Monthly archives of “December 2014

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The Difference Between Lava Rock and Radiant Charbroilers

There are two primary types of charbroilers: lava rock and radiant.  As with all equipment, each of these has its advantages and disadvantages, but both are intended to make smoky grilled delights.

What’s the difference between a radiant charbroiler and a lava rock charbroiler?  Both of them are gas heated, so there isn’t that much of a difference at all, right?

The major difference between the two types of charbroiler is the way that the items are heated.

Radiant Charbroiler

With the radiant charbroiler, a cover sits atop the heating element.  The heat is distributed evenly in the chamber for a gentle cooking.  The drippings are siphoned away as they hit the grill to be disposed of later.

Lava Rock Charbroiler

Lava rock charbroilers are different from the radiant charbroilers in that while there is a surface over the gas, there are also lava rocks placed atop that. Instead of draining away the drippings, they land on the absorbant rock. The heat from the flames turns the drippings into smoke to flavor the meat.

The lava charbroiler is decidedly harder to clean than the radiant charbroiler, but the flavor is more potent with the lava rocks.  When you’re looking for that great charbroiled flavor, you just have to decide which is more important to you.

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Color Coding Your Cutting Boards Can Save $$

It’s important to get the best fresh food possible, but the preparation of that food is also important.  Before you put it into the water, heat it in the convection oven, or fry it on the commercial range, you’ve got to cut it down. But before the paring knife, you’ve got to take out the cutting board and make sure that it is clean.

You know about cross-contamination that can occur when you’re preparing your food. One of the ways to avoid this is to have a colored cutting board system at your disposal.  This is a basic way that you can keep foods from touching one another.

Cutting boards aren’t just the giant hunks of wood that they used to be – they come in a variety of colors, shapes, and styles. The Winco 15×20 Color Coded Plastic Cutting Board Set has five colors: brown, yellow, green, red, and blue.  These colors are easily separated out for your convenience.

Brown: Seafood

Yellow: Poultry

Green: Fruits and veggies

Red; Meat

Blue: Cooked foods

By choosing a different cutting board for each type of food, you’re not only preventing cross-contamination, but you’re presenting a little color in the kitchen.  When you’re cutting, make sure that it’s not on a board that has been too scarred – else the potential for bacteria is higher.

Take a look at your boards. Are they in good condition? If not, consider picking up a set of Winco boards today from Restaurant Supply.

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How to Develop a Killer Menu – Part 3

Once you’ve established what type of restaurant that you are and the prices of the items on your menu, it’s time to take the plunge and design your menu for maximum profitability.

Make Your Menu Match Your Restaurant

People will associate the type of restaurant that you are with the menu that you have, so if you have a fine dining establishment, people would be thrown off by having handwritten menus on cheap paper.  Conversely, they would be thrown off by seeing a burger place with fine-dining menu holders.

Names and Descriptions Should Be Appetizing

You actually have some leeway here.  If you’re one of those establishments who likes to be experimental, you can make unappealing descriptions to see what the customers should say.  If you’re at a loss as to how to write these descriptions, hire a menu consultant – they usually have writers on staff.

Don’t be Afraid of Pictures

Pictures are great, though don’t overdo them.  You shouldn’t have more than around three pictures per section, else it gets incredibly crowded.  Hire a professional food photographer to make them look good, rather than just taking pictures of your dishes under the food warmers.

Take the Desserts and Drinks Away

The desserts and drinks should be on separate menus from the main menu.  Here at Restaurant Supply, we’ve seen many restaurants group the alcoholic drinks, the chocolate decadence, and the handcrafted sodas all in one place.  Bringing out the dessert menu, or leaving it in acrylics on the table get people thinking about your tasty desserts for the entirety of the meal.

Bring Your Restaurant to the Table

The menu that you have should be the embodiment of your restaurant.  Its playfulness, its panache, its seriousness, and its passion should be seen through all of it.  You wouldn’t have gotten into the restaurant business if you didn’t have at least some love of food, right?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you can do for designing your menu.  The best thing that you can do for yourself is to get some things out on the page and then alter it when you see how things sell.

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How to Develop a Killer Menu – Part 2

We talked yesterday about how to determine the types of items that should be on your menu.  Today, we’re going to look a little more closely at how to price your menu and make the items competitive with the restaurants around you.

Pricing Your Menu

If the perceived value is less than the price that you’re charging, then you’re probably not going to get many takers.  On the other hand, if you’ve got a good deal, the item might fly out of the kitchen.

Before you can price, you have to know how much the item costs:

  • How much do the ingredients cost?

How many ounces of Wagyu beef are in that filet?  What are you planning on using as garnish for the food that you’ve got?  The cost of the ingredients plays a big part in the cost of the dish, but they’re not the only things to take into consideration.

  • Do you need any special equipment to make the dish?

There are some dishes which just demand certain types of equipment.  If you’re making flash chilled pastries, for example, you probably want to have a blast chiller on hand.  If you’re offering spaghetti, would it be easier to have a dedicated pasta cooker to free up some of your stove space?

  • How much does it cost to run your restaurant?

How much are you paying for your location and your servers?  How about the utilities that you’ve got?

  • How much is the competition charging for the same items?

There are SO many factors which set your restaurant apart from the rest of them that this might not be a consideration. However, there are always going to be a few things that overlap somewhere.  If, though, you’re looking at your kid’s portion of the menu and have fries, how does it compare to the guys down the street?

  • What is your restaurant concept?

The pricing that you’ve got for your restaurant in many ways reflects your restaurant’s image.  If you are a formal dining establishment with classic food, you’re expected to have prices that range on the high end.  If you’re presenting yourself as fast casual, you’re expected to charge a little bit less for the same types of items.

After you’ve gotten an idea about how much the potential menu items cost, it’s time to get around to actually pricing the items on your menu.  If you’ve chosen appropriate menu covers, changing the prices on them should be as easy as making another printout rather than taking them to the printer.  The point here is that as you evaluate the menu items for salability, it should be an easy matter to change the prices.

What are some methods used to price items?

  • Find the true cost of making the item and multiply by 3

This is the simple method of pricing your menu.  Pick a number that looks good that’s about three times the cost of the menu item.  If it sounds reasonable to you, it’s worth giving a shot, right?

  • Look at your competitor’s pricing and reduce it slightly

The deal seekers will be attracted to you, and hopefully you can wow them into picking up some of the more profitable items on your menu.  This is a tricky game to play, and it should only be a pricing method if you’re sure that you’re offering the same types of items.

  • Hiring consultants / asking friends in the business

If you’ve been in the restaurant business for any length of time, there’s a high likelihood that you’ve got friends already in the business who have priced menus.  There’s nothing written in the rules against asking them what they would pay for certain dishes.  In the process, you might find that there are other items that you can put on it, too!

Be aware of what people are willing to pay.  Sometimes, the customers just aren’t going to follow you where you’re leading them.  Remember that they want the value for their money, and if they’re not receiving it, they’re not going to purchase the item.  In other words, there comes a point where the customers don’t care if the potatoes for those $10 French fries were sourced from this one farm in Idaho.  They’re still $10 French fries and they might taste the same to them.

Pricing the menu doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult.  There are certain techniques that you can use to easily and effectively price those menu items.  On Monday, we’re going to delve a little more into pricing menu items as well as talk about designing your menu to accentuate your most profitable items.

Thanks go to Daniel Kulinski on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

Menu Picture
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How to Develop a Killer Menu – Part 1

The menu is everything to your restaurant, the reason that you got into business in the first place. Developing your menu can be a tough proposition.  You don’t want the ingredients to be too expensive, but you also want to provide the best quality that you can for the money that you do spend.

Everything about your menu influences the restaurant.  If you love to cook with wine, you’ll need to have that wine on hand.  If you are a burger joint, then you probably want to have ground beef around.

Determine the cuisine

You have an amazing choice of cuisines available to you.  The key to success on this is to go with the cuisine that you’re passionate about and can cook well.  French?  Not a problem.  Down home Southern?  Bring on the barbeque!

If you’ve not opened the restaurant yet, you have the choice about how you want to handle this question.  If you’re serving fast casual, you want to have items on the menu which you can quickly serve.  If you’re serving formal cuisine, you probably don’t want to whip out the mac and cheese.

How will you serve it?

  • A la carte – Everything that’s on the menu is separate.  You pay a set price for each item that’s on the menu, with no combinations.  This is compared to the table d’hote menu, which consists of groups of items that have a fixed price.
  • Mixed menu – The mixed menu is a mixture of a la carte and table d’hote items.  So, you might have the corned beef hash and eggs combo right next to two eggs scrambled.  This is the way that most restaurants do it, to give the impression of value to their customers.
  • Buffet – The customers receive no choice in what’s served, they merely have a number of items from which to choose.  The buffet style is great for those chefs who like to cook a little bit of everything.

Static menu or rotation?

Will you stay static and serve the same thing every day, or will your menu cycle seasonally, daily, or monthly.  We’ve got one ‘down home’ restaurant here which has several staples, but they rotate out some of the entrees for variety.

Who are you cooking for?

This depends on where your restaurant is located.  If you’re catering to the geriatric set, you might want to stick with traditional high-quality items.  If you’re looking at college students, then you’re free to get pretty crazy and try out combinations.

How complicated is the item to make?

If the item takes 37 steps and a blessing from the Pope, chances are you don’t want it on the menu.  On the other hand, if you’re looking at something that is relatively easy to make and makes your restaurant look good, that’s a whole other story.

The answers to all of these questions determine what your menu will look like to your customers.  It also determines the types of restaurant equipment that you’ll need in your place.  Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the pricing of menu items.

Thanks go to Sameer Vasta for the Creative Commons use of the picture