Monthly Archives: February 2015

  1. The Sonic Steamer is a Microwave on Steroids

    The Sonic Steamer is a Microwave on Steroids

    Panasonic’s Sonic Steamer was invented so that professional chefs could steam trays of vegetables and meats quickly and keep them moist during the cooking process.  This is a microwave oven that uses proprietary technology to steam the food inside.

    The Sonic Steamer microwave has plenty of power, enough to cook two full size 4” tall table pans with covers.  This makes it perfect for those who have a lot of vegetables to reheat.  Only a minute or two, and the vegetables reach their perfect tenderness.

    The true testament of a microwave steamer is whether it is able to reheat rice.  If no special measures are taken in a traditional microwave, rice ends up being a hard, aggravating mess that should only be served to the trash can. However, the Panasonic Sonic Steamer breaks the norm by reheating rice like a dream.

    In other words, this is a microwave on steamer steroids.  It will cook with either 2,100 or 3,200 watts, and you can program the timers to make your meals absolutely perfect.  With 8 programmable memory pads and a 16 memory capability, you can put in all of your favorites.

    This one’s got all of the bells and whistles that any modern commercial kitchen needs to get it done right.  If you’re finding that your old microwave can’t cut it, maybe it’s time to upgrade to a sonic steamer.

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  2. Empura Salad Bar Prep Table Keeps Salads Cool

    Empura Salad Bar Prep Table Keeps Salads Cool

    Your salad bar needs to comply with safety standards in the front, but what about the safety standards in the kitchen?  After cleanliness, the biggest issue that health inspectors have with kitchens is temperature.  Keeping all of the salad bar items chilled is extremely important.

    What about those restaurants that are always making salads?  It’s highly inconvenient to be running to the refrigerator every time a salad needs to be made. Constantly fetching more lettuce makes it hard to cool. That’s one of the reasons that Empura developed their salad prep table.

    Accommodating up to 16 items, this sandwich and salad prep table gives room to create and devise wonderful dishes while keeping the items chilled.  The entire unit is created from stainless steel and keeps temperatures between 33 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

    So, you’re able to chop your goodies, mix them together, and blend to your heart’s content without worrying about the health inspector saying that you’re not keeping your stuff in the right temperature zone.

    If you’re itching to offer some of Saveur’s simple no-cook salads on the menu, the salad prep table can make the experience truly easy, as you’ve got all of the ingredients practically at your fingertips.  You can also put your dressings and other condiments below, spicing it up.

    If you need up to 19 cubic feet of food empowerment on wheels, the Empura salad prep table can save the day for both you and the health inspectors.

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  3. Do You Have a Heavy Duty Stock Pot Gas Range?

    Do You Have a Heavy Duty Stock Pot Gas Range?

    Much to the chagrin of the folks down south, winter has finally arrived.  They’re seeing their first bouts of snow and rushing the stores for their milk and bread while folks up north have a good laugh. A better idea is to make a knock-down, drag-out, called from the heavens soup to last through the snowpocalypse. And it better be in a big pot.

    But a big pot requires a big burner. The Heavy Duty Stock Pot Gas Range can accommodate the largest pots that you’ve got in your kitchen.  It has an 18”x24” cooking surface, and grates that can fit the biggest stock pots. It also has adjustable burner rings so you don’t have to worry about uneven cooking (even when you’re firing up your clam chowder or mushroom bisque).

    What makes this prospect even better?  Since it’s a gas range, there’s a good chance that it will stay on if the power goes out in the inclement weather, unlike your electric range. And with snow on the ground and people who can’t drive, there’s sure to be one yahoo who decides to merge his front bumper with a power pole.

    Spend some time merging delicious flavors with your gas range. Make some more soup and cook it on a stove that was specially made for the giant stock pot.  Let it sit for a day or two and see how your family, or your customers, love it.

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  4. History of the Tortilla Chip

    History of the Tortilla Chip

    No trip to your favorite Mexican restaurant would be complete without having a bowl of tortilla chips being placed on the table.  For us, we judge the restaurant on the basis of its salsa – if they ‘phone in’ the salsa and the tortilla chips taste like they’ve been through the oil one too many times, we know what to expect from the rest of the meal.  On the other hand, if we get fantastic chips and salsa, we’re willing to overlook any less than perfect service that we receive.

    The tortilla chip was created by accident, as a result of the misshapen tortillas that Rebecca Webb Carranza and her husband created at their Mexican deli in southwest Los Angeles.  These got cut into triangles, deep fried, and sold as snacks.  Their popularity took off from there, and now it’s served at nearly every Mexican restaurant across the US.

    As a customer of many Mexican restaurants, I can tell you that there’s a big difference between freshly made tortilla chips and the ones which restaurants purchase by the bagful from a supplier.  Some restaurants even try to hide the fact that they don’t make their own by warming up the chips before putting them on the table. This is a shame; for a restaurant with a commercial deep fryer tortilla chips are easy to create.

    Most of the recipes for tortilla chips call for pre-made tortillas, though if you choose you can create both the chips and the tortillas.  That way, you have ultimate control over the ingredients which are used in your nacho masterpiece.  To make them is simplicity. Chop the torillas like a pie and deep fry them until they’re brown and crispy.

    For those who are determined to make their own tortillas, it’s a simple mixture of flour and water.  Take your balls and push them through a Matfer Imperia Manual Pasta Machine – it will take your dough balls and smash them out flat for you.  Then, once you’re done, drop them into the deep fryer and you’re all set.

    Once you have the tortillas, the chips can be made in any size that you prefer to fit your restaurant’s tastes.  Want to see something akin to Chinese restaurants and have strips?  That can be done.  How about tiny circles?  That too.  Tortilla chips, regardless of the shape, taste wonderful.

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  5. How to Make the Best Restaurant In the World

    How to Make the Best Restaurant In the World

    When an entrepreneur starts a new restaurant, they envision sackloads of cash piling up on their doorstep. After all, there’s hundreds of thousands of restaurants across the nation. It’s gotta work, right? What they don’t realize is that 60 percent of independent restaurants fail within that first year of opening.

    The biggest thing that people neglect is the planning stage.  There are no miraculous ‘step 2’s when talking about the restaurant industry. You know:

    1. Open new restaurant

    2. ???

    3. PROFIT!

    It’s necessary to build your restaurant on a solid foundation. “There are two ways to start a restaurant: find a great location and base your concept on that, or find a great concept and find the location to suit it,” said Bill Guilfoyle, associate professor of business management at the Culinary Institute of America.

    From the concept comes the marketing, and the restaurant to surround it.  If you don’t have a solid concept, you’re building the rest of the restaurant on shaky ground.  It wouldn’t matter if you had the best restaurant supplies and best employees, it would still be hard to recover without good planning.

    It takes a lot of work, a lot of planning and effort to make the restaurant of your dreams.

    For some more tips, tricks, and ideas, check out the article in the Poughkeepsie Journal titled “How to Survive in the Restaurant Business.”

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  6. No Food Truck? What About a Kiosk?

    No Food Truck? What About a Kiosk?

    Making an impression on people is becoming more and more difficult these days.  They have already been exposed to the bigger better deal a thousand times over.  One of the ways to stand out, however, is to create your own cobranding kiosk in a completely unlikely place.

    Cobranding efforts have worked for years for different places.  Right now, for instance, the Taco Bell locations serve Cinnabon products.  There is also the partnership between Baskin Robbins and Dunkin Donuts.  But, putting those aside and taking into account the trend of pop-up restaurants and soda stands, a kiosk might be the best option.

    Sometimes food trucks just doesn’t cut it.  After all, you can’t fit your food truck inside a building unless you’re selling the truck (do they still do those crazy ‘touch this car’ contests?).  The 10 food kiosk might be the thing.  Officially, it’s called the Vollrath 75675W 10’ V-Class Custom Merchandising Cart With Wood Composite Material, but we just call it a little slice of the heaven that is your restaurant.

    Where can you put one of these mobile carts?

    • At the mall
    • In the theater
    • At a convention
    • At small Carnivals
    • High school football games

    Basically, any place where you can think of having a presence, you can put this 10 foot cart. Renaissance faires?  Who knows?  You’ve just got to ask. It’s an extension of you and your brand, so you can get it wrapped like a vehicle and go on the road.

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  7. 5 Ways to Curb Employee Theft

    5 Ways to Curb Employee Theft

    Employee theft is nothing to sneeze at in a restaurant.  People steal an amazing amount of money, but they also steal food and alcohol.  Restaurant supplies, even restaurant smallwares, cost money. Here are some ways to curb employee theft.

    Hire Mystery Diners and Employees

    By hiring mystery diners and employees, you are getting people who are objective and are willing to report on the goings on within the company – something that you could not get from customer comment cards or other arenas. If you suspect employees are stealing from you, putting new employees in place might be just the way to catch them – as they might be recruited to help in the scheme.

    Surveillance Systems

    By installing a surveillance system, you can find out who’s cheating the system and who’s making your restaurant their own personal playground.  That’s one of the first things that the Mystery Diners team does on getting to a place.

    Give Employee Perks

    Employees are less likely to steal when they feel like they’re being treated right.  Let the employees eat for free when they’re working at the restaurant. This generates a good sense of well-being.

    Key Codes

    Knowing the people who have codes to the locks, safes, and cash drawers can narrow down who is taking advantage of your restaurant.  By detecting certain patterns with your employees, you might realize that you have potential security issues.

    Accurate Inventory Controls

    You have to know what’s in the restaurant before you can accurately know if anything has been taken.  This is where there’s a huge difference between thinking someone is stealing from you and actually knowing it.

    These aren’t the only ways to catch internal thieves.  Soon enough, they will mess up and you will catch them with their hand in the till or on the neck of the bottle, but do you want to take the losses?

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  8. 7 Considerations for Food Vendors

    7 Considerations for Food Vendors

    After you’ve chosen the best restaurant equipment for your location, it’s time to choose a good food supplier.  Your food distributor will be your partner in making your restaurant a success.  Here are some considerations that need to be made when choosing a distributor.

    1. Local or national?

    While national food distributors might have more products available to you, the local ones offer the opportunity to develop more solid business relationships.

    1. Sourcing

    Find out how your distributor sources their food.  If they are local, do they have local vendors where they get the items, too?  When at all possible, you want to keep your local ecosystem going.

    1. Offerings

    What do they have on offer?  Are they only good for coffee, or do they have snacks that go with the coffee?  Do they only distribute meat, or do they have vegetables?  What about prepared meals?

    1. Reviews and Feedback

    Do your due diligence in finding out what others think about a particular food supplier or distributor.  Everyone will make efforts to put their best foot forward, but sometimes the marketing may be misleading.  By going to reviews and feedback from objective sources, you can tell who is blowing smoke.

    1. Pricing

    Are the prices competitive for what you’re getting?  You want to make sure that the prices are neither too low nor too high.  If they’re too low, then you might not be getting the quality that you deserve.

    1. Certifications and Grades

    This is a ‘ducks in a row’ sort of consideration.  Make sure that the vendor that you choose is compliant with all of the local and federal health codes.  Ask to see documentation.

    1. Customer Service

    Make sure that their claims of customers being the most important aren’t just blowing smoke.  You should be treated with respect, and they should give you no reasons to go to another vendor because of not knowing their product or being rude.

    Selecting the right food vendors is important, as these are companies where a relationship is established.  By making the right determinations beforehand, you have a higher chance of achieving the success you crave.

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  9. 5 Customer Comment Card Strategies

    5 Customer Comment Card Strategies

    Restaurant owners and managers are responsible for overseeing the restaurant, which include making sure that both the front of house and back of house play nicely together and that customer responses are honored. One way to solicit customer responses is through the use of customer comment cards.

    A customer card system, if it’s done well, can not only put you in touch with the feelings of your patrons but also alert you to changing trends and put your finger more fully on what it takes to help customers come to your restaurant.

    Suggestions for Customer Comment Cards

    The customer comment card should be direct and simple. There shouldn’t be any mistake as to what the card is or the type of information that you’re looking for.  Basically, you don’t want to overwhelm your customer.

    • Easy to read, professionally printed

    Professional printing and typesetting is essential for your customer comment card system. Everything must be clear. When you’re initiating the program, print a smaller run to see how it flies.

    • 10 questions at the MOST

    Your customers shouldn’t feel like they’ve gone back to school with a lot of questions.  You’re more likely to get false answers which do no good for you or your restaurant.

    • Room for comments

    Some of your diners want to leave comments rather than rate your restaurant from 1-10.  Give them a chance with ample space on the form.

    • Put them in a great location

    There are some places who leave customer comment cards on the table for diners to look at during their meal.  There are others who include a card with every check.  There are still others who leave the cards with the cashier.

    • Give them a reason to fill them out

    Bribery works.  And it works well.  Give your patrons a chance to get something for giving you their opinion.  Maybe you can offer a little free food or something to ‘grease the wheels’ of your restaurant empire.

    Instead of putting your customer comment cards into the check folder, you can also conduct those surveys online if you’ve got a more web savvy clientele.  The manner of gathering information doesn’t matter, as long as the information is gathered.

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  10. More Kids Eating After School Snacks

    More Kids Eating After School Snacks

    Hunger in schools remains a difficult stumbling block for very poor children.  One of the growing trends, at least in Los Angeles County Schools, is offering of an after school snack or evening meal.  This was done as a part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

    During the 2014 fiscal year, there were around 104 million dinners provided to students. This is, of course, a bit lower than the breakfast and lunch programs which are offered, but it’s starting to gain some traction throughout the nation.

    According to experts, the idea makes sense.  There are children who are staying on campus after hours for their after-school activities, and their family’s income level means that they might not receive dinner.

    Currently, there are around 75,000 students who receive their dinner from the school.  This program is expected to be doubled over the next couple of years.  The revenue generated from the programs are expected to be filtered back to it.

    “When kids are hungry, they don’t pay attention.  This is something that should have started years ago,” said a member of the LA unified school district board.  This type of plan just makes sense to fill in the gaps that happen for the poorest of students.

    This type of expansion should prove to be beneficial for those who are employed in the kitchens of the LA USD.  By expanding the hours and offering after school snacks, kitchen workers have to be there longer.  We’re hoping that the after school dinner program fully succeeds.

    Los Angeles joins trend of schools offering evening meals to children was posted in the Guardian on January 15th.

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