The restaurant industry experienced its best results in over two years, reports Restaurant News. Sales in over 20,000 restaurants nationwide were up an average of 1.6 percent for the third quarter of 2014, which Restaurant News says is yet another sign that the fragile U.S. economy is slowly improving.
New Weapons Against Pig Virus
Following the loss of 10 percent of the piglet herd last year that pushed up prices, farmers are now being armed with new vaccines that officials are hoping will finally allow them to get the upper hand in the war against a deadly virus. The virus infects sows and is passed from them to their piglets, which are particularly vulnerable. About half of the nation’s six million sows have contracted it, and some have lost entire litters to the disease, according to the National Pork Producers Council.
Value-based and Cost-plus Pricing Might Be Missing The Boat
No matter which of the two traditional systems you use in setting your pricing, both are now outdated, QSR is reporting. What neither take into consideration is the impact of Big Data, information collected across the industry on what is selling, where, why, and to whom. Using that data, savvy restaurateurs can now leverage such information to build menus and pricing specifically tailored to their own clientele, not only offering entrees with more confidence they will sell, but also increasing your profitability.
Ebola Threatens Chocolate Supply
Most of the world's chocolate supply originates in the Ivory Coast countries of Africa. With Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone already battling Ebola, borders have been closed, preventing many workers from affected countries to help pick cacao beans, which end up in everything from ice cream and cakes to candy. The international Chocolate Association is already collecting donations to help fight the disease, but even though no cases have directly impacted the large cacao producers, prices are expected to increase.
Vegan Dining Is Taking Off
Conscious of more food choices that are vegan-based, diners are visiting vegan restaurants like Native Foods in larger numbers. Now opening its 22nd restaurant, and the first in the East, Native Foods hopes to make vegan mainstream, USA Today reports. Co-owner Andrea McGinty says that most people who stop in for a bite to eat aren't vegan, but rather people looking for "a better way to eat," she says. As a result, McGinty calls the cafe's fare plant-based, because it is less of a turn-off when explaining the concept to newcomers. While quick to point out the health factors of Native Foods choices, she also says the food tastes great, and Americans are going to discover that one Native Foods restaurant at a time, she says.
Baked Goods Industry Wide Open
With the consolidation of baking giants like Hostess and Sara Lee, two relative newcomers are dominating the national bakery business, Bimbo Bakeries and Flower Foods. In combination with Pepperidge Farms, the three companies control 16 percent of the marketplace. So what about the rest of the industry? More than 50 percent is controlled by local artisanal bakeries, which may be poised to claim a larger slice of the bread market, especially the gluten-free segment, The Food Institute reports. Keep an eye on Boulder Brands, Kinnikinnick, Nature's Path, Bob's Red Mill, and Amy's Kitchen, which are leading the pack in creating distinctive products, from flatbreads and tortilla to non-GMO products.
Bumble Bee Up For Sale
Industry experts predict that Bumble Bee brands will fetch a cool $1.5 billion, says Today in Food. Still to be decided is the new owner. Several companies, including Hormel, Mitsubishi Corp., Thai Union Frozen Products PCL, and Post Holdings Inc. have all expressed interest in the signature brand. According to Bloomberg, suitors may well end up being narrowed to those with canning capabilities, experience in the fish industry, and having the ability to weather the ups and downs of the tuna industry. On all counts, Mitsubishi takes the lead.
More Restaurants Look To Snacks
More Americans are snacking and noshing their way through meals, says the Penton Restaurant Group, which found that demand for snacks is up six percent and is growing. According to Restaurant News, it learned that just about anything qualifies as a snack, from mini-sandwiches to beef jerky, to candy and ice cream cones. Some eateries have even turned snacking into an art form that range from yogurt parfaits and gluten-free pastries to specialty breadsticks. So why all the fuss? Culver’s, a 495-unit chain based in Wisconsin, surveyed its customers and found that they snack on average about five times a day. From a restaurant perspective, that is opportunity knocking.
High-end Business Dining Sees No Let Up
If Texas-based Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group is any bell weather, then fine dining for business is very much alive and well, enjoying margins of between 20 percent to 25 percent, Restaurant News reports,. Still, the company is always evaluating price increases across its 44 restaurants located in 20 states.” We’ll be cautious, but we do look at it on a quarter-by-quarter basis,” Mark Mednansky, Del Frisco’s chief executive, says. Good advice.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: It is all about the host, hostess, and waits staff. They need to be trained to follow up on four critical areas: 1.) Know and identify customer needs. Not only should that happen as guests arrive, but wait staff should double check those needs. 2.) Make sure staff has gluten-free information ready to share for the asking. Maybe it is a special menu or perhaps a specially trained waiter, but it should also include a copy of the Food Allergy Reference Book. 3.) Check with management and/or the chef, because no matter how well trained the front-of-the-house staff, the final answer should come from the individual preparing the food. 4.) Make sure you alert the kitchen that you are placing a gluten-free order for a guest. That way, everyone on staff knows that extra precautions need to be taken.