Monthly archives of “February 2017

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Fat Tuesday: Laissez les Bon Temps Rouller

Three Mardi Gras Masks and Beads

Ready to party? Your customers certainly are! Get in the spirit of Mardi Gras and throw them a celebration to remember. It’s fun and it gives people a reason to celebrate at the end of a long, dark winter. So break out the beads and masks and get ready to throw down, New Orleans style!

Traditional Mardi Gras recipes are listed below. Depending on your establishment, you can set up menu items, a special prix fixe menu, or even have a party night with a fixed cover or a Mardi Gras themed happy hour. Get the word out, get some fun accessories (beads, beads, and more beads) and book a brass band to really liven things up. Just don’t wait till last minute on the band – much like fiddlers at St Patrick’s Day, bands will be in high demand for Fat Tuesday.

Beignets:

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups bread flour
1/4 cup shortening
Nonstick spray
Oil, for deep-frying
3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

Add the confectioners’ sugar to a paper or plastic bag and set aside.

Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners’ sugar. Hold bag closed and shake to coat evenly.

Jambalaya:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided by tablespoon
Cajun seasoning 10 ounces andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced 2 stalks celery, diced
Celery Bunch
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16 ounce) can crushed Italian tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon file powder
1 1/4 cups uncooked white rice 2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning. Saute sausage until browned. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil, and saute chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

In the same pot, saute onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in crushed tomatoes, and season with red pepper, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce and file powder. Stir in chicken and sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

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Seven Tasty Food Photography Tips

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Reposted from our friends at Toast – who have all your POS needs covered!

We’ve all heard it countless times; a picture’s worth a thousand words.

And with limited space for long descriptions on your menu, good restaurant food photography deserves its seat at the table. Food photography can be used for enhancing menus, improving restaurant social media accounts, advertisements, and more!

You might not need to hire a professional photographer to start capturing those mouth-watering menu offerings. Below are a few tips and tricks to photograph your food like a professional.

Tip #1: Use Natural Lighting (And Please, No Flash)
Most restaurants have windows. Most windows have an abundance of natural light. Natural light is one of the most sought after resources for a photographer, especially when it comes to food photography.

More often than not, all you need is a single source of light. Lighting that comes from the back or side usually creates the best illumination of the food while mitigating shadows and highlighting the texture of the ingredients.

Restaurant Food Photography

On a similar note, never use flash. “Flash photos of food create harsh reflections and glare as well as funny-looking fall-off — your food looks like it’s floating in space,” according to Serious Eats.

Keep your food on earth and don’t use flash.

Tip #2: Keep it Simple

The most effective food photography is often the simplest: close-up shots of the food itself to show off exactly that – the food itself. Plain backgrounds and tables are favorable over patterns. The less ingredients and congestion on the plate the better. People viewing food photography like to be able to simply identify what the food is. With the focus on the food, the outlying background shouldn’t detract from the ingredients.

Tip #3: Post Photos on Your Social Media Accounts

Restaurant Food Photography

One of the more recent trends in social media is for people to post pictures of their food. We all love to admire and salivate over the marvelous creations of chefs in restaurants. Those can come from both the consumers or the restaurants themselves.

For social media users to easily scroll through feeds of similar concepts, hashtags are the way to go. Incorporating hashtags is important if you’re trying to grow your follower base with your delicious-looking food photography. According to “A Field Guide to Instagram Food Hashtags” on First We Feast, the following are the most popular food hashtags:

#foodie (47 million images); often paired with #picoftheday
#foodporn (140 million images); often paired with #amazing and #manvsfood
#nom or #nomnom or #nomnomnom (you get the point) (20 million images); a majority of females are using this hashtag, and it is often paired with desserts such as cupcakes and ice cream

Tip #4: Add a Bit of Oil or a Spritz of Water

We know your ingredients are fresh, but that doesn’t always translate perfectly to the camera. To make your salads or vegetables look fresh and zesty, add a splash of oil or spray with water to give them a glean. The oil or water will highlight them in all the right places to show off the freshness.

Tip #5: Incorporate Simple Photography Techniques

Some of the most basic principles of photography come in handy when talking specifically about food photography. Depth of field and rule of thirds are two that come to mind first.

Depth of field refers to the range of distance that is in focus in a photograph. It is a commonly used photography technique because it draws the eyes to focus on the important area of the photograph. This technique can be used when you want to have a small focal point in the picture. For instance, if you’re baking a batch of cupcakes or muffins, this would be perfect.
restaurant food photography.

Rule of thirds is another important concept in food photography. Photos are more appealing when the subject in place not directly in the center of the photograph, but instead in one of the “thirds” of the shot.
restaurant food photography

The best part about rule of thirds is how simple it is. To start using this technique, simply divide the photograph up into three horizontal and three vertical sections. The subject (or main focus) of the photograph should be place in one of the intersections of divisions, outside of the center.

Your photos will seem much more compelling if you start employing these two food photography concepts.

Tip #6: Mix up the Angle of the Photo

Not all foods are created equal. That’s why some foods look better in certain angles and positions than others.

According to the Digital Photography School, “some dishes look great when you shoot from right in front of the food, and others are best suited when the you are looking down from directly above the table.”

For flat food, try an above shot (like for pizza). Comparatively, burgers look better from the side, so you can see all of the layers of juicy ingredients. Drinks, on the other hand, look good from 45 degree angles.

Tip #7: Make Sure Plates are Clean and Your Background is Neat

This might go without saying, but the cleanliness of the plate goes a long way in food photography. Any slight smudge or stray ingredient can detract from the main focus of the image. That’s why some of the most famous food photographers use tweezers when handling and placing food on a place.

Similarly, plain backgrounds are best used to not distract from the food. The most popular food photography backgrounds are dark backgrounds, light backgrounds, and wood. A neutral background doesn’t have to be completely plain, but it shouldn’t detract from the main subject of the photo.

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Starting Your New Restaurant: Advice to Get you going

seamless panorama of restaurant bar interior made by tilt shift lens

Thinking of starting a new restaurant?  Good for you.  You have a lot of decisions ahead.  Come to us for all the equipment you need at the best possible prices, and check out this information to get started.

Here are some best practices for you:

  • Make sure that you keep your opening costs to a minimum. If you’re new at the game, you might find that the items you believe right now aren’t actually necessary. That keeps more money in the coffers for the other things that you need to stock your restaurant with.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs into the restaurant basket, as you might not actually start making money from the place until several years into the venture. Make sure that your partner isn’t involved so you are able to eat during the ramp-up period.
  • Take some time and schedule out some planned breaks from the restaurant. The vacation will do you good – so that will keep you fresh for serving and making sure that your customers are doing well.

 

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Seven Restaurant Performance Metrics

Finance Post Digital Device Internet Wireless Searching Concept

Reprinted with permission from Toast – where you can find the best POS and management software for your restaurant.

If you’re a restaurant or foodservice business owner, there are certain metrics you need to track and evaluate over time to understand the health of your business. By regularly calculating performance metrics, restaurant owners can catch negative trends and identify areas that require improvement.

Increasing a business’s efficiency and profitability doesn’t happen overnight. There are so many moving parts involved in operating a restaurant – so many different costs and revenue channels and factors that ultimately influence net profit or loss – that you cannot simply expect to make one change and see all operations and margins improve.

Instead, operating a profitable enterprise requires constant tinkering and testing until you find the best practices for your business.

This article identifies seven key metrics restaurant owners should track regularly and how to calculate each of them.

 1) Break Even Point

Your break even point is one of the first numbers you should calculate. This number lets you pinpoint how much you must do in sales to earn back an investment. The number can then be used to forecast how long it will take to earn that money back. Break even is a must-have if you’re looking for investors or opening a new restaurant.

You can also use break even to justify a new big purchase, like a commercial kitchen redesign or launching a new marketing campaign. Saying something will cost $20,000 is one thing, but saying it will pay for itself in 3 months is a better way to put that number in perspective.

Calculating Break Even Point

If your restaurant does $10,000 in sales one month, pays $3,000 in variable costs, and $4,000 in fixed costs, your break even point in dollars is $5,714.29 for that month, meaning that you start earning profit after selling $5,714.29 worth of food & drink.

The equation for break even point is:

Total Fixed Costs ÷ ( (Total Sales – Total Variable Costs) / Total Sales) = Break Even Point

In this scenario, $10,000 - $3,000 (sales minus variable cost) equals $7,000. $7,000 / $10,000 = $7, and $4,000 (fixed costs) divided by $7 gives you $5,714.29.

2) Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

Cost of Goods Sold refers to the cost required to create each of the food and beverage items that you sell to guests. In this way, COGS is really just a representation of your restaurant’s inventory during a specific time period. In order to calculate COGS, you need to record inventory levels at the beginning and end of a given period of time, and any additional inventory purchases.

It is important to track COGS because it is typically one of the largest expenses for restaurants. By finding ways to minimize the cost, like negotiating better rates with your food distributor or selecting in-season ingredients, it’s possible to significantly increase margins. Every dollar you shave off COGS is another dollar added to the restaurant’s gross profit.

Calculating COGS

If you have $5,000 worth of inventory at the beginning of the month, you purchase another $2,000 during the month, and end the month with $4,000 worth of inventory left over, your cost of goods sold for that month is $5,000 (beginning inventory) + $2,000 (purchased inventory) – $4,000 (final inventory) = $3,000.

The equation for COGS is:

Beginning Inventory + Purchased Inventory – Final Inventory = Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

3) Overhead Rate

Fixed costs are good to know because they are straightforward. One bill, one price. But wouldn’t it be helpful to know how much those fixed costs are on an hour-by-hour or day-by-day basis? Overhead rate is a form of cost accounting that helps you understand how much it costs to run your restaurant when looking only at fixed costs.

Calculating Restaurant Overhead Rate

Let’s say your fixed costs for the month were $10,000 total. If your restaurant is open 80 hours per week in a 31-day month. Assuming you are open every day, your overhead rate would be $28.23 per hour and $322.58 per day. However, these numbers would go up if you were calculating for a shorter month, like the 28-day February, because you are allocating the same amount of money over fewer working hours. In that case, costs would go up to $31.25 and $357.14 per hour and day, respectively.

The equation for overhead rate is:

Total Indirect (Fixed) Costs / Total Amount of Hours Open = Overhead Rate

4) Prime Cost

A restaurant’s prime cost is the sum of all of its labor costs (salaried, hourly, benefits, etc.) and its COGS. Typically, a restaurants prime cost makes up about 60% of its total sales. Prime cost is an important metric because it represents the bulk of a restaurant’s controllable expenses. While you can’t control fixed rent costs on a weekly or monthly basis, for instance, you can find ways to decrease prime costs by managing labor carefully. Thus, a restaurant’s prime costs represent the primary area a restaurant owner can optimize in order to decrease costs and increase profit.

Calculating Prime Cost

Now that you know how to calculate COGS, calculating prime cost is straightforward. Add up all of your various labor-related costs. These costs include salaried labor, hourly wages, payroll tax, and benefits. Then, simply add the sum of your labor costs and your COGS to find your restaurant’s prime cost.

The equation for prime cost is:

Labor + COGS = Prime Cost

5) Food Cost Percentage

Food cost percentage represents the difference between the cost of creating a specific menu item (the cost of all of the ingredients in a dish) and the selling price of that item.

Calculating Food Cost Percentage

If it costs $3.28 to prepare your salmon dish and you sell it for $15, your food cost percentage would be 21.9%. Although it depends on the novelty aspects of your dish, your guests’ expectations, and your restaurant’s service type, typically a restaurants food cost percentage should be between 25-35%.  You can calculate your food cost percentage for all goods sold by dividing your total food costs by your total sales during a set time period. If you understand your food cost percentage for each of your menu items, you can choose to upsell or design your menu to promote the items that contribute the most to your revenue and bottom line.

The equation for food cost percentage is:

Food Cost / Total Sales = Food Cost Percentage

6) Gross Profit

Gross profit shows the profit a restaurant makes after accounting for its cost of goods sold. The resulting gross profit represents the money available to put towards paying off fixed expenses and profit. To calculate gross profit, subtract the total cost of goods sold during a specific time period from your total revenue (the total sales of food, beverages, and merchandise).

Calculating Gross Profit

If a restaurant’s total sales number for the month is $15,107 and its cost of goods sold is $5,293, the restaurant’s gross profit for the month is equal to $15,107 (total sales) – $5,293 (COGS) or $9,814.

The equation for gross profit is:

Total Sales – COGS = Gross Profit

7) Employee Turnover Rate

Turnover rate is the percentage of employees that leave or are fired that need to be replaced during a specific time period. The restaurant industry has a notoriously high employee turnover rate compared to all other industry segments. In the fast-paced foodservice environment, high employee turnover can hurt operational efficiency and require a lot of time and attention to get new hires up to speed.

How to calculate employee turnover rate:

Start by adding the total number of employees at the beginning and end of a given period of time. Then, divide the sum by 2 to find the average number of employees during the set period. Take the difference between the number of employees at the beginning and end of the set time frame and divide the number of employees who left by the average number of employees.

The equation for employee turnover rate is:

(Starting Number of Employees + Ending Number of Employees) / 2 = Average Number of Employees

Lost Employees / Average Number of Employees = Employee Turnover

If you have 10 employees at the beginning of a given month and 8 at the end the equation would look as follows:

(10 + 8) / 2 = 9

2 / 9 = .222

To calculate turnover rate, simply multiply the quotient (.222) by 100 to get the turnover percentage. So, in this example, the turnover rate is .222 * 100 or 22.2%.

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Think Outside the Burger – New Fast Casual Restaurant Concepts to Try

Falafel and fresh vegetables in pita bread on wooden table

Fast casual food is fun, easy, and done correctly – a great money maker with potential for multiple locations.  Burgers and fries have dominated the fast casual scene, along with pizza, for decades, but there’s no reason not to branch outside of these well known concepts when looking for your inspiration.  Give your customers something new to taste, and talk about – with something a little different than your average burger/fries/milkshake menu.

Falafel – a beloved staple of the Middle East, falafel is simple street food, consisting of fried chickpeas and sauce wrapped in pita.  Simple to execute and delicious, falafel is growing in popularity and would make a great anchor for a fast casual restaurant.  Add vine stuffed grape leaves, hummus platters, and gyro to your menu to round it out.

Ramen – we’ve talked about ramen before, and we will talk about ramen again.  This hot new concept – literally – is sweeping the US, and with good reason.  Ramen is almost universally liked, simple to execute, and cost effective.  Different toppings to your bowls brings your concept to life. Create a fun, quirky brand identity which honors the Japanese roots of this concept, and watch your sales skyrocket.

Poke bowls – ramen’s new, cool, Western cousin, the poke bowl is Hawaii’s answer to sushi, and has the advantage of being very health conscious as well as colorful and attractive.  As you’re dealing with raw fish, make sure you have the kitchen skills, knives, and prep space to execute this dish safely and accurately, and also advertise that they are gluten free and low fat, yet flavorful – a rare find in fast food.

Donuts and chicken – this idea won’t stand up to the health food test, but it certainly is tasty.  A twist on chickens and waffles, donuts and fried chicken is a simple, cartable, and fun restaurant menu idea.  This sort of concept may work better in a  big city where people want and look for more variety in their offerings, but as both donuts and fried chicken and liked by, again, just about everybody, chances are you’ll hit a home run with this fun combo.