Monthly Archives: August 2014

  1. How to Choose a Meat Grinder

    How to Choose a Meat Grinder

    Yesterday, we talked about the advantages to grinding your own meat in the restaurant.  Today, we’re going to talk more about the safety of your meat grinder and choosing the best one for your purposes.

    How to Choose a Meat Grinder

    What is the difference between 12# and 22#?

    The smaller the number, the smaller the diameter of the blade/plate assembly.  The blade / plate assembly determines the number of pounds that the grinder can adequately handle within an hour.  As your number grows higher, so does your production.

    How much space do you have?

    The size of you restaurant equipment increases with the amount of firepower that you’re bringing to the table.  Make sure that you have the room to fit the meat grinder in the back of your house – else, it won’t get used at all.

    Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

    How easy is it to clean your meat grinder?  Are there special screws that you have to mess with, ones that only come with that particular brand?  Do you have to do a song and dance to get any spare bits out of the blades?  Take a look at the meat grinder’s specification sheet to see if there are any potential issues.

    Are replacement parts easy to get?

    We understand that money is tight in every kitchen.  It’s often faster to replace a few parts in the grinder than it is to simply buy a new one.  Are the replacement parts for your grinder candidates easy to get, or not?

    How much Grinding Are You Doing?

    If you’re only making a couple hundred burgers a week, you might not need the super-high-powered meat grinder that grinds meat like a jet engine.  Then again, you don’t want to grow a full beard while you’re waiting for a single pound to be done.  The spec sheets of each grinder will give you an idea of how many pounds that it can complete in an hour.

    Talk to Your Butcher

    After viewing the meat grinder selections, talk with your butcher about the ones that he or she recommends.  You might not be grinding as much as your butcher, but they can turn you on to the quality that’s available.

    Check Out Reviews

    See what other people think about their meat grinders.  There might be little quirks and bonuses which make one of them quite a lot more valuable than the other.  Finding that workhorse should be no trouble at all after you see what’s out there.

    There’s nothing that can beat grinding your own meat in the restaurant.  When you’re looking around, you want to choose the one that’s right for you.  If you have any questions about which meat grinder to choose, give us a call.  We’d be more than happy to help you out.

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  2. Benefits of Using a Meat Grinder

    Benefits of Using a Meat Grinder

    We are passionate about the food that we prepare and eat here at Restaurant Supply.  We love it when restaurants take up the farm-to-table cause and create decadent, unique bites.  We know that all of the things that you do are for the customers so you can give them the best food possible for the least amount of money.

    Many restaurants out there are content to serve pre-packaged meat, French fries, vegetables, and more to their customers.   While flash frozen is functional, the real way to elevate a restaurant’s food to its highest standard is to make it fresh.  That includes doing as much as possible in-house, like grinding meat.

    Thinking about opening a gourmet burger shop?  To command those gourmet prices a meat grinder is absolutely necessary. Why?

    Your Meat is Fresher – Fresh meat from the butcher tastes better than what you’ll find in your local supermarket.  You have control over the time that it was ground. The meat itself doesn’t have the chance to sit on the shelf for days on end which means that your diners can experience flavors that they might not have had in the past.

    Your Meat Has Fewer Contaminants – Each moment that your meat stays out on the counter, waiting to be packaged or frozen, it picks up bacteria and other contaminants.  In processing plants, the meat from thousands of animals are mixed together to create that ground round or chuck.   While many plants have quality standards,  the more animals in the mix, the more potential exposure to possibly harmful microorganisms.

    More Choice Over the Cuts – When you grind your own meat, you get the choice over what cuts that you want in the mix.  You might find that a top sirloin mixed with round might give you the best flavors.

    Want Some More Fat? – Instead of the standard that you find in the stores, you can determine the exact percentage of fat that you’re serving your customers.  When that fresh taste shines through, you know that you’re serving some of the best meat in the world.

    Make Your Own Sausage – The next step that you can take with your meat grinder is making sausage.  Take all of those odds and ends that you have in your walk in refrigerator and put them all into one place.  Remember that sausage is not limited to merely pork cuts.

    When you’re talking about making the best burgers on the planet, it’s time to get a meat grinder so you can make your own patties right in the house.  We’ll be talking a little bit more about meat grinders and their uses tomorrow.

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  3. Types of French Fries

    Types of French Fries

    Potatoes are so versatile they can be used in nearly everything from appetizers to dessert.  There are an amazing number of potato recipe variations out there, but today we’re going to talk about the French fry. Humble though it may be, the beauty of the potato shines through with these culinary creations.

    Buying your potatoes fresh and creating French fries from them will always beat getting bags of frozen French fries delivered to your doorstep. Why is it better to use fresh potatoes?

    1. Customers love fresh and handmade, and they’re willing to pay more for the feeling that someone made those fries especially for them.
    2. You have more choices in how those potatoes are cut.  This gives you the chance to create new styles of cut – ones which are unique to your business.
    3. You have a choice over what types of potatoes that you use when you choose fresh.  Are you going to go with the Yukon Gold? Sweet potato curly fries? All of that’s up to you.

    While we’ve seen a lot of fry variations, these are the five standard types of fries that you’ve seen the most in restaurants.  Just remember – even though it’s a simple concept, you can still run the gamut from down home to gourmet.

    Home Fries

    Home fries offer the best of both worlds between soft and crisp.  Start your fries off by boiling them, then drop them in the skillet when they’re half-done.

    Potato Wedges

    Potato wedges are normally seen as simple wedges of potato with their skins intact.  The challenge in deep frying these right is to get the outside at the right crispness while making sure that the inside is properly cooked.

    Shoestring Potatoes

    These potatoes are cut very thin and then deep fried until they’re crispy.  The Steak and Shake chain restaurant serves up shoestrings.

    Curly Fries

    Delicious, wonderful curly fries.  These are cut in a spiral slicer then deep fried to a golden brown.  They also tend to be heavily spiced, and can come with a phalanx of dipping sauces.

    Square Cut Fries

    These are your standard square cut fries that you’ll see in most fast food restaurants. Subtle seasoning or bold sauces are what set them apart from each other.

    For a little inspiration, here are some of USA Today’s selection of the top French fry places in the US.

    1. The Breslin Bar and Dining Room, New York City
    2. Balthazar, New York City
    3. Hot Doug’s, Chicago
    4. Blue Duck Tavern, Washington DC
    5. Bourbon Steak, Miami, FL
    6. The Spotted Pig, New York City
    7. The Original Hot Dog Shop, Pittsburgh

    So, when you’re thinking about root vegetables, it’s time to think about the potato.  Easy to grow, versatile to cook, and wonderful to eat, it’s time to think about potatoes and your next meal of French fries.

    Special thanks go out to Scott Ableman on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of his picture.

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  4. 4 Things You Can Do With Food Waste

    4 Things You Can Do With Food Waste

    I’m not going to start this blog post by boring you with the fact that there are millions of starving children all over the world.  I’m not even going to tell you that the reduction of food waste lowers the amount of methane emissions in landfills.  I’ll tell you what you want to read: reusing, reducing, and recycling kitchen food waste can save your restaurant money and boost your bottom line.

    Donate to Local Food Banks

    When you notice that food in your storage bins is about to go to waste or you’ve simply over ordered, the local food bank will be more than happy to accept your kind donation.  Packaged goods will go a long way to feed the homeless and hungry in your area.

    Composting

    When food composts, it promotes growth by creating an excellent soil.  This soil can be used in a garden of your own, or it can be sent to community gardens or recycling facilities.  Look around in your local area for those who are able to compost your food waste.  In many cases, all you have to do is set up a separate bin in your kitchen and leave it for the truck.

    Biodiesel

    In some cities, it’s mandatory that oil for your deep fryer is recycled for biodiesel.  In the majority of places that oil is often left to go to waste.  There are, however, services available to take that fryer oil off of your hands – and some will even pay you for the privilege of taking your waste to their facilities.

    Food to Animals

    When the food is not viable for human consumption, it might be usable for turning into animal feed.  Check your local area to see if there are any places which will pick up your food waste and turn it into feed.  Normally, there is no charge for picking up that food waste, and you’re helping out other people in industry. However, there are some food-to-animals recycling programs which don’t accept meat.

    Every pound of food that gets hauled away by a shelter, a recycler, or an animal food producer is a pound of food that doesn’t get thrown into the landfills.  It’s a pound of food waste that you don’t have to pay to have the garbage men take away.   Not only that, but it’s a pound of food that is helping out your community and your environment.

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  5. 6 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

    6 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

    In restaurants all over the country, food is being wasted. Restaurants waste a massive amount of food every day, for several reasons. Spoilage, unsold food, and improper preparation are the main culprits. A lot of this can be prevented. Here’s how.

    Training and apprenticeship

    We’ve been to many restaurants where the phrase ‘trial by fire’ was quite literal. However, this type of training can lead to a lot of food waste. Teaching people how to prepare food with a minimum amount of waste early in their training will keep costs down.

    Weighing and Tracking

    Weighing and tracking that food waste has been shown to significantly reduce food waste. Make a challenge among your prep staff to see how little they can waste.

    Maintenance for all restaurant equipment

    If a cooler goes bad or a fryer is too hot, you’ll lose your product. Maintaining equipment like commercial deep fryers, walk-in fridges, and ovens is key to preventing spoilage mishaps. We recommend that you have a trained professional take a look at your equipment on a regular schedule.

    Label Your Food

    Food spoilage is one of the most preventable types of food waste. How many episodes of Kitchen Nightmares have you watched where Gordon Ramsay tossed the contents of entire freezers because he didn’t know what was in them? If proper food storage techniques are used, like labeling, food waste can be reduced.

    Check your orders

    Sometimes spoilage happens because too much food gets ordered or the wrong kind of food gets ordered. Make sure that your delivery orders are correct! This is another way to save your restaurant a lot of money.  We understand that it can take a bit of time to inspect all deliveries, but catching one mistake can save you hundreds.

    Make sure that your portions are right

    Finally, you could have food waste from your customers. This is very common. Offering to-go boxes sometimes isn’t enough. Cutting down on portion sizes is a sure way to save costs throughout the restaurant. More isn’t always better!

    You can save hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars a year by reducing the amount of food waste that you have in your kitchen.  By employing some of these practices, you can not only increase your bottom line but help the planet.

    Thanks go to Nick Saltmarsh on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of his picture.

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  6. Choosing a Pizza Oven

    Choosing a Pizza Oven

    We’re getting another pizza franchise on the corner, but it would be really nice to see something locally owned and operated rule the roost.  Perhaps the thought of choosing the right oven is keeping them from making the leap? If you’re planning on building a pizza restaurant, one of the biggest investments that you’ll make (outside of choosing the restaurant location) will be the pizza oven.

    Types of pizza ovens

    Pizza Deck Ovens

    A pizza deck oven applies heat to a ceramic or stone deck that is specifically designed for cooking pizzas.  The heating elements heat the shelves, giving the pizzas an authentic flavor without the hassle of using a wood-burning stove.  Many local pizzerias use this type of oven.

    Pizza Convection Ovens

    A convection oven uses fans to evenly distribute the heat within the oven’s chamber.  A pizza convection oven’s chamber is custom made for pizzas, though other things can be cooked within the oven’s walls.  Not only is the cooking time reduced around 25%, but the cooking temperature is reduced, slightly lowering costs for your shop.

    Wood Burning Ovens

    When the wood is fired up and the oven is heated, you can make authentic pizzas all day and all night.  Many gourmet pizza chefs swear by the wood burners, though, claiming that absolutely nothing else will work. Pizza cooks really fast in a wood oven; it only takes a few minutes to create your culinary masterpiece.  However, cooking with a wood burning oven is a craft all its own.

    Conveyor Ovens

    In one side and out the other!  The conveyor oven is slower than other ovens, but it does work very well for some of the smaller pizza operations since pizzas can be queued up.  This type of oven is very versatile for any sort of flatbread toasting. We like them because we’re able to get crispier cooked toppings.

    The right pizza oven can set the tone of your new restaurant.  If you’re fond of the old-school, you might choose a wood burning oven.  Maybe you’re planning on having a large-scale delivery business where you need a multi-tiered conveyor oven. Which oven is right for you?

    Thanks go to Brett Jordan on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of his picture.

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  7. Basics of Choosing the Perfect Restaurant Location

    Basics of Choosing the Perfect Restaurant Location

    Location, location, location!  How many times have you heard this?  There’s a reason. Location can make or break a restaurant.  After developing your restaurant concept, one of the next steps is to decide where you are going to build your masterpiece.  Here are some basic suggestions for choosing a restaurant location.

    Choose a place that can be seen

    I’ve seen many restaurateurs dream about having the little place off the beaten path, but it’s incredibly hard to get business unless you have an exceptional marketing plan or prior reputation. If you’re new to the restaurant business, do yourself a favor and find a place that will allow people to see signage from the road.

    Is there enough room?

    There’s a big difference between a tiny storefront and a buffet hall.  When you walk around the space, make sure that there is enough room to put all of the restaurant equipment that you plan to get, both in the front and in the back.

    How’s the parking?

    New restaurant owners often overlook the parking situation for their potential new digs.  Do your patrons have to pay for parking? Are there enough spaces for both staff and patrons to fill the restaurant?

    Who is going to come in?

    Who is your target demographic?  Do they live around the area that you’re planning on putting your restaurant?  If you start an upscale restaurant in a beaten down strip mall, your potential diners might not visit.

    Are there restaurants like yours in the area?

    If there are other restaurants serving your type of cuisine, opening up in a different location might be necessary.  While it’s quite possible to beat out the competition, it’s usually best to go for the lower hanging fruit.

    >Is it difficult to access?

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    Do your diners have to do a U-turn to get to your restaurant?  Are there any odd things about the traffic patterns which would prevent your patrons from getting inside? If you’re difficult to reach, you’ll get fewer customers. That’s a dealbreaker.

    Costs

    Finally, look at the costs for rent and utilities. Will you be able to afford the location long enough for you to start breaking even? Keep an eye on what monthly payment that you might be signing up for.

    Finding the perfect restaurant space is not as rare as you think.  So many people have found the place where they settle for years. Take as long as you need to find the perfect spot for your future restaurant.

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  8. Why Aren't You Using a Convection Oven?

    Why Aren't You Using a Convection Oven?

    Conventional ovens have been used for ages, be it as earth ovens, masonry ovens, or the standard oven that you see in modern residential kitchens. However, in 1967 the convection oven, or fan assisted oven, was first used and it revolutionized the commercial cooking industry.

    What is a commercial convection oven?

    Traditional ovens cook unevenly.  The further away the air is from the coils, the cooler the air is.  This is why they have racks at different levels, and why there can be cool spots in the oven.

    The commercial convection oven changes that by quickly and efficiently evening out the temperatures around the food. They do this through forcing air to move around with the use of fans and additional heating elements to distribute heat.

    4 Reasons Why You Should Have a Convection Oven in Your Commercial Kitchen

    Consistent Results

    The convection oven removes the concern over which level the tray has been placed.  It evenly cooks all the food, from the bottom to the top, without any worries.

    Speed

    The heating mechanism for convection ovens makes the oven cook about 25% faster than your standard conventional oven.  Your chef can prep more, cook more, and create more with a convection oven.  Faster food means happier patrons.

    Quantity

    Because there are no worries about where to put the food on the racks, you can evenly fill all of the racks.  Where the conventional oven might fit only one tray, the convection oven could fit two, three, maybe even four trays inside.  That kind of quantity and efficiency dramatically speeds up kitchen operations.

    Lowered Energy Costs

    Not only do convection ovens cook 25% faster, but they can generally be cooked 25 degrees cooler than the traditional ovens.  A little bit of cost savings compounded over each day can make for a mighty tidy sum at the end of the month.

    Convection ovens provide many advantages over the standard conventional ovens.  While they might cost just a little bit more, that initial expense is more than made up for in its usage.  Why aren’t you using a commercial convection oven?

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  9. 5 More Customer Service Tweaks

    5 More Customer Service Tweaks

    Read the useful restaurant reviews in TripAdvisor or Yelp and you’ll probably notice that it’s the little things that help to make the reviewer’s decision on whether to return.  Last time, we talked a little bit about easy ways to improve customer service. Today, we’re going to delve a little more into how to knock those mystery shopper reviews out of the park.

    Managers of four-and-five star restaurants understand that in order to get the scores, one must create an experience. The easiest way to get stunning reviews is to pay attention to the smallest details of your customer’s experience.   Instead of thinking like the restaurant manager, think like the diner.

    Little ways you can improve the diners’ experience:

    • Make sure that your staff is appropriately dressed, and that there are no stains or wrinkles in the uniform.  Also, make sure that the servers don’t have cloying odors.   No, I’m not saying to sniff each one, but if someone is wearing a strong perfume or cologne, someone is going to complain.
    • Train your staff to be very aware of the subtle cues that a customer will give when they’re needing something from you.  Roleplay out the experience, because there are some members of your staff who learn by doing rather than being consistently told.
    • You might have diners who have special needs.  These are folks who might be in a wheelchair, elderly, or have another situation which sets them apart from the rest of the diners.  Train your staff to take extra care to make these folks feel welcomed.
    • Sometimes it’s best to let your workers decide how to help the customer.  There are a lot of times where you’re going to be busy.  Empowering the waitstaff to handle some situations will go a long way to say that you trust them. Not only that, but it will save any delays on conflict resolution. Most importantly, back up the servers with any decisions that they make. You can advise them of better ones in private, if necessary.
    • Take the time to pack leftovers into boxes and don’t let them do it themselves.  Every moment with the customers is an opportunity to shine and make them feel welcome.  The best tips are going to be received by the ones who make it look like an art form.
    • Customer perception is your reality. Never forget this. If you think and action might look bad to the diners, find another way unless you really don’t want that diner to come back.

    Remember that all of the little things that you do toward customer service add up to yield a dynamite experience for your diners, wonderful reviews, and your restaurant’s name on a ‘Best of’ list.

    Thanks go to Unique Hotels Group on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of their picture.

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  10. 3 Ways to Improve Customer Service

    3 Ways to Improve Customer Service

    Your servers won’t instantly gain the secrets to exceptional customer service just by standing next to the bakery display cases.  Your servers and wait staff need to be taught customer service just like you were taught (through trial-by-fire or coursework) how to manage. How do you do this effectively?

    Define Customer Service

    Exceptional customer service means different things to different people.  I, for example, judge a restaurant on how fast they get drink refills to my table.  Others judge customer service on how long it took to be acknowledged and seated. The class of clients you serve and your own ideas about customer service can guide you toward a customer service ethos for your restaurant.

    Here are some metrics that you can use to determine the quality of your restaurant’s customer service:

    • How long does it take to be seated?
    • How long does it take for customers to receive their checks?
    • How long does it take to refill drinks?
    • Does the wait staff smile and seem like they want their customers to be there?
    • Can the wait staff explain all of the menu items?
    • Is each meal prepared correctly?
    • How long does it take to get out tickets?
    • Is the kitchen clean?
    • Do the chefs know how to cook all of the items on the menu?

    Defining what’s important for you and your restaurant will draw attention to it in the minds of your staff. It will also give you metrics to measure your team by.

    Talk to your People

    It can take a bit for a new restaurant to gel together. Communication is of the utmost importance.  Choose a few metrics from your list of ‘what’s important’ and focus on those for a month.

    Once you’ve decided what’s important for that month, have a meeting with the front and back of your house to better communicate your ideas. Talk about issues that are hindering you from the goals.

    Set the Example

    We talked about this in a previous article, but it bears repeating.   Your staff pays attention to what you’re doing.  If they see that you’re spending a LOT of time in the office and not walking around the floor, getting drink refills, and busting butt with them then they’re going to think that you condone letting things slip through the cracks.

    It’s your responsibility to make sure that you’re providing exceptional service to your patrons.  That responsibility spans from the front of the house to the back of the house, and everywhere in between.   Every member of your team might not have that ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to customers, but it can be developed.

    Thanks go to Wally Gobetz on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the photograph.

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