Monthly Archives: December 2014

  1. Color Coding Your Cutting Boards Can Save $$

    Color Coding Your Cutting Boards Can Save $$

    It’s important to get the best fresh food possible, but the preparation of that food is also important.  Before you put it into the water, heat it in the convection oven, or fry it on the commercial range, you’ve got to cut it down. But before the paring knife, you’ve got to take out the cutting board and make sure that it is clean.

    You know about cross-contamination that can occur when you’re preparing your food. One of the ways to avoid this is to have a colored cutting board system at your disposal.  This is a basic way that you can keep foods from touching one another.

    Cutting boards aren’t just the giant hunks of wood that they used to be – they come in a variety of colors, shapes, and styles. The Winco 15x20 Color Coded Plastic Cutting Board Set has five colors: brown, yellow, green, red, and blue.  These colors are easily separated out for your convenience.

    Brown: Seafood

    Yellow: Poultry

    Green: Fruits and veggies

    Red; Meat

    Blue: Cooked foods

    By choosing a different cutting board for each type of food, you’re not only preventing cross-contamination, but you’re presenting a little color in the kitchen.  When you’re cutting, make sure that it’s not on a board that has been too scarred – else the potential for bacteria is higher.

    Take a look at your boards. Are they in good condition? If not, consider picking up a set of Winco boards today from Restaurant Supply.

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  2. How to Develop a Killer Menu - Part 3

    How to Develop a Killer Menu - Part 3

    Once you’ve established what type of restaurant that you are and the prices of the items on your menu, it’s time to take the plunge and design your menu for maximum profitability.

    Make Your Menu Match Your Restaurant

    People will associate the type of restaurant that you are with the menu that you have, so if you have a fine dining establishment, people would be thrown off by having handwritten menus on cheap paper.  Conversely, they would be thrown off by seeing a burger place with fine-dining menu holders.

    Names and Descriptions Should Be Appetizing

    You actually have some leeway here.  If you’re one of those establishments who likes to be experimental, you can make unappealing descriptions to see what the customers should say.  If you’re at a loss as to how to write these descriptions, hire a menu consultant – they usually have writers on staff.

    Don’t be Afraid of Pictures

    Pictures are great, though don’t overdo them.  You shouldn’t have more than around three pictures per section, else it gets incredibly crowded.  Hire a professional food photographer to make them look good, rather than just taking pictures of your dishes under the food warmers.

    Take the Desserts and Drinks Away

    The desserts and drinks should be on separate menus from the main menu.  Here at Restaurant Supply, we’ve seen many restaurants group the alcoholic drinks, the chocolate decadence, and the handcrafted sodas all in one place.  Bringing out the dessert menu, or leaving it in acrylics on the table get people thinking about your tasty desserts for the entirety of the meal.

    Bring Your Restaurant to the Table

    The menu that you have should be the embodiment of your restaurant.  Its playfulness, its panache, its seriousness, and its passion should be seen through all of it.  You wouldn’t have gotten into the restaurant business if you didn’t have at least some love of food, right?

    This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you can do for designing your menu.  The best thing that you can do for yourself is to get some things out on the page and then alter it when you see how things sell.

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  3. How to Develop a Killer Menu - Part 2

    How to Develop a Killer Menu - Part 2

    We talked yesterday about how to determine the types of items that should be on your menu.  Today, we’re going to look a little more closely at how to price your menu and make the items competitive with the restaurants around you.

    Pricing Your Menu

    If the perceived value is less than the price that you’re charging, then you’re probably not going to get many takers.  On the other hand, if you’ve got a good deal, the item might fly out of the kitchen.

    Before you can price, you have to know how much the item costs:

    • How much do the ingredients cost?

    How many ounces of Wagyu beef are in that filet?  What are you planning on using as garnish for the food that you’ve got?  The cost of the ingredients plays a big part in the cost of the dish, but they’re not the only things to take into consideration.

    • Do you need any special equipment to make the dish?

    There are some dishes which just demand certain types of equipment.  If you’re making flash chilled pastries, for example, you probably want to have a blast chiller on hand.  If you’re offering spaghetti, would it be easier to have a dedicated pasta cooker to free up some of your stove space?

    • How much does it cost to run your restaurant?

    How much are you paying for your location and your servers?  How about the utilities that you’ve got?

    • How much is the competition charging for the same items?

    There are SO many factors which set your restaurant apart from the rest of them that this might not be a consideration. However, there are always going to be a few things that overlap somewhere.  If, though, you’re looking at your kid’s portion of the menu and have fries, how does it compare to the guys down the street?

    • What is your restaurant concept?

    The pricing that you’ve got for your restaurant in many ways reflects your restaurant’s image.  If you are a formal dining establishment with classic food, you’re expected to have prices that range on the high end.  If you’re presenting yourself as fast casual, you’re expected to charge a little bit less for the same types of items.

    After you’ve gotten an idea about how much the potential menu items cost, it’s time to get around to actually pricing the items on your menu.  If you’ve chosen appropriate menu covers, changing the prices on them should be as easy as making another printout rather than taking them to the printer.  The point here is that as you evaluate the menu items for salability, it should be an easy matter to change the prices.

    What are some methods used to price items?

    • Find the true cost of making the item and multiply by 3

    This is the simple method of pricing your menu.  Pick a number that looks good that’s about three times the cost of the menu item.  If it sounds reasonable to you, it’s worth giving a shot, right?

    • Look at your competitor’s pricing and reduce it slightly

    The deal seekers will be attracted to you, and hopefully you can wow them into picking up some of the more profitable items on your menu.  This is a tricky game to play, and it should only be a pricing method if you’re sure that you’re offering the same types of items.

    • Hiring consultants / asking friends in the business

    If you’ve been in the restaurant business for any length of time, there’s a high likelihood that you’ve got friends already in the business who have priced menus.  There’s nothing written in the rules against asking them what they would pay for certain dishes.  In the process, you might find that there are other items that you can put on it, too!

    Be aware of what people are willing to pay.  Sometimes, the customers just aren’t going to follow you where you’re leading them.  Remember that they want the value for their money, and if they’re not receiving it, they’re not going to purchase the item.  In other words, there comes a point where the customers don’t care if the potatoes for those $10 French fries were sourced from this one farm in Idaho.  They’re still $10 French fries and they might taste the same to them.

    Pricing the menu doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult.  There are certain techniques that you can use to easily and effectively price those menu items.  On Monday, we’re going to delve a little more into pricing menu items as well as talk about designing your menu to accentuate your most profitable items.

    Thanks go to Daniel Kulinski on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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  4. How to Develop a Killer Menu - Part 1

    How to Develop a Killer Menu - Part 1

    The menu is everything to your restaurant, the reason that you got into business in the first place. Developing your menu can be a tough proposition.  You don’t want the ingredients to be too expensive, but you also want to provide the best quality that you can for the money that you do spend.

    Everything about your menu influences the restaurant.  If you love to cook with wine, you’ll need to have that wine on hand.  If you are a burger joint, then you probably want to have ground beef around.

    Determine the cuisine

    You have an amazing choice of cuisines available to you.  The key to success on this is to go with the cuisine that you’re passionate about and can cook well.  French?  Not a problem.  Down home Southern?  Bring on the barbeque!

    If you’ve not opened the restaurant yet, you have the choice about how you want to handle this question.  If you’re serving fast casual, you want to have items on the menu which you can quickly serve.  If you’re serving formal cuisine, you probably don’t want to whip out the mac and cheese.

    How will you serve it?

    • A la carte – Everything that’s on the menu is separate.  You pay a set price for each item that’s on the menu, with no combinations.  This is compared to the table d’hote menu, which consists of groups of items that have a fixed price.
    • Mixed menu – The mixed menu is a mixture of a la carte and table d’hote items.  So, you might have the corned beef hash and eggs combo right next to two eggs scrambled.  This is the way that most restaurants do it, to give the impression of value to their customers.
    • Buffet – The customers receive no choice in what’s served, they merely have a number of items from which to choose.  The buffet style is great for those chefs who like to cook a little bit of everything.

    Static menu or rotation?

    Will you stay static and serve the same thing every day, or will your menu cycle seasonally, daily, or monthly.  We’ve got one ‘down home’ restaurant here which has several staples, but they rotate out some of the entrees for variety.

    Who are you cooking for?

    This depends on where your restaurant is located.  If you’re catering to the geriatric set, you might want to stick with traditional high-quality items.  If you’re looking at college students, then you’re free to get pretty crazy and try out combinations.

    How complicated is the item to make?

    If the item takes 37 steps and a blessing from the Pope, chances are you don’t want it on the menu.  On the other hand, if you’re looking at something that is relatively easy to make and makes your restaurant look good, that’s a whole other story.

    The answers to all of these questions determine what your menu will look like to your customers.  It also determines the types of restaurant equipment that you’ll need in your place.  Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the pricing of menu items.

    Thanks go to Sameer Vasta for the Creative Commons use of the picture

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  5. 5 Quick and Easy Water Saving Strategies For Your Restaurant

    5 Quick and Easy Water Saving Strategies For Your Restaurant

    The average restaurant uses 5,800 gallons of water per day. As a comparison, the average individual uses between 75 and 100 gallons of water per day.  That’s a whole lot of water!

    Where does all the water go?

    Kitchen           50%

    Domestic          35%

    Irrigation        2%

    Cleaning          1%

    Other             12%

    What are some water saving strategies that we can use?

    • Reuse water where possible

    Water from the steamers, the 3-compartment dishwashing sink, and other areas can be reused to make the most efficient use of the water.  Train your employees to take control of their own water usage.

    A rethermalizer uses warm water to reheat bagged frozen items. Since the water is being reused in a closed system, it’s already far more water-efficient than running water over the frozen chicken or turkey.  Another advantage is that the rethermalizer heats evenly – unlike setting it under the faucet.

    The Energy Star system was implemented to save both energy and money for anyone needing an appliance.  In fact, the standards are usually so high for the Energy Star program that restaurants who switch over to equipment with the Energy Star label have saved hundreds of dollars per year.

    • Fix all leaks when you find them

    When you find a water leak, get it fixed as soon as possible.  Check out the water lines going to the bathrooms as well, just to make sure.  A ‘little’ water leak can trickle out hundreds, even thousands of gallons, and all of them end up on your water bill.

    • Look into Low-Flow Toilets

    If you’ve got an older restaurant with older toilets, you might be looking at up to 7 gallons of water per flush.  This is compared to some of the more efficient toilets which use just a little over a gallon of water per flush.

    Making your restaurant water efficient doesn’t have to be done at the expense of your stress levels or budget.  These low-impact solutions can make quite a difference in the water usage.

    Thanks go out to Ramesh Rasaiyan on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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  6. Study Shows Nearly 1 out of 4 Farmers Markets With E.Coli

    Study Shows Nearly 1 out of 4 Farmers Markets With E.Coli

    There’s been a long-standing push in cuisine to emphasize locally-grown meats, produce, and herbs within the kitchen.  This movement has led to the increased popularity of farmer’s markets throughout the country. However, even with food that is grown and distributed locally, there are still dangers associated with food and herbs.

    A study was done on food and herbs sold at farmers markets in Los Angeles in Washington.  Of the 133 samples tested from 13 farmers’ markets, 24.1% tested positive for E. coli and one tested positive for Salmonella.

    “While farmers’ markets can become certified to ensure that each farmer is actually growing the commodities being sold, food safety is not addressed as part of the certification process,” said Rosalee Hellberg, Ph.D., and co-author on the study.

    While this type of news is disconcerting, it can still serve as a clarion call for local restaurant owners to know a little more about their vendors and exercise good food safety practices.

    Safe practices during food preparation minimizes the exposure to bacteria which may be present in the food.

    • Clean everything, including your hands, the surfaces that you’re cooking on, and especially the food itself.  There might be something lingering from transportation.
    • Make sure to keep your preparation areas for meat and vegetable separate from one another.  By making sure you have a cutting board for each, you’re preventing cross contamination.
    • Make sure that you cook your food as soon as possible using superior and working restaurant equipment, minimizing the chances of contamination.

    The study on food and herbs from farmer’s markets was first printed in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

    For more information about food safety techniques, go to foodsafety.gov.

    Special thanks go to Brock Roseberry on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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  7. How to Choose a Commercial Immersion Blender

    How to Choose a Commercial Immersion Blender

    Commercial immersion blenders can be a real blessing in the kitchen.  Immersion blenders allow you to mix directly in the bowl, glass, mason jar, or what have you. You’re saving on dishes, but you’re also saving the time that it takes to transfer whatever you happen to be making over to another glass.

    Commercial immersion blenders start at around $70 and can go up as high as $1150.  The price difference is dependent upon the size of the shaft and the power that the blender has.

    What Size Shaft Do you Need For Your Immersion Blender?

    If you were planning on specializing in alcoholic ice cream drinks for your patrons that were served in mason jars, you would really only need about a 12” immersion blender to mix them up.  We’d recommend something like the Waring 12” Variable Speed Immersion Blender. It would be a bit taller than the glass and produces the power that you need.

    If, though, you were going to mix large amounts of soup stock in stock pots, you would want to consider some of the larger shaft sizes.  The size of the immersion blender should be just a bit longer than the container. You can get an immersion blender that’s nearly 2 feet long in the Robot Coupe MP600 model.  With 12,000 RPM, it can help you through even the roughest soups purees!

    How Much Power Does Your Immersion Blender Need?

    If you’re anything like the gearheads that we’ve got at the office, you’d probably say that the more power the immersion blender has, the better.  The power that you need is truly dependent on the functions for which you’re using the machine.

    If you’re only doing small and dainty stuff like mixing vegetables in small quantities, then a lower powered machine will do the trick. On the other hand, if you’re blending massive amounts of things which need to be chopped, you’re better off with a higher wattage for your blender.  Some of the blenders come with variable speeds, which allow you to customize the blender to your needs.

    After answering these two biggest questions, you can more easily decide which commercial immersion blender that will work in your restaurant.  Now, don’t forget that your restaurant will grow, so you will want a blender that will grow with you.

    Thanks go out to JeffreyW on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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  8. 7 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Convection Oven

    7 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Convection Oven

    Baking breads, cookies, and other sweets in convection ovens is quite a bit different than using your conventional oven.  If you’re using a convection oven for the first time or you need a little refresher, here are some tips for using your commercial convection oven for baked goods.

    • If you’ve got a tiny convection oven, you’re going to have a slightly faster cook time than the larger ones.  Don’t be shy about checking on your items a little before they’re supposed to be done to see if it jumped the gun.
    • Remember that your convection oven cooks differently than a standard radiant-heat oven.  With the internal fans, the temperature is even throughout the oven so you can lower the temperature on printed recipes by at least 25 degrees.
    • If you’re still experiencing overbrowning because of a dark pan, or you’re using glass dishes, it’s safe to lower that temperature by a further five or more degrees to even the color.
    • Make sure that your pans are clean and the same in order to get the same type of cook on all of your racks.  There is a dramatic difference between a metal pan and a glass casserole dish.
    • Don’t overstuff the oven with items.  The oven that you’re using moves heat around by using fans.  If the hot air isn’t able to get to a certain area, that area doesn’t cook as well.
    • Before you start using your convection oven, make sure that the interior is entirely preheated.  What this does is stabilize the cooking temperature and make sure that you get an even cook all around.
    • When you’re using a convection oven, the rack level you use is much more important. Read the user manual to find out the proper positioning or consult with another chef.

    Your commercial convection oven can do some amazing things if you allow it to.  While it fails on places that you need an uneven cook (if you need, say, a really crispy crust for example) it excels everywhere else.

    Thanks go out to James on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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  9. How to Choose the Right Commercial Griddle

    How to Choose the Right Commercial Griddle

    We’re in love with griddles because they’re so versatile.  There are some restaurants which prepare nearly everything on their griddles and some which only cook a few specialty items on their griddles.  If you’re in the market for a commercial griddle, here are some considerations that you might make while shopping for one.

    There are two primary types of griddles on the market today: gas griddles and electric griddles.  The differences between gas and electric griddles are the same differences between gas and electric stoves.  Chefs love gas for the even heating and they enjoy electric for the convenience.  If you are thinking of picking up a griddle, here are a few points that you want to address while looking through our catalog of griddle choices.

    • Usage – Are you going to be using this griddle a lot or is it for only a few menu selections? Find a heavy duty one if you plan on griddling a lot.
    • Cleaning – How easy is it to clean this griddle?  Am I going to have to spend hours getting the crud off?
    • Brand – Have I heard of the brands that are in the catalog? Are they known for making their griddle?
    • Size – What size space do I have to put the griddle?  Am I going to have to rearrange the back of the house to get the griddle installed?
    • Warranty – Can I get some assurances that this griddle will run and that I can have some repairs in case something goes wrong?
    • Budget – The bigger the griddle, the more money is needed to invest in it.  Does my restaurant have the budget to afford this griddle?  Will I need to combine some tasks?

    These are just some of the considerations that you need to make for the commercial griddle that you’re planning on purchasing.  We encourage you to do your research and find the best griddle for you, as it will last a long time in your restaurant.

    Special thanks go out to Vegan Feast Catering for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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  10. 6 Ways to Increase Sales in the Slow Times

    While we’re generally riding happy during the holiday season, there’s always an inevitable lull that happens just after the holidays.  We call this time during January and February the post-holiday blues.  With some planning, though, you can still increase sales and get people to pass through your doors.

    Evaluation

    Since you’ve got the time available, take a look at your operation and your menu.  What’s working?  What’s not?  What new recipes can you put on the menu that fully uses your superior kitchen equipment?

    Go Local

    We’ve talked about gaining local loyalty for your food and your restaurant.  The slow winter months make the perfect time to do outreach to that local community.  Maybe the youth hockey team would like to eat in your establishment?  By devoting the little extra to marketing, you can cultivate customers for the entire year.

    Develop a Special Event

    Maybe you’ve always wanted to run a professionally judged barbeque? Is there something that’s been on your mind the whole year, but you’ve just been too busy to execute it?  Special events can be huge or tiny, it’s just what you make of it.

    Partnering Opportunities

    This goes back to the cultivation of local foods and ideas for your restaurant.  Are there groups, charities, or other organizations that you could partner with to help bring people through the door of your establishment.  Maybe you could show your support for firefighters?

    Run a Few Specials

    Don’t be afraid to run a special or two during this time of year. Maybe try out a loss leader and then see where that leads you?  There are certain coupon type places that you could partner with for a limited time so that you could offer excellent deals on items that never sell.

    Planning

    Plan, plan, plan.  Remember that 100% of the shots that you don’t take, don’t score.  You’ve got a lot of free time on your hands, so you should make the most of it through planning.  Perhaps you could start a blog about the business?  Maybe something more social?  The more planning you do, the more likely it is to be successful.

    Try out your plans, do some small-scale craziness and implementation.  It’s the slow time of the year, but that doesn’t mean that your restaurant has to be the slowest.  What can you do to make it better?

    Thanks go out to Shando Darby on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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