It’s that time of year when consumers and businesses focus on helping people in need – and restaurants are big givers. According to the National Restaurant Association, nine out of 10 restaurants contribute to charity and restaurants overall give $3 billion in community service each year. Here are some tips from the association on how you and your guests can get more involved:
* Lend your support to existing community events.
* Identify a cause that’s meaningful to you, your customers and employees.
* Pay attention to news reports about people and causes who need food donations.
* Donate extra food or a percentage of your sales on a given day to a food bank or other charity.
* Host a New Year’s event benefiting people in need.
Know your target food cost
Food and labor costs typically make up about 60% of total restaurant costs. To maintain profitability, food analytics firm Livelenz recommends you examine your actual and theoretical food costs each week to ensure they don’t differ dramatically. Bear with this quick math lesson: The actual cost of items sold is your initial inventory plus purchased inventory minus ending inventory. That number multiplied by 100 is your actual food cost as a percentage. Theoretical cost equals the cost of each item multiplied by the number sold. That number divided by your food sales is your theoretical food cost as a percentage. If the numbers vary widely, look at your food waste (in the form of discarded food or oversize portions) and menu pricing to ensure they are keeping pace with your expenses. Looking for help? Team Four Foods can help control food costs and help you analysis your business. There is not obligation, 1-888-891-3103.
Zagat names top food cities for 2015
Zagat recently announced its ranking of top food cities in the nation. While the list includes many of the usual suspects, its top pick this year was Pittsburgh. Zagat critics say the town known more for big sandwiches and pierogis is attracting just as much attention for its more refined offerings – like jamón croquetas with leek-ash aioli and rabbit with semolina gnocchi. They predict that Pittsburgh’s location between major restaurant centers like Chicago, New York and Washington will make it easy for the city to continue to draw top chefs looking for a more affordable location to make a living.
Pizza Hut providing college credit and tuition discounts to employees
Pizza Hut is joining Starbucks in helping employees earn a college degree. Through Pizza Hut’s new partnership with the online institution Excelsior College, employees can earn credits during on-the-job training and apply them toward their degree, as well as receive discounted tuition for themselves and their immediate family. Salaried employees are also eligible for more than $5,000 to cover fees and supplies. Pizza Hut’s announcement is part of an initiative Starbucks launched this year to encourage the hiring and training of young adults facing educational barriers, Restaurant Business reports.
SmartLabel reveals a lot about food
This month, the Grocery Manufacturers Association launched SmartLabel, which allows you to scan a barcode on thousands of products and get detailed information on ingredients, allergens, origins and other characteristics. International Business Times reports that more than 30 major food companies have signed on to use SmartLabel on their products. Some products, like Hershey’s kisses, have already started carrying the SmartLabel barcode. By the end of 2017, about 30,000 products will join them.
Tax changes look good for restaurants
The National Restaurant Association breathed a sigh of relief this month when Congress approved a tax package with a number of benefits to restaurants. Among them: If you build a new restaurant or improve your existing space, you can deduct those expenses over 15 years versus 39.5 years. If you buy computers, furniture or other property for your business, you can deduct $500,000 of the cost of financed items up to $2 million (versus deducting $25,000 up to $200,000). You will be able to claim significantly more depreciation on qualified property established between 2015 and 2019. If you’re an unincorporated business and you donate food to charity, you will receive the same tax benefits as corporations. Finally, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit was extended through 2019 so if you use the credit to offset the costs of recruiting, hiring and retaining employees, you will receive between $1,900 and $9,600 in return, depending on the employee.
The catch of the day your customers don’t even know they like
Consumers are getting a big education about how the salmon, cod, tuna and other varieties they love are dwindling in number and sourced unsustainably. A growing trend is to open consumers’ eyes to fish varieties that are plentiful – and that involves placing some unfamiliar names on the menu. According to the New York Times, dogfish, tilefish, striped black mullet and sea robin are just a few varieties appearing on menus in New York. In Florida, it’s wahoo, cobia and queen snapper. Regardless of where you are, there may be local varieties that could spark some creativity in the kitchen, please your customers and, because they are widely available, carry a smaller price tag.
Fast food of the future?
Who needs staff? Eatsa, a fast casual restaurant with locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles, apparently doesn’t need many. The Los Angeles Times reports that the restaurant is highly automated, with the exception of one person out front who helps move people through the ordering process and a few people who prepare menu items (quinoa bowls with some southwestern-influenced side dishes) from scratch in the back. There is a wall of iPads where guests place orders, a wall of glass cubbies that open when an order is ready, and a wall with motion sensors that dispense cutlery. A company spokesman says their established location in San Francisco can serve 1,000 people in three hours.
Restaurant brands win tech accolades
At the recent Restaurant Executive Summit in Laguna Beach, Calif., three restaurants won praise for their successful approaches to technology. Chili’s, the first restaurant brand to partner with tabletop laptop provider Ziosk in 2013, provides a seven-inch tablet with encrypted credit card reader that lets guests view the menu, place orders, play games, locate news and entertainment, pay on demand (more than 80% of guests now do) and provide feedback (survey responses have increased 30-fold). Firehouse Subs implemented a Station Pulse BI dashboard that connects point-of-sale data, their customer experience platform, call center feedback and Yelp ratings by zip code so operators can review performance metrics by location. Their 10-metric scorecard measures guest satisfaction with employee hospitality, the number and quality of their table interactions, quality of food and community engagement. Panera’s ordering options include kiosk, delivery, rapid pick up and mobile – and the information feeds into a back-of-house management tool that connects customer loyalty rewards, e-commerce payments, data management, and kitchen display and production systems to create a seamless process of filling orders from service to production.
No EMV? 2016 could be the year for mobile payments
October 1 was the cutoff for bars and restaurants to install the new EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) point-of-sale systems that can read credit cards with secure microchips. After that date, those establishments became responsible for costs related to fraudulent transactions. But only one-third of businesses had the technology in place by that date. Instead of spurring businesses to comply, the new regulations could make mobile payments skyrocket in 2016. Restaurant Hospitality predicts that because mobile payments can preauthorize the payer (a clunky process for an EMV reader) and reduce the risk of fraud by sending tokens instead of payment card data to point-of-sale systems, they might be a more feasible alternative for many restaurant operators.