Drought conditions, oil prices, fluctuations in world economies – a myriad of variables make food costs difficult to predict. But a QSRweb report recommended several actions you can take to manage the costs within your control. For one, you can redesign your menu to incorporate more seasonal (less expensive) produce. Look for imperfect fruits and vegetables, which you can often buy at a discount. Reviewing your purchase and delivery processes can reveal hidden costs too. Consider increasing your order size, getting fewer deliveries and ordering as part of a group purchasing organization to lower food prices.
Rethink your children’s menu
Is your children’s menu ready to graduate from mac ‘n’ cheese and chicken nuggets? The National Restaurant Association suggests ways to integrate new choices that appeal to young guests. First, study how families order meals. What ingredients do kids like and which ones do they ask to omit? Review your dinner menu and modify items to make them kid-friendly – swapping in accessible vegetables and eliminating less popular ones, for example. Use promotions to get a critical mass of target customers in the door to test your menu for a few months. Finally, engage with families – make it easy for them to provide menu feedback, train your staff to connect with kids and use social media to make families aware of your new offerings.
Restaurant chain operators share biggest concerns in new study
Food health, labor costs and unnecessary technology are the top concerns of restaurant chain operators, according to the newly released annual study of the restaurant and foodservice industry from the global business advisory firm AlixPartners. A Restaurant News report about the results said consumer demand for fresh, local ingredients is considered by many to be central to the foodborne illness outbreaks this year. Restaurant operators are also trying to balance the demand for higher wages, ongoing high employee turnover and more complex menus. Finally, the study indicated that restaurants may be spreading themselves too thin on technology – spending money on it before understanding how to apply it to their greatest advantage.
Consumers sound off on delivery preferences
Whether you operate a quick-service restaurant, full-service restaurant or something in between, chances are you have considered offering delivery. Restaurant Hospitality shared results from a new study by the foodservice research firm Sandelman, which studied consumer views on food delivery. If you’re concerned about having a mobile app before you offer delivery, the study says consumers don’t mind if you don’t have one – they’re willing to order by phone or via your website – but the more options you offer, the better. Consumers said it was reasonable to expect food to be delivered in about 30 minutes with an average delivery fee of $3.35. The study also found that residential customers, by far, were the best targets for delivery and they like a simple payment process – about 55% prefer to pay for their food in advance by credit card.
Labor dispute verdict could have far-reaching impact
A years-long labor dispute at McDonald’s is getting its day in court and the verdict could transform how restaurants nationwide work with franchisees. As reported in Eater, McDonald’s employees in New York protested for higher wages in 2012, then claimed their managers retaliated. Complaints filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged McDonald’s Corporation was a joint employer with the franchise and shared responsibility for the franchise’s actions. The NLRB ruled in the workers’ favor and McDonald’s appealed the decision. If the court upholds the NLRB’s ruling, McDonald’s franchise employees would be entitled to the same benefits as corporate employees. What’s more, McDonald’s – and certainly many similar restaurants – would be responsible for working conditions at all of their locations.
What do you mean by “healthy”?
A decade ago, eating a healthy diet meant cutting fat and calories. Now, the term means something different to many people – and restaurants are scrambling to accommodate the change. According to a report in Fast Casual Nation, operators first need to understand millennials, who focus less on calorie counts and trans fats and more on wholesome, natural ingredients from local sources. When a restaurant brand can tell a story about their food that makes consumers feel good about what they are eating, that brand’s level of health is boosted even higher in consumers’ eyes.
More restaurants bring the farm even closer to the table
Consumers nowadays want to know exactly where their food comes from – and if a nearby farm supplies it, even better. Increasingly, restaurants are accomplishing this by becoming farms themselves. A report in Fast Company indicates that while this has been the purview of fine-dining restaurants in the past, fast-casual restaurants are now doing it. Dig Inn, a chain of fast-casual restaurants in Manhattan, will soon operate its own farm in upstate New York that will supply some of the restaurant’s produce and serve as a “living lab” to train its chefs and experiment with organic agriculture and aquaculture.
Could a seafood specialty make a comeback?
If you have removed bluefin tuna from your menu due to concerns about overfishing, there may be reason to hope for its return. A new study published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests Atlantic bluefin may be more resilient to overfishing than originally thought, according to an NPR report. The study’s authors claim they have confirmed the existence of a bluefin breeding ground where tuna are spawning at a younger age and smaller size than previously believed. This would indicate fishery managers could reassess the Atlantic Bluefin tuna population and potentially revise fishing guidelines, though critics warn it’s too early to say if the study proves more bluefin can be caught without endangering the population.
New app traces food contamination to its source
An award-winning new app called nEmesis uses social media to pinpoint the path of foodborne illness and expedite its containment, says a report in TechRepublic. The University of Rochester is developing the app, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the Intel Science and Technology Center for Pervasive Computing. When nEmesis was tested in Las Vegas over a three-month period, it tracked 16,000 tweets from 3,600 users daily. Subsets of those tweets pointed to foodborne illness at a specific restaurant. Health inspectors used the information to identify restaurants with the highest likelihood of violations, which led to a citation rate of 15% as opposed to 9%. A Centers for Disease Control grant will fund testing in additional cities before nEmesis goes public.