Legislation will increase the minimum wage in New York and California to $15 per hour in coming years. Other states will likely follow. To protect margins and avoid cutting staff, Restaurant Hospitality recommends you reengineer your menu. Can you make money-saving changes that are invisible to guests? Simplify and streamline your menu to make it easier to execute. Does the way menu items are prepared limit profitability? An expensive menu item with long preparation time may not be worthwhile, so limit your bottlenecks. If you need to increase prices, do it a little at a time (think 2% instead of 5%). Understand consumers’ price barriers for buying an item – and don’t cross them. That’s additional incentive to develop a creative menu, so guests won’t have a clear frame of reference for costs.
Boost your recycling IQ
Want to save money and reduce waste by improving your restaurant’s recycling practices? The Foodservice Packaging Institute and the National Restaurant Association recommend you first audit your waste – download a form to guide you or hire a service to help. Then, talk to (or change) your waste service providers to add a comprehensive recycling service. Make it easy for your staff and guests to recycle and compost by using colored, labeled bins stored in convenient locations. Train your employees on what goes where and reinforce the message. Then tell your guests about your efforts – when you measure how your waste has decreased, share the positive results (especially if they have helped you achieve them).
Fast-casual boom fuels competition for real estate
The success of fast-casual restaurants has driven up demand for restaurant space nationwide – and real estate prices have skyrocketed too, according to a recent Nation’s Restaurant News report. Eater says it’s currently a landlord’s market in most cities but these landlords also covet fast-casual restaurant tenants for their high-volume business, so there’s room to negotiate. Many landlords are subdividing spaces once dedicated to single full-service restaurants and leasing to several fast-casuals, charging a higher price per square foot than before and minimizing risk by bringing in multiple tenants. Fast-casuals with a national brand (and ample financial backing) are especially in demand but large real estate corporations have been willing to take on smaller, independent fast-casuals as well.
The food business of the future
Plants and insects that take the place of meat on menus. Smartphone sensors that test the ripeness, nutrient content and origin of foods. Meals prepared according to a guest’s microbial profile. These, according to a Restaurant Hospitality report, are just three food business trends William Rosenzweig, dean and executive director of the Food Business School at the Culinary Institute of America, shared at a restaurant industry conference held at UCLA recently. Other trends in the pipeline? Precision agriculture will give farms technology to apply pesticides and fertilizers only where needed, and indoor farming will bring local, fresh food to more cities. Intelligent technology will help restaurant operators manage their inventory with precision and reduce waste, and craft recipes that alter ingredients to accommodate guests’ dietary needs. Automation and convenience are here to stay, he said, so it’s time to embrace kitchen robotics and delivery technology as well.
Stand out in a sea of food choices
The sources of prepared food have exploded in recent years – beyond restaurants, consumers are frequenting food trucks, farmer’s markets, grocery stores and meal kits for fresh food. Technomic recently studied how greater food choice is affecting consumers’ eating habits. Many of those taking advantage of alternative food sources are part of an attractive demographic: young people and families. To stay competitive, Technomic researchers recommended restaurateurs increase consumer convenience through digital tools that streamline ordering, pickup and delivery processes, for example. Evolve your menu with fresh, local ingredients and let your guests know about it through your menu and marketing materials. Finally, use technology to drive consumer traffic to your restaurant, website or app, and find ways to interact with guests in person and digitally so you can be part of their social media experience.
Ugly produce reveals more inner beauty
Many restaurateurs have turned to less aesthetically pleasing produce as a means of cutting costs and conserving food – now, studies report the produce may have the added benefit of being healthier. According to NPR, the studies found increased levels of antioxidants like phenylpropanoids and resveratrol in blemished or misshapen apples, grapes, and other produce. There may be a link between this produce and organic fruits and vegetables, which have been found to contain 20 to 40% more antioxidants. A Grub Street report says imperfect produce may have taken some bumps and bruises that strengthened it for the long term.
An egg-ceptional recovery
Just as all-day breakfast is taking off at many quick-service and fast-casual restaurant chains, a morning staple is falling in price more steeply than expected. Egg prices could drop 9 to 10% this year, according to the Department of Agriculture’s April food price report. (That’s after a price surge of nearly 18% last year.) The shift will come as a relief to restaurant operators. Many have struggled to meet consumers’ rising demand for eggs as prices climbed amid last year’s avian flu outbreak. As for now, egg prices are expected to continue to fall a bit lower later in the year, according to the USDA.
Study reveals consumers’ seafood preferences
More consumers want seafood on your menu. That’s according to Foodable Labs’s 2016 Seafood Report, which studied seafood consumption trends across the U.S. The majority of those who want seafood are early-age Millennials (32%). The top-ranked seafood species, in order, were New England cod at No. 1, followed by Alaska crab, Chilean sea bass, Alaska salmon and Gulf shrimp. The best sourcing regions, according to the report, include Alaska at the top, followed by the Gulf Coast, Florida, the Pacific and Puget Sound.
Wendy’s tests a vegan burger
In what industry analysts say could be a sign of a new trend, Wendy’s has debuted a vegan black bean burger in a few locations – and reviews are good. While chains including White Castle, Johnny Rockets and Denny’s have included vegan sandwiches on their menus in the past, Wendy’s is the largest quick-service brand to do so. It’s an indicator that veganism is becoming more mainstream and while the typical quick-service customer may not order a vegan burger, restaurants vying for a larger slice of the market may need to look beyond beef.
11,000 wines up for bid
Restaurant operators looking for a new supplier to stock their wine cellar (or a place to direct guests to buy their business’s wine) have a new vendor to consider: eBay has launched a new wine marketplace for buyers and sellers of wine. Fortune reports that the site will offer 11,000 wines, ranging from everyday varieties to rare selections. eBay launched the marketplace in partnership with Drync, a company that provides software for wineries and distributors to sell online.