A battle of epic proportions, rising food costs have put a dent in the wallets of nearly everyone in America. Record-breaking temperatures and trace amounts of rain have wreaked havoc on crops, resulting in substantial price increases on everything from corn to soy beans. In fact, prices are expected to rise an additional 3% by the end of the year, on top of an 8% increase last year. Although some restaurateurs will choose to deal with the increases by simply raising menu prices, there are several simple things that you can do to cut costs and keep prices low for your customers.
Plant a Restaurant Garden
Controlling food costs can be as easy as placing a planter box on your restaurant’s roof or reserving an area for growing food on the terrace. In addition to saving you money, restaurant gardens have several other benefits. Attractive groupings of vegetables, fruits, and herbs add an appealing ambiance to outdoor dining areas. Colorful vegetables and fruits add a splash of color to the space, while the fragrant scent of herbs such as basil, rosemary, and thyme can trigger hunger, making guests more receptive to the entrees on your menu. Restaurant gardens also appeal to the sensibilities of guests concerned about where their food is grown. Farm to table proponents will marvel when they learn that the food on their plates was harvested only a few feet away.
Rethink Your Equipment
In the wake of rising food costs, it may seem counterintuitive to spend even more money replacing equipment. However, investing in units equipped with energy-saving features could result in huge savings for your restaurant. For example, oil conserving commercial fryers use 40% less oil and 10% less energy than traditional fryers, decreasing both raw ingredient and operational costs. Additionally, manufacturers such as Manitowoc … Read the rest
It’s a traditional part of growing up in the public school system. In elementary school, your parent will either buy or make a bunch of treats for the class on your birthday. I personally remember having blue Jell-o with crumbled up animal crackers and Swedish Fish in a cup (to replicate a beach, or to clear out the fridge). Other parents may bake huge batches of cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and the like. In a pinch, a trip to the donut store or bakery section will work out.
Effectively, if it’s your birthday, you were treating the class. If you were really lucky, your teacher would throw on a movie, or extend your playground time, or otherwise celebrate (and it was always nice when mom and dad came to class, before the days in which you’d be horrified if they did).
Schools in Easton, Massachusetts, wish to ban parents from bringing in these (admittedly unhealthy) treats, and restrict them to a list of healthier alternatives, such as fruit, veggies, and the like. It follows the goal of fighting childhood obesity and starting healthy eating habits early in life. If an average class has 25 students, and they all happen to have birthdays during the school year on a weekday (and every parent brought in food), that’s (at least) 25 more cupcakes, cookies, slices of cake, and more that children are having per year. Over a year, that’s not an insane amount of sugar, carbs, and the like.
One argument against the sweets, as discussed in the above CNN clip, is that it begins to associate celebration with sweets; “carrots should not be a punishment,” but many kids might view it as such if they’re not allowed sweet treats.
What’s your opinion on the ban? Do kids deserve something sugary in … Read the rest
A new culinary battle is brewing in America. On July 1, the state of California banned the sale and production of foie gras, prompting an uproar from upscale restaurant owners and diners alike. A French delicacy, foie gras, pronounced “fwah grah”, is fattened duck or goose liver served as a mousse, pate, or complete organ. Characterized by a rich buttery flavor, foie gras has been beloved by sophisticated palettes for more than 2,000 years. Why has something so timeless and popular been banned? The controversy stems from the way foie gras is produced. Ducks and geese used to produce foie gras are force fed through gavage, a technique in which a tube is inserted down the animal’s throat to feed it a steady stream of grain. Many believe that gavage is harmless to ducks and geese, who do not have gag reflexes. However, animal rights activists caution that this practice may indeed be physically painful for the animals and could cause psychological problems.
The foie gras ban began in 2004, when then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law, which prohibits the sale and production of products from force-fed birds in California. The law included an 8 year grace period, ending July 1, 2012, allowing the state’s sole foie gras producer, Sonoma Foie Gras, and California restaurateurs time to make changes to their businesses. Failure to comply with the law could result in fines of up to $1,000 per day, a hefty penalty considering the slim profit margins of most restaurant owners.
Although the consequences of not obeying the law are steep, many restaurateurs are choosing to keep foie gras on their menus, using loopholes in the wording of the legislation to “legally” provide their customers with the delicacy. Located on an old military base now owned by the National Park … Read the rest
Vending machines have long been a part of the foodservice industry, dispensing soft drinks, candy, potato chips, and other snacks. Although most people have dropped a dollar or two into a vending machine to get a quick snack, many are reluctant to obtain anything other than prepackaged snack food from an automated machine. However, in many parts of the world, including Japan, food vending machines are common and popular, serving everything from eggs to fresh lobsters. Just as food trucks have revolutionized the places where food is served, several companies are seeking to change Americans’ perception of food vending machines, adding the high-tech gadgets to retail stores, airports, and other locations across the country.
A1 Concepts, a European company, recently began shipping pizza vending machines to Atlanta. Dubbed “Let’s Pizza”, the machines make pizza from scratch on demand for hungry consumers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In just 2.5 minutes, Let’s Pizza mixes and kneads dough, slathers on sauce, covers the pie with cheese and toppings, and bakes it in an infrared oven for one minute. Each 11 inch pizza from the machines retails for $5.95, delivering a fresh meal at a reasonable price.
If you think money is the only thing you can get from an ATM, think again. Sprinkles Cupcakes launched its cupcake ATM in March of this year, quickly winning the affection of confection-craving Beverly Hills residents and tourists alike. Priced at $100,000, each cupcake ATM can hold 600 cupcakes. Designed for easy use, the ATMs feature a touch screen with menu choices and a credit card reader. After customers make their selections and pay for their treats, a robotic arm within the machine grabs the cupcake from the shelf and dispenses the boxed dessert through a turnstile. Each cupcake … Read the rest
Watch out America. As you watch Spiderman fight the evil Lizard on screen, another villain is lurking in the depths of the dark theatre. Unlike any other, America’s newest villain is bubbly, cold, and sweet. Soda has become the nation’s latest enemy, and if New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way, the sugary stuff could soon be history, at least in his city. Bloomberg has launched a war against soda, proposing a ban on large sugary soft drinks. The ban would outlaw sodas in excess of 16 ounces at restaurants and events in New York City. Foodservice professionals across the nation are outraged at the ban, targeted at one of the restaurant industry’s highest margin items.
Bloomberg’s proposal comes in response to America’s ever-growing obesity epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that obesity rates have increased steadily in the U.S. throughout the past few decades, rising to 35.7% of adults and 17% of children between the ages of 2 and 17. In New York City alone, obesity leads to 5,800 deaths per year, costing taxpayers $4 billion. But is soda to blame? Possibly. A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Public Heath uncovered a significant correlation between sugar consumption and weight gain. Each 20 ounce bottle of soda contains 65 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 22 packets of the sweetener. The average American consumes 140 extra calories each day from sugar sweetened beverages. Not surprisingly, the statistic is even higher among teenagers, who drink an average of 327 calories worth of sugary drinks every day.
The proposed ban would prevent restaurants and event facilities from serving beverages that are “sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contain more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces and contain less than 51 percent … Read the rest
Most business owners agree that online customer reviews are important, but how far would you go to protect your restaurant’s online reputation? A recent report issued by Fox News suggests that cases of cyber-extortion are on the rise in the foodservice industry. In most instances, criminals threaten to post negative reviews on sites like Yelp! and CitySearch if restaurant owners do not comply with their requests for money. Sonny Mayugba, owner of the Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar, was recently the intended victim of this type of scam. One of his customers claimed that he had gotten food poisoning from the restaurant, telling Mayugba that he and his girlfriend would write a scathing review on Yelp! and turn him into the health department if Mayugba did not buy him a $100 gift card to a nearby upscale restaurant. When Mayugba did not fulfill the customer’s demand, the customer posted a review on Yelp!. Although the review was negative, it did not refer to the food poisoning, making Mayugba certain that the allegation was false.
If the customer had posted a scandalous review about the Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar, how much would it have affected Mayugba’s business? It’s hard to say, but the 2012 Local Consumer Review Survey indicates that online reviews are playing a larger role in consumers’ decisions about which businesses they patronize. Conducted between January and March of this year, the survey asked 4,500 local consumers to answer 18 questions about how they use online reviews. According to the study, online reviews are just as effective as recommendations from friends and family: 72% of respondents said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Furthermore, 58% of consumers in the study stated that they trust businesses with positive online reviews. Additionally, 52% of respondents indicated … Read the rest
Last week, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act. At first glance, this legislation may seem completely unrelated to the foodservice industry. However, two of its provisions could have profound financial implications for restaurateurs, particularly those who own franchises.
Beginning in 2014, restaurant owners with 50 or more full-time employees will be required by law to offer affordable health insurance to employees and their dependents. In this case, a full-time employee is anyone who works 30 or more hours per week. Additionally, the law also covers “full time equivalents”, which includes seasonal and part time employees, workers that make up a large percentage of the restaurant industry.
How does the law define “affordable”? Premiums for employees must not be more than 9.5% of his or her adjusted gross income for the lowest cost plan option. Also, employers must offer plans that cover at least 60% of the benefits.
Failure to comply with any portion of this law could result in a penalty of up to $2,000 per employee per month.
The Affordable Care Act also requires restaurants with 20 or more locations in the United States to display nutritional information on menus. Already standard in some parts of the country, menu labeling is intended to help people eat healthier, thereby reducing healthcare costs associated with obesity-related illnesses. Restaurants will be required to list the calorie count of each menu item, as well as have information about sodium and cholesterol readily available for customers. Many restaurateurs will therefore have to redesign and reprint menus with this information, incurring additional operational costs.
Profit margins in the restaurant industry are often thin, leaving restaurateurs anxious and concerned about how the Affordable Care Act will affect their bottom lines. Industry groups such as the National Restaurant Association … Read the rest