7 tips for serving diners with allergies

7 tips for serving diners with allergies

11 May 2017

Approximately 15 million Americans with food allergies dine with family and friends where they feel safe. But studies indicate that half of the fatal episodes from food allergens occur outside the home.

Reportedly, every one in three minutes someone ends up in a hospital emergency room because of an allergic reaction. That’s why it’s important to know how to serve your guests properly when they’re at your restaurant.

How to keep your customers safe

May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month and Food Allergy Awareness Week starts May 14. Here are some tips from our ServSafe Allergens program to help you cater to customers with food allergies:

  1. Store foods containing allergens separately. Because the risk of cross-contact is high, place the food containing allergens in closed containers and store them away from other items whenever possible.
  2. Use separate equipment when preparing food. Store any equipment used to prepare food without allergens separately, including cutting boards, knives, and other utensils. Also, make sure you thoroughly wash, rinse and sanitize all equipment between each use.
  3. Wash your hands. Always wash your hands before handling food, and especially after handling food containing allergens.
  4. Don’t prepare food with allergens near other food. If possible, use a separate area of the kitchen to prepare food without allergens. That way, cross-contact is less likely to occur.
  5. When in doubt, throw it out. If food comes into contact with an allergen, throw it away. Even a small amount of an allergen can cause a reaction.
  6. Clean surfaces carefully. To remove allergens from a surface, thoroughly clean it with soap and water.
  7. Clean and sanitize equipment after each use. This includes cooking equipment and utensils. Also, be sure to return the equipment to the correct storage area after you’ve cleaned it.

4 Mistakes Killing Your Food Cost Margins

4 Mistakes Killing Your Food Cost Margins

11 May 2017

Veteran restaurateurs will tell you that making great food isn’t the biggest challenge of running a good restaurant. Making food profitably is the real beast.

Despite ever-rising ingredient costs compressing margins to razor-thinness, operators are reluctant to pass those increases on to price-conscious consumers. That makes monitoring every step of the food production process—from the loading dock to the very plates on which food is served—essential if an operation is going to make money.

It’s always fun to hear customers’ rave reviews about your food, but successful operators listen just as closely when the accountant says food costs are out of line. Let’s examine four key ways not managing food costs can kill your profit margins.

  1. You don’t take daily inventory. 
    Restaurant cost consultant, Jim Laube tells seminar attendees to imagine all their edible inventory as stacks of cash—not lettuce, not cheese, pasta or chicken, rather as piles of real dollars you merely traded for those items. In that light, operators learn quickly to watch their inventory like a hawk.

That means doing daily inventory and a random spot check during every shift on the 10 costliest items in your inventory. That way, you know almost immediately whether key items are being over-portioned, overcooked or even stolen. The good news is inventory is easier than ever to do with mobile devices. From a smartphone or tablet, managers can cruise through walk-ins and stock rooms, tallying up inventory and placing their orders wirelessly through apps that connect to back-office systems.

  1. You purchase the wrong amounts.
    Over-ordering is dangerous to food costs in two main ways: the added cash outlay is unnecessary; and the risks of spoilage, waste and over-portioning soars because cooks assume, “We’ve got plenty of that.” Under-ordering is equally lethal when customers leave disappointed because you ran out of their favorite item.

Thankfully, back-office systems provide abundant data to show what items are selling and which aren’t, allowing managers to make their food orders with targeted precision. Such systems also provide invaluable glimpses into short-, long-term and even historic sales trends that detail what customers want, and how much of anything an operator needs on hand. Inventory and purchasing systems also automate ordering based on par levels and vendor lead times, making ordering correctly nearly fool-proof.

  1. You don’t check deliveries closely.
    Even if regular delivery drivers have proven trustworthy, it’s always wise to check each delivery thoroughly. Compare them line by line to everything brought in, ensure brand names match order details, spot weigh random cuts of pricey items like steaks, and use a thermometer to verify highly perishable items like seafood and poultry meet temperature requirements. Modern back-office systemslike SynergySuite function with your smartphone camera to document any concerns, such as damaged goods or brand mismatches, and send those images to the foodservice distributor.
  2. Your recipes aren’t costed or portioned accurately. 
    Managing this takes real diligence, but it’s where better profits are realized. The cost of every menu item should be entered into an electronic database that reflects ingredient price fluctuations in real time. A dish that’s a profit maker in the summer can actually cost a restaurant in the winter if its ingredient costs rise. Fortunately, a good  cost management systemcan alert your managers when price changes pummel a dish’s profitability. That empowers you to adjust its price or remove it from the menu altogether. And if you’re not already, become a portion-control stickler with cooks. Not only does it keep costs in line, it ensures guests enjoy consistent products.

Though restaurants are accurately described as “people businesses,” running them will always be a numbers game. And without paying strict attention to food costs, even the busiest restaurant risks losing money and going out of business.

Minimum Wage Increases Make Restaurants More Likely to Fail

Minimum Wage Increases Make Restaurants More Likely to Fail

Every $1 increase in minimum wage makes mid-level restaurants 14 percent more likely to fail, Harvard economists say. Workers, business owners, consumers lose.

Eric Boehm|Apr. 20, 2017 2:28 pm

Rules that make it more expensive to employ workers will cause fewer workers to be employed. It’s a statement that’s as true in an economics textbook as it is in the real world—as more than a few places are currently discovering—and a new study from Harvard University economists takes a stab at explaining how that relationship can affect not only workers, but businesses and consumers as well.

As the cost of labor increases, driven by higher minimum wages, there is a greater likelihood that restaurants will go out of business, study authors Michael Luca and Dara Lee Luca conclude. As one might expect, Luca and Luca found that lower quality restaurants—those more likely to rely on low-wage workers—are harder hit by higher wage mandates.

“A one dollar increase in the minimum wage leads to a 14 percent increase in the likelihood of exit for a 3.5-star restaurant (which is a median rating), but has no discernible impact for a 5-star restaurant,” they write.

The consequences here are far-ranging. It’s unlikely that a worker with no experience is going to get hired at a 5-star restaurant, even for a low-level job, but destroying lower level restaurant jobs makes it harder for those same workers to climb the ladder from working at Outback to working at Fogo de Chão. This is an extension of the more-well-studied effects of minimum wage increases on fast food joints, where higher wages can do even more damage.

Obviously there are consequences for business owners as well. Restaurants have high rate of turnover to begin with, so increasing the likelihood of a mid-level restaurant’s failure by 14 percent is no small matter. It may be enough to convince financiers to reallocate their capital towards high-end establishments or into other sectors of the economy, making it harder for anyone who does  still want to open a restaurant to find willing partners.

That means fewer choices for consumers. Not everyone can afford to eat at a 5-star restaurant all the time (and, honestly, who would want to?), but higher minimum wages might force some mid-level options out of the market and make it harder for new ones to come online.

Things might be even worse than Luca and Luca suggest. For their study, they used data on restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area from 2008 through 2016, a period of time that included several municipalities in the region raising their minimum wages. But even before that, the Bay Area was one of the most expensive parts of the country (and already had a higher-than-average minimum wage). If restaurants there were affected to the extent that Luca and Luca suggest, it makes me wonder what the consequences would be in a place like Colusa County, California, where the minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour in a few years. There aren’t any 5-star restaurants in Colusa County, as you might guess, and the unemployment rate there, 22.8 percent in February of this year, is already one of the highest in the country.

Indeed, other studies on the consequences of raising minimum wages have found greater consequences. A forthcoming study  by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania shows that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage increases firm exit by approximately 24 percent, according to Luca and Luca.

As an aside, I’d also raise a minor point order about Luca and Luca’s decision to title their paper “Survival Of The Fittest,” which obviously invokes the theory of evolution, suggesting that there’s some sort of natural process at work that’s weeding out restaurants unable to compete. That’s not really what they are studying, though, because there’s nothing natural about these minimum wage increases.

Any vibrant marketplace would look familiar to Darwin, with firms better able to attract customers growing and expanding while those that can’t compete struggle to survive. That’s perfectly natural. Sudden spikes in mandatory wages are like an invasion of new species—what happened when humans first encountered the dodo, or a cataclysmic event like an asteroid impact—that shocks the system and causes mass extinctions. Species that were surviving and even thriving in the previous environment suddenly disappear without warning.

There’s an element of natural selection at play in circumstances like that, sure, but that’s hardly the sole explanation.

Unfortunately, we’re likely to see more of these sobering conclusions to the recent surge in minimum wages as one of the largest real life economic experiments in American history plays out before our eyes.omic experiments in American history plays out before our eyes.

Advantages of Online Food Ordering for Restaurants

Advantages of Online Food Ordering for Restaurants

Technology is always evolving, bringing with it more comfort and ease of use to the end user. The number of establishments that accept online customer orders today are on the rise. This can be termed as a smart business move even though it changes how restaurants interact with their customers.

Ordering online has enhanced convenience by enabling customers to order where they want and using whichever device they choose. Apart from being convenient to customers, restaurants also reap many benefits from having an online ordering system. Several of these benefits include;

  1. Enhanced efficiency

Having online orders can make the day to day operations more efficient for a restaurant. The time employees use to receive orders through the telephone is reduced and this increases the time employees have to focus on dine-in customers. Possible cases of errors being happening when an order is made due to miscommunication or human error are reduced meaning there are no expensive re-deliveries. When a customer makes an order online, they take their time to look at your menu and choose exactly what they want.

  1. Increase in sales

An online ordering system opens up a window of opportunity for customers. Restaurants can have their menus customized so they highlight the menu specials or have them deigned in way that they can make suggestions to the customer as they are ordering. Customers have all the time to review the menu and make additional selections that they would not normally make. This leads to a larger order per customer and translates to increased sales for the restaurant.

  1. Positive customer service

In any service business, especially restaurants and other forms of eateries, customer service is everything! Today, when a customer has a bad experience at your restaurant, they may share it on the web and cost you many customers as well as bad reviews. So, by having an online ordering system, customer service for in-house customers is the top priority. Employees can give their full attention to a customer since they do not get interrupted by a ringing phone. Fewer phone calls mean more time to attend to customers coming into the restaurant at any moment.

  1. Access to powerful analytics

With an online ordering system, it is easier to track and analyze the sales pattern of your customers as well as determine if and how your customers are responding to offers, discounts and coupons. With this information, it gets easier to adjust promotions and menus. It also increases the potential of having repeat business.

  1. Expanded market reach

Only having the option of customers coming into your restaurant physically can limit your reach market reach. But with an online ordering system, your market reach is expanded. You are able to reach customers who would have otherwise not been in a position to know what your restaurant has to offer from other locations across the nation.

These 5 benefits do not scratch the surface of the numerous benefits restaurants stand to enjoy by having an online ordering system in place. Setting up an online ordering system sets up a restaurant for growth, competition and a steady increase in profits.

Food cost too high? Find out how Ideal Software can help you control your inventory and reduce your food cost with Ideal Stock Control