Monthly archives of “July 2016

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Top Products to Watch for Rancid Materials



Kitchen quality can be difficult to maintain, but operations are an important part of your business strategy.  Some big restaurant chains employ an individual whose only job function is quality control.  Your chefs are the ones ordering the food, but make sure that they are selecting quality ingredients from reliable sources.  Cutting corners can shave pennies at a time off of your food costs – which adds up in the long term for sure – but as a strategy, your food quality will suffer and so will your reputation – and your future business.  Certain products are ripe for abuse by shady suppliers, and being aware of these potentially weak links in your supply chain will allow you to let you Chef know what questions to ask the suppliers – if they are not aware.  Up your food quality by shopping locally and keeping things artisanal whenever possible, and be wary of the following ingredients:

Olive Oil: rancid oil sounds pretty gross right?  Well, a surprising amount of olive oil is rancid and defective.  The US is unfortunately known as ripe territory for less than reputable dealers looking to unload product which would not pass muster, in, say, Italy.  Make sure to taste and test your oils, particularly those used for dressings, to avoid any unsavory flavors in your dishes.

Honey: if it’s not produced (and marked) as a local product, there’s a very good chance that the honey your purchase is cut with high fructose corn syrup or other fillers which are very much not healthy (or organic).  To ensure quality, buy from a local source and mark it as local on your menu.  Your customers will appreciate the quality and you can pass on any additional cost in the menu.

Steak and hamburger: have you heard of meat glue?  Pink slime?  Look them up if you have a strong stomach.  Cheap beef is often low quality beef, and no amount of clever seasoning or expert  preparation will hide the bland and sometimes chemical taste of the fillers added to sub par products.  Hope for high quality steak cuts and grind hamburgers in house in order to ensure that your customers have a meat dish they will want to order over and over again.

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New Menu Inspiration: hot new ideas to try!

nashville hot chicken

Is it time to start thinking about revamping your menu?  As well as keeping a strong list of rotating specials, staying on trend with menu items (while staying true to your concept, of course) can help you keep your restaurant current and offer your loyal customers a new and exciting reason to come in and check you out.  But what to add?  Here are some inspirations for you:

Hot Chicken: a twist on traditional fried chicken, this Nashville staple involves fried chicken served over white bread with pickle chips.  The ‘hot’ flavor typically comes from a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper in the traditional fried chicken seasonings.  A beautiful dish to make in the summer with a side of watermelon to help your patrons beat the heat.

Tofu based entrees: this one is awfully easy.  Take virtually any of your existing meat or chicken OR fish entrees (especially those with strong seasonings) and substitute in tofu for the protein.  A lower calorie, healthier, vegetarian option like this will give your guests welcome options on your menu items.  Think buffalo tofu, for example, and have fun switching it up.

Gourmet burger: again, a simple twist on a classic.  Gourmet burgers typically involve a higher grade of beef (or kobe beef) and can have extravagant, fun toppings.  Cabernet marinated mushrooms?  Kimchi slaw?  Truffle cheese?  You decide how to spoil your guests, and offer tator tots or truffle fries OR vegetable tempura on the side as a fun alternative to ‘regular’ french fries.

Breakfast tacos: just about everyone likes tacos.  And this southwestern favorite is a great way to incorporate them into your breakfast menu.  Consider chorizo as a topping, make sure they are small, authentic, hot, and most importantly – tasty.  Offer different types of salsa on the side as an authentic condiment choice your customers will love.

S’mores for dessert: another summer favorite, take the campfire concept and move it indoors.  You can make a s’mores fondue kit for your table, a s’mores campfire latte, a s’mores skillet – s’mores gooey cake – the list goes on and on.  This well beloved childhood classic will be an easy, fun, and just a little bit quirky addition to your dessert menu.

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A Summer of Shellfish – locally sourced when possible!

oyster shucking

Chefs and owners alike can meet their guests’ demands for having fresh, healthy, and natural products. It is important to showcase that like all types of seafood, shellfish can be part of a healthy and balanced diet. Shellfish products are low in fat and typically have less than 1gm of fat per serving and very little of the fat they contain is saturated fat. Most types of shellfish (expect for shrimp) are also low in cholesterol.

When sourcing locally owners will not only assist their community’s economy but, also supply their customers with some of the freshest food available to them. Local shellfish companies such as CT Shellfish, CT Farm Fresh Express and Atlantic Seafood produce the highest-quality, freshest, and most delicious seafood the ocean has to offer. They are proud to be able serve their clients with products that will never find a drop of artificial color, pesticides, preservatives, or growth hormones. Consumers can make healthy and sustainable food choices by choosing fish that is sourced sustainably and low in mercury.

By creating menu items that are prepared by limiting or avoiding unhealthy toppings, like butter or breadcrumbs, and by choosing to steam or broil instead of frying it, shellfish can be a low-fat, low-cholesterol, heart-healthy choice.  Shellfish can also provide a rich source of protein that allows guests to enjoy a truly indulgent meal without breaking their diet.

So yes, sourcing locally may seem a bit scary, especially when thinking ahead about the product availability and consistency, but the positives surely outweigh any possible fear when sourcing shellfish through your communities’ local fisheries. Take the time to sit down with local vendors who do a wonderful job making sure that you are able to sell the freshest shellfish. Take the time to talk to your local fishermen to hear what they have to say about their catches and see how sourcing from them help them and their families.

Source Local, sell local, be a vibrant community.

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Raise prices and lose business? Or hold prices and lose profits? A restaurant owners dilemma.



Image courtesy of the Food Institute

The rising costs of food AND labor are hitting the restaurant industry hard.  And there is hard data correlating an increase in prices with a decrease in foot traffic.  Even for fast casual restaurants, where the increase can be mere pennies on the dollar, there is an immediate, marked impact of a price range.  Regulars notice and stay away, and business suffers as a result.

But what to do?  It’s impossible to keep product prices steady with the steady increasing cost of food and labor, which obviously hits the restaurant industry harder because these are the two main costs (with rent – also a rising price – a close third) of staying in business.  While its great to pay people a living wage, a $15 minimum wage will hit fast casual restaurants VERY hard – if and when that happens – owners need to be prepared.  And of course, it’s possible to cut into profits if profits are there, but at the end of the day, a lot of the cost has to be passed on to the consumers.

While most consumers, if asked, would say they would absolutely pay a little more in order to increase the quality of life of the employees of their favorite establishment, perception and reality are two very different things.  Customers vote with their feet, so be ware of a drastic price increase – and for PR reasons – NEVER publicly blame labor costs if an increase is necessary.

Another issue for restaurants is that the cost of groceries has not increased in correlation with the rising cost of wholesale goods.  Grocers have been happy to cut into their own profit margins in order to keep the cost of food relatively the same, where the cost of going out has dramatically spiked.  All this means a noticeable gap for consumers in the cost of cooking at home vs. eating out.

What to do?  Fight the cost war with perceptions of value.  Create a loyalty program for your fast casual restaurant that will encourage repeat business (more to follow on tomorrow’s blogs).  If you own a fine dining establishment, establish a restaurant week, or find out about existing ones in your city, and offer and appetizer, entree, and dessert for a low, fixed price.  This is especially effective in the slower summer months.  Promotions like these can drive price conscious consumers to your establishment while creating lasting brand loyalty for the future.

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Farm to Table Dinners

Rocket salad

With July coming to an end, the areas farmers gardens are starting to produce locally fresh products. We all know how unbelievably satisfying it is to pick your own blueberries, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchinis but, an even more enjoyable trend are the farm to table events. These events are bringing together communities through agri-tourism, local food and local chefs. Industry experts are bringing in the freshest ingredients to local restaurant’s kitchen and creating unique experiences that can be seen as one of a kind.

The farm-to-table trend is blowing up right now. This trend is able to draw in new clientele based on featured dishes and rebranding. Because, this trend is rapidly catching the eyes of consumers, it helps the aiding in food production of local food, in turn, boosting the local economy. Some of the most common practices that have developed from this trend are organic farming, sustainable agriculture and community support; all of which assist in nourishing the local towns and cities. This helps guarantees, that the food is fresh and healthy, promoting eating clean.

Farm to table dinners are traditionally events including ideas such as Harvest Dinners, Pig Roasts, Seasonal Strawberry Festivals, Corn Shucking, Oyster Festivals, Local Beer Festivals and Dinners showcasing locally sourced food and musical talent. Not only do these events appeal to those with dietary restrictions, dieters and health conscious consumers alike: it also draws in crowds who feel as if they are elite to be eating the freshest and most local cuisine, due the chic connotation that is currently associated with the farm-to–table movement.

The movement has become highly innovating with chef’s menu planning and allows local restaurants to build viable relationships with their local farms and vendors! These relationships cultivate a sense of belonging in the community and when done correctly all parties involved are able to cross promote and market themselves as being community team players. The goodwill built during these events is wonderful and free publicity that may not have been established should the event not have taken place.

So the next time you consider hosting a farm to table via your restaurant, stop considering and go! Not only will you help local business but, you will be assisting your local economy and the general welfare of the community by decreasing the amount of fuel used to move the food, which helps with environmental sustainability.

The benefits of these farm-to-table events are truly amazing and showcase the best of the best in a local community.  As the community participation rates grow farmers and restaurateurs can rest easy knowing that they are helping to shape the face of food and agriculture policies within their area. This movement betters everyone involved and hopefully the trend will not go anywhere anytime soon.