Monthly Archives: March 2018

  1. Should you be making pasta in-house?

    Should you be making pasta in-house?

    Should you be making pasta in-house?

    Any Italian with a grandmother will tell you that there is a time and place for both dried pasta and fresh pastas, but many restaurants find themselves relying on boxed, dry pasta almost exclusively. While there is nothing wrong with premade pastas for dishes like fettuccine and linguine, making your own pasta in-house for a range of different dishes can elevate your reputation and give your kitchen an edge in flavor. Best of all: restaurant equipment for fresh pasta is not all that extensive or expensive to buy and maintain.

    Guarantee quality and consistency

    Dried pastas are popular in no small part because they are consistent: major brands have their recipes for semolina pastas down to a science, and quality controls are an important part of their processes. However, making your own pastas in-house for certain dishes--such as gnocchi or tagliatelle--means that you have full control over the ingredients, and the end result from start to finish. This comes in particularly handy if your restaurant wants to begin offering gluten-free or other options--gnocchi made on a factory line, while consistent in quality, may or may not have allergens or trace amounts of other ingredients in them that your customers shouldn’t or don’t want to have.

    By controlling the ingredients and process, you’ll know everything that’s in the pasta, and you can control the quality from start to finish. You can also incorporate whole wheat, gluten free, and other options on your own and find the exact ways to play with those components to offer a special experience to customers.

    Another aspect to consider is the fact that while dried pastas are generally consistent, the quality for niche products is harder to judge, and individual situations in the kitchen--humidity, atmospheric pressure, and so on--can affect the end product much more than the manufacturers can account for in offering a broad-based ingredient. By making pasta in-house, you can control for those factors, and make pasta doughs that work perfectly the day of.


    Increase profits

    It may seem strange that incorporating new restaurant equipment into your operation can be a way to increase profits, but customers will often pay extra for specialty pastas, as well as fresh-made pastas, which are difficult for novice home cooks to make on their own. More to the point, the equipment you need is often not all that expensive in terms of layout; many fresh pastas don’t even require a pasta roller, so additional prep equipment may be all you need--bowls, boards, bins, and things of that nature that restaurants can always use more of.

    Especially if you’re able to get a handle on offering truly unique fresh pastas--such as adding unique flavors into the dough for end products like tagliatelle and gnocchi--you can ask customers to pay a little more for the unique experience and quality of your dishes, compared to something that tends towards being run-of-the-mill. Beet juice, spinach, squid ink, and tomato are all popular additions to pasta doughs in Italy, and if you have the restaurant supplies to manufacture some of your own pasta, you can get creative with flavors and colors, transforming a bland dish into something truly spectacular.

    Many classic fresh pastas do not require much in the way of extra equipment; gnocchi can be made with the ingredients, a bowl, a flat surface to knead the dough on, a bench knife and a fork to help shape the finished dumplings. Even fresh ravioli and stuffed pastas require very little extra outlay for equipment, meaning that incorporating in-house pasta into your restaurant’s menu is a cost effective option. Making a minimal investment in tools of the trade can give you the opportunity to not only craft dishes that will exceed customer expectations, but also ones that you can--understandably--charge a little more for than you would if they were made from dried pastas. Consumers are happy to pay extra for greater quality.


    While there will likely never be a need--or, possibly, even a desire--to go to making all of your own pasta, there are all kinds of options available from extruders and rollers and shapers to more basic restaurant equipment, to make it easy for your restaurant to make at least some of it’s own, in-house, fresh made pasta. If your business makes a range of pasta dishes, or even only a few key items, consider switching out the dry pasta for in-house recipes to make things even better.


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  2. Are You Paying Enough Attention to Allergies?

    Are You Paying Enough Attention to Allergies?
    According to a study published by the CDC in 2014, food allergies affect an estimated 15 million people in the US alone, and nearly half of the reported fatal food allergy reactions over a 13-year period were caused by food from a restaurant or other food service establishment. Of course, since then many restaurants have become more aware and conscientious, but the data continues to show that not enough restaurants are taking sufficient precautions to prevent customers being harmed by reactions to allergens that can come up in the food they eat unknowingly. The issue of tackling food allergy safety can seem daunting, especially in a busy commercial kitchen; not only does it require special training that should be renewed fairly frequently, but the restaurant supplies budget does go up in order to be able to accommodate the need to safely serve customers. On the other hand, if customers come into your business expecting a lovely night and end up in the hospital, that is not going to reflect well on your brand-- so it’s definitely worth making the investment to check on how well your restaurant manages this issue. There are a few things that you can do right away to get a handle on the important problem of making sure your customers-- all of your customers-- have a great time at your restaurant. Audit your existing procedures and resources The first step in finding out what will need to be changed or fixed in your restaurant is to find out what the baseline is. There are a number of companies that offer free or low-cost audits for food safety especially in regards to allergens and sensitivities; consider reaching out and getting a professional, informed opinion from them, and schedule a visit. Even before you do that, though, there are a few steps that you can take on your own to get a feel for how well your restaurant manages the special requirements that people with allergies may have. Check with your front-of- house staff to find out how knowledgeable they are not just about what kinds of food allergies exist, but the menu itself, and how to deal with questions about potential food allergens. Make sure that your customer-facing staff all understand how important the issue is. If you find that your servers are not as knowledgeable as they need to be-- particularly in ingredients in your restaurant’s dishes-- set up an off-hours program to help them get to know the menu better, or a Q&A with the chefs to get the full details. Encourage them to hold onto the information with pop quizzes and/or little rewards for those who have the best performance and retain the new information best. In the kitchen, find out how well your chefs can accommodate a variety of food sensitivities and allergies. If there are gaps in what tools your back-of- house staff have and what they need, take the opportunity to order some new restaurant supplies to make sure that your people can easily prevent cross-contamination, and isolate special dishes from other prep areas where allergens can get into the finished product. Educate yourself Knowing where your restaurant stands, and what it needs, is the best way to figure out how to make your food not just delicious but safe for everyone who comes into your business. There are many free resources available online for educating yourself on the most common food allergies, the best protocols to follow for sensitive customers, and how to incorporate those protocols into the workflow for your business. In addition to those free resources, as mentioned before there are multiple organizations and companies that provide training and reinforcement activities. You can get an audit on current procedures and then schedule classes for the people working for you-- as well as yourself-- to make sure that you know how to do things properly. This includes not just making sure that your kitchen isn’t accidentally exposing customers to allergens, and making sure the front-of- house staff is informed on how to handle special requests and allergies, but also incorporating information for your customers themselves on your menus. While reprinting menus can get pricey, you can start out with a small number of on- request menus that your servers can provide to customers who are aware of their allergies and ask for additional information. While this may seem like a lot of effort, it will pay off in a big way for your restaurant. Not only does making your restaurant safe for all customers who come in to eat there a way to prevent a major opportunity for liability, but the care you take in creating a safe environment will pay off in customer loyalty and recommendations.
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  3. How Do Your Fries Stack Up?

    How Do Your Fries Stack Up?

    The perfect french fry can elevate a meal from run of the mill to exquisite decadence: crispy
    on the outside, pillowy in the middle, savory and starchy, it is a staple side for good reason.
    Because of that, it’s definitely a good idea to make sure your fries are what they should be,
    and think of cost-effective ways to elevate your french fries to keep people coming back for
    more. As a starting point, here are a few basics of fry magic-- not just the ABCs of making
    them, but some pointers for how to improve on what you’ve got already.

    What makes a perfect french fry?


    To begin with, there are three main categories to judge french fries on: appearance, taste,
    and texture. While fries might seem like such a basic food that it’s nearly impossible to

    mess them up, the characteristics of a perfect french fry are pretty much set in stone, and
    without knowing them, you can’t fairly judge what you’ve got.
    Appearance
    The perfect french fry is-- of course-- golden brown. It’s no wonder that that phrase appears
    on so many packages; it’s a sign that the outside of the potato is thoroughly cooked and
    crisp. Occasionally there might be a few spots where leftover potato peels darken a bit
    more than the rest of the potato, but uniform color is a hallmark of a great fry; if there are
    dark spots that aren’t from peels, those indicate overcooking and uneven cooking-- an
    indicator that fryers might not be working properly.

    Texture

    French fries should be lightly crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside-- they should
    never be obviously greasy or mushy. The best fries are made from fresh potatoes, and
    usually fried twice: once to par-cook the cut potatoes, eliminating some of the water from
    the inside of the pieces, and a second time to complete the cooking at set the crisp exterior.
    Of course, there is a place for par-cooked, frozen fries, in terms of saving time and
    prepwork, but fresh-cut fries will always be superior, particularly because the texture is
    easier to control; with frozen products, accidental thawing and other factors can affect the
    finished product.

    Taste


    While french fries have a reputation for being decadently fatty, they should never taste
    greasy, or-- perish the thought-- like anything else that has been in the fryer. They should be
    lightly salty, and have the slightly sweet and earthy taste of the potatoes themselves.
    Nobody likes a fry that tastes like salty grease and styrofoam.

    How to get the perfect fries


    Well-made french fries come down to three basic things: good potatoes, good equipment,
    and good technique. Fresh-cut fries are almost always the best, so while prepping pounds
    upon pounds of potatoes might sometimes seem like more trouble than it’s worth, it can

    make a huge difference in having a consistently satisfying end product. Restaurant
    equipment is another major-- but relatively simple-- factor: your fryers should be the right
    temperature, clean, and efficient. Technique comes down to knowing how to double-cook
    the fries, how to clean and peel and cut the potatoes, and how long to hold fries before
    making a new batch.
    Restaurant supply stores can provide not only the deep fryers you may need-- in whatever
    size you need-- but also tools of the trade to quickly peel and cut potatoes uniformly each
    time. Important factors to consider when buying equipment are how easy it will be to clean
    as often as you can, and how easy your equipment will be to service and/or replace. There
    are a range of options to fit any and all operations, so it’s easy to find exactly what you
    need.
    In addition to good potatoes, you need good-- and clean fry oil. Oil that’s too clean,
    obviously, is going to result in pale, undercooked fries; but oil should be carefully
    monitored to keep debris out of it, and changed regularly to make sure that it hasn’t gone
    rancid or taken on any odors over the course of use. Keeping the oil fresh is one of the key
    factors in making sure your fries are great.

    It’s a worthwhile idea to check on the consistency and the quality of your fries on a regular
    basis, and to make sure your equipment is up to snuff. Deep fryers and other restaurant
    equipment can make a huge difference between french fries that are just okay and ones
    that have customers ordering extra servings. With a wide range of options available for
    restaurants of all sizes, it’s possible to make room in almost any budget to update the key
    equipment as needed and take things to the next level.

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  4. Coming Food Trends for 2018

    Coming Food Trends for 2018



    Every year seems to bring new foods into the spotlight, whether for the health benefits they tout or for the novelty of tastes and textures from other continents and cultures. 2018 has already started to show what customers are interested in, and the good news is that some basic restaurant equipment allows anyone who might want to incorporate some of these big ideas into the menu - and for an efficient price. With some key restaurant supplies and know-how, you can make the most of the trends. 

    More plant-based foods

    While 2017 saw ramen noodles and poke bowls taking over the foodie crowd’s taste buds, 2018 restaurant-goers are already showing a heightened appreciation for plant-based dishes. Not necessarily vegetarian or vegan, after years of meat and seafood taking the spotlight, more restaurant-goers are interested in the possibilities that produce has to offer. An intersection within this trend is the growing popularity of blended soups packed with carefully-selected vegetables, along with composed dishes that incorporate and highlight plant-based proteins.

    The running joke about Millennials’ obsession with avocado has some merit to it; more and more, as adults of all demographics seek out healthier food options even in their restaurant dining experiences, dishes with a focus on seasonal, well-sourced vegetables are gaining in popularity. Nutrition experts have already gotten the word out that not only are many people not getting the vitamins and minerals they need, but also diets heavy in meat aren’t necessary to get the proteins a person needs for day-to-day life. Increasingly, that means that beans, avocados, quinoa, and other healthy, plant-focused foods are what customers are looking for.

    To capitalize on this trend, consider adding a few seasonal, blended soups to the menu--they’re easy to make with restaurant equipment you already have like blenders and food processors and steamers to properly prep the ingredients. The brilliant thing about this tactic as well is that it’s cost-effective: you can plan to keep a few soups on-menu when the ingredients are at the peak of flavor, and with almost no added effort keep patrons excited and coming in to see what the next series will be.


    Non-traditional cuts and breeds of meat

    While plant-based foods are taking on huge mainstream popularity, another trend rising for customers is non-traditional cuts of meat. While standbys like filet are never going to completely go away, customers are becoming more and more interested in non-traditional cuts like shoulder tender, Merlot cut, and oyster steak, according to the National Restaurant Association. A major benefit of this is that many of the cuts starting to gain traction in the consumer consciousness is that they are--in many cases--ones that used to be considered “off” cuts, so they can be more cost effective from a budget standpoint.

    In addition to the new “hot” cuts, restaurant-goers are interested in heritage breeds and non-commercial livestock, along with sustainably-sourced meats. Heritage breeds are cows and other livestock who don’t have the kinds of characteristics that big-time producers look for: rapid growth, heavier frames, and so on. But they have other characteristics that make them interesting: slower growth leads to more flavorful meat, and while heritage breeds may not produce as much offspring, they have unique characteristics well worth preserving--and for carnivores, well worth eating.

    Incorporate this trend into your menu by looking for local producers raising niche breeds for meat, and by asking your butcher for unusual cuts, and discussing with chefs how to maximize the potential of those cuts and proteins to come up with one or two great dishes to add to the menu.


    Unique ethnic foods are rising in popularity

    While Hawaiian and Japanese foods were super popular in 2017, the key flavors for 2018 are coming more from Peru and the Philippines. Three restaurants in Peru have landed onto the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and with good reason: while Peruvian cuisine has been a dark horse in the fine dining world, the flavors are intoxicating: a mix of South American ingredients, indigenous and European cross-pollination, and even Chinese influences makes for a cuisine that is intricate and interesting.

    Filipino cuisine is also starting to make inroads on cultural consciousness around the world and especially in the US, with its fusion of Pacific, Spanish, and east Asian influences. Not only are Filipino takes on dishes like tacos and burritos becoming popular, but ingredients from the Philippines like ube--a purple yam native to the islands--are finding their way into all kinds of finished dishes.

    Think about incorporating some Peruvian flavors or Filipino ingredients into your menus, or maybe working with other restaurants that specialize in those flavors to cross-promote and host events together, depending on your neighborhood and what you have going on.


    While it is of course important to have some solid, foundational basics that your restaurant keeps going at all times, by knowing some important food trends you can stay on the cutting edge of consumer interest--and draw new faces into your dining room.  In even better news: most of these trends allow you to use the restaurant equipment you’ve already got.


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  5. Spring is Nearly Here-- Take Advantage!

    Spring is Nearly Here-- Take Advantage!

    Tuesday, March 20 marks the first official day of spring in the northern hemisphere; while
    some areas aren’t necessarily seeing the light at the end of the tunnel just yet, it’s still
    possible to plan to welcome back Spring, and in the process reap some rewards. A little
    planning, the right restaurant equipment, and imagination is all it takes to create an event,
    concoct some recipes, and create an atmosphere of renewal.


    Think about a Spring-themed event

    It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to come up with an appropriate, themed event to
    welcome in Spring; one of the major advantages of the season is that really exciting
    ingredients are starting to become available, which on their own can inspire dozens of
    dishes. Some examples to get the ball rolling include asparagus, morel mushrooms,
    rhubarb, and spinach, but there are dozens of produce items you can choose from.
    If you already have the desire to create a Spring-themed event, putting things together is
    simple enough: you can offer a prix fixe menu of dishes that highlight the best things of the
    new season, and decoration can be as simple as early flowers or pastel accents, according
    to existing decor. Of course, depending on how quickly you can plan and get it together, it
    may not be possible for you to put the event together for the exact start of Spring, but
    within a few weeks of the official first day will probably work out well-- especially if you’re
    located somewhere that hasn’t quite fully warmed up yet.
    Within this category, you can consider too whether you want to hold a private event,
    perhaps for some of the best customers you have and by invitation only; advance booking
    ensures that you will know what the budget and profit for the event can be. Not only will
    patrons at your restaurant be flattered to participate in something so exclusive, but they’ll
    also almost certainly talk your event up around all their social circles-- generating even
    more interest in your restaurant.

    Consider a Spring special menu


    Even if you don’t decide to have a separate event, you can benefit from the bounty of the
    season by building up a special menu of a few items geared especially towards Spring
    produce and other foods. After this year’s particularly long winter, creating a few dishes
    with fresh flavors, and a different palette of ingredients, can not only invigorate the kitchen

    but also the customers! Of course the best way to plan this would be to create a handful of

    special items, available on a more limited basis, in addition to the usual menu-- there’s no
    need to go overboard and overhaul everything.
    The wonderful thing about Spring ingredients is that many of them don’t require a lot of
    additional effort to transform into something delicious: a little prep work can turn Spring
    greens like spinach, radicchio, endive, watercress, or a mixture of young greens into a
    delicious salad to freshen up the palate, or transform peas and asparagus into the base of a
    “primavera” dish to signal the end of winter. With strawberries and rhubarb just coming in,
    you can make simple desserts that will liven up the palates of everyone who eats them.
    Best of all, since Spring ingredients and components are just in season, they tend to be less
    expensive than out-of- season produce and meats, which means that the cost to produce a
    Spring menu or event for your grateful customers won’t break the bank. While it may take a
    little extra effort both in the front and back ends of the restaurant, a Spring special menu
    can bring in new business and build more customer relationships.

    So take advantage of the coming of Spring!

    With a little bit of creativity and some thought, you can create an event, or a menu, that will keep people coming back into your restaurant
    again and again. It may require a little bit of an increased budget on restaurant supplies,
    but the kinds of products you would need are ones that will fit into your kitchen
    seamlessly, with plenty of use throughout the year. Enjoy the coming of warmer weather
    and the availability of fresh, exciting ingredients, and celebrate the new season; don’t be
    surprised if the excitement that starts in the kitchens extends well out through the front of
    house and into your customers, creating a helpful buzz that will bring more people into
    your business for months-- maybe even years-- to come.

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