Archive for August, 2011

Want Customer-Centered Ordering without the iPad? Try eTab.

August 30, 2011

Ordering food directly from your table–as opposed to having another human being wait on you–is all the rage in certain sectors lately. So far, the concept seems to be hitting it off really well.  Bone’s Restaurant in Atlanta, for example, reports wine sales 20% above normal since iPads were put on the floor.


However, not everyone feels like they can justify an iPad at every table, including operators who could easily afford to. And a touchscreen tablet would be out of place in, say, a burger joint or the deck of a bar and grille–two of the very same places that would most benefit from electronic tabletop ordering.


A company called eTab ( has developed one solution: a smaller touchscreen ordering device that also has a credit card swiper on it. But what need does this type of device fill among customers?


Why do People Like Ordering their Meals from Touchscreens?


People like ordering devices because it puts them in control of their dining experience. They never feel pressured by servers to order–or pay–and they can order whatever they like, whenever they like. Touchscreen ordering also makes it easy for guests to give custom instructions to the kitchen.


It’s also easier to split the check up this way, as on-table ordering makes it easy for everyone to print up their ticket, and even pay, right at the table. And did we mention it puts guests in the driver’s seat?


How Does the eTab Work?


The device has a big-enough screen and is fully integratable into most POS

systems. You can take the menu from your POS and load it right onto the eTab device.


Even better, the eTab device also shows pictures of your food on its display screen. The screen works just like a smartphone, and is only slightly bigger, so that it’s easy-to-use and also doesn’t take up valuable table space.


Another great thing is that, since the eTab isn’t a flashy device like the iPad, operators don’t have to worry about the novelty wearing off nearly as much. eTab touchscreen menus are a great addition to any restaurant, but won’t take away from its primary focus.

Affluent Customers are Eating Out Again

August 25, 2011

Affluent restaurant guests are re-orienting their heads–and their pocketbooks–so that

you would almost think we’re coming out of the recession!


Affluent Americans–defined by one source as households with $100k/year annual income, and by another source as households with $100k/year disposable income–are eating at home four times a week.  That’s twice as often as they ate in, pre-recession.


Of course, this news is not without a qualifier. The affluent population’s habits have changed.  They haven’t just gotten smarter about making great deals and saving money, they’ve also sharpened their ideas about what they want for their money. What does this mean for restaurants that cater to the affluent crowd?


Comfort is More Important than Sophistication.


The economy has been through enough stress for everyone, and your affluent patrons don’t want more stress when they come to your restaurant. One thing you can do to better serve this demographic is to simplify your menu or menu options.


This may mean a shortened menu–but it doesn’t have to.  Having recommendations is great. Also, having a chef’s pick of the day, or a wine of the day, is another great idea. This will help make their choices easy and will keep them coming back for a relaxed, non-stressful time.


Your waiters can also contribute to this atmosphere by being relaxed and laid-back themselves.  And make sure they don’t rush your tables off!


The Affluent Crowd Still Demands Good Service


This doesn’t just mean that your waiters have to be nice and polite.  While they of course do, this isn’t what separates good service from great service.


Make sure every single one of your servers knows your menu forwards and backwards. Your guests should be able to ask their server anything about the food and drink you serve, and get an intelligent answer that makes it easy for them to come to a decision and order what you’ve got!




Nation’s Restaurant News Announces Upcoming Event – Menu Trends & Directions

August 23, 2011

Menu Trends & Direction will be held September 27-28, 2011. If you are involved in menu planning, development, or promotion, this event offers the education and networking that restaurateurs want to keep up with culinary trends and menu planning.


The event is open to foodservice operators only. You must be a direct employee of a restaurant. If you are a consultant, marketer, manufacturer, or advertising agency, you will not be allowed on site. Official registration will be confirmed by NRN.


This year’s event will be held at Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. The resort has over 400,000 square feet in meeting and exhibition space and over 4 acres of indoor gardens, dining, and shopping. For six years in a row, it has received the AAA Four Diamond Award.


Some of this year’s speakers include:


  •  VP of Food for Panera Breads, Dan Kish
  • President of Culinary Development at the Cheesecake Factory, Bob Okura
  • Vanderbilt University’s Director of Dining, Camp Howard
  • Executive Editor of NRN, Sarah Lockyer


The meeting will include interactive round table discussions, brainstorming sessions, and presentations on the current state of the economy and the effect of commodities pertaining to the foodservice industry.


If you work in the foodservice industry as a manager or executive, you are probably aware of the gravity of respect that is given to NRN. NRN acts as the main resource for trends, information, and news in the foodservice and restaurant industry. Housing over 19 full-time editors, the staff includes CIA graduates, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, food columnist and former restaurant and hotel executives.


If you are considering attending this event, it is a great opportunity to network in the foodservice industry and to learn about current trends in menu planning whether you work in fast food, casual dining, or fine dining. Registration is $350 and will be confirmed by NRN with a letter of acceptance.





Trends to Watch and the Top 5 2011 Hot Concepts! Award Winners

August 18, 2011

Every year, Nations’ Restaurant News selects five of the hottest trendsetters in America as recipients of the Hot Concepts! Award. This year focused on recognizing companies that have made great strides in spite of a down economy and inspired strength and creativity. Winners of the 2011 Hot Concepts! Included Mixt Greens, Twisted Root Burger Company, FöD, True Food Kitchens and Crave.

The celebration for the honorees will take place on September 25-27 in Grapevine, Texas as a part of the 52nd Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators.  Let’s take a brief look at what the editors of NRN deemed the most innovative and strong new concepts in the restaurant industry today.


FöD was established in 2010 by Sodexo. This high-tech dining experience is housed on six college campuses. Each campus can customize a healthy menu to their liking. The patrons order from a touch-screen booth and are notified when their food is ready by pager or their smartphone.

Twisted Root Burger Company

This Dallas-based company claims that a bad economy has actually helped them flourish as high-end dining establishments are abandoned for Twisted Root’s burgers with flair. They now have six locations and plan to add 2-3 every year. Each store generates at least $2m a year.


Crave features American seasonal cuisine, sushi, and a great wine list. Set for the seventh location to debut in October, the company projects $38m in sales this year and over $60m in 2012!

Mixt Greens

With nine locations in SanFran, LA, DC, and NY (and international operations in the plans) this buffet-style restaurant supports high-quality, locally grown food and healthy options.

True Food Kitchen

This company is based in Scotsdale and reports $24m in sales after opening less than four years ago. The restaurant offers high quality, organic foods that are locally grown with wild-caught fish, all-natural beef, free-range chicken and global cuisine.




What Does the Price of Pork in China have to do with the American Restaurant Industry?

August 16, 2011

Prices of pork have been driven up to an all-time high. On August 3rd, the average price of a single hog reached $108.31—the highest reported prices since 1996. Compared to an average price of $75.01 in January, this was a hugely unanticipated jump in price for this commodity.

Why Such a Huge Rise in the Price of Pork this Summer?

Two factors are affecting this price. One has to do with the huge heat wave that has ravaged the Midwest. The average hog is reporting a decrease in weight of 2.3% or about 6 lbs from this time last year. In general, hogs don’t do well in extreme heat. So a major source of supply is down and even if the higher-than-normal temperatures break, the average weight of a hog going to slaughter still won’t bounce back for at least another couple of weeks.

The second factor revolves around demand. China’s pork supply is dwindling and causing a massive inflation in their economy. It’s rumored that China has been supplementing their pork supply with US stock and driving up the prices. An estimate of 250,000 metric tons in purchase for delivey to China from January-August (about 5% of the supply) is rumored to have driven up the price of pork in our nation.

What Does This Mean for American Restaurants?

One other factor, which isn’t as huge as these other two—but doesn’t help, is that the BLT sees a gain in popularity every year at this time as home grown tomatoes come to fruition and pork belly prices go on the rise.

With the future prediction of food inflation standing at 3-4%, restaurants are left with little choice but to tighten their budgets, outsource pricing consultants and raise prices – a task that is easier said than done with the restaurant bouncing along the bottom of a recession.



Instilling Employee Loyalty

August 11, 2011

Restaurants know, or should know, that customer loyalty is key.  But how many restaurants really care about employee loyalty?  Do restaurants understand the value of an employee who has been with them 10+ years, or do they assume that employees should just be happy with the job?


Forty-one percent of customers remain with a brand because of the employee interactions they have, while 68% of them leave because of it.  Clearly, if a restaurant has a good employee, it is important to keep them on.    So how does a restaurant start to take care of their employees?


What a restaurant’s employees want may differ even within the same company.  So it is important that management get in there and talk to their employees.


Find out what they want.  Find out what their concerns are and find a way to cater to them in a meaningful way that benefits both the employee and the restaurant.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a “thank you” or some recognition, but it can take other, more extravagant forms.


For instance, Mercy Wine Bar in Dallas, TX has sent employees out on an all expense paid trip to the Wine and Food Classic in Aspen.  That not only allowed the employees to take a trip of a lifetime, but also imparted knowledge to them that they can use to create a customer experience.


Other restaurants have had tuition reimbursement or seminars for helping employees buy homes or helping with other important aspects of their lives.  The possibilities are almost endless, but first management needs to find out what the employees want.


Just like a restaurant needs to give customers a reason to come back, they also need to give employees a reason to stay.  Show that the company values the employee and what they do.  That will help instill employee loyalty.


The Trouble with Poultry

August 9, 2011

Poultry can be a hotbed of microbial activity.  With the rise of ground poultry on the table – such as in turkey burgers – it is important that those who prepare poultry be certain that it is stored and cooked properly.


It is also important that the processors take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the meat.


There is a particular issue with ground poultry.  While whole poultry may have some pathogens on a particular section of the meat, grinding it disperses the pathogens throughout the whole product.


When a restaurant, consumer, or processor chooses to grind poultry meat, important steps must be taken.  The meat should be kept cold throughout the entire grinding process.


The process of grinding meat causes friction which could raise the temperature of the batch.  Bacteria tend to grow rapidly at temperatures above 41 F, the beginning of the infamous “danger zone.”  While grinding, the temperature should remain below the zone.


It is also important to use quality meat when grinding.  Because the grinding process distributes pathogens throughout the whole lot, it would make sense to start with meat that has as little pathogens as possible.  Thus, it is important to ensure the poultry being ground is as above board as possible.


It should also go without saying that the equipment used needs to be cleaned properly.  This not only includes the grinding equipment, but also any other equipment used in the formation of ground meat products . . . patty makers, for instance.


It doesn’t take a drastic change in measures to ensure meat is safe.  A sound and clean kitchen using quality ingredients and sound safety practices is one of the best ways to keep food borne illnesses at bay, even those that can come from poultry.


Ozone Sanitation in the Meat Processing Industry

August 4, 2011

Ozone is a form of oxygen which is created in nature when ultraviolet rays from the sun or lightening split an oxygen molecule (O2) into single oxygen atoms (O).  These atoms then combine with un-split oxygen molecules to form an ozone molecule (O3).


This ozone is highly reactive and does not last long.  Its reactive property allows it to be used in the meat processing industry as an effective sanitizer.  Since it is so unstable and readily dissipates into oxygen, ozone generally has to be made on site by passing an electrical current through oxygen.


Many of us know how chlorine can sanitize a surface, but ozone is much more effective than chlorine and destroys a myriad of pathogens.  It can not only kill viruses and bacteria, but also fungi, spores, parasites, and protozoa as well.  It can also be used to treat wastewater before it is discharged from the facility.


In addition, it quickly disperses leaving no residue on food or surfaces.  This allows it to be classified as an environmentally friendly sanitizer.  However, ozone does have its limitations.


Ozone will react with organic substances such as lipids and proteins.  This means that equipment surfaces should be cleaned of organic material before being treated with ozone so that the substance can do it sanitizing work effectively.


While effective on surfaces such as meat processing equipment, knives, and the smooth surfaces of vegetables, ozone will react with the surface of meat, meaning more of it is necessary to reduce pathogens.   In addition, some concentrations of ozone can change some properties of meat.


Ozone has a vast potential to sanitize equipment and even some foodstuffs.  But it does have its limitations.  Regardless of how surfaces are sanitized, the important thing is that the area used to process meat and other foods are clean and as free from pathogens as possible.


Safety in Knives

August 2, 2011

The knife is one of the most basic tools for chefs and for those in the meat processing industry.  The knife, though basic, is one of the most important tools for anyone wanting to process meat.


Though the basic design of the knife has changed little, there are advances being made.  Some of today’s knives are designed to be less strenuous on the operator and are designed to help lower the risk of injury.  Of course, one of the best ways to prevent knife injury is simple: keep the knife sharp.


Sharp knives are less likely to slip and cut a finger.  In addition, a person uses more pressure when using a dull knife than when he is using a sharp one and that can result in injury.  In addition, a sharp knife allows a person to break down a carcass faster, allowing for greater yields in the meat processing industry.


While cutting a person’s finger or a neighbor is a very real danger when using knives, there are other injuries to consider, particularly in the meat processing industry.  The repetitive slicing or other knife motions could cause musculoskeletal disorders or cumulative trauma disorders.  These are issues that could result in serious costs in worker’s compensation claims and days lost at work.  The solution may rest in ergonomically designed knives.


Ergonomically designed knives are knives that are designed to relieve stress on their users.  This can include handles with grips for fingers or knives that are designed for a particular motion.


Some knives are also doing their part in promoting food safety.  For example, knife handles can have metal ions in them or can be coated with Microban, both of which help to prevent cross-contamination.


Whether in the meat processing industry or in the kitchen, a proper knife is key.  Keep it sharp, keep it clean, and use the right one for the job.  Take care of your knives, and they will take care of you.