specifically from those items. Fruits & Veggies More Matters lists over 65 foods that are in-season this summer (as well as fall, winter and spring too), with some of those being casaba melon, champagne grapes, chayote squash, endive, edamame, honeydew melons, peas, sapote, watermelon and zucchini. There are all kinds of items you can add in for summer you wouldn’t be able to use in the other months. Get in touch with your distributor or a local farmers market to see what different items you can get in your restaurant.
Stumped for ideas? Well first off, going back to the second idea in this blog, could you put any of the items on a stick? There’s more than that though, check out some of these recipe ideas in Food Network’s article “In Season Now, Taste of Summer.”
Move over ice cream, frozen yogurt and custard, there are many other items that are perfect for the warm weather and provide diversity in a menu. We’ll only go over two, but do your research, you’ll find tons of ideas. First, there’s frozen Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt isn’t anything new, but seems to have gained in popularity lately over the last few years. “Greek yogurt has much lower lactose than regular yogurt,” said Rajan Jolly in the article “The Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt and Frozen Yogurt.” Also, the article said, “…the removal of whey removes a lot of sugar and in effect, calories, while increasing the amount of protein which is almost double due to it becoming denser as compared to the same volume of regular yogurt.” While many say they can’t tell a difference in taste, Greek yogurt does have its differences from regular yogurt, and can be a good way to change up a menu.
For the second idea, there’s frozen kefir. Kefir isn’t something glaringly popular (many probably haven’t even heard of it), but it definitely has a distinct tart taste that sets it apart from frozen yogurt. “It contains beneficial yeast as well as friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria found in yogurt,” explained Kefir.net. They continue to say it is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, along with easily digestible complete proteins. And, as an added bonus to fit the needs for lactose-free customers, “for the lactose intolerant, kefir’s abundance or beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after culturing process.” So adding either of these, or any unique frozen dessert item, will be intriguing and can add some variety to the menu.
Looking for some of the week’s top information? Here are five stories from the foodservice industry for February 13-17.
Tip-Income Questions with Answers from NRA From National Restaurant Association, Read Article
As we move into tax season, the National Restaurant Association wanted to be sure some of the major questions were answered. They put together an article that talks about restaurateurs filing tip-reporting data with the IRS, qualifications for a federal income tax credit on the FICA payroll taxes paid on certain employee tips and a reminder on law requirements. Read the full article on the NRA website.
Senate Approves Lower Minimum Wage Requirements for Servers, Bartenders, etc. in Florida From Orlando Sentinel, Read Article
Florida workers who rely on tips aren’t too happy about a recent bill that passed through a Senate committee. Why? According to a recent Orlando Sentinel article, the minimum wage requirements will allow restaurants and employers to reduce the current minimum wage of $4.65 an hour to $2.13 an hour. Many workers are infuriated. The Orlando Sentinel said the bill was proposed by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “The organization argues that it’s necessary because the minimum wage, which under state law rises annually to cover inflation, is among the expenses financially crippling restaurants in Florida,” they said. Read article in full on the Orlando Sentinel website.
Valentine’s Day Specials at Chain Restaurants From L.A. Times, Read Article
Valentine’s day was Tuesday, February 14. It’s a very popular day for couples to eat dinner out, but with the United States’ current economic situation, not everyone can afford fine dining. Fast food chains and quick service restaurants picked up the slack and provided great deals for those who didn’t want to cook their own Valentine’s Day dinner. In a recent L.A. Times article, some of the specials they mentioned were Papa Murphy’s heart-shaped pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts heart-shaped doughnuts. For more details on what restaurants were planning for, check out this L.A. Times article.
Chicago Schools Will Soon Stock EpiPens From Education Week, Read Article
The number of food allergies is on the rise. In a recent Education Week article, they found statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics that say approximately every one in 25 school-age children has a food allergy. To help prevent possible life-threatening allergic reactions, Illinois has passed a law and soon all Chicago Public Schools will stock approximately four to six EpiPens each. They will also train school employees on how to use them. Read the full article on the Education Week website.
Restaurants Gearing Up for Lent From Restaurant Hospitality, Read Article
Next Tuesday, Feb. 21, is Mardi Gras–then the following day is when Lent begins. During Lent, Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays, so many restaurants update their menu to provide Lenten specials. In a recent Restaurant Hospitality article, they say many fast food chains have a fish sandwich, and those who don’t usually have one will add one. Then other restaurants will provide other specials during the season with seafood menu items such as tuna and shrimp.
If your restaurant hasn’t considered updating your menu for Lent, Restaurant Hospitality says, “Pick up a couple items that would work within your restaurant’s pricing structure/service scheme and you’ll have a mini-Lenten menu you can promote.” They also say this is a good way to “pump a little life into your restaurant in what can otherwise be a drab time of the year.” Read the full article on the Restaurant Hospitality website.
In our final installment of the “Using Social Media for Your Restaurant” series, we’re going to cover Foursquare. The sites we’ve covered (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp! and Foursquare) were chosen because they are well known, but there are more sites out there. If you find one you think will work well for your customers, by all means pursue it.
We first took a look at Foursquare when our home city, Indianapolis, declared April 16 as Foursquare day. After looking into it, we realized Foursquare is much more than just “checking-in” a place. A few weeks later we got in touch with Russ Chargualaf, executive chef of Houlihan’s (Castleton Square, Indianapolis) for a blog and learned how great of a marketing tool Foursquare is through his experience.
What is Foursquare? I think we hit the nail on the head in May’s Foursquare blog:
“The location-based social media site, Foursquare, is gaining popularity among millions of mobile app users worldwide and also for over 250,000 (and counting) businesses—many being restaurants. With over eight million users and over 2.5 million check-in’s per day, this is another great advertising tool for restaurants. Best of all, it’s free and doesn’t take much time at all.”
Image from Foursquare Website
Where to Begin? If you haven’t joined Foursquare, you can go here to get your account. Upon logging in, you will be able to see what your friends are up to, but you will want to look into information for merchants to get working on new things for your restaurant.
First, similar to Yelp and other social media sites we’ve discussed, you will want to claim your venue. Once you’ve claimed your venue, you can update your bio, other contact information (i.e. Twitter, website, and phone number), categories, tags and more.
While logged in, you can also view your venue stats which will allow you to know your customers better.
Badge Image from Zagat Blog
When you’re logged in on your venue (or any venue) you will notice tips.
“Tips are generally things you’d recommend to others,” the Foursquare support site says. For example, someone may leave a tip saying, “Try the bacon cheeseburger!” or “Stop in Friday nights for a free appetizer!”
Once joining, you will see people checking-in and writing tips on your wall. In one of Chargualaf’s many marketing strategies, he utilizes Foursquare’s tips on locations in surrounding areas. We posted in our May blog:
“In Houlihan’s case, at every hotel or motel within a mile, Chargualaf will put in a Tip welcoming someone to Houlihan’s with a short history, specials and hours. Also, he’s been creative by creating a Tip for Midas and other car repair shops that says, “Just got your bill? Come and share your sorrows with us. Half off drinks all day, everyday at Houlihan’s Castleton Square Mall.”
Restaurants are one of the key places Foursquare specials are used. These are implemented for both new and loyal customers upon checking into your establishment. Upon checking in, customers can earn badges as a reward. You can use these badges to then reward your customers.
Choose which type of special you would like to run (Techsterr fills you in on all the definitions for which type of special to run here)
Finalize the verbiage, in which you will be able to see on the right hand side of your screen what your special will look like
Just before you begin your special, you’ll reach a screen to show your special and you can choose when the special ends, save it for later if you need to then click “Start Campaign Now” to get rolling
It’s More Than Specials…
Just like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp—there are multiple aspects of Foursquare and ways to use it to grow your business. While it’s free, you must remember these two words: Self promote. Grab attention by placing a check-in widget on your website, blog, etc. You can even add in a special tab for your Facebook page or WordPress blog.
We’ve told you in the other blogs in the series, get the word out to your customers in all ways you can, so inform them about your Foursquare presence at your establishment and online. In your restaurant, you can look into printing off “Check-in” signs or get window clings.
By making your presence known on the web, you won’t only be attracting your regulars; you will be attracting people in the area that find you. Via their phone or on a website, customers can search an area and see what’s around them. So by running specials, posting tips and just keeping current, you will attract a new set of customers while remaining loyal to your regulars.
Take a look at these resources to help you through your Foursquare journey. We hope our social media series has been helpful. Be sure to comment below with any of your own tips for using social media for your restaurant.
After a cold harsh winter for most of us in the U.S., it’s finally starting to be that time again where the sun is shining and everyone wants to be outside. This also means it’s time for outdoor sports games, school plays, festivals and a variety of other events that require a concession stand.
Running a concession stand can get hectic, especially during intermissions or breaks. Here are a few tips from a few different websites for running a concession stand:
Choose one person to manage the concession stand and assign duties to a staff
Lines get long fast and people just want to get back to their seats. Choose foods such as candy, popcorn, nachos, etc. that are quick to serve
Be prepared by arriving early. You never know when something will go wrong—better before the event than during! (Also, Chron Small Business mentions if you prepare anything at home, contact the health department on the correct permits, etc.)
Speaking of permits…Volunteer Spot reminds people to check with their city and local health departments for details on having the proper permits
Have plenty of items in stock. Keep in mind from other events what your top sellers are
Don’t lose money! High School Baseball Web says to keep souvenirs or fundraisers away from your stand. Plan with others selling things that day to be further away enabling you both to keep profits up
Keep pricing consistent
Make sure the area looks nice and neat, and employees or volunteers provide customers with a welcoming experience so they keep coming back
Plan ahead! This e-How article says to contact coaches or managers of the event beforehand so you can get started on orders (this is helpful, especially at the end of the game when everyone is rushing for food and drinks)
Chron reminds people to purchase the equipment needed to keep everything running smoothly
People interested in purchasing equipment for their concession stand must check out Central’s latest promotion with Star.
Just in time for concessions season, people can take advantage of Star’s lowest prices of the year on select countertop equipment. Everything for concession cooking is there from popcorn poppers and charbroilers to ovens and hot dog roller grills. All items to keep your event running smoothly!
Check out the promotion here or call a Product Consultant at 800-222-5107 with any questions. This promotion is available through April 30.
Most people cook, to some extent, on a daily basis and everyone was instructed from some source whether it was a cooking show or their grandmother. Along the way, many kitchen mistakes have been passed from person to person. Some were thought to be useful or time-saving ideas, while others have simply become habits over the years. So how do you know what’s wrong and what’s right when making your next meal? Here are just a few tips on common missteps you may be taking every day in your kitchen and how they can be solved .
Blunder #1: Putting oil in your pasta water
Why it’s wrong: When you first started cooking, chances are one of your first dishes was pasta of some sort. More than likely you were told to add a little oil to the water to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Makes sense right? Wrong! Adding oil to your pasta water actually doesn’t do any good for the pasta itself. At best the oil will float on top of the water (remember how oil and water don’t mix?) and at worst it will coat the pasta and prevent any sauce from being absorbed.
How to fix it: Instead of using oil, you can prevent your pasta from sticking by doing one simple thing…stirring regularly. It’s also a smart move to use a pot that is large enough for the amount of pasta.
Why it’s wrong: You’ve done it before. You, your family, etc. are starving and you want to just throw everything in the pan and get it cooked up fast. What’s so wrong about getting your stomach full faster? Well, overcrowding your pan does a few bad things. First, the more food you have in the pan, the lower your pan temperature goes. This can lead to undercooking some pieces while others get burnt and ends up actually making your cooking take longer. Second, it can actually change the flavor of what you’re cooking (especially if different elements are being cooked together).
How to fix it: Cook your food in batches. While it may seem like it takes longer, your pan will actually stay at the desired temperature ensuring that all ingredients are done to the correct degree and preventing re-cooking or burning.
Tool for the job: Grab a Vollrath Nonstick CeramiGuard II Finish Pan. Remembering to not overcrowd the pan plus cooking on a non-stick surface will help make sure your food is cooked evenly and isn’t burnt on the bottom.
Why it’s wrong: It’s tempting to turn your food to prevent it from burning and to ensure that both sides get cooked equally. However, the more you move the food the less time it’s actually getting to cook. While it doesn’t seem like much time for the food item to be away from the pan, because food is cooked by laying on the hot pan, when it is moved the food has to reheat itself to bring it back up to the correct cooking temperature.
How to fix it: There is one simple tool that can prevent frivolous flipping, a meat thermometer. This tool will allow you to check the temperature on the food to know when it should be flipped. It’s also helpful to know the general rules on how hot to cook your food and how long on each side. Go here for a nice guide.
Tool for the job: Instead of turning your meat repeatedly to see if it’s done, it much safer to use a meat thermometer like the Cooper Atkins Dial Meat Thermometer to check the meat’s temperature. This will help you keep from overcooking and keep your steaks (and other items) juicy and delicious.
Why it’s wrong: You’ve followed the recipe and put in exactly what was instructed. Of course, it should taste great and be seasoned perfectly. In a perfect world, this would be true. However, in the real world, everybody’s taste preferences are different. By simply going by instruction you could end up with food that is totally bland or way over seasoned.
How to fix it: The easiest way to fix this is to taste and then season as you go. While it may seem like common sense, you have to season a little, taste and adjust. By doing this you’ll not only make a dish that works with your tastes, you may also create your own version of a great recipe. It’s also smart to follow seasoning guidelines about fresh and dried herbs. Sounds easy enough, but if you substitute one for the other it could increase/decrease the desired taste outcome. If you happen to accidently over-season a dish, there are also ways to fix these by using this handy guide.
Blunder #5: Not using an appropriately sharp knife
Why it’s wrong: It’s often thought that by using a duller knife you’ll be less likely to cut yourself. In fact, the exact opposite is true. By using a knife with a sharp blade you will have to use less pressure to cut food and the blade will be less likely to slip through what you’re cutting. Sharp knives will also ensure better, cleaner cuts to food, making more consistent, visually pleasing incisions.
How to fix it: It may be tempting to go out and buy new, expensive knives to fix this mistake, but it isn’t always necessary. Just because a blade is pricey doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well. The best advice is to buy a sharpening tool to keep up on your knife’s blade. Taking care of your knife is also important. Make sure to use either wood or plastic cutting boards, wash and dry the blade right after use and store them in their own area.
Tool for the job: Purchase a Mundial 7 Piece Knife Set to make sure you have every cutlery tool you will need to cook just like a professional. It even includes a sharpening steel so you can always ensure that your cutlery is up to snuff and your food will be sliced, chopped and diced with ease.
Now that you have these handy tips, try them out in your own kitchen and see if things go a bit more smoothly (no more cutting yourself due to a dull knife) and your food taste just a little better (undoubtedly your steaks will be juicier). You might also want to pass these tricks of the trade on (maybe to that person who taught them to you) to help start new kitchen habits.
As we approach the Thanksgiving weekend, here are a few cooking tips from Central. Please feel free to share yours with us and all the other blog readers!
How to cut an onion without crying?
Image from FreeDigitPhotos.net
All methods below will reduce the volatility of the sulfide that causes irritation:
Use sweet onions
Peeling and cutting under running water
Refrigerating onions before chopping
Reduce clean up time
Use kitchen scissors to chop fresh mint, chilies and coriance finely with any mess.
Measure your ingredients carefully
Use metal or plastic nested cups for dry ingredients like flour and sugar, and graduated glass or plastic cups with spouts for liquids. If you use the liquid measuring cup for flour you may get an extra tablespoon or more per cup, which could make cookies hard and dry. To measure flour, lightly spoon it from the canister into the measuring cup and level it with a straight edge of a spatula or knife. Do not tap or shake the cup to level it. When measuring brown sugar, pack it firmly into the dry measuring cup so that it holds its shape when it is removed.
Make the best cookies
Bake one sheet of cookies at a time. Center the rack in the middle of the oven. If you put two baking sheets in the oven at one time, it is best to switch their positions halfway through the baking time. Allow cookie sheets to cool thoroughly between batches. Putting the dough onto hot cookie sheets may cause the cookies to spread and brown too much around the edges.
Use flat baking sheets or those with very low edges. Shiny, heavy gauge aluminum is best; dark cookie sheets may cause excessive browning. For best results, the cookie sheets should be one to two inches smaller than the oven rack on all sides to allow for proper air circulation.
Prepare cookie sheets and baking pans as directed before you begin to mix the recipe. If light greasing is suggested, use vegetable oil spray or a small amount of solid vegetable shortening. Do not use butter or margarine as it may burn on cookie sheets. You might also want to use bakers’ parchment paper (available in many supermarkets and specialty stores) instead of greasing cookie sheets — it will also save on cleanup time!
Freeze baked cookies for months of ready-made snacks. Cooled cookies, double-wrapped in plastic sheets or plastic storage bags will last up to three months. To thaw, remove cookies from freezer, unwrap and place them in a single layer on wire racks for 15 to 30 minutes. Store uneaten cookies in a tightly covered container.
Our latest catalog hits the stands next Monday, November 8, and provides tips for upgrading the dining room and maximizing profits. A recent article by PMQ revealed the outlook for the restaurant industry improved in September and owners are optimistic about future sales growth. While things are looking up, there are always ways to make small improvements or be reminded of simple rules of thumb to make a restaurant even better for its customers. Here are a few resources for improving the customer’s experience.
Sometimes it can be hard to determine if a customer is finished with their plate, or sometimes one person is finished but others at the table aren’t. The Restaurant Service website addresses this issue as having a variety of solutions. It’s broken down to the restaurants level of service, the situation at hand and what the customer wants. Customers do several things to show they are finished and if a customer hasn’t touched their plate in 20 minutes, it’s time for the server to decide if it’s ready to remove plates.
The situation of one guest being finished but others aren’t can be tricky. It could make the other guests feel rushed to remove one person’s plate, but waiting to clear may not always be most convenient either. One of the recommendations in this article for servers is to simply ask the obvious question, “May I remove your plate?” But even before asking, the situation should be evaluated beforehand to avoid making guests feel uncomfortable. While this is obvious—common sense and evaluating each customer’s situation is critical. The article recommends standards to be discussed and set by staff.
The serving tray is essential to wait staff. In Richard Saporito’s article on the Artipot website, he breaks it down to asking “what looks best in the dining room” while comparing it to “the logistics of actually getting the job done safely and in a sanitary manner.”
Saporito’s three simple but important rules for servers to remember are:
Carrying too many items on a tray at once is dangerous
Carrying too little items on a tray is wasted effort
Separate the silverware on the tray (off to one side then stack plates)
He also reminds restaurants that a constant supply of trays should be available to wait staff in an easily accessible location. For most cases, Saporito says a restaurant should at least have two different types of trays should be available.
While for most servers, setting the table and serving rules are second nature. But new servers or ones moving to a different environment may not have as much experience. Recipe Hut breaks it down to these three simple rules:
Serve from the left and remove from the right
Serve coffee, tea and fill water from the right
Clear the table (except for the centerpiece) before serving dessert and remove crumbs from the table with a folded napkin and small plate