Monthly Archives: July 2016

  1. Top Products to Watch for Rancid Materials

    honeycomb 

    Kitchen quality can be difficult to maintain, but operations are an important part of your business strategy. Some big restaurant chains employ an individual whose only job function is quality control. Your chefs are the ones ordering the food, but make sure that they are selecting quality ingredients from reliable sources. Cutting corners can shave pennies at a time off of your food costs - which adds up in the long term for sure - but as a strategy, your food quality will suffer and so will your reputation - and your future business. Certain products are ripe for abuse by shady suppliers, and being aware of these potentially weak links in your supply chain will allow you to let you Chef know what questions to ask the suppliers - if they are not aware. Up your food quality by shopping locally and keeping things artisanal whenever possible, and be wary of the following ingredients:

    Olive Oil: rancid oil sounds pretty gross right? Well, a surprising amount of olive oil is rancid and defective. The US is unfortunately known as ripe territory for less than reputable dealers looking to unload product which would not pass muster, in, say, Italy. Make sure to taste and test your oils, particularly those used for dressings, to avoid any unsavory flavors in your dishes.

    Honey: if it's not produced (and marked) as a local product, there's a very good chance that the honey your purchase is cut with high fructose corn syrup or other fillers which are very much not healthy (or organic). To ensure quality, buy from a local source and mark it as local on your menu. Your customers will appreciate the quality and you can pass on any additional cost in the menu.

    Steak and hamburger: have you heard of meat glue? Pink slime? Look them up if you have a strong stomach. Cheap beef is often low quality beef, and no amount of clever seasoning or expert preparation will hide the bland and sometimes chemical taste of the fillers added to sub par products. Hope for high quality steak cuts and grind hamburgers in house in order to ensure that your customers have a meat dish they will want to order over and over again.

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  2. New Menu Inspiration: hot new ideas to try!

    nashville hot chicken

    Is it time to start thinking about revamping your menu? As well as keeping a strong list of rotating specials, staying on trend with menu items (while staying true to your concept, of course) can help you keep your restaurant current and offer your loyal customers a new and exciting reason to come in and check you out. But what to add? Here are some inspirations for you:

    Hot Chicken: a twist on traditional fried chicken, this Nashville staple involves fried chicken served over white bread with pickle chips. The 'hot' flavor typically comes from a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper in the traditional fried chicken seasonings. A beautiful dish to make in the summer with a side of watermelon to help your patrons beat the heat.

    Tofu based entrees: this one is awfully easy. Take virtually any of your existing meat or chicken OR fish entrees (especially those with strong seasonings) and substitute in tofu for the protein. A lower calorie, healthier, vegetarian option like this will give your guests welcome options on your menu items. Think buffalo tofu, for example, and have fun switching it up.

    Gourmet burger: again, a simple twist on a classic. Gourmet burgers typically involve a higher grade of beef (or kobe beef) and can have extravagant, fun toppings. Cabernet marinated mushrooms? Kimchi slaw? Truffle cheese? You decide how to spoil your guests, and offer tator tots or truffle fries OR vegetable tempura on the side as a fun alternative to 'regular' french fries.

    Breakfast tacos: just about everyone likes tacos. And this southwestern favorite is a great way to incorporate them into your breakfast menu. Consider chorizo as a topping, make sure they are small, authentic, hot, and most importantly - tasty. Offer different types of salsa on the side as an authentic condiment choice your customers will love.

    S'mores for dessert: another summer favorite, take the campfire concept and move it indoors. You can make a s'mores fondue kit for your table, a s'mores campfire latte, a s'mores skillet - s'mores gooey cake - the list goes on and on. This well beloved childhood classic will be an easy, fun, and just a little bit quirky addition to your dessert menu.

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  3. A Summer of Shellfish - locally sourced when possible!

    oyster shucking

    Chefs and owners alike can meet their guests’ demands for having fresh, healthy, and natural products. It is important to showcase that like all types of seafood, shellfish can be part of a healthy and balanced diet. Shellfish products are low in fat and typically have less than 1gm of fat per serving and very little of the fat they contain is saturated fat. Most types of shellfish (expect for shrimp) are also low in cholesterol.

    When sourcing locally owners will not only assist their community’s economy but, also supply their customers with some of the freshest food available to them. Local shellfish companies such as CT Shellfish, CT Farm Fresh Express and Atlantic Seafood produce the highest-quality, freshest, and most delicious seafood the ocean has to offer. They are proud to be able serve their clients with products that will never find a drop of artificial color, pesticides, preservatives, or growth hormones. Consumers can make healthy and sustainable food choices by choosing fish that is sourced sustainably and low in mercury.

    By creating menu items that are prepared by limiting or avoiding unhealthy toppings, like butter or breadcrumbs, and by choosing to steam or broil instead of frying it, shellfish can be a low-fat, low-cholesterol, heart-healthy choice. Shellfish can also provide a rich source of protein that allows guests to enjoy a truly indulgent meal without breaking their diet.

    So yes, sourcing locally may seem a bit scary, especially when thinking ahead about the product availability and consistency, but the positives surely outweigh any possible fear when sourcing shellfish through your communities’ local fisheries. Take the time to sit down with local vendors who do a wonderful job making sure that you are able to sell the freshest shellfish. Take the time to talk to your local fishermen to hear what they have to say about their catches and see how sourcing from them help them and their families.

    Source Local, sell local, be a vibrant community.

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  4. Raise prices and lose business? Or hold prices and lose profits? A restaurant owners dilemma.

      cp-food-price-increases-in-2016

    Image courtesy of the Food Institute

    The rising costs of food AND labor are hitting the restaurant industry hard. And there is hard data correlating an increase in prices with a decrease in foot traffic. Even for fast casual restaurants, where the increase can be mere pennies on the dollar, there is an immediate, marked impact of a price range. Regulars notice and stay away, and business suffers as a result.

    But what to do? It's impossible to keep product prices steady with the steady increasing cost of food and labor, which obviously hits the restaurant industry harder because these are the two main costs (with rent - also a rising price - a close third) of staying in business. While its great to pay people a living wage, a $15 minimum wage will hit fast casual restaurants VERY hard - if and when that happens - owners need to be prepared. And of course, it's possible to cut into profits if profits are there, but at the end of the day, a lot of the cost has to be passed on to the consumers.

    While most consumers, if asked, would say they would absolutely pay a little more in order to increase the quality of life of the employees of their favorite establishment, perception and reality are two very different things. Customers vote with their feet, so be ware of a drastic price increase - and for PR reasons - NEVER publicly blame labor costs if an increase is necessary.

    Another issue for restaurants is that the cost of groceries has not increased in correlation with the rising cost of wholesale goods. Grocers have been happy to cut into their own profit margins in order to keep the cost of food relatively the same, where the cost of going out has dramatically spiked. All this means a noticeable gap for consumers in the cost of cooking at home vs. eating out.

    What to do? Fight the cost war with perceptions of value. Create a loyalty program for your fast casual restaurant that will encourage repeat business (more to follow on tomorrow's blogs). If you own a fine dining establishment, establish a restaurant week, or find out about existing ones in your city, and offer and appetizer, entree, and dessert for a low, fixed price. This is especially effective in the slower summer months. Promotions like these can drive price conscious consumers to your establishment while creating lasting brand loyalty for the future.

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  5. Farm to Table Dinners

    Rocket salad

    With July coming to an end, the areas farmers gardens are starting to produce locally fresh products. We all know how unbelievably satisfying it is to pick your own blueberries, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchinis but, an even more enjoyable trend are the farm to table events. These events are bringing together communities through agri-tourism, local food and local chefs. Industry experts are bringing in the freshest ingredients to local restaurant’s kitchen and creating unique experiences that can be seen as one of a kind.

    The farm-to-table trend is blowing up right now. This trend is able to draw in new clientele based on featured dishes and rebranding. Because, this trend is rapidly catching the eyes of consumers, it helps the aiding in food production of local food, in turn, boosting the local economy. Some of the most common practices that have developed from this trend are organic farming, sustainable agriculture and community support; all of which assist in nourishing the local towns and cities. This helps guarantees, that the food is fresh and healthy, promoting eating clean.

    Farm to table dinners are traditionally events including ideas such as Harvest Dinners, Pig Roasts, Seasonal Strawberry Festivals, Corn Shucking, Oyster Festivals, Local Beer Festivals and Dinners showcasing locally sourced food and musical talent. Not only do these events appeal to those with dietary restrictions, dieters and health conscious consumers alike: it also draws in crowds who feel as if they are elite to be eating the freshest and most local cuisine, due the chic connotation that is currently associated with the farm-to–table movement.

    The movement has become highly innovating with chef’s menu planning and allows local restaurants to build viable relationships with their local farms and vendors! These relationships cultivate a sense of belonging in the community and when done correctly all parties involved are able to cross promote and market themselves as being community team players. The goodwill built during these events is wonderful and free publicity that may not have been established should the event not have taken place.

    So the next time you consider hosting a farm to table via your restaurant, stop considering and go! Not only will you help local business but, you will be assisting your local economy and the general welfare of the community by decreasing the amount of fuel used to move the food, which helps with environmental sustainability.

    The benefits of these farm-to-table events are truly amazing and showcase the best of the best in a local community. As the community participation rates grow farmers and restaurateurs can rest easy knowing that they are helping to shape the face of food and agriculture policies within their area. This movement betters everyone involved and hopefully the trend will not go anywhere anytime soon.

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  6. Coffee - cappuccino and beyond

    Coffee collection

    Theres a lot of money to be made in coffee. Especially if you offer breakfast or European style food, you should invest in an espresso machine. Here are some classic coffee drinks to get you started with a great menu your guests will love:

    Espresso - the classic. Just, you know, turn on the espresso machine, pack it up, and voila! There are still several things to consider however. Beans are ever so important - and especially with espresso, if you cut corners on quality, your guests will be able to taste it. Size is also something to take into consideration. For a coffee shop, consider a larger size, whereas an after dinner espresso may be better small. Consider offering decaf espresso as well for diners who don't want a huge caffeine boost in the evening, but do appreciate the palate cleansing cadence a good coffee drink provides after a good meal.

    Espresso Roma - see above, but add a little lemon twist as a garnish. This classic Italian beverage is a light, refreshing finish to a good meal.

    Cafe Bombon - less well known and delicious, this popular Spanish coffee drink combines espresso and condensed milk in a 1:1 ratio that is simple, sweet, and delicious. Serve over ice for a sweet dessert treat.

    Affogatto - another Italian classic, gelato is served with an espresso on the side, and then the two are combined table side. The hot espresso will melt the cold gelato and make a sweet, cold, creamy treat which is perfect for the hot summer months.

    Cappuccino - another one of the classics. 1 part espresso, one part steamed milk, one part foam. If your barista is trained classically, they can make cool latte art on your cappuccino which will impress your guest and provide a pleasant visual to your presentation.

    Latte- the cappuccino's simpler cousin - just add 1 part espresso to two parts steamed milk. Consider offering different types of milk for non-dairy drinkers to enjoy in their latte (you can experiment in the same way with cappuccino but may have difficulty creating proper foam), as well as offering house made syrups for flavoring.

    Flat White - an Australian hybrid of a cappuccino and a latte, the flat white keeps the two to one coffee to milk ratio, but the milk is stretched and textured through heat to create a drink which has more volume and a different flavor than your standard latte, yet is less foamy than a cappuccino.

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  7. The Best Slice of Summer

    watermelon2

    As another heat wave follows us this week, it is hard to imagine anything other than a sandy beach, cool ocean air and a cold drink in hand. Waking up and getting ready for work seems like a daunting task, knowing that then probability of needing a shower by noon is 1000% and the idea or notion of being in the kitchen preparing a meal is as horrible as being sent to work at Hells Kitchen.

    Fear not friends, when it comes to summertime cooking you can find plenty of options, which do not include a flame, and actually use one main succulent fruit, watermelon. Now, technically watermelon is a botanical berry called a pepo, none the less this year has produced some of the best in years. It has become hard to stop dreaming about the delectable fruit that is full of flavor, cool and refreshing.

    This being said, some of my personal favorite recipes to prepare this summer have been simple, fun and able to minimize the time you spend in the kitchen. The following are 2 quick and easy recipes that I know you will absolutely fall in love with.

    1- Watermelon Salad with Mind and Crispy Prosciutto

    INGREDIENTS

    1. 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
    2. 3 pounds watermelon (including rind)
    3. 6 radishes, quartered
    4. 4 scallions, sliced
    5. 1/4 cup fresh mint, torn
    6. 1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
    7. 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    8. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    9. kosher salt and pepper

    Directions

    1. Heat oven to 400° F. Arrange the prosciutto in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
    2. Trim and discard the rind from the watermelon. Cut the flesh into 1/4-inch-thick triangles. Place the watermelon in serving dishes and sprinkle with the radishes, scallions, mint, and peanuts. Drizzle with the lime juice and oil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
    3. Break the prosciutto into pieces and sprinkle over the salad before serving.

    2. Watermelon and Machego with Arugula Pesto

    Ingredients

    For the Pesto

    1. 2 bunches fresh arugula (not pre-washed from a bag), rinsed very well and patted dry
    2. 1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
    3. 1 small handful coarsely chopped walnuts
    4. 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    5. 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more if needed
    6. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

      For the salad

    1. 3 1/2-inch thick round slices of a large whole watermelon
    2. 2 thick slices Spanish manchego cheese, about 1/4 pound total

     

    Directions

    1. Combine the arugula, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice and half the olive oil in a blender. Pulse lightly until incorporated, then drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until blended but not completely smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
    2. Trim the edges off the watermelon slices to make squares.
    3. Cut two thick slices of cheese to fit the watermelon squares if using a wedge, otherwise swap steps 2 and 3 and trim watermelon to fit the pre-sliced cheese.
    4. Plate as follows: watermelon, manchego, pesto, repeat.
    5. Smear a little extra pesto on the plate before serving.
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  8. All you need to know about commercial dishwashers!

    dishwasher

    A dishwasher isn't as exciting a purchase as, say, a cool wine rack or art for your walls... or glassware, but having one will save you all the valuable time during a busy lunch or dinner rush. But what do you do when shopping for one? We offer many makes and models to fit your business needs - and below are some tips on choosing the best possible type:

    High temp vs low temp. High temperature washers sanitize your dishes by, well, you guessed it, using high temperatures. Low temperature models use sanitizer to wash your dished. They are more energy efficient than their high temperature counterparts, but dishes don't dry as efficiently, so if you have a hot, humid dishwashing station, it may cause you problems later on down the road.

    When choosing your size, use this handy graph to figure out the total volume you'll need, based on the number of meals you'll make daily, and the number of dishes your chefs will use to create each meal for your guest, plus the amount of table turns you expect during each service:

    Meals/hrDishwasher TypeMax Racks/Hr
    Up to 100 Undercounter 15–14
    Up to 300 Door-Type 35–75
    400–900 44" Conveyor 200–235
    The dishwasher is going to run up your electricity and (potentially) your water bills. Save on expenses by turning your machine off at night, replace broken parts, and most importantly, shop for the best! Our energy efficient machines will get you the best possible performance at the lowest recurring cost. Make sure you buy the best for this very important purchase, which will be used in your kitchen every day.
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  9. Operating a Fast Casual Restaurant? Here are some tips to help you succeed!

    Children with hamburgers

    Fast casual doesn't have to be fast food. It can be gourmet, food truck, ethnic - really anything that involves a cheaper price point and quick turnaround time. But your fast casual concept can definitely benefit from some universal marketing ideas. Here are some to get you through the (sometimes slower) summer months - unless you're in a lobster shack by the water, in which case you'll probably be using these tips in the cooler months to come.

    Kids eat free! Consider offering a free kids menu for little diners. Kids meals are almost universally simple - a hot dog, a burger, or a couple chicken nuggets. These cheap items carry a very small margin and offering them at no cost can entice in parents, who will spend considerably more, looking to entertain kids over the school break.

    Live music - do you have an alcohol license, outdoor seating, or any other amenities that may cause people to want to sit and mingle at your restaurant? Then live music may be a good bet. Cover bands and acoustic acts are available for booking individually or via a booking agent, and offering live music will set you apart as an entertainment destination, particularly outside when the weather is warm. Guests are more likely to linger at tables, but also more likely to order multiple drinks and drive up their cover charge, and you will be busier on the live music nights if they are advertised properly as well.

    Trivia nights - have a slower Tuesday or Wednesday night? Consider setting up trivia! It's fun, free to play, and will attract large crowds of competitive teams to your location on nights that may otherwise be seriously slow for business. Another alternative - or addition - is paint nite. A great date activity, pain nite will also attract couples and girls groups which are likely to come back and frequent your establishment again. Advertise on your Facebook and other social media channels and also consider drink specials or extended happy hour for these special events.

    Wifi - lunch is not necessarily a time to sit and relax during the week. If you have cheap lunch items, capitalize on the 'working lunch' crowd who travels with their laptop by offering complimentary wifi to your guests. You can always turn the wifi off during dinner service in order to ensure that your tables are used for service vs. people looking to work for a couple hours like they would in a coffee shop. But in the digital age, everyone takes their work everywhere, and having free, fast wifi will attract a valuable 9-5 customer for both lunch and the slower afternoon lull in your restaurant.

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  10. All About Bitters for Your Bartenders

    bitters

    TGIF! As part of our Friday Cocktail series, we are taking a look at bitters. Bitters are, simply, a liquid extraction of various elements, such as barks, spices, and fruit peels. "Bitters are like the spice rack of the cocktail world," says Ira Koplowitz of Bittercube. They can be used to tone down the sweetness of simple syrups, juices and sweet liqueurs, as well as adding depth, aroma, and flavor to a variety of cocktails. A touch of bitters is the perfect way to finish off a Manhattan, and chocolate bitters can be used to create a chocolate manhattan. Orange peel bitters can add a slightly fruity and complex element to bourbon cocktails. Classic barrel bitters contain smokey elements which can create an extra element of whiskey type flavors.

    But don't stop at brown liquor - bitters play well with virtually every alcohol in your liquor cabinet. Gin is another classic pairing. Use Gin, Lillet Blanc, and touch of violet bitters to create a light and classic cocktail - garnish with a Luxardo cherry for an old school and sophisticated twist. A classic Bloody Mary for brunch can be punched up with a touch of barrel bitters and Worcestershire Sauce. Make a champagne cocktail using a sugar cube soaked in bitters for the base on top of bubbly for a lighter, lower alcohol bitter cocktail. Chocolate and spicy bitters are also a great finish for a classic margarita recipe, and smoky Mezcal will benefit greatly from bitters also.

    Sourcing bitters for your bar is also fun, but consider making your own. If you have a decent mixologist on your staff, he or she can easily whip up house creations which will save you money and give you clout for your own 'house made' recipes. Bitters made in house can also be customized to the exact recipes and bar menu that you've created also. Get creative with this and up your cocktail game - sophisticated palates will thank you!

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