Recent outbreaks of foodborne illness and updated FDA safety standards have put restaurants under a microscope – just as crowds flock to restaurants for the holiday season. Expect health inspectors to be stringent about adhering to food safety protocol. The National Restaurant Association shared these tips for a successful partnership:
Be professional: Feel free to ask questions or disagree with violations – just make your case professionally to resolve the matter smoothly.
Correct mistakes quickly and show your desire to improve: Repeat violations create a negative impression of your commitment to food safety. Develop a plan to correct the problem swiftly and share it with the inspector.
Get involved: If there is a new food safety regulation that will impact your restaurant, contact the inspector about it. Consider serving on state and local task forces to get exposure to inspectors and their work.
Seek advice: Have a food safety plan to share? Launching a product that will be impacted by a new food code? Ask for input. It could improve your business.
North America leads world in percent of foodservice sales from chains
By a wide margin, the U.S. and Canada generate the largest percentage of foodservice sales from chain restaurants in the world. A Nation’s Restaurant News report from research firm Euromonitor International compared sales from independent restaurants and chains. In the U.S. and Canada, 53% of sales come from chains and 47% from independents. In other parts of the world, independent restaurants do a commanding percent of business – nearly 80% on average. Euromonitor’s head of beverages and foodservice said wealth is a contributing factor – high per-capita income correlates with chain penetration. As other countries catch up, their numbers are likely to resemble those in North America.
Corporate spending in restaurants up nearly 10%
In the third quarter of this year, corporate spending in restaurants increased 9.7% over the same period last year, according to Dinova LLC, a nationwide network of more than 13,000 restaurants and corporations. They reported 5.8% growth in transactions and average checks increasing 3.75% over last year’s figures. Corporate guests are increasing average check sizes and delivering high-margin business to restaurants, according to Dinova’s founder and CEO. That points to a lucrative holiday season for restaurants poised to host and cater corporate gatherings.
Turn down the heat
It’s not just the meat – it’s how you cook it. A new study from the journal Cancer found that cooking meat at a high temperature – pan frying or grilling, as opposed to baking or broiling – increases the risk of kidney cancer for those who eat a lot of meat. Previous studies have found that eating large amounts of fried or charbroiled meat increases the risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.
Entrepreneurs compete to turn the tide for seafood
It’s a tough time for seafood, between overfishing and rising ocean temperatures contributing to toxicity in certain species. But with challenge comes opportunity. At the recent Fish 2.0 competition at Stanford University, entrepreneurs presented business ideas to investors with the aim of earning grant money to develop their fledgling companies. Two of the winners could impact the restaurant industry in the not-too-distant future: Alaska Community Seafood Hub is a nonprofit that helps distribute wild-caught Alaskan seafood through a community-supported fishery, and Kampachi Farms Mexico is raising a fish by the same name that is an alternative species to endangered bluefin tuna.
Campbell’s reinvents its signature soup
It’s clear times are changing in the food industry when a product as iconic as Campbell’s chicken noodle soup gets a makeover. Campbell’s is releasing a new version of the soup that has 20 ingredients instead of 30, with an emphasis on ingredients that consumers could find in their own kitchens – more “chicken stock” and less “disodium guanylate,” in other words. In a New York Times article about the change, the company’s chief executive said the shift is due to consumers’ preferences for products with recognizable ingredients, as well as their interest in the impact their food has on the environment.
Behold the sandwich
If the sandwich offerings on your menu rank second to your entrées, it may be time to tweak your offerings. Technomic, a food industry consulting and research firm, just released their Sandwich Trend Report, which indicates there is opportunity to be tapped between two slices of bread. The report found that 33% of respondents are more willing to try new flavors or unique ingredients on a sandwich than a different food. About 43% of respondents would pay more for a sandwich with premium or higher-quality ingredients. And here’s one that easy to implement: 50% of respondents prefer to have their sandwiches toasted or grilled.
Growing pains for artisanal foods
Remember when it would have been strange to label a food “artisanal”? Nowadays, even at major retailers like Target and Costco, it’s commonplace to find products by small companies that make artisanal, sustainable, or otherwise specialized foods. The demand and investment dollars are there – the supply is not. A recent Wall Street Journal report says these small companies, which often lack relationships with multiple suppliers that can help them sustain production regardless of weather, are often a challenging fit for large retailers that need to meet demand year-round. Small business owners stressed starting slowly and negotiating relationships with retailers who understand the need for seasonal shifts in inventory.
Help your team – and restaurant – thrive
The U.S. Department of Labor launched its first-ever Food and Beverage Service Competency Model, which outlines core skills that contribute to success in the restaurant industry. The National Restaurant Association, which collaborated with industry representatives to create the model, said it can help restaurant operators in several ways: It outlines competencies needed at each level of the industry so you know what to consider when hiring. It can help you fully connect your team to your strategy. What’s more, it provides benchmarks to set criteria for employee advancement and worksheets that ask for employee and manager input on skills mastered so you can form a concrete plan to address problems.
Turn your restaurant green
You’ve heard it before: Consumers care more and more about the quality of their food and its impact on the environment. But addressing this demand is not just about public relations – it requires a green strategy. A report in Business.com by business intelligence expert Dr. Keith Peterson recommends you evaluate your suppliers, raw ingredients, packaging, use of nonrenewable resources, energy consumption, use of hazardous materials, carbon emissions, landfill deposits and water usage. Which of those areas pose the greatest risk to the environment? Consider hybrid vehicles when automobiles in your fleet need replacement, for example, or vary your suppliers to encourage them to adopt greener practices in order to compete. An enterprise resource planning software system can help you analyze data within your organization and set goals.
Restaurateurs weigh in on technology
Restaurateurs want technology to help them hire and train employees, track food consumption, manage inventory and enable consumers to order online. That’s what restaurant tech startup Toast Inc. found in its recently launched Restaurant Technology in 2015 Industry Report, which surveyed hundreds of restaurant operators about their technology use. Restaurateurs said hiring and training staff was their top challenge – and one that technology can help address as long as the restaurant has a good culture in place. Across the board, restaurant operators valued technology that could help them integrate food cost information into menu development, as well as customer-friendly online ordering features.
Take the technology leap
Ready to raise the technology bar at your restaurant? The National Restaurant Association recommends you focus your attention in these places: Your staff should know how your tableside devices work and how they create opportunities to maximize sales and service. Instead of launching a slick mobile app, it might serve you better to simply ensure your Wi-Fi, power and access points function properly. Tableside games can bring a group together but if they cost money, make that clear to customers. Finally, tableside technology helps you connect order information, loyalty points, survey responses and ratings to a bill. This information should feed how you promote your restaurant to customers (and how you coach staff to engage with them).
GMO Salmon Gets FDA Approval
GMO farm-raised salmon that grow substantially faster and larger than their natural relatives have received FDA approval, The New York Times reports. The fish have been the subjects of much debate between AquaBounty Technologies and consumers groups who have dubbed the salmon “frankenfish.” The FDA, however, has researched the fish extensively and found that it is safe to eat. But do not expect to see it in your restaurant soon. The salmon are raised in Panama, using genetic material from an eel. Environmentalists are determined to keep the fish off the market, and its producers even feel commercialization is a few years off. Still, they are already laying the groundwork for U.S. hatcheries and international markets. AquaBounty said it might also grow salmon from the eggs itself. In addition to the United States, it said it eventually hoped to sell the salmon in Canada, Argentina, Brazil and China.
Specialty Restaurant Targets Body Builders
Success is sometimes catering to what you like best, then doing it better than anyone else. In New York City, Adam Eskin started Dig Inn in 2011 as an organic fast-casual restaurant concept catering to body builders. What makes Dig Inn different is the fact that it uses only fresh, locally sourced foods. In addition to working with local farmers, Eskin also mentors young chefs. The result? The Dig Inn is now 11 restaurants strong, and the concept is now expanding to Boston. "Part of our goal is to work with chefs and teach them skills beyond culinary - such as leadership, management, and paying vendors on time - in order to become well-rounded chefs," Eskin told Business Insider.
ConAgra To Divide Businesses
ConAgra announced that it plans to divide its foodservice and consumer products into two separate companies. The frozen potato products will be sold through Lamb Weston. Its consumer brands, meanwhile, which include Reddi Whip and Hunt’s tomato products, will be renamed ConAgra Brands Inc. Once completed, the Lamb Weston business will include the frozen potato line as well as appetizers and other produce, which generated nearly $3 billion in sales, NRN.com reports. The ConAgra Brands Inc., meanwhile, will generate nearly $2 billion in foodservice sales to restaurants.
Red Meat Production Continues To Decline
Red meat production for this past October totaled 4.3 billion pounds, a slight decrease from a year ago, the USDA reports. Beef production accounted for 2.1 billion pounds, while pork production totaled slightly below 2.2 billion pounds. Veal production amounted to 7.2 million pounds, and lamb and mutton totaled 12 million pounds.
An Abundance Of Tomatoes
7Thanks to the continued warm weather in Florida, the tomato crop is in earlier than expected, but the fruit is smaller than normal and supply outweighs demand, The Packer reports. Distributors have seen prices drop by two-thirds, and sellers now hope prices will improve after Thanksgiving. According to the USDA, this year’s pricing is down more than 50% from last year.
Eggs Are Back
After the Avian flu decimated the egg-laying chicken flock, sending the price of eggs skyrocketing 52%, the price of eggs are beginning to drop. The 5.3% price decline signaled the largest drop in over a year, Bloomberg Business reports. The reason is simple math: the hen population is rebounding. But do not look for retail prices dropping anytime soon. The U.S. is importing some 81 million dozen eggs, and high prices will continue through the holidays.
It is called the “smart box.” Developed by Eco-Products in cooperation with California-based The Melt, the innovative container allows restaurants to provide takeout customers with the same delicious, gooey, and crisp grilled cheese specials that on-site diners enjoy. The idea was born out of necessity, Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of The Melt, told QSRweb. The compostable box acts like a convection oven, and works well with burgers and other cheese melts. How does it work? The carton has small ridges to elevate the sandwich that allows air to circulate. The box also features moisture vents, which allow moisture and cooler air to escape. The Melt is so happy with the new invention, it is expanding its footprint into Colorado with five new locations.
Slider Stuffing, Anyone?
A White Castle employee created something called White Castle Turkey Stuffing back in 1991. She took her family’s traditional stuffing recipe, and then added 10 White Castle burgers, which regulars call sliders. The result? A classic that the company recently reintroduced by making the recipe public, sliders and all. If you might be looking to offer your patrons something different in the way of stuffing this holiday season, here is the recipe, courtesy of White Castle:
* 10 White Castle Sliders (from the restaurant with the pickles removed or picked up from a local retailer)
* 1 ½ cups of diced celery
* 1 ¼ teaspoons each of ground thyme and ground sage
* 1 ½ teaspoons of coarse ground black pepper
* ¼ cup of chicken broth
* Tear the burgers into small pieces; put them into a large mixing bowl with the celery, thyme, sage and black pepper; and toss to combine. Add chicken broth and toss again. Bake the mixture in a casserole dish.
Restaurant Sales Are Up
Sales in eating and drinking establishments across the country are up 6.7% in October compared to September, The Food Institute reports. Sales are also up 7% over the same period last year. Over the past 10 months of 2015, sales in eating and drinking establishments are up more than 8% to $517 billion.