If you operate an independent restaurant and have delayed adopting technology because of high up-front costs, times are changing. FSR reports that while chain restaurants have gotten a head start on tech advances because of investments their parent companies have made, independent restaurants are now getting the chance to catch up. The newest guest management and point-of-sale technologies are removing one of the biggest barriers to entry: affordability. The model is shifting toward lower up-front costs and monthly subscription fees. Some tech services companies are even allowing restaurants to lease their services. The next time you hear from a salesperson looking to sell a new tech product, remember your bargaining power.
What’s your system for food freshness?
Do you have procedures in place to make sure you present your signature dishes (and the rest of your menu, for that matter) at their best? Restaurant Owner recommends you conduct pre-shift line checks to double-check the consistency of food, create order guides to ensure you have enough raw product on hand, and draft daily prep checklists to guarantee fresh, consistent food. The daily prep checklist could be the most important item of the three. It includes the shelf life of a recipe and the minimum amount of product needed to meet customer demand depending on the number of guests each day. Considering the push for restaurants to prepare menu items from scratch, a checklist will ensure you have ample batch recipes prepared for each shift and that you rotate them to maximize freshness.
When discounting goes too far
Don’t discount yourself out of business. That’s what a new report in Foodable warns. Discounts can be helpful in rewarding your best customers – the ones who have been loyal to you – but they don’t help you if they’re simply bringing in new customers who aren’t yet committed to your brand. You’d be better off pouring the money into a training program or employee raises, the report says. Offer discounts to those who have helped build your business. Have a loyalty program that does not just help a customer cash in for repeat visits (e.g. the punch card for returning customers) but allows you to communicate with them about your brand and entice them to return.
Edible utensils for the environmentally conscious
If environmental awareness is among your restaurant’s values, take note of Bakey’s, a startup that makes edible spoons that taste like crackers. These utensils are made from millet, rice and wheat sourced from local farmers, have a shelf life of three years and can decompose within days of use if they are not eaten, according to NPR. At $4 for 100 of them, they’re more expensive than the plastic utensils used in the vast majority of restaurant take-out businesses. But they also tell a more environmentally friendly story. Bakey’s is based in India and hopes to begin shipping internationally in early 2017.
White House chef sounds off on how to sell good health
You know the story well: The top consumers of restaurant meals want healthy food with appealing origins. But some restaurants are better than others at making nutrition interesting. Restaurant Business reports Chef Sam Kass, former White House chef for the Obamas and policy advisor on nutrition policy, shared these tips with restaurant operators at the recent FARE Conference in Dallas: Shake up your marketing to focus on the benefits of healthy eating – not just vitamins themselves. Don’t segregate health: Nix the health corner of the menu, where only 10 or 20 percent of guests go. Others think that’s where bad-tasting food lives. Redesign your plate to include another serving of fruit or vegetables. While you’re at it, slim down your portions. They’re better for margins and consumers are open to the idea. Finally, experiment with flavors and methods for preparing vegetables – the mushy, overcooked veggies of the 1950s are over.
Release extra flavour through fermentation
Many chefs around the country are thinking about bacteria – but perhaps not in the way you might think. Fermented foods have been rising in popularity due to their unexpected flavors and reported health benefits. Beyond yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha, chefs are experimenting with ingredients like fermented garlic to bring extra flavour dimensions to a dish, according to NPR. Expect a new wave of fermented foods to bring complexity to restaurant menus in the future. The NPR report indicated the Culinary Institute of America and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are both offering special training in fermentation.
Looking to sell? Buyers are ready
If you’re considering selling your restaurant, now could be prime time, according to the results of a recent marketplace survey from BizBuySell, which collected data from 1,700 small business owners and 1,300 prospective small business buyers in the U.S. Those looking to buy businesses will represent increasing diversity in gender, age and ethnicity in the coming years. They have money to spend on new ventures – 25 percent report incomes of more than $150,000 and another 22 percent report incomes between $100,000 and $149,000. Many of those buyers (58 percent) are looking to pay cash for their new ventures. Most of the potential buyers surveyed (90 percent) are looking for an established, independently owned business – and 53 percent are looking for moderately priced options between $100,000 and $499,999 (about 40 percent of sellers value their businesses in this range).
Chicago joins list of cities offering paid sick leave
At a time when restaurant operators are already feeling the pinch of increased labor costs, restaurants in Chicago will soon have to offer paid sick leave to their employees, according to an ordinance the Chicago City Council just approved. When the ordinance takes effect next summer, employers will have to provide employees with an hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours they work, up to a limit of five days. Employers can expect expenses to increase by between .7 percent and 1.5 percent, though the council predicts lower turnover costs will help offset those expenses.
Handle ice safely – to stay out of hot water
Summer heat means extra challenges in keeping foods cool. Unfortunately, the ice in your restaurant can be the source of food safety problems if you’re not careful. Remember these tips from the National Restaurant Association to keep your ice clean: Use a designated scoop and store it outside of the ice machine in a clean, covered, contained space – this helps ensure the handle never touches the ice. Designate special bins and tools used for moving ice only. If glass breaks anywhere near an exposed ice supply, discard the ice. Separate ice used for drinks from ice needed to keep food cool. Clean and sanitize your ice machine and utensils regularly to avoid any buildup of dirt or mold.
Reduce risk of foodborne pathogens in marinades
Marinades are a common source of foodborne illness. To limit your risks of contamination, the National Restaurant Association recommends you never reuse a marinade that you’ve already used once – for example, avoid removing a piece of meat from a marinade and then adding a new piece to the leftover marinade. When you refrigerate protein in marinade, ensure the container is covered and stored below covered, ready-to-eat food. Label the container with the protein, marinade, time and date prepared. (If you have made the marinade yourself, aim to make only what you will use that day – abide by the use-by date for any commercially sold marinades.) Finally, do not use copper containers to store marinated food as they may lead to chemical poisoning.