Archive for April, 2011

Social Coupons Sites Descend on Restaurant Owners

April 29, 2011

We’ve written in this space in the past about the idea of giving out coupons in order to attract new clientele. However, what has been happening since then is that every guy and his brother has been busy opening up new social coupons sites, ala Groupon, and they are all pitching their sites to restaurant owners eager for new business. In fact, it’s now not at all unusual for restaurant owners to be assailed for business by dozens of these wannabe Groupon clones, each one of which has its own little twist and explanation as to why their deal really will bring in new business and not just a bunch of freebie seekers.

Separating the Real Deal from the Fakers

Look, we’re all for innovation and competition; however, the fact is that most of these places are tiny and bound to fail. The reality is that when thousands of sites are all competing to build a business in the exact same space, you simply cannot accommodate them all and frankly, you shouldn’t do so either. Therefore, we’ve put together a simple guide to help restaurant owners separate the fact from the fiction and choose which services are the best ones to work with:

Check for Local Bonafides

Unless you are dealing with a nationally known place like Groupon, Living Social or, the odds are good that all the little wannabes won’t bring you any extra business. Therefore, we recommend that you look first and foremost for a local social coupons site. This will ensure that you are targeting customers who will be in town for the long term as opposed to tourists simply looking for a bargain.

Look for Your Niche

The other thing that’s helpful to check on is the niche. Running a kosher restaurant? Then you obviously want to advertise with a place that caters to kosher consumers. How about a vegan restaurant? Yeah, there are social couponing sites for those as well.

Check on Rank

Finally, before you sign on with any social couponing site, it’s useful to check if they have any bonafides to show for themselves as far as reaching out to consumers. You can do this by visiting Alexa and checking their ranking there (just enter the URL of the company). Another useful tool for this is SEOQuake, which is a free add on for Firefox. What you should look at there is the PR number and the number of links a site has. If the PR is N/A or 0 then it’s a brand new site which may not have any backing. The number of links is also a good indicator of whether the place will actually be able to reach out to customers or not (few links means that they are not going to be noticed in Google and you’re not going to get new customers).

Monsanto Sued Preemptively Over Genetically Engineered Seeds

April 27, 2011

A little known side of the food industry involves a giant company, Monsanto, and genetically modified soy, corn and other products. In essence, what Monsanto has done is to create pest-resistant genetically modified seeds for farmers to grow vegetables without the need to worry about insects infesting their crops, thus costing them money.

There’s just one wrinkle in the plan, well two really. The primary issue is that seeds are part of nature and they tend to blow around and get mixed up with other seeds. However, when those seeds happen to be genetically modified, patented seeds, the seeds then make corn and other products grown by farmers who don’t buy Monsanto seeds as a matter of course, patent infringers. Monsanto has been quite aggressive about pursuing their intellectual rights, suing farmers who accidentally used their patented seeds.

The other issue, which is actually not as important for the purposes of this story, though it’s still important in general, is that the spread of Monsanto’s seeds means that older, organic seeds are starting to go extinct since they are simply not getting used anymore. This is actually one of the many reasons that a seed repository has been established to protect seeds so that they won’t go completely extinct.

Now, however, a group of organic farmers is in the process of striking back, suing Monsanto in a pre-emptive strike to get them to guarantee that if their seeds are accidentally crossed with Monsanto’s they will be immune from prosecution. This is important as hundreds of farmers have been sued successfully by the company, many of them losing their life savings to their demands. The lawsuit is being pursued with the help of a non-profit organization, The Public Patent Foundation. The organization has promised to try to protect the rights of the farmers in question while getting Monsanto to back down.

Berries are Berry Healthy for You Study Shows

April 21, 2011

It turns out that anyone running a juice bar has another bit of advertising they can offer to their potential customers. It seems that antioxidants and in particular, the flavonoids found in berries help to protect against Parkinson’s Disease. So says a new study from the Harvard Medical School.

Also Found in Other Foods

Flavanoids are of course not only found in berries, though there are good reasons to want to get them from berries (more on that in a moment). The powerful antioxidants are also to be found in things like apples and citrus fruits and in chocolate.

Believe it or not, chocolate is actually quite healthy for you – it’s the sugar and the milk which get added into the chocolate to give it a sweet taste which makes it a less than ideal choice for getting enough flavanoids).

All Flavanoids Not Created Equal

As if this wasn’t confusing enough, it turns out that there’s a reason that the researchers focused on berries. While a number foods do indeed contain the disease fighting antioxidants, it turns out that only a particular type, known as anthocyanins, which are found in red and purple fruits (such as berries) provide the specific protection against Parkinsons (although flavanoids from other sources are quite healthy as well).

Significant Factor for Men From All Flavanoids

The researchers also found that the addition of any kind of flavanoids provided extra protection to men, though women only benefited from the more specific anthocyanins found in berries and other darker colored types of fruits.

49,000 Men and 80,000 Women Studied

The study looked at a rather large sampling group, checking on the berry eating habits of 49,000 men (from the Health Professionals Study) and 80,000 women (who were part of the Nurse’s Health Study), providing a significant look at the potential benefits which berries may offer to your customers.

Don Shula Launches New Restaurant Chain

April 19, 2011

The Miami Dolphins may no longer have the winnigest coach in the history of the National Football League to help them make the superbowl next year (actually, they haven’t had Don Shula for quite some time, but that’s beside the point).

However, Miami is getting to play host to Mr. Shula once again. That is, they get to play host to his new chain of restaurants, Shula Burger.

Mr. Shula, who grew to fame for leading his Dolphins to championship games back in the 1970s and 1980s, is now hoping to cash in on his famous name by pushing a build-your-own-burger burger chain.

The idea is that instead of a fast food experience like one might have when you go to McDonalds, you’ll get to choose right there which veggies go into the hamburger before it ever hits a bun.

The restaurant is also expected to feature other common casual dining fare such as chicken sandwiches and of course an assortment of salads and a veggie burger for those who do not eat meat but want to get some charbroiled goodness into their systems.

The company has heavy expansion plans for Florida, where they hope to expand quickly to a total of 100 locations over the next five years, including a number of franchisees of the company.

Mr. Shula reported that he had been working on the concept for the past two years and that he was now ready to launch in his home state in a big way.

The restaurant already features 32 branches and hopes to expand rapidly to fill the additional markets with the Shula Burger brand name and the coach’s mug shot plastered on the walls of the restaurants all over the country. Whether he will have the winnigest hamburger in the nation however remains to be seen.


Mediterranean Food All the Rage With College Set

April 14, 2011

One study recently conducted in New York reports that children, especially teenagers, don’t seem to much care about the amount of calories they are shoveling into their systems. But another study recently conducted amongst college students does report that when those teenagers head off to college, they are looking for more heart healthy choices, such as Mediterranean food, which tends to be lower in artery clogging trans fat and high in fiber.

Sodexo Studies Eating Trends on Campus

Sodexo, Inc. a food services company which works on a number of college campuses nationwide reported that so far in 2011, the most popular fare for students has been a range of Mediterranean inspired foods which they have offered in various school cafeterias.

Food such as chicken souvlaki, kabobs, spanikopita (a kind of spinach pie which originated in Greece) and cous cous were all the rage amongst the late teen, early 20s set.

650 Colleges Can’t All Be Wrong

The company provides food services to some 650 colleges across the country, so this is definitely not just a local phenomenon, but rather one which seems to be sweeping the country, bringing in more and more college students with each iteration.

Chefs from Spain and Italy to Be Brought In

Capitalizing on the intense interest in Mediterranean fare, the company has reported plans to begin bringing in Spanish and Italian chefs to provide tasty meals to students at the various colleges.

Of course, off campus restaurants can also take advantage of the Mediterranean craze, both by offering such foods on their own menus and by offering alternatives for the inevitable naysayers who will want to eat anything but the Mediterranean food their friends seem to have decided is the most popular food around.

iPhone Apps Being Tested

In other news, the company also reports plans to begin using some iPhone apps to get more kids purchasing food from school cafeterias by offering them the opportunity to send in their order in advance and to pick it up, ready to go when they arrive at the eating establishment.

Calorie Counts on Menus Not the Hoped for Panacea

April 5, 2011

Well it turns out that Americans are choosing to get fat in droves, in spite of the fact that we have plenty of information to tell us how bad certain foods are for us. That’s the result of a survey that was conducted recently at New York University and published in the International Journal of Obesity.

400 Parents and Teenagers Questioned

The study asked 400 parents and teenagers about their food choices in New York City. New York City became the very first city in the country to require calorie counts be listed on menus in restaurants across the city back in July, 2008.

The results were quite startling to say the least. One would have expected that some impact would have been seen on the eating choices of the parents and teenagers and yet the results showed almost exactly the opposite.

9% of Teenagers Changed Eating Habits

The good news is that more than half of all teenagers surveyed for the study did happen to notice the calorie counts at major fast food restaurants such as KFC, McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger King.

In fact, 57% reported that they took note of the amount of calories they were eating before they placed an order for their Happy Meals, Big Macs and buckets of chicken.

However, in results which were extremely disappointing to researches, who had predicted that the new menu requirements would help to fight what has become a very significant obesity epidemic in this country (according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully 2/3 of adult Americans and 15 percent of children are either overweight or obese).

However, almost none of the children seemed to care. Just 9% of the teenagers questioned reported having made different choices based on the calorie counts mentioned on the menus.

Researchers Still Unsure

In spite of the disappointing results of the survey, researchers say it’s still too early to tell if the nationwide roll –out of required calorie counts, recently mandated by congress, will be as ineffective as they have been so far in New York City.