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.

Ketchup, it’s Not the #1 Condiment Anymore

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

KetchupNo, I’m not kidding. Salsa is now the most popular condiment in the United States, surpassing even ketchup! Is this just an interesting fact or maybe an opportunity in disguise? I think it’s the latter.

Let’s face it. Ketchup is just ketchup. That segment of condiment world is owned by two primary brands. You have one, or the other, or you are cheap. Customer’s expect ultimately one brand over the other, but both are acceptable. Ketchup is interesting as it isn’t something that most people make in-house and push as a “homemade” item. Homemade ketchup wouldn’t really be a destination or a draw for your business.

No one is having ketchup festivals that I am aware of… but salsa is another story. To this day, chips and salsa are still my favorite pre-meal food. Traditionally, salsa was solely a mexican restaurant staple. No one was serving Pace at good quality mexican food places. More often than not, the salsa was homemade and a thing of personal pride; Grandma’s recipe, shared with the clientele. (more…)

Dude, Chill! How Choose Refrigeration For Your Food

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Randell Standard Top Sandwich Prep RefrigerationHaving a refrigerator or freezer in your facility might not be enough. Commercial foodservice regulations are so strict that those units must maintain very tight temperature tolerances to safely store food. Food storage temperatures can affect many aspects of the product being stored. Nutrient content, appearance, taste and safety can all be compromised if the product is not stored at the correct temperature.

So what is the right temperature? For refrigerated goods, the holding temperature should be maintained between 35F to 38F. At this temperature, bacterial growth is greatly slowed allowing for prolonged freshness and safety. The lower the temperature, the longer the bacterial growth will be hindered. Since every unit can vary slightly, make sure to know the cold zones in your refrigeration unit to reduce the chance of accidentally freezing products like produce and dairy. (more…)

Brand Spotlight: Vulcan Restaurant Equipment

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Vulcan Brand Cheese MelterVulcan restaurant equipment started way back in 1890 with the formation of the Vulcan Gas Heating Company. For nearly 125 years, and through a few incarnations, the name Vulcan has been synonymous with quality heating and cooking equipment. Today a part of the ITW Food Equipment Group, Vulcan continues to expand its product line through an ongoing commitment to research and development.

Vulcan is the single largest manufacturer of commercial cooking equipment, distributing gas- and electric-powered ranges, ovens, and dozens of other cooking devices to commercial businesses from Los Angeles to London and Cordoba to Kyoto.

You can count on Vulcan to already know what food service needs are developing, and be in the process of making new products to address the needs of the ever-changing market. Boasting close affiliations with national organizations like Energy Star®, the National Restaurant Association, the School Nutrition Association, and the Foodservice Consultants Society International, Vulcan is right at the beating heart of food service both culturally and industrially. (more…)

Time to Buy a New Ice Machine? What to Look for

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Two Different Ice MachinesIce machines are one of the ‘grunts’ of the kitchen, constantly in use and long-suffering. It is easy to just keeping using yours until it breaks down and you have to buy a new one. But how do you deal with the sudden lack of ice? Is there a better way to handle the switch?

Signs You Need a New Ice Machine

Ice machines seem simple enough on the surface – their main function after all is to make ice. But there are a surprising number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to upgrade:

  • Energy efficiency gets better the newer your machine. In some cases, the cost of upgrading might be made up within a couple of years of energy savings, which makes it nearly a no-brainer.
  • Sheer volume might inspire you to upgrade if your old machine just can’t keep up with your customers’ needs.
  • Cubic footage is always at a premium in a commercial kitchen, and finding out that there’s a machine that makes the same amount of ice in half the space is huge.
  • Types of ice vary a surprising amount, and if you find that a new twist to your menu or prep process means suddenly you need more crushed than cubes or flake than blocks, a new machine can be the only answer.
  • Maintenance schedules are the final and most common reason why an ice machine gets replaced; when you reach a point where predicted maintenance costs outstrip new machine costs, the choice is obvious.

(more…)

The FDA Food Code and Your Restaurant: What You Need to Know

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Chef Preparing a SaladThere are a lot of rules in the 2013 Updated Food Code published by the FDA. Most of them are commonsense rules, but there are some very important bits that every restaurateur should know for fostering a safe work environment, safe storage and handling, cleaning restaurant equipment and much more.

The HACCP

The FDA strongly encourages the creation of a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. Essentially, this is a document printed out and available to all of your kitchen workers that details what how to correctly respond to any form of common kitchen emergency. The FDA offers a useful document called “Managing Food Safety” that explains precisely how to execute this process. Having an HACCP isn’t mandated nationwide yet, but a good number of municipalities require it within their borders. (more…)

How to Save Space in a Restaurant Kitchen

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Restaurant Kitchen With Dishes Stacked Under CounterThink all professional kitchens looks like the spaces on Iron Chef? Think again. In reality, the fact is that professional kitchens are often small and cramped; hardly the conditions you see on TV. What’s more, there are two types of restaurant kitchens: those that run like well-oiled machines, and those that are chaotic and messy. Fortunately, by using space logically, following the rules of ergonomics, and leveraging some equipment that can perform several functions, you can create an efficient kitchen no matter how much restaurant equipment you have filling your space.

Less Is More

Finding items that can do more than they appear is the key to saving kitchen space. Don’t have room for a food processor, blender, coffee grinder, bread maker, and mortar and pestle? One good tool (be it a food processor or a Hamilton Beach blender) can do all of those things and more. And as much as chefs love knives, a kitchen only needs a serrated knife, a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a slicing knife. And the right box grater can take the place of a mandolin, a spice grinder, and multiple different kinds of shredders at the same time. (more…)

Guide to Buying Certified Restaurant Equipment

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

certified-equipmentBecause not all restaurant equipment is created equal, it’s important for your equipment to have the right certifications. But which one does your operation need? And what do all those acronyms stand for, anyway? Just FYI, here’s the DL on the NSF, FCE, CE, and more.

California Low Lead Qualified

Products bearing the California Low Lead Qualified certification are compliant with the California low lead law. To be compliant with this law, plumbing materials that convey or dispense water for human consumption are allowed no more than 0.2% lead in solder and flux and 0.25% in wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures, as determined by a weighted average.

CE (Certified European)

Equipment with the Certified European label complies with the requirements the European commission has for the import and sale of products.

Energy Star® Certification

An Energy Star® certified appliance is backed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and has been proven to perform as well as or better than a product of its kind that consumes a higher amount of energy. The certification was created in 1992 to encourage the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Today all kinds of appliances bear an Energy Star® label, from washing machines to ice makers.

EnerLogic™

(more…)

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.

More Restaurant Equipment and Tips from ShortOrder

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