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Becoming more sustainable doesn’t have to be a burden. Here are 5 easy ways to reduce waste in your restaurant.
KARAT EARTH – KE-C9330W – 7 3/4 IN GIANT WRAPPED PAPER STRAWS
1. Serve straws on request (and make it compostable)
If anyone was ever to point to the largest environmental issue facing restaurateurs in 2018 it’s straws. Plastic straws have long been known to make their way into our oceans (and sadly, into the noses of our sea turtles) but it was just recently that businesses have made headlines in their commitment to phase out straws from their dining rooms. For most people, straws are an unnecessary addition to glasses—we’re simply conditioned to drink with them because we have been drinking from them for so long. That said, straws still pose an important tool for special needs individuals and children.
So what’s the answer?
Keep straws available and serve on request only. In many cases you’ll find customers are happy to go without. If they’re not, offer a compostable straw option. That way you can satisfy guest needs while also keeping these bad buggers out of our landfills and oceans. Also another perk? It’s known that people drink more with a straw, so you may see a nice reduction in your beverage costs.
CARDINAL – C2705 – 1 LITER CARAFE
2. Put carafes of water on the table
Like most things in life, your water bill rates will only increase over time. While you may not be able to control that, you can control the amount of water you use. Not only do water carafes reduce the amount of visits you need to make to your tables, but it also reduces the amount of wasted water not drunk by customers once their glasses were topped off. Keep full carafes ready at your bus station to quickly swap out empty ones tableside. By minimizing the amount of fresh, clean water that goes down the drain.
3. Invest in inventory management software
Food waste is the number one issue facing restaurants. One contributor of food waste is ordering too much of what you need. As a result, food goes bad before you’re able to do anything with it. Sharpen your purchasing by investing in a good inventory management software. With real-time inventory tracking, you’ll be able to track trends over time and see what moves faster than other items, surface popular menu items due to seasonality, etc. Keeping a low inventory means you’ll not only be buying less, but it’ll make for less waste, theft and spoilage. Plus, new mobile apps help you easily reconcile invoices for better accuracy and reduction of discrepancies.
4. Reuse your scraps
Waste—whether it’s compost or landfill-bound—costs you money. Save money on what’s getting tossed into the bin by reusing it in other menu items. Scraps are perfect for building rich stocks that can be used as a base for sauces, soups, stews and so much more. As you get more comfortable with reusing typically wasted product, you may find yourself getting more comfortable in nose-to-tail butchery. Bringing in whole animals in-house (and using every part of it) can save you costs and encourage creative new menu additions.
ECO-PRODUCTS – EP-HC81 – 8 IN X 8 IN SUGARCANE CLAMSHELLS
5. Replace those takeout containers
Single-use containers are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to unnecessary waste. By their very nature, these items are used just then tossed into the landfill. But with new innovations like compostable products and products made from recycled content, takeout containers don’t have to be the blight on your sustainability efforts. The best part? As these eco-friendly containers become more popular, you’ll find more competitive prices and a larger variety of container types to suit your menu.
Take the guesswork out of cooking with this powerful thermometer that’s small enough to fit right in your pocket. Enter for your chance to win a new P250FW Pocketherm thermometer from Comark until August 31st! Equipped with an audible alarm and flashing LEDs to indicate critical HACCP zones, chefs can rely on quick, accurate readouts each and every time. Featuring a BioCote antimicrobial protection and a 1,000 hour battery life, this thermometer belongs in every commercial kitchen.
Takeout containers might seem like a no-brainer, but trust me—you don’t want to overlook this very important component of your restaurant. Today’s “on the go” world is about to get busier as more businesses expand their offerings with online ordering, pickup and delivery options. Plus, as more diners eat your food out instead of in, picking the right disposable for your menu items is key to preserving quality and keeping happy customers.
3 BIGGEST CONCERNS WITH TAKEOUT CONTAINERS
The last thing you want is to have the customer’s meal leak all over their car or lap on the journey home. You can help to prevent spills by packaging liquids (like soups and condiments) in separate, tight-sealing containers. Also pay attention to the thickness and quality of the disposable product, since liquids in a dish (think gravy) might soak through the container over extended periods of time.
2. Protect the Quality of Your Food
As a chef you spend a lot of time crafting memorable dishes that your customers will enjoy. It’s a lot easier to control that experience when the customer is dining just a few feet away from the kitchen. But with the advent of online ordering and delivery, chefs now have to consider that a customer’s first bite could be miles away from where the food is being prepared. And if, over the course of that time your food doesn’t hold up in its packaging guess who the customer will blame? Yup, you.
Make sure your menu items hold up on the journey by selecting the right packaging for your product. For example, warm, crispy French fries are at risk at becoming soggy when packaged in sealed containers that steam your spuds. Instead, opt for packaging fries in a small bag or fry cup to keep their crispy exteriors.
3. Eco-Friendly Supplies Going green is more than just a marketing catch phrase, it’s a way of life that more and more businesses are following—and customers notice. Show customers you’re committed to sustainability goals by opting for eco-friendly takeout containers such as:
Products made from compostable materials like sugarcane, bamboo, most bioplastics (think PLA plastic) and more can be composted in a commercial composting facility and turn into soil! Pretty cool, huh? Compostable products when used and composted correctly make the least impact on the environment. Though opting for compostable disposables over traditional disposables puts less of a strain on virgin resources, landfill diversion really depends on if your customers have access to composting facilities.
Recyclable products like paper, aluminum, plastic and more can be recycled in most municipalities. Greasy pizza box? Yes—recycle it! Always check with your local recycling center to find out what types of materials can be acceptable.
Post-Consumer Recycled Content There’s a misconception out there that products made from post-consumer recycled content can be recycled, again. Unfortunately while these products put less of a strain on virgin resources, very few municipalities can accept these products in their recycling center.
Be sure to avoid cringe-worthy materials like Styrofoam which are a known landfill contributor that won’t break down.
TYPES OF TAKEOUT CONTAINERS
KARAT EARTH – KE-BHC66-1C – 6 IN X 6 IN BAGASSE CLAMSHELLS
Clamshell As an all-around customer favorite, the classic clamshell container is good for a variety of foods like sandwiches, leftover pasta and more. Just be sure you pay attention to the quality and thickness of the material, which may or may not hold up to more leftovers with a lot of liquid.
FOLD-PAK – 01BPEARTHM – #1 NATURAL BIO PACK
Bio Pack/Box These folded boxes are another versatile option to use with a variety of leftovers, and new compostable plastic liners help prevent spills.
KARAT EARTH – KE-KDP16 – 16 OZ PAPER FOOD CONTAINERS
Soup Cup Made for just that—soup! These containers often work for both cold or hot food, but check the manufacturer’s temperature ratings just to be safe.
ECO-PRODUCTS – EP-SB24 – 24 OZ PLA SALAD BOWLS WITH LIDS
Large Salad bowls Salad bowls feature a large round bowl with rounded or flat plastic lid making it perfect for keeping greens from getting soggy.
WESTERN PLASTICS – 527-B – 7 IN ROUND FOIL TAKEOUT PAN
Round Foil Takeout Pan Made of recyclable aluminum and plastic, and these durable containers won’t leak from the base.
ECO-PRODUCTS – EP-SH3-CPK – 6″ X 9″ PLA SUSHI CONTAINERS WITH LIDS
Specialty Containers Certain cuisines like pizza and sushi travel well in specialized containers. Also be sure to include sealed condiment cups for additional sauces and toppings.
ECO-PRODUCTS – EP-CC16-GS – 16 OZ GREENSTRIPE® COLD CORN CUPS
Cups If you’re serving both hot and cold beverages, you’ll need two different types of cups. Hot cups are designed to withstand high beverage temperatures. Some might come insulated, but if yours doesn’t consider adding sleeves to protect customers from getting burned. Cold cups, on the other hand, are not equipped to handle hot beverages and could in fact, melt when something hot is poured in them. Lids are available for both hot and cold cups but must be purchased separately.
Let’s Talk Straws OK, not quite a container, but straws are getting a lot of press as of late and I’d be amiss not to give them their own callout. Straws are devastating to our marine environments because plastic never biodegrades. Instead, it breaks down into small pieces and then you face the issues of microplastics.
But even before they break down into microplastics you face seriously harming the marine life, like this poor turtle here who was found with a straw up his nostril:
Removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle's nostril - Short Version - YouTube
Focus groups have long been used by restaurants to test new menu concepts before rolling them out to the general public. They’re a great way to gauge customer reception to new flavors or dishes without investing a lot. Focus groups don’t necessarily have to be formal affairs that require a special room with a two-way mirror. They could be as simple as asking friends and family of employees to come in during closed hours for a special taste test. Or, if you want to expand your reach try setting up a Facebook ad to source recruits. The key to any successful group starts with your recruits—make sure you find individuals who meet your criteria and demographics. You may even consider setting up an initial screening survey for participants and reach out to those who match the customer profiles you’re interested in.
Here are 3 basic considerations to keep in mind for any focus group:
1. Determine What Information You Want The hardest part of conducting any kind of focus group is asking the right types of questions. Questions need to be direct, easy to understand and shouldn’t lead or sway the opinion of participants. Plus, make sure your question is phrased in such a way that participants will give you the types of answers you’re looking for. Rating systems that grade dishes on a scale of 1-5 can be helpful for summaries, but take care to include spaces for written feedback as well.
Finally, when testing new dishes or concepts, don’t limit yourself to the food! Ask participants about your menu descriptions. For example, did the dish sound appealing enough to order? Once they saw the dish did its appearance look appealing? And finally, did the taste live up to their expectations?
2. Legal Stuff & Incentives Are you testing dishes that contain nuts, gluten, dairy or other allergens? Not only should you make participants aware of these ingredients, but you should also considering having them sign a disclaimer that states that they are aware of these potential allergens in the dishes they will be tasting.
If it’s tough finding participants to volunteer their time, taste buds and opinions then consider adding a small incentive. A free drink, appetizer or entrée on their next visit to your restaurant is a great way to sweeten the deal—plus how many people actually eat alone? You can count on them bringing a friend or two when they come to redeem.
3. Consider Hosting the Focus Group in Your Space Whether you’re a small, independent restaurant or a national chain, hosting focus groups within your space is not only easier to prepare the food, but it imparts a personal touch to participants. Don’t underestimate the power of seeing a little “behind-the-scenes” action, particularly for chain and nationally-recognized brands where developing a one-to-one connection with customers is a little more challenging. This focus group is a golden opportunity for a customer’s undivided attention. Sell your brand and culture and you could have a customer for life—and one that’ll brag about you to their friends too.
One of the unsung heroes in any commercial kitchen is the humble catering cart. Also known as a “utility cart,” these carts help you cover a lot of ground with ease. Designed to move heavy loads with minimal trouble, caterers and event planners alike often keep a few catering carts nearby—particularly those who work in hotels or large convention areas.
UPDATE INTERNATIONAL – BC-2416LGZ – 32 IN X 16 1/4 IN GRAY UTILITY CART
What Material? Most catering carts are metal or plastic, and sometimes feature a combination of the two. Both options are durable, though once a metal cart becomes dented it can look unsightly in the dining area. Plastic carts, however, aren’t always the most aesthetically pleasing either, and though molded-in handles are durable, the fixed height could pose posture issues for workers.
FCP90411 – Focus Foodservice – 90411 – 15 1/2 in x 24 in Stainless Steel Utility Cart FOCUS FOODSERVICE – 90411 – 15 1/2 IN X 24 IN STAINLESS STEEL UTILITY CART
How Many Shelves? When it comes to carts, more shelves isn’t always better. With each shelf you have, vertical clearance is lost. Consider the types of items you commonly transport to decide how many shelves you need. You might find that two shelves is more than adequate for the type of product you regularly move.
CAMBRO – EPP400110 – 90.9 QT BLACK INSULATED CAM GOBOX
Transporting Hot Food, Cold Food or Both? For those who need insulated options, consider if you need to transport hot food, cold food or both. The most important thing with transporting food is keeping it out of the danger zone (the temperature range between 40° F and 140° F). Many catering carts are equipped to hold either hot or cold food, but there are some models that are equipped with separate cabinets so that you can safely move both hot and cold foods simultaneously. Manufacturers like Cambro also sell ThermoBarriers® which split a single cabinet into two holding zones.
CHG – CMT1-4PBB – 1/2 IN THREADED STEM CASTER W/ 4 IN WHEEL & BRAKE
Replacement Parts? I’d wager a guess that the first thing to break on your cart is a caster. Carts are only helpful when all four casters are in working order, so pick yourself up a spare set of casters and keep them handy when you need to replace on the fly. Pro tip: When ordering casters, consider if you require brakes, want swivel or fixed, or require non-marking casters to avoid unsightly marks to your hardwood. Questions? Give us a call at 888-388-6372 and we can help you order the right set.
You probably already know the value of an active Instagram account, but you might find yourself asking—what should I post about? Recently an owner of a restaurant that specializes in hot dogs lamented to me, “There are only so many pictures of hot dogs we can put out there before people get sick of them!”
And it’s true—there ARE only so many pictures of hot dogs you can put out there. Monotony is a silent killer when it comes to social media engagement.
Do you find yourself struggling to keep your feed fresh? Here are 10 Instagram-worthy moments you can post about:
A post shared by Celia (@golitterless) on Jan 12, 2018 at 9:28am PST
Sustainability is a hot topic nowadays with good reason—as much as 40% of all food produced in the U.S. goes straight to the landfill. If you’re taking steps to reduce food waste in your restaurant, brag about it! For example, show how you use carrot tops and onion peels for stock, or how those extra snippets of parsley stems get repurposed in your smoothies. And if you’re not already doing these things, should you be?
Managing your food waste goes hand-in-hand with landfill diversion programs. As more municipalities offer composting services, consider jumping on that wagon and promoting it. Customers like to eat at restaurants that support their own eco-friendly goals, and they’ll appreciate seeing your compost, recycle and landfill bins in the front and back of house. You can even download these ready-to-print Landfill This, Recycle This and Compost This signs for each of your bins!
3. Organized Walk-In
Give customers a glimpse into your back of house, that area where everyone’s food is made but rarely seen. If your walk in is organized with everything stored in airtight containers and in their place, snap a picture of it! Not only should you aspire to keep that space clean, but it shows customers that you take food safety seriously and have nothing to hide.
4. Happy Customers
A post shared by Illegal Petes (@illegalpetes) on Dec 30, 2017 at 3:21pm PST
Got a few regulars that you know by name, or hosting a baby shower? Whatever the occasion, ask your customers if they wouldn’t mind having their picture on your Instagram feed. Pictures of happy customers will encourage new customers to give your restaurant a try.
5. Nonprofits or Schools You Support
A post shared by PizzaRev (@pizzarev) on Aug 30, 2017 at 11:32am PDT
I’d contest that being a part of a strong community is the backbone to any restaurant’s success. Engage with your community by partnering with local PTAs and other organizations for a little cross-promotion and feel good warm and fuzzies.
6. Chef Feature
A post shared by Old Major (@oldmajordenver) on Feb 12, 2018 at 9:32am PST
We’re in the age of the celebrity chef—so own it! Though most chefs prefer being in the kitchen cooking than out front in the spotlight a small feature about the chef helps to personalize the dining experience for customers. You can highlight the chef’s cooking philosophies, background, etc.!
7. Purveyors You’re Proud to Work With
A post shared by The Kitchen (@thekitchen) on Apr 1, 2018 at 7:08am PDT
Do you source responsibly raised meats, or did your tomato supplier just bring you the most luscious, mouth-watering tomatoes of the season? Talk about it! Customers not only care about menu transparency, but they’re willing to pay a little bit more for quality ingredients. Give your purveyors a bit of love and tell your customers why it’s important to you to partner with local farmers and ranchers.
Part of being a chef is introducing customers to new ingredients; remember when kale was just a garnish? Feature a photo of an ingredient you use in the restaurant and include a fun factoid about it. Like, “Did you know garlic has great anti-viral properties? Take comfort in knowing that indulging in our housemade spaghetti sauce will not only keep vampires at bay, but stomach bugs too!”
A post shared by The Regional (@theregionalfood) on Apr 2, 2018 at 8:23am PDT
Should you promote other businesses on your channel? Absolutely! Many successful restaurants have learned that when you’re in the industry it’s less competition and more collaboration. Collaborate with local chefs and give them a shout out on your channel. Chances are that they’ll give you a shout out to you in return to their followers, and it could be the spark to discuss new opportunities.
A post shared by Arc Cardinal (@arccardinal) on Jan 10, 2018 at 8:18am PST
It’s still Instagram—so don’t forget to still include pictures of the food! Whether you post a sneak-peek of a new menu addition, or a popular customer favorite, foodies and customers alike want to see what you’re cooking up.
The job market is tough, I don’t need to tell you that. Between rising labor costs and a noticeably thin labor pool, it can be difficult to source (and retain) good talent. Next to food costs, turnover is one of the highest expenses businesses face. The amount of hours spent to source and train employees can seriously drain your bottom line. So how do you combat that?
Offer perks that make people want to stay.
Admittedly perks alone won’t keep employees at your business; other considerations like providing a safe and harassment-free workplace, being a good leader, etc. will weigh heavily on that decision. However, if you’re already doing that (which is the bare minimum), consider what additional perks you can offer to employees to sweeten the deal. Providing health insurance is one of the best benefits you can extend to all of your employees, from dishwasher to server to chef. But it’s also extremely costly. While you might not be able to provide full coverage to employees, there are other benefits you can offer that will keep people happy, increase retention, and reduce your costs.
1. Make it Easier to Get to Work
Not only is it getting more expensive to secure restaurant space, it’s also become more expensive for your employees to live. Between living and transportation expenses, help ease the burden on employees by offering a free bus pass or a monthly stipend to make it a little easier for them to get to work. It might also make them show up on time too!
2. Free Shift Meal
This should be a no brainer, but in an attempt to reduce costs amidst rising pressures like high rents and labor costs, shift meals might face the chopping block. And if you can, try not to discount the shift meal. A discounted meal might help you get closer to cost, but employees won’t find much of the value in it anyways if a portion of their paycheck is going back to you for the meal. Suck up the cost and give them a free meal. Not only will it make for happier employees, but they’ll have the energy to keep that positivity going throughout their entire shift!
Like healthcare, childcare is an extremely heavy financial burden that many employees carry. Offering a stipend to contribute to childcare costs will earn the loyalty of many parents who struggle with the expense. Plus, you may also come to find that employees will be less likely to bail on shifts because they’ll have the extra coverage they need.
4. Close for 1 Day and Have a Party
You’ve heard the feel good press of businesses closing their doors completely on Thanksgiving or Christmas. It might not be feasible for you to close on a big holiday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a look at the other 300 or so days of the year to give staff a well-deserved break—and party. Show your employees you appreciate them by kicking back with some food, drinks, and maybe a fun activity like a ropes course or bowling.
5. Plan a Daily Group Activity
Retention is one of the biggest challenges in the restaurant business, mostly due to the fact that the labor pool is young and the hours aren’t always ideal. Building camaraderie with all of your employees gets easier with a planned, daily activity. Whether it’s going for a hike, volunteering at a shelter nearby, close the restaurant for 2 hours and round up everyone from the front to back of house for some serious bonding.
I’m going to be up front with you, I am a late adopter when it comes to trends. Translation? I’m the girl that gets into skinny jeans just as everyone starts wearing gauchos again. So when I discover a new trend it’s almost guaranteed that that trend is on its way out.
I love these things as much of the next person, but like food trends, I think we’re all looking for the next big thing.
Are these trends at risk of being played out? You decide.
The “speakeasy” was a prohibition-era bar set up to serve alcohol in secret. Nowadays it’s become an excuse to charge $15 for a craft cocktail all because you walked behind a bookshelf. Some of today’s speakeasys are more hidden than others, with some even requiring passwords for entry that change on the daily. Admittedly, I will always be down for visiting any tiki-inspired speakeasy.
Theoretically, I’m having family-style meals every day at home. The last thing I want is another family-style meal when I go out. Why? For me, restaurants are about indulging and being selfish—that’s why I pay 2-3 times more for a glass of wine at a restaurant than I do at home. Sharing is great and all, but sometimes I just want to order my own plate without compromising.
These “not-so-secret” menus are popular with fast food chains like In-N-Out (who will tell you it’s not a secret, just a way customers like their menu items prepared). I’m not sure why restaurants choose to have a secret menu other than to say they have a secret menu. If you want to let people order something, just put it on the menu.
In all seriousness, isn’t a food hall just a glorified food court? Those 30+ will remember food courts, often situated in the center of a mall with foggy skylights and raised “islands” bordered in tile that housed an array of palm trees and ivy (fake or otherwise). Admittedly, the food halls of today feature tastier (and more expensive) options than the food courts of the 80’s and 90’s.
From Unicorn Frappuccinos to Nacho Fries, the allure of these limited time offers (LTOs) often meet at the intersection of short supply coupled with outrageous ingredients. Though fun at first, LTOs aren’t always sustainable for businesses. Each new LTO is designed to top the last one, and it won’t be long before consumers become less engaged as they’re conditioned to expect a new LTO regularly.
Think you’ve got the tastiest sandwich on the block? Prove it! Share your winning sandwich recipe for a chance to win this new GX14IS Grill Express Sandwich Grill from Star Manufacturing®—a prize package worth more than $1,000!
Get commercial-grade performance at an affordable price with Star Manufacturing®’s Grill Express sandwich grills! Featuring cast iron platens for long-lasting durability, this sandwich grill heats quickly and evenly. You’ll also love the added versatility that comes with smooth plates; use this grill for wraps, quesadillas and more!