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.

The Value of the Microwave in the Restaurant Industry

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

microwaveBack in the day, seeing a microwave on the cook line or assembly area of a restaurant was considered bad form. I knew some folks that would judge the quality of a place by first looking for the existence of a microwave.

I think those days have passed. Seeing a microwave on the line is a normal occurrence. They offer speed and convenience. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go to a high-end fish house and see them throwing a handful of Gordon’s fish nuggets in the microwave to later throw on a fancy plate and charge me $100. No offense to the Gordon’s fisherman, but I don’t trust him in a high end kitchen.

One of the reasons that microwaves are less disheartening to see commercially, is the success they have in our home kitchens. There are many reasons for that, but it’s a 50/50 split between better frozen foods and better microwaves.

A simple, yet impactful, change in the microwave’s design is the carousel that rotates the product to provide for more even heating. Given the nature of microwaves, heating is often uneven. Rotating the product help foster even heating.

Convection microwaves are starting to get traction domestically. RV’s and houses are starting to see the convenience and flexibility these units can provide. They can even cook bread! They are fast and efficient.

All microwaves are not alike. Different technologies provide different functionality at different price points. To warm sauces, a $3,000 microwave would be overkill. In the same vein, using a low watt unit may not be suitable to every need. Check out our microwave buyers guide for some tips on finding the right unit for the right job. 

Restaurant Industry (finally) Embracing New Technology

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

chefs cooking in restaurantRestaurants have been around for centuries, dating as far back as Ancient Rome. Over the years, the food, the atmosphere and the service have improved by leaps and bounds. I mean, we have air conditioning and electricity folks! The problem is, even though we have seen massive changes since the Roman times, until very recently, the restaurant industry technological advances seem to have stalled out in the 1990’s. When it comes to placing food orders, many chefs, kitchen managers and owners are still placing their orders by fax or phone call. Reservations at many restaurants are still made over the phone, orders taken on a pad of paper.

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School House BBQ: To Be Or Not To Be

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

BBQ RibsRecently, a friend of mine asked me about turning a piece of property he has into a restaurant. To be clear, he doesn’t have a passion for foodservice per se, he is a successful operator of several assisted living facilities. The property he owns was purchased with the ambition of opening a new assisted living facility. He sees this endeavor as a “fun” investment. I thought I would comment on the thought process people go through as they look into opening a restaurant. In this case, the plan is to open a tap house and restaurant.

The property in question is a school house that is 106 years old. It sits on 2.5 acres in a well-populated midwest suburb near a major city. The first step was to take the idea to the city to see if they would support changing the use of the property from assisted living to a foodservice establishment. Not only was the city enthusiastic about the idea, they sent my friend to look at a tap house in a nearby large city. They said, “If you can do something like this, we’ll be your best customer!” With that hurdle cleared, now the real work could begin! (more…)

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…)

Promoting Your Restaurant on a Small Budget

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Male Owner Of Coffee ShopOK so you opened your restaurant and you’re trying to get the word out about the new place in town. Or, you’ve been open a while and want to try to drum up some new business. Either way, you’re probably wondering where to start.

Let’s start with the budget. Think about how much your average customer spends. You can calculate that on the average table or you can calculate it based on the customer. Then, calculate how much you make off that ticket. So, for every person or table that walks in the door, you make an average of $x. Of that money, what percent do you feel comfortable spending on advertising?

Another consideration: what percent of your customers come back? You might be able to spend a bit more to get someone to come in the first time if most of your new customers turn into repeat customers. Keep in mind, if you’re offering a coupon or opt to run a Groupon-type special, you’re likely to see fewer customers return than your average. There is always the table/person that is just there because they got a good deal. Don’t let that discourage you – just account for it in the budget. (more…)

BBQ Season in Texas

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Grilled Meat On BarbequeWhen I first started this topic, I thought that March or April would kick off the barbeque competition season here in Texas. Upon further research, it looks like the “season” really has no beginning, or ending for that matter. As I’m sure you’ve heard, we take our BBQ seriously in the Lone Star State! Some rumors and legend are just that (like riding horses to work?), but this one folks, is true! (Thank Goodness!)

According to the International Barbeque Cookers Association website, there are competitions starting in early January, and they run all year long until the 2nd weekend in December. I guess the pros take a short break for the holiday season. No matter where you live in Texas, you’re sure to have a competition near your location sometime during the year. (more…)

Save Water – Save Money – Save the Environment

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

 

Running FaucetMany parts of the country are experiencing droughts like they haven’t seen in years (I’m talking to you Texas and California!). Businesses and residents are being asked to conserve water and make lifestyle changes to preserve the water supply. Even if you don’t live in one of the hardest hit areas of the country, you can still benefit from conserving water. Yes, it’s better for the environment, but it’s also great for the bottom line.

Don’t let the thought of conserving water intimidate you. There are 3 areas of any restaurant where taking steps to saving water will make a large impact, with minimal effort on your part.

Ice Machines

Ice machines are a large source of water usage in all restaurants. Some things you might consider help conserve: (more…)

Weekly Food Inventory Counts Can Save Time And Money

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Short-Order_Food-InventoryDid you know that according to industry averages, chain restaurants are two to three times as profitable as independent restaurants? How do they do it?! One way to cut costs is to do a weekly food inventory count and food cost calculation. While most independent restaurants do a monthly food inventory count, most chains calculate their food inventory weekly.

Though it seems like a daunting task to tackle weekly, don’t fear! We found some tips from RestaruantOwner.com to help you streamline the process.

Get organized! Accurate inventory counts can go out the window when your stock room and refrigerated storage are unorganized. Products should be easy to see and count. (more…)

Can you make GREEN by going green?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Garden on the RoofIn his recent article on FastCasual.com, Ed Zimmerman asks the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind these days: “Is your restaurant green?” According to a recent survey among consumers regarding food trends, environmental sustainability ranked first!
The reasons to “go green” are numerous. It’s responsible, it shows you care about your community, but now you can add customer interest to the list – which means it’s profitable.

How can you go green?

Shop local. Locally sourced food is a growing trend and local farmers are more than happy to work with you. Develop monthly specials based on season. Don’t be afraid of adding it to the “featured menu,” even if there’s not a ton of product. If you run out for the night, it will increase the demand on future nights!

Source green foods. There are so many options! Chefs can now find green options year-round, even fruits and vegetables, pasta, cheese, wine and more. (more…)

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