Tag Archives: vegetables

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!

The Latest on School Nutrition: New USDA Standards

Last August the School Nutrition Association released their “The State of School Nutrition 2011,” which found many school nutritionists and foodservice workers eager to provide healthier menu items at their schools.

Image: Jeltovski/MorgueFile

Unfortunately, many schools cited monetary reasons as to why they were unable to enhance menus.  Other schools just hadn’t made the switch yet.

There’s been a huge emphasis on school nutrition and health since Michelle Obama stepped into her role as first lady.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed in December 2010, the food pyramid was revamped into MyPlate and Mrs. Obama initiated the Let’s Move! campaign, which aims to create a healthier generation of children.

So while some things have just been encouraged or implemented as guides, come July 1, schools will have to start making changes based on the USDA’s new standards.

The new standards were announced on Jan. 25 and stem from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  Per the USDA’s website, the new rules are to:

  • Offer fruits and vegetables to students daily

    Image: margey6652/Morguefile

  • Increase offering of whole grain-rich foods
  • Provide only fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Limit calories based on age so students receive their appropriate portion size
  • Reduce amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and sodium

Schools must begin making changes at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, but will have three year period to implement all revisions.

While some critics say more can be done for school nutrition, many are pleased, including Sarah Wu, former anonymous blogger for her blog Fed Up with Lunch (also known as Mrs. Q, read our October interview with her here).

“I think it’s really great, actually,” she said. “I’m pretty pleased with them and it’s definitely a good step in the right direction.  There’s more we can do, but I’m totally happy.”

Image: Fed Up with Lunch

One of Wu’s biggest concerns goes back to the reason why many schools hadn’t made the move to healthier items in the first place: money.

“I think I’m concerned about how districts will make it work with the money they have,” she said.

According to the USDA, the price of school menus will increase by six cents—which is the first big increase in the last 30 years.

To compensate, the USDA will increase funding to cover the six cents.  However, Wu pointed out despite the increased funding, she mentioned it’s been said the cost for the new standards may actually be 11 cents per meal.  If that is the end result, the five cent difference could be challenging for schools.

“There are ways instead of having to absorb those losses,” Wu said, and wonders if schools could get in touch with local non-profits, foundations, have fundraisers, etc.

“There have to be ways people can engage and help.”

Image: imelenchon/MorgueFile

So cost aside, Wu and many others are pleased with these new standards.

In the USDA’s press release, they also had other improvements they would like to make such as to have nutritional standards apply to all ways students get food and beverage (i.e. vending), have “common-sense pricing standards for schools” and provide training and technical assistance to help schools comply with the new standards.

To view more information about the new guidelines, including links to sample menus and more, visit the USDA’s website.

How do you feel about the USDA’s new standards? Schools, how will this impact you directly?

 

Benefits of Owning a Slicer

When it comes to important kitchen equipment, the slicer ranks pretty high on the list.  From salad bar to pizza toppings, the slicer really takes on a lot when it comes to back of the house duties.  By having a slicer at your restaurant, it can extremely reduce labor costs while providing uniform results.

One of the great slicers out there is the Nemco Easy Slicer. (And just to give you a heads up, we currently have a promotion running until the end of October.  With every purchase of a Nemco Easy Slicer comes a free replacement blade kit.)

The Nemco Easy Slicer has twin, razor sharp 51/2” curved stainless steel blades, an exclusive visual thickness gauge and comes in your choice of an adjustable (1/16” to 1/2”) or fixed blade set (1/8”, 3/16” or 1/4”).

The slicer easily takes on onions, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more.  And best of all, it cuts uniform slices in seconds, so you and your customers can count on consistency.

Image from Nemco website

What sets this slicer aside from others is the fact that anyone can use it.  According to OSHA regulations, no one under the age of 18 can use a power slicer.  As this slicer isn’t a powered prep item, it is great for restaurants that employ high school students.  Also, minimal training is required making it easy to use.

There are always tough aspects to owning restaurant equipment and cleaning is one of the tougher tasks for slicers.  Nemco was sure to keep that in mind when they built the Easy Slicer and specifically designed it to disassemble easily.  This makes the cleaning process much, much easier.

So when it comes down to some of the perks, here’s what you can count on with Nemco’s Easy Slicer:

  • Labor savings
  • Consistent cut size
  • Portion control
  • Versatility and simplicity
  • Quick, operator-adjustable thickness
  • Perfect for all employees as it’s a non-powered piece of equipment
  • Cleans easily

Nemco has put together this information-packed video (click here) which goes into further detail and provides tutorials for slicing, cleaning and more.  And if you’re thinking about purchasing this slicer, you can click here for the information on Central’s website.

Image from MorgueFile

Growing Healthier Students through School Gardens

Image from MorgueFileOften the options offered for school lunch are either less than appetizing or not very healthy.  The alternative to these selections is to provide meals plentiful in fruits, vegetables and other healthy and creative items.  Most parents, school board members and others would be quick to choose the second option to make ensure school-age children are full of energy and to avoid looming issues like obesity.   However, it’s not always quite that easy.  Frequently, when schools switch over to these nutritious offerings, students end up tossing more than they eat.  There’s also the increased expense of providing fresh, unprocessed food.   What can be done to solve this dilemma?  Many, including First Lady Michelle Obama who is currently writing a book about her White House Kitchen Garden, believe gardens could be the answer.

You may be wondering, other than just providing vegetables, what is the point of having a school garden.   Many sources say that the biggest benefit is the connection between the food and what is actually happening in the garden.  According to Sallie Marston, professor in the School of Geography and Development and co-manager of the University of Arizona’s school garden program,  “These children are physically involved in the garden in ways that teach them all kinds of stuff about soil, water, the hydrological cycle, pest control, intermixing plant varieties – you name it.”

This type of opportunity also allows teachers, parents and volunteers to open up student’s eyes to what they are eating and gives an opening to educate them on new items, as simple as fresh spinach or different varieties of tomatoes.   Karol Fink a dietitian with the Alaska Department of Health told the Anchorage Daily News, “Because of economics, of family practices or culture, some students have just not been exposed to healthy foods. Trying food from an early age is key.”   Many times, this exposure becomes the responsibility of the school and school gardens provide a perfect chance for the healthy foods to become more commonplace.

By teaching lessons in the garden about what certain foods are, as well as giving the opportunity to take a taste test, students may just discover that what they’ve refused to try at lunch may just not be so bad after all.  In an article in the Pueblo Chieftain, it says “According to the California School Garden Network, studies have shown that “garden-based” nutrition education can significantly increase children’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables along with their understanding of food and its relationship to their health.”

This should solve the entire lunch conundrum.  These gardens provide students not only with education and an opportunity to expand their culinary horizons, but also with a great, extremely fresh source to supply their cafeterias.  But it’s not that simple.

One of the biggest issues facing school gardens is that many schools are not currently allowed to use the food grown in school gardens in their own cafeteria.  To combat this in Hawaii, Rep. Jessica Wooley (D, Laie-Kahaluu), has introduced House Bill 198.  This bill would allow school grown vegetation to be used in cafeterias if the garden is first inspected and certified by the Department of Agriculture.  However, this solution still poses an issue considering the amount of time the inspection and certification take and currently, the bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.  Similarly, in Chicago guidelines prevent school consumption of food from their gardens because they don’t currently use “commercially prepared organic compost and fertilizers,” said Bob Bloomer, regional vice president of Chartwells-Thompson, in an article in the Chicago Tribune.

While school gardens may not always work in all ways or solve all of the issues posed today in school nutrition, it is still important to remember that ideas like this can put school-aged children on the right track to leading a healthier lifestyle.  Each step, whether it’s getting students to try a new healthy food at lunch or cultivating a garden that could feed the entire school, is one in the right direction.  One great thought on this comes from Dexter Kishida, school food coordinator in Hawaii.  Kishida told the Honolulu Star Advertiser about their gardens, saying, “This is not about raising farmers. It’s about raising eaters who understand what it takes to get that (food) to the table.”

For more information on starting your own school garden, check out KidsGardending.org or talk to your local school board.

Confectionary Clash: Pies vs. Cupcakes

Cupcakes; Image from MorgueFileWhat could be better than a battle royal of your favorite sweets?  Not much.  However, could one tasty treat truly push the other out of the lime light and into oblivion (as some writers around the web might hope)?  Probably not too likely.

You may then be asking, “Why do so many people care about cupcakes and pies?!”  With articles popping up everywhere from blogs to the Wall Street Journal , the answer is that everyone has their opinion on what is best.  And unlike many other trendy food items, cupcakes and pie are commonplace in most people’s everyday lives (especially in childhood).

There are also businesses involved in the confectionary clash.   Shops and companies dedicated to selling baked goods have become huge money-makers in recent years due to such a great demand and a usually low start-up cost.  We spoke to the experts, Michael D. Wickersham of Wick’s Pies, Inc.  and Courtney Gorman of Sweet Lucinda’s , to get their thoughts on what makes theirs the best goodie in this melee.

Wickersham “was born in the Pie business.”  His father started the now famous Wick’s Pies in Winchester, Indiana, from the restaurants he owned and operated.  He started making pies because he couldn’t find one he felt was good enough for his customers.  The business started with 20 pies a day and is now up to about 10,000 per day.

Gorman’s baking also grew from her roots. She says, “Most of my recipes originate from my mom (Sweet Lucinda) or grandmother.”  Gorman adds, “When I was a very little girl my mom would bake for us all the time…my birthday parties were the best!”  These birthday delicacies and comforting memories like it are what inspired her to start her own bakery.

Pie; Image from MorgueFileBut it’s not all just about family recipes and good memories.  Both Wickersham and Gorman have their thoughts on what makes their sweet delights the clear front runner.

Wickersham’s biggest line of defense for the pie is their health benefits. “Many pies are made with fresh fruit.  Some pies are made with vegetables, some with milk, some with chocolate, and some with nuts.  Pies offer protein, dairy, fruit, vegetables, grains.  Come to think of it a slice of pie looks like a pyramid and could be used as a dietary pyramid,” he said.  He goes on to add that while cupcakes may be trendy, “Pie is America’s Dessert.”

Gorman feels that cupcakes are big because, “They are individual, personal cakes that make everyone feel special.  They are great for events and parties because they require no work…people can grab and go.  You can get a smattering of flavors instead of just one in a cake.”  She continues saying, “And sweets seem to be a treat that people are willing to still invest in.”

So which one is best?  Do trends beat out classics?  Is it better to share or have it all to yourself?  There’s no better way to decide then to put the two rivals head to head.

1. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/15/business/la-fi-pie-20110115
2. http://www.slate.com/id/2227216/ 3.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703960804576120453548957890.html 4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_foods

So, who is the real winner?  It could be both.  More accurately, it could be a combination of the two.  Gorman has actually brought the best of both worlds together at Sweet Lucinda’s with a pie cupcake.

But really if you want to know if it’s one or the other, only you can decide.  And what’s the best way to make a food related decision?  Taste test them both at home!

Try this recipe for a Chocolate Carmel Cream Pie  and cut it perfectly with this pie cutter  from Central or this one for the Ultimate Jumbo Filled Chocolate Cupcakes using a jumbo cupcake pan from Central.

**Pie Trivia – According to Wickersham, The Bean Pie (made of navy beans) was the Boxing Champ, Muhammad Ali’s favorite pie.

**Cupcake Trivia – Although often thought of as a trend, the first mention of cupcakes was actually in 1796 in “American Cookery” by Amelia Simms.  

Post your thoughts below on the results and which yummy dessert is your favorite!