Archive for March, 2011

Monkey Waiters Bring You Everything But the Food

March 31, 2011

Chalk this one up as just plain weird or bizarre. However you slice it, the Kayabuki in Utsunomiya is a really odd restaurant by all accounts. It’s a restaurant in Japan where two monkeys act as the waiters.

No, you didn’t misread that. They’ve got a pair of monkeys, male and female who will drop by and serve you things like hot towels while you’re eating.

Even creepier, the monkeys (technically, they’re chimpanzees) are actually dressed up to look like humans, complete with a Japanese face mask and clothes. The monkeys will provide regular service for a specified period of time (apparently, when they’re done, it’s time to go) and then retreat behind the bar. They don’t seem to serve the food however. Instead, they simply serve things like towels and other things.

The restaurant is not known for much beyond that however, since they happen to serve only average Japanese fare and the prices are nothing special either. From what we’ve read about it, the human waiters at the restaurant also leave quite a bit to be desired, sometimes acting surly and often ignoring customer requests.

The monkeys supposedly work for tips (there is a tip jar to provide them with a tip), though we’re not really certain what they’d do with a dollar (or a yen for that matter).

In any event, the chimps are certainly an interesting gimmick to bring people in the door, though we wonder whether or not it would work in this county. If nothing else, we wonder whether or not the board of health might come and close the place down since it was being run by a bunch of monkeys.

Still, if you’re ever in Japan and want to experience what it might be like on the Planet of the Apes, it’s an experience to try at least once.


How FourSquare Can Benefit Your Restaurant

March 24, 2011

If you haven’t heard of FourSquare yet, then you simply must go and check out their website immediately. FourSquare is a restaurateur’s dream because it turns visiting your establishment (and hopefully eating there) into a social game which is played between friends. These friends “compete” to see how many places they can claim to have eaten at (or visited in general).

It’s also a great way to offer loyalty points to your best customers so that they’ll keep coming back again and again. Here’s what you need to know:

Like Facebook for the Physical World

Facebook has become the digital meeting place for the world, with people getting together at the website to talk about their problems and to ask their friends questions about the best places to go to eat. However, it has a single flaw – it doesn’t translate well into the physical world.

Enter FourSquare instead. FourSquare is a website which is designed from the ground up to provide for a social networking experience which works in the physical world. The program is basically a mobile app designed for the iPhone or Android phones which can be used to allow a person to tell his or her friends that they are currently at a particular location.

More Than Just Where I Am Now

However, the site is much more than just “where am I now.” It’s also about who has visited the most locations and who has spent the most time in a particular location (FourSquare will declare people a “mayor” of a particular location if they spend enough time there).

How You Can Benefit

Get a FourSquare logo for your restaurant and arrange to display it prominently so that people know you participate. Then, offer a discount for those who show you that they’ve registered on FourSquare as being at your restaurant. It’s a simple and powerful way to gain lots of new customers.

A Rather Unique Valentine’s Day Gift

March 22, 2011

Valentine’s Day passed a little while ago and lots of men were giving their girlfriends things like candy or flowers. Romantic dinners were booked all over the United States and meat was not much thought of unless the romantic dinner happened to include foie gras or some other meat-based delicacy.

However, if you were in Portland, Oregon this past Valentine ’s Day, you would have seen a rather unusual site. Not only were some ladies getting something other than a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates, they were getting sung to as well.

Yes, the Singing Salamigram was a big hit this past St. Valentine’s Day. It was a bouquet of five assorted salamis (yes, salamis) delivered in a gift package (looking like a five stemmed flower arrangement) along with an original song performed by local band The Tumblers.

While certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, the bouquets of salami were apparently popular enough to do some brisk business for Olympic Provisions, the company which provided the Singing Salamigram between February 11 and 14 this year. They charged people $75 for the delivery and song or they offered to let you pick it up and deliver it all on your own for only $50.

Of course, if your girlfriend looked at the bouquet of salami in horror and threw it back in your face, well then we don’t imagine there were refunds available. Still, it’s an unusual and fascinating way to celebrate the day of lovers everywhere and we were certainly amused by the concept of a singing salamigram.

These days however, if you visit the Olympic Provisions website, you’ll have to make do with more traditional meat products, such as their premium salami, sans the bouquet. At least until next St. Valentines Day and the next round of singing salamigrams.

Japan As A Coffee Mecca?

March 17, 2011

So it turns out that, at least according to this report in the New York Times, your barista has it all wrong. The best coffee in the world is not necessarily to be had in Italy or France. Instead, Japan is a world leader in production of quality coffee products and coffee makers. Japan you ask? Yep – Japan. Here’s what you need to know:

An Alternative for Your Coffee Drinking Diners

Standard professional cappuccino makers can run you a cool $6,500. That’s quite a little bit of money for the privilege of getting a quality cup of coffee.

And while your diners may very well demand their espresso, offering them the alternative of Japanese coffee could easily create a unique offering that only you would be alone in offering (or at least, you’d probably be the first, since Japanese coffee making techniques still aren’t particularly well known in this country).

No Need for Fancy Equipment

The other thing that makes this so interesting is that you really don’t have to have lots of fancy equipment in order to make Japanese style coffee. All the equipment required can be had for around $100 for a home kit.

We imagine professional kits would cost a bit more, but given the very low cost of entry, it may be worthwhile to consider investing in this option.

Slow Brewing is Key

The key to making Japanese style coffee (and really any kind of coffee if you want to make it well) is slow brewing, something we sometimes have a problem with in our country, which is always in a hurry and on the go. However, for a fine dining restaurant, this may work perfectly for your diners.

Marketing Will be Key to Success

Of course, if you do want to try offering Japanese style coffee at your establishment, you’re going to want to do some marketing of it and label it as something exotic and new. Whatever you do, don’t tell your customers that it’s so cheap to make!

Vegans at Risk of Heart Disease?

March 15, 2011

Well this is interesting. Those running vegan restaurants may want to take note that their customers could be prone to heart disease. Yes, strange as it may seem since vegans don’t eat animal fat, a new study says that vegans have a high risk of heart disease.

Lack of Essential Vitamins

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry is hardly a surprise to anyone who lives a vegan lifestyle. According to the authors, the lack of certain essential vitamins and minerals commonly found only in fish or animal flesh is the culprit. Problems include low iron and zinc as well as a lack of vitamins B12 and Omega 3.

Low HDL, High Homocysteine

Specifically, the study, which was based on a review of dozens of published articles on the subject, concludes that vegans suffer from low levels of HDL as well as high levels of homocysteine.

HDL is of course the so called “good” cholesterol while homocysteine is a type of amino acid, high levels of which can be a risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Results Disputed

Some scientists however dispute the findings of the study, pointing out for example that the low levels of HDL are not necessarily bad if they are accompanied by low levels of LDL since the entire purpose of HDL is to carry away the bad cholesterol. Since vegans don’t tend to eat much fat, these scientists claim that high HDL levels are not necessary.

Generally Recommended to Take Supplements

The bottom line, something which some vegans reject as “unnatural” is that those following a strictly vegan diet need to take supplements in order to keep their levels of essential minerals and vitamins at the right levels.

Other options (which is where restaurateurs may come in) include serving foods with higher levels of certain essential vitamins and minerals. Seaweed, flax and nuts are all known for example to be higher in Omega 3.

European Fish May Become More Expensive

March 11, 2011

Fish from Europe could become more expensive as a new plan by the EU commissioner for fisheries may come in to effect in the next few years. The plan is to pass a law in the European parliament requiring fishermen to land their entire catch of fish, regardless of the kind of species they happen to catch.

Up to 2/3 of Fish Tossed Back

Currently, most fishermen will toss back into the water fish which are not saleable or are of the wrong species, because they are cheaper types of fish or because of the fact that they don’t have a quota for that particular species, meaning they’re technically not supposed to have any of it.

Tossed Back Dead

The problem is that the fish are tossed back dead and the oceans are trawled for more fish of the “right” species. This ultimately means that the fishermen are able to bring in the most valuable catch possible, but it also helps to deplete fish stocks faster.

Requirements to be Phased in Over a Number of Years

The new rules, which require an act of the European parliament, would be phased in over a period of a few years. So far, no such rules exist for American fisheries, however considering the European Union is the fourth largest producer of fish in the world, we could still see some significant price changes once the rules go into effect.

Ultimately Intended to Save Fish Stock

The intention of the reforms is to ensure that fish stock will still be there for future generations so that we can continue to serve Norwegian salmon for example (although Norway is not part of the European Union itself, given that they must fish in a connected ecosystem, the rules should help that country as well).

In the long term then, the expectation is that the reforms could help keep fish prices from skyrocketing further than they would have without them.

Bordeaux Region Vintners Face Global Warming

March 8, 2011

Your sommelier should probably be stocking up the wine cellar in your restaurant with plenty of Bordeaux region wine if recent predictions come true. The famed grape growing region of France is under heavy threat from global warming trends according to several experts in global warming and vintners who gathered in the area for a meeting recently.

By 2050, Merlot and Cabernet May Be Problematic

The predictions of doom and gloom suggest that by the year 2050, the region will no longer be appropriate for growing Cabernet or Merlot grapes according Jean Pascal Goutololy of the National Institute for Agricultural Research.

A Problem with the Grape Growing Process

The problem, according to Mr. Goutouly and other experts is that the region is experiencing higher temperatures and droughts during the summer. This leads to grapes that ripen too early and vines that are parched at one of the most important moments in their maturation.

Wines Will Lack Aroma and Scent, Along with Flavor

Ultimately, these difficulties mean that the wines created from these grapes will no longer have the famous aroma and scent that Bordeaux region wines are known for. It goes without saying as well that the taste of the wines will suffer in the process as well.

Clones to Be Used

One solution to the problem that some vintners in Bordeaux are considering is to take a second look at some root stock which they had set aside as inappropriate because it absorbed too much water at the wrong times. They hope to clone some of this stock and to manipulate the genes of the grape vines slightly so as to adapt to the changing climate in the area.

Israeli Expertise?

No mention has yet been made of contacting Israeli wine growers, whose stock, while much improved over the last decade or two is still not on a par with French wines. However, given that Israeli growers have managed to successfully adapt a number of varietals to what is after all a much harsher climate than Southern France, it is possible that Israeli teams could be called in for consultations if the crisis approaches more quickly than expected.

USA No Longer Fattest Nation on Earth

March 3, 2011

American restaurateurs can rejoice. We are no longer the fattest nation on earth. In spite of the First Lady’s protestations, or perhaps in part because of them, the United States has been surpassed by the Middle Eastern oil barons of Kuwait for the title of fattest industrialized nation on the planet.

In fact, not only is Kuwait the top country for the world’s fattest people, but the United Arab Emirates, home to such storied places as Dubai and Abu Dhabi is also larger than us.

Pacific Islanders Also Quite Rotund

As if that wasn’t reason enough to quit worrying about that Big Mac and extra large fries on your plate, there are also some Pacific islands with fatter populations than the United States.

They have been rapidly introduced to Western diets and as such have had less time to get used to them than we have so that their populations have grown fatter at a higher rate.

Not Really Such Good News

Of course, just because our country no longer claims the title of fattest nation on earth doesn’t mean that we don’t have an obesity problem here. A recent episode of the new scripted drama Harry’s Law in fact did an expose on the subject.

The show offered a glimpse of how fast food restaurants do seem to proliferate in poor neighborhoods, offering residents there fewer choices for healthy eating than the rest of us may enjoy.

One in Nine Obese

The numbers by the way are actually pretty scary – it turns out that one in nine people the world over are obese and the rate of obesity, especially in developed nations is still increasing at an alarming rate.

So, while we may take a small measure of pride in knowing we’re no longer the fattest nation on earth, we do have quite a ways to go and as such, we should continue to offer healthy options for our diners.

High Fiber Diet Good for Living, Study Says

March 1, 2011

Anyone running a health food restaurant or even selling lots of whole wheat bagels and bran muffins can have reason to rejoice. It turns out that not only is it healthy in the short term to eat plenty of fiber, but a new study says it can help you live longer as well.

Not Just Cardiovascular Disease

The massive study, which followed 388,000 adults aged 50 to 71 was conducted by the National Institutes of Health along with the Association of American Retired Persons (better known by their acronym, AARP).

The study followed these people for a total of nine years and found that those who ate more fiber had a 22 percent smaller chance of dying from anything (not just cardiovascular disease as might be initially assumed) than those who ate the least amounts of daily fiber.

Few Americans Get Enough Fiber

It should come as no surprise to those who run health food restaurants that most Americans simply don’t eat enough fiber with their diets. No matter how much we may try to make it sound tasty and healthy, the Big Mac always seems to be more tempting for many of our would-be customers.

Other Factors Accounted For

Lest you think by the way that those who had eaten more fiber simply led healthier lifestyles in general (a valid question), the researches specifically took all other factors into account in figuring out the results of their study.

They were able to account for everything from smoking to weight to education level and still found the same results – fiber literally saves lives.

How You Could Benefit

The best thing would be to simply include a little mention of the study somewhere in your restaurant’s advertising and how you offer plenty of high fiber options. This way, your customers can make the choice to eat healthier and (hopefully) live longer.