Burgers continue to dominate the quick-service restaurant scene, and are also doing well in the casual service sector as well, a new report by Technomics says. King of the hill continues to be the all-beef patty. Gourmet burgers are also doing well, an NBC poll recently found. Consultant Andrew Freeman of Andrew Freeman & Co. tells Restaurant Hospitality that he "is so optimistic about the future of the burger that he calls the patty melt the “sandwich of the year” in 2015.’It doesn’t get much better than buttery toasted rye, melty cheese, and a juicy beef patty,' he says. 'That’s the beauty of a patty melt—part grilled cheese, part cheeseburger, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.'” Sounds like it is time to host a Burgerfest.
A Berry Merry Christmas
Thanks to advances in agricultural technology and breeding, the berry business is becoming a year-round affair, reports the Food Institute. According to a recent New York Times article, raspberries lead the bunch with an astounding 475% growth rate over the past decade. Blueberries are not far behind at 411%. Also up are avocados, limes, lemons, pineapples, mangoes, and tangerines. According to Whole Foods, agricultural advances, better seed selection, and the growing amount of imports are allowing growers to provide seasonal fruits and vegetables well beyond their traditional growing seasons. With fresh blueberries available in December, it puts a whole new twist to Elvis Presley’s classic “Blue Christmas.”
Over the past few years the trade press has had one story after another about the steep drop in lunch crowds. But it is not only caused by the recent recession, the NPD group says. Sure, there are considerably more brown baggers in the workforce who are either trying to save a buck or have better control over what they eat. But there are considerably more of us working from home, NPD researchers note... over 13 million of us in fact. Then there are the 14% of workers who skip lunch entirely. So what is a restaurant to do? First, location places a big part in your eatery's lunchtime success. Near businesses? A college? Industry? You need to gear your menu to your demographics. Convenience, value, free deliveries, and offering modern methods to order and pay help, too, NPD says. But so does quality and speed of service.
Ask Your Customers
Want to know what people think about your restaurant? Ask them, Food Management says. From electronic surveys like SurveyMonkey to the tried-and-true paper there is no excuse not to learn what is on your customers' minds. Whether you run a multi-location dining operation to a corner restaurant, it is important to stay in touch with your customers. Use posters, the Internet, your website, or even a short survey with the bill. Then make sure you share the results. People want to know that you are listening to them. "The most effective way to achieve improved customer satisfaction and maintain or increase participation and sales is to respond quickly and visibly to the concerns, comments, and complaints received," Food Management advises.
Beware of Imported Italian Cheese
Neal Schuman, Arthur Schuman Inc.'s CEO, dropped a food bomb recently. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, an estimated 20% of the 463 million-lbs. of Italian hard cheese sold
in the U.S. annually is adulterated. According to Schuman, millions of pounds of cheese sold every year in the U.S. contain starches, fillers, and cellulose. "That amounts to 93 million pounds of Italian hard-cheese forgeries sold each year at an estimated dollar value of $375 million," says Schuman, whose company is a major Italian cheese manufacturer. He is not alone in his charges. Other manufacturers also claim that some imported cheeses are adulterated and they are asking the U.S. FDA to step in to stop the cheating and possibly prevent consumers from injury.
Diners Looking For Simple, Quality Food
Forget about the multi-page menu and endless entrees and specials. Diners are looking for a pared-down dining experience featuring high quality local fare that is well prepared and memorable, Restaurant Smartbrief reports. Part of this trend is the move to eat healthier and try more organic foods.
Food Trucks And Nontraditional Students
With the rise in alternative scheduling for part-time and adult learners, college administrators are becoming more accepting of food trucks on campus to fill the dining void, Food Management reports. If your restaurant is thinking about expanding its horizons with a mobile unit, a few things you should keep in mind are these: location is still everything. Study the foot traffic and negotiate for the best spot on campus. Make sure the school itself is growing, and pick a spot near easy access to utilities, restrooms, and other amenities, such as tables or benches. Be aware of town-gown relationships, and make sure your food truck business augments other vendors. Finally, make sure you do your homework. Is there an existing foodservice on campus? Does it require that you pay it a commission on your sales or a rental fee?
New Label Laws Unveiled
Citing the national obesity problem, the FDA introduced its final rules on nutrition labeling for chain restaurants and vending machines. The new rules apply to what are called “covered establishments,” which are restaurants or food businesses with 20 or more locations. The new rules also cover retail food establishments that voluntarily agree to abide by the new federal labeling guidelines. Why bother? According to the Food Institute Report, some restaurants that would be otherwise exempt because they are not part of a chain are joining in to avoid falling under potentially stricter labeling laws on the local and state levels. Not covered by the new rules are schools, food and ice cream trucks, trains or airlines. So what do the regulations require? Three items: 1.) The number of calories per item or serving if it is a multiple serving order. 2.) Self-serve foods must have the calorie count displayed next to the item. 3.) Additional nutritional information must be available on the premises on request for every item being sold. The compliance deadline for affected restaurants is December 1, 2015, and December 1, 2016 for vending machine operators owning more than 20 machines.