Ways to Improve Your Food Business in the New Year

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Now that the New Year is officially under way, this is the perfect time to evaluate your restaurant, cafe, food truck, or other food-related business to uncover and shore up weaknesses. Chances are, no matter how well your business did in 2015, there is still room for improvement in a major area such as quality, service, or overall efficiency for the new year. To help identify current shortcomings and set future performance goals, consider taking one or more of these steps:

improve restaurantExpand (or reduce) your menu

Whether you use an expensive point-of-sale tracking system, have tight inventory controls, or personally take orders every single day, you probably have a very good idea of which menu items consistently sell well and which lack customer appeal. Try new recipes that complement the bestsellers and ditch the underperforming dishes to reduce associated waste in food, ingredients, or storage space.

Spend off-peak hours wisely

Slow periods are inevitable in the food service industry, so it’s important to spend that time wisely. Clean up and preparation for the next meal rush are obvious ways to use downtime, but they’re not the only ways. Many business owners have increased revenues by offering off-peak specials such as early bird dining discounts, extended happy hours, or limited late-night menus.

Give your staff the right tools for the job

If your food business is plagued with operating inefficiencies, it might be tempting to place the blame on your kitchen or wait staff. But before doing that, find out whether or not they have the necessary tools for getting the job done. Is there adequate prep space in the kitchen? If not, consider buying more work tables. Is most of the mixing, blending, and chopping of ingredients being done by hand? If so, consider providing commercial food processors to improve speed, efficiency, and safety in these areas.

Develop a social media presence

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media sites are no longer optional for businesses—particularly those in the food service industry. Today’s customers expect to be able to find your company and engage with you on one or more of these platforms, and it’s in your best interest to oblige. Being active on social media not only gives you the opportunity to improve your responsiveness to inquiries and complaints, but also helps you manage your brand in a positive way.

Improvements for the New Year don’t have to be radical or expensive in order to be effective; they simply have to fill a void in your business. So start examining your current practices now to see if your bottom line would benefit by implementing one of the above ideas at some point in 2016.

Tips to Help Your Food Truck Survive Winter

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

According to industry experts, food truck operators can expect revenues to drop off by nearly 50% in winter. That’s a huge decline, especially if the truck is your sole source of income.

Does this mean you should put your vehicle into long-term storage and get a different job until warmer weather returns? Maybe not. Try these tips to help your food truck survive the winter slump:

  • Change your menu to suit the season: Cold weather calls for warmer and heartier fare such as soups and stews, as well as hot drinks like espresso, tea, and cocoa. These items can easily be prepared and kept warm with the help of one of the multi-quart table top kettles we have at ShortOrder.com, and will attract customers who otherwise might not be willing to brave the elements.
  • Team up with another business: Is there a bar or winery in your area that doesn’t serve food? If you specialize in desserts, is there a coffee shop that doesn’t offer sweets? Contact those business owners ASAP and try to work out an arrangement in which both parties can benefit.
  • Consider catering: Catering is another popular winter option for food truck operators. Though these jobs might be on a larger scale than you’re used to dealing with, if you’ve got the time, equipment, and personnel, it could be worth your while to check into catering holiday parties, business events, school functions, and social occasions.
  • Try direct delivery: You know those office complexes and buildings you regularly service during the warmer months? That’s an established base for your business and shouldn’t be given up just because the customers don’t want to wait around in freezing temperatures for their food. Talk to the office manager and see if you can arrange a direct delivery service for orders placed before a certain time each day.
  • Be on the lookout for special events: Many cities and towns have winter festivals or other special outdoor events that can provide you with extra income opportunities. Check out your city’s events calendar (and those of neighboring towns and suburbs) and hit as many as you can.

Surviving the winter decline is a challenge familiar to every food truck owner and operator, but viable solutions do exist. If you haven’t done so before, try one or more of the revenue-generating ideas listed here so you can keep your business up and running all year round.

Back To School!

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Boy with lunch tray in school cafeteriaNow that school is back in session, parents around the world get their schedules back. Many have to work on homework at night, sign agendas, fill out school paperwork and get up every morning to make a healthy lunch before sending their kids off to a day at school. Wait… you don’t make a homemade lunch for your kids daily? What kind of parent are you? The answer? The same as many other parents! Schools offer education. Education transcends the classroom and enters the lunch room every school day. The lunchrooms of today are not like it was when I was a kid. There are more choices for students as well as stricter guidelines for schools. How has that changed the kitchen? Let’s look.

If you were to step into today’s K-12 school kitchen, you would notice that it is far more streamlined than in the past. Why? The food being put into that kitchen has changed. Back in the day, most kitchens were working with raw ingredients. Slicers, ovens, choppers, sinks, braising pans, steam jacketed kettles and holding cabinets galore were used to change those raw goods into the lunch we (some not so fondly) remember from our childhoods. (more…)

Top 3 Things You Need To Know About Commercial Fryers

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

tmp1E6EFryers aren’t just for fast food restaurants. Kitchens all around the country are using fryers to make new culinary creations. From deep-fried squash blossoms to tempura-battered Oreos, commercial fryers offer restaurants and their chefs the opportunity to create unique, fresh food served up crispy and hot. Whether you’re new to the restaurant business or a seasoned professional, eventually you’ll be in the market for a new commercial fryer. Let’s take a look at a few things to consider before purchasing:

Fryer Specifications

Do you want a gas or electric fryer? What size do you need? Fryers come in all shapes and sizes with a wide range of features. Gas fryers were once the most popular power source option. However, rising natural gas prices have increased the sales of electric fryers. Also take into consideration the space you have in your kitchen; make sure your new fryer fits appropriately into your floor plan. (more…)

How to Create a Zero-Waste Commercial Restaurant Kitchen

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Short-Order_Compost-RecyclingRestaurant kitchens are notoriously wasteful. Not only does almost every piece of food come with some form of organic waste that you don’t actually want to cook with, but most of it also comes wrapped in plastic, which is wrapped in plastic again, and then in a cardboard box (which is itself sometimes wrapped in plastic!). All that plastic and cardboard can be recycled, but the organic waste has to be composted. So what do you do with everything else? Follow these steps to cut down on waste in your restaurant’s kitchen.

Step 1: Proper Prior Planning

The first step to a zero-waste kitchen is to consider what your kitchen does that produces waste in the first place. Trash and food waste are the two greatest culprits, and you should have a plan to deal with both on-site. Composting non-meat food waste is a no-brainer. Recycling what can be recycled is as well. However, what few people realize is that, in most metropolitan areas, there are recycling facilities that can handle 90% of post-consumer waste between them. Sit down and think about what you have that cannot be composted or recycled, and make a list. (more…)

Guide to Buying Restaurant Utility Carts

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Luxor 100S3 Utility CartsWhat can you use a utility cart for? Use your imagination. Towering cakes? You bet. Floral arrangements? For certain. Laundry loads? Yes indeed. There are utility carts of all shapes and sizes, made for all kinds of businesses. So where to start when buying a utility cart? Consider the 3 C’s: capacity, casters, and construction.

Capacity

What will your cart be holding? Will it primarily support pastries, or bear the weight of bussing buckets and dishes? All that poundage can add up pretty quickly, so make sure you account for the weight capacity of your cart. Depending on size and construction, utility carts can hold and evenly distribute between 200 and 1,000 pounds.

Casters

What’s a cart without its casters? Yep. Just a bunch of shelves. Utility carts are available both with and without locking brakes, as well as with ball-bearing casters and swivel casters.

Construction

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How to Keep Your Commercial Restaurant Equipment and Kitchen Safe and Clean

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Keeping Commercial Restaurant Equipment and Kitchen Safe and CleanA restaurant’s kitchen can be a hazardous place. It’s a fast-paced environment with all manner of dangerous areas and precision commercial restaurant equipment. Unfortunately, the best commercial restaurant equipment is also the equipment that is kept the sharpest or is able to heat the highest, so you and your kitchen staff need to exercise caution day in and day out in the back of house. Here are some guidelines to evaluate the level of safety and cleanliness in your kitchen so you can be productive and cautious at the same time.

Have a Cleaning and Safety Checklist

Sanitation and safety should the top priorities in the kitchen. Preventing food-borne illnesses and problems that stem from food allergies are major concerns for restaurants, and nipping those problems in the bud with a strict cleanliness policy is a must. Likewise, it is critical that you ensure that the kitchen is a safe environment. Creating a checklist for the end of the day can encourage good habits. A proper safety and cleaning checklist should include items like …

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Fast Casual Pizza: What’s Next for Commercial Restaurant Equipment

Friday, August 30th, 2013

The fast casual restaurant is on the rise, cooking up a frenzied variety of foods on eateries’ commercial restaurant equipment to great financial success. According to the NPD Group, the number of fast casual chain restaurant units increased by 7% from last year’s spring census, and visits to those units increased by 9% during the same time frame, even as traffic in the rest of the restaurant industry was flat.

“Fast casual” is defined as somewhere between a fast food restaurant and casual dining restaurant. The idea is that fast casual restaurants offer higher-quality food than a fast food establishment, without the full table service that comes with a casual dining restaurant. Included in the fast casual category are restaurants like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Noodles & Co., Smashburger, and Fazoli’s.

Fast casual has been around for decades, but there is a newer trend that has been surfing the fast casual wave that has consumers excited. The “fast casual pizza” trend is one that has been growing for some time now, but seems to have spiked in the last year or so. The concept of fast casual pizza has been referred to as “the Chipotle Mexican Grill of pizza,” meaning that customers proceed through an assembly line of ingredients to build their own single-serve pie. The kind of commercial restaurant equipment and ovens used to craft these personal pizzas vary from conveyor ovens to deck ovens. Consumers appreciate the fast casual pizza concept thanks to its ability to create an American favorite in a healthier, more personalized way, while still serving it quickly using powerful commercial restaurant equipment. Current contenders in the world of fast casual pizza eateries include Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, The Pizza Studio, PizzaRev, MOD Pizza and Pie Five Pizza, but there are also places in the market like Zpizza, a fast casual pizza chain that has been baking made-to-order pies for 27 years.

Commercial Restaurant Equipment and News from ShortOrder

What’s your opinion of the fast casual pizza trend? What commercial restaurant equipment have you used in your fast casual restaurant? Look up ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook and let us know!

 

How to Save Energy in the Kitchen with Commercial Restaurant Equipment and More

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Are you looking for ways to cut down on your energy bills? There are some simple things you can do to reduce your bills using the right commercial restaurant equipment, employing better day-to-day habits, and more. This week, What’s Cooking has compiled a quick list of ways to save energy in your kitchen. Read on to find out more!

Choose the Right Commercial Restaurant Equipment for Your Needs

When you’re buying equipment for your kitchen, think about what you’ll need it for from day to day. Refrigerators and ice machines that are too big for your operation can waste a lot of energy, sticking you with an unnecessary bill. Likewise, check out the energy ratings of your kitchen appliances before you make a purchase.

Buy Energy Star-Approved Commercial Restaurant Equipment

Commercial restaurant equipment that is Energy Star certified will save you energy and money, making it a cost-effective decision. What does it mean to be Energy Star-approved? Appliances that feature the Energy Star label are backed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and have been proven to perform as well as or better than a product of its kind that consumes a higher amount of energy. Be sure to check out the energy-saving Scotsman ice machines, for example, which recently won 2013 Energy Star Partner of the Year. Bottom line: with Energy Star approved commercial restaurant equipment, you get more efficient equipment in return for savings on energy. Who wouldn’t want that?

Turn Commercial Restaurant Equipment Off

You don’t need to power down every time business slows down, but turning off your commercial restaurant equipment when you can will really cut down on your energy expenses. Take advantage of an afternoon lull to give your ranges and fryers a rest, for example.

Dim the Lights

Take steps with your lighting to make sure you aren’t wasting energy. Turn off lights when you can, like in the afternoon when the restaurant gets the most light, and remember to hit the switch when you leave an office or a pantry. Also, buy low-watt bulbs for your table lamps, and consider investing in LED lighting for overhead, which can ultimately save you thousands of dollars per year.

Treat Your Equipment with Care

Daily use can really take a toll on ice machines, fryers, ranges, and other commercial restaurant equipment if you aren’t careful, so make sure you know how to correctly maintain your commercial restaurant equipment. For example, maintenance of your ice machines is very important when it comes to saving energy. With proper care, your ice machines will run stronger and last longer, giving you more bang for your buck. Have your equipment serviced regularly, and use manufacturer’s parts that are made specifically for your equipment. Lastly, train your staff so that they understand how to use your commercial restaurant equipment efficiently, and explain the importance of saving energy in the kitchen.

More Energy-Saving Tips

How do you save energy in your kitchen? Find ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook and tell us about your favorite energy-saving commercial restaurant equipment!

How to Take Food Inventory Faster

Friday, May 31st, 2013

When it comes to efficiency in the kitchen, organization is a must. From commercial restaurant equipment to your walk-in freezer, keeping things tidy is imperative for keeping a kitchen running successfully. Part of this imperative includes taking food inventory. Taking inventory helps you calculate your food cost, and evaluate your spending and day-to-day operations to maximize profitability. When your inventory depletes due to waste, the poor handling of food, theft, transfers, or free food items, it’s important to assess what’s left and adjust your ordering and spending accordingly.

If you find yourself spending too much time doing inventory in your restaurant, read on. These simple tips can help you drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to complete your inventory and improve the way you operate your restaurant, letting you put your commercial restaurant equipment to better use.

Stay Clean and Organized

In order to function at its best, your kitchen should be tidy and organized. This means keeping your commercial restaurant equipment in good working order to minimize breakdowns and extraneous costs, cleaning that commercial restaurant equipment at the end of every business day, clearly labeling containers and shelves, and keeping everything visible for inventory. This step alone can speed up the inventory process tremendously, since you won’t have to spend time rummaging around while counting and recording.

Do It Weekly

This is especially important for independent restaurants and single-unit operations, which are accounted for by about 7 of 10 restaurants in the U.S. Independent restaurants need to optimally compete with chains, most of which do their inventories weekly rather than monthly. Basically, the more regularly you take inventory, the more accurate your food cost calculations will be. For most restaurants, Sundays are the optimal day of the week to take inventory. Why? That’s when inventory will be at its lowest, and Monday through Sunday is a natural calendar for inventorying.

Count Efficiently

There are several ways you can streamline the actual act of taking inventory. First, separate your inventory into cost categories. By categorizing groups like meat, dairy, seafood, and produce, you make cost calculations easier, which is part of the point of inventory. Next, arrange your spreadsheet so that it reflects the order in which you count the inventory. You’ll spend less time searching and more time counting. Finally, use two people—one to count, and one to record. As they say, two sets of eyes are better than one, so in addition to being faster, fewer mistakes will be made overall. If possible, use the same two people every week.

Commercial Restaurant Equipment

ShortOrder brings you the best commercial restaurant equipment in the industry, from quality ice machines to top-of-the-line Gen2 ranges. For more tips about how to get the most out of your commercial restaurant equipment, and how commercial restaurant equipment can improve your business, keep reading What’s Cooking, and follow ShortOrder on Twitter and like us Facebook.

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