Quick Service, Full Service, and Fast Casual: What’s the Difference?

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Quick Service, Fast Casual, and Full Service: What’s the DifferenceIf you’re starting a restaurant, you’re facing a lot of decisions that determine how your business will be run. From the concept of your restaurant to the kinds of restaurant equipment you’ll need, there are a lot of factors that determine a restaurant’s success. If you’re not sure what kind of service format would best fit your restaurant, read on for ShortOrder’s breakdown of the types of restaurant service formats.

First, the quick service restaurant, or QSR. Also known as “limited service” restaurants, QSRs are all about fast service and convenience. The price point of the average meal at a QSR is about $5, and the meal might include “combo” options for a better price with additional sides or drinks. QSRs have no table service, have simpler interior décor and ambience, and are often structured with a single service counter and/or a drive-thru. Although food at QSRs is known for being of a lower quality, a trend toward upscale food in QSRs is currently on the rise. Expanded menus with specialty items are becoming popular. Although QSRs can be difficult to manage due to a high turnover rate, they are easier to franchise. Popular restaurant equipment items in a QSR could include Gen2 fryers, Vulcan ranges, and commercial microwave ovens.

Full service restaurants, which can include both casual dining and fine dining, include full table service and a “sit-down” meal with a relatively extensive menu. There is a heavier emphasis on décor and ambience in a full service restaurant. Casual dining is often accompanied by a family-friendly atmosphere and professional but informal service staff. Fine dining has upscale ambience and a professional, knowledgeable wait staff. Casual dining restaurants can attract a wide customer base with better affordability and wide menu selection, but must compete with a wide range of full service restaurants. Fine dining establishments are known for their quality service, food, and wine, but may find it hard to compete with the lower price points of casual dining restaurants, QSRs, and fast casual restaurants in a poor economy.

The fast casual restaurant—a relatively modern term—is sort of a hybrid between quick service and casual dining. Fast casual is all about speed and convenience, but sets a price point between $7 and $10 per meal and aims for better service and higher-quality food. Recently, new fast casual restaurants have become more concept-focused, like the idea of the fast casual pizza restaurant, or fast casual potato dishes. The focus may also be on customizing your food order, so fast casual restaurants often have restaurant equipment like combiwave ovens to produce hot, customized orders quickly. Fast casual restaurants also have a wide customer base. However, like QSRs, fast casual establishments can also experience a lot of turnover.

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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 …


Undercounter Glass Washers: The Busy Kitchen’s Secret Weapon

Friday, October 11th, 2013

This week at ShortOrder, we’d like to spotlight undercounter glass washers in keeping with the “undercounter” theme (see last week’s undercounter ice machine post), Although undercounter glass washers may be rather under-celebrated in the world of commercial restaurant equipment, the fact is that they’re an extremely useful asset in a kitchen or behind a bar. Read on for ShortOrder’s glass washer exposé.
Did you know that in order for dishes to be truly sanitized, the water they’re washed in needs to reach at least 140° F? Unfortunately, this scalding temperature can be hard to reach when washing glasses by hand. Additionally, washing glasses one at a time is slow work, which in turn slows down operations in the kitchen and behind the bar, two areas that require a quick and steady pace throughout the day. The advantage of undercounter glass washers is that they both save time and fully clean and sanitize your glasses. Glass washers like the Hobart Glass Washer LXEC-3 wash 34 racks per hour, and provide auto chemical priming, detergent, a rinse aid, and sanitizer pumps.

And undercounter glass washers aren’t just efficient; they’re good for your employees, too. Bartenders in particular have to wash a large volume of glasses over the course of a day, and doing so manually can be hard on the hands, thanks to the scalding temperature that true sanitization requires, as well as any harsh chemicals in the cleaner. Automatic glass washers eliminate this problem, as they generate the high temperatures and cleaning agents you need.

On the whole, when it comes to undercounter glass washers, it turns out that less is more. Undercounter glass washers tend to be less expensive than their full-size counterparts, they use less water per cycle, and most are designed to fit underneath a standard bar counter, so you won’t have to sacrifice space at the expense of efficiency.

Do you use undercounter glass washers in your establishment? Look up ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook and let us know what you think of your undercounter glass washer.


The Care and Keeping of Food Slicers

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Food slicers are a necessity in many kitchens. Useful for cold cuts, sliced bread, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, and so much more, every good kitchen should have a food slicer on hand. Using a slicer is faster and more uniform than slicing large amounts of food by hand, so you end up saving both time and capital. This week in What’s Cooking, we bring you some quick tips so you can get the most out of your slicers and keep your kitchen running efficiently.

Care and Maintenance

Be good to your food slicers! Just as with any other piece of commercial restaurant equipment, food slicers can last a long time with the right maintenance and treatment. Keep these tips in mind as you operate your food slicers.

• Make sure that the blade diameter you choose is approximately equal to the diameter of the product being sliced.
• Lubricate your food slicer’s blade with mineral oil rather than cooking oil, since the latter can eventually jam up the machinery.
• Keep your food slicer’s blade sharpened.
• Lock your slicer’s blade when not in use.
• Return your food slicer’s blade to its original setting if you adjust it to cut thinner or thicker slices.

Slicing Meats

• Never slice frozen meat—it will damage the slicer.
• If your meat is of an uneven texture, it will slice much more easily if partially-frozen.
• Never use your hands to move meats toward the blade; instead, use the food pusher to steadily apply pressure and move the meat.
• Make sure the meat is completely boneless before you slice it.
• Choose light or standard duty slicers for slicing deli meats.

Slicing Cheeses

• Lightly wetting the slicer’s blade will produce a finer cut when slicing cheese.
• Cold cheese is easier to slice, especially if dealing with a soft cheese.
• Medium or heavy duty slicers are best for cheeses.

Slicing Produce and Breads

• De-seed fruits and vegetables before slicing.
• Produce is easiest to slice when cold.
• Always slice bread at room temperature.

Connect with ShortOrder

What do you use your slicers for? What kind of slicer do you prefer in your kitchen? Let ShortOrder know by finding us on Twitter and Facebook and let us know!

Into the Fryers: The Designer Doughnut Trend

Friday, September 13th, 2013

It all started with the Cronut.

Well, perhaps not, but it certainly exploded after the Cronut. Pastry-hawkers the world over have been heating up their fryers to participate in a deep-fried, sugar-glazed fad: the designer doughnut trend.

The Cronut is a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, and it is just as delicious as it sounds. Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York launched the Cronut on May 10, 2013, and it has since exploded into viral fame and become a much-imitated favorite. However, the Cronut was not the first to use fryers to put a high-end spin on America’s favorite deep-fried breakfast food. Places like Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon have been making unusual doughnuts since the early 2000s, and Psycho Donuts in Campbell, California has been in operation since 2009. Today, doughnut purveyors of all kinds are producing gourmet glazed goodness from their fryers. Designer doughnuts are showing up in all segments of the restaurant industry, from fine dining to fast food. In fact, according to Datassential’s MenusTrends data, doughnuts are now on 4% of all restaurant menus, a 27% increase since 2008.

Dunkin’ Donuts is just one of the many establishments capitalizating on the designer doughnut fad. Dunkin’, which seasonally offers pumpkin-flavored doughnuts, is adding a new one to its fryers this fall: a pumpkin pie doughnut filled with buttercream, topped with white icing and graham cracker topping. Likewise, Gourdough’s, a food truck in Austin, Texas that opened in late 2009 that serves up artisan dessert doughnuts from its fryers, expanded its options earlier this year by opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant with a menu full of savory doughnut dishes like chicken and doughnut hole dumplings, donut burgers, and salads that come served with a “piping hot garlic doughnut”.  And Earth + Ocean Food and Drink in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, which opened in February of this year, features Portuguese doughnuts (“malsadas”).

What do you think of the designer doughnut trend? Have you used your restaurant’s fryers or commercial restaurant equipment to create artisan spins on old fast food favorites? Connect with ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook and tell us! You can also follow us to keep with more restaurant industry trends and tips.

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!


Restaurant Success in the City: Urban Franchising Tips

Monday, August 5th, 2013

If you’re franchising your restaurant in an urban area, you’re going to need more than quality restaurant equipment to make it work. While, yes, your focus should always be on turning out a quality product and providing excellent service, setting up a franchise location in an urban environment comes with a special set of challenges.

How can you open your restaurant and ensure that your restaurant equipment will always be busy? Read on for tips for urban franchising success.

Get the Word Out

To gain publicity in an urban area, creating awareness online can be a great stepping stone. Turn to your own social media outlets, connect with others, and invite food bloggers to come in to create a buzz about the opening of your location.

Know the Codes

Urban locations may have special regulations that other locations lack, and you should make sure your restaurant can comply with them. Whether it’s the method of trash storage and disposal, the location of deliveries, or special fire code limitations, it’s important to be well-informed before starting operations.

Bring in the Experts

Franchisees who have experience in an urban market are ideally-prepared to help with the opening of a city franchise. Using operators who are already familiar with the operational challenges and quirks that come with the urban restaurant business can eliminate some of the floundering that may occur when a franchise location first opens.

Prepare for Lunchtime

There are several challenges that come with operating a restaurant in the city during lunch. In a smaller community, customers might come in to your restaurant for a leisurely lunch. In a city environment, however, the lunch hours are often populated by hurried patrons and professionals who are lunching within a time limit. As a result, lunchtime will see a higher volume and intense activity on your kitchen’s restaurant equipment. Prepare for this by making to-go ordering easy (as with a separate waiting area or ordering station), clearing space for large lines, and servicing your restaurant equipment regularly to make sure it is working optimally.

Employ Locally

If you’re expanding in an urban area, you want the people working your restaurant equipment and running your restaurant to be from the area, as well. Hiring the right staff may allow you to be connected with local vendors right away, be aware of the area’s regulations from the start, and be able to connect with the people of the city on a more personal level.

More Tips and Restaurant Equipment from ShortOrder

What tips would you give someone opening a franchise in an urban area? Connect with ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook and tell us about your experiences with urban franchising and restaurant equipment!

For more restaurant industry tips, the latest on quality restaurant equipment, and more, you can keep reading What’s Cooking.

How to Improve Your Restaurant’s Website for Better Business

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Want to keep your kitchens and your restaurant equipment busy? If your restaurant is not online yet, you’re probably missing out on a big opportunity to improve business for your restaurant. Equipment and quality service aren’t the only things it takes to keep customers coming back. Being able to locate your restaurant online is a major avenue for new customers learn about it, and often how they ultimately choose to venture there for the first time. If you’re thinking about redesigning your restaurant to get to your restaurant equipment back in commission, there are a few things you should know first.

Here are some basic dos and don’ts when it comes to building a better website for your restaurant.

Do: Get to Know Your Customers

When redesigning your website, ask yourself: Why do your customers use your website? Is it to find your locations? To view your menu? To order food online? To give feedback about their experience? To find catering information? Tend to those needs first and foremost when reconstructing your website.

Don’t: Make Your Site More Complicated

A surplus of pages and graphics are not the mark of an upscale business. In fact, sometimes the websites that offer the simplest user experience are the most helpful. Be sure that your website is efficient and easy to navigate. Just like good restaurant equipment, you want a website that gives the customer a quality product quickly so that they are most likely to come back again.

Do: Show Off Your Social Media

If you already have accounts for your restaurant on outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, give your customers a way to navigate to those profiles from your homepage, and vice-versa. The more ways users can encounter your website and find information, the better.

Don’t: Ignore Your Phone

In a survey by Nation’s Restaurant News of about 1,500 smartphone users, 81% said they had used their phones to search for a restaurant in the last six months, and 84% said they also compared restaurants before choosing. While it’s a good idea, but not absolutely necessary, to create an app for your restaurant, you should at least optimize your site for mobile. Smartphone users will have an easier time navigating it and making a decision about where to eat. And speed isn’t just a matter of convenience; 62% of users said they were less likely to choose a restaurant if its website was difficult to read on a phone.

More Tips and Restaurant Equipment from ShortOrder

For more tips on running a successful restaurant, news about quality restaurant equipment, and more keep reading What’s Cooking.

What do you wish you could find on other restaurants’ websites? What restaurant equipment do you use most? Connect with ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook and tell us about your experiences with marketing and restaurant equipment!

How to Make Your Menu Healthier with Restaurant Equipment

Friday, June 21st, 2013

We all know that top restaurant equipment can supply your menus with healthy food choices. Whether you’re using blenders for smoothies or commercial steamers to cook your food to perfection, restaurant equipment helps you serve it up to your customers. But it can be tough to compete in a world of fast food and deep fried Snickers bars. The fact is that even if your restaurant offers those things, it’s a good idea to offer some healthy options on your menu an on your restaurant equipment, as well. Just like joining the gluten-free and locavore movements offers customers more choices, so does updating your menu with healthy choices. What’s more, it’s possible to be a health-centric restaurant without losing business. If you do it right, you may actually gain business!

Here are ShortOrder’s top tips for making your menu healthier and keeping your restaurant equipment busy with healthy orders.

Offer Options in All Categories

You don’t have to revamp your entire menu or throw out your Gen2 fryers, but it is a good idea to provide a selection of healthy options across the board. Put simply: two salads do not a healthy menu make. Entrees, side dishes, add-ons, and even desserts all deserve a chance at a change for the healthier. Diners will sometimes choose the higher-calorie entrée that the want, then balance it out with a healthy side or add-on, so be sure to focus on those areas.

Suggest Substitutions

If you don’t want to add totally new items to your menu, considering offering healthier alternatives to some components of your current menu items. Offer whole-grain or whole-grain breads and pastas, vegetarian options for main items like hamburgers and hot dogs, and turkey burgers as a lean protein substitute for regular burgers.

Cater to Kids

Kids’ food is taking a turn for the healthier, too. This is a trend that even major fast food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, where you can choose things like milk, juice, and apples as kids’ meal options, have embraced. Parents can also play a factor in choosing their children’s meals, so offering a healthy option for the kiddos might mean the parents will end up more satisfied as well.

More Restaurant Equipment Tips from ShortOrder

Go beyond the What’s Cooking blog by staying connected with ShortOrder for more news about restaurant equipment and the restaurant industry. For more tips and tricks to help those in the restaurant business, follow ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook and get the latest updates on restaurant equipment and more.

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!

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