How to Minimize Food Waste in Commercial Kitchens
Food waste has long been an unfortunate byproduct of commercial kitchens – including both restaurant and catering kitchens. According to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), every year, roughly 40 million tons of wasted food is sent to landfills in the United States. At the same time, record numbers of Americans – about one in six – are receiving government food assistance. In the United States, organizations like the FWRA are taking on the challenges of food waste with the dual goal of shrinking our environmental footprint and addressing hunger in America. So, what can you do to reduce waste in your commercial kitchen? Read on.
What is Food Waste?
The sources of food waste are varied and many. Food waste is generated by consumers and the food-service industry (restaurants and catering companies, for instance), but it can also be a byproduct of manufacturing operations. Food waste is food that can be used again but that is instead sent to landfills. This food is thrown out because it looks weird and inedible; it was not eaten during a meal; or, it is unused and beginning to rot. Food waste amounts to the equivalent of about 20 pounds of wasted food per person per month in the U.S.; and in monetary terms, that’s about $1,000 of food waste per year per four-person family.
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Attracting New Customers vs. Nurturing Loyalty
Once your restaurant is up and running – after the first marketing push, through the launch, and on into steady business – the focus of your advertising should constantly be changing. Whereas once every customer was a new customer, now you are welcoming regulars: repeat customers for whom your restaurant is a home away from home. The question is, at this enviable point, do you continue to invest in trying to attract new customers, or do you focus on maintaining your loyal diners. Or both.
New Customers First
According to LoyalMarketing.com, in an article entitled, “Customer Acquisition vs Customer Retention,” it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, yet customer acquisition is still the primary focus of most businesses in general, and restaurants in particular. Loyal customers, and their repeat business, are the cornerstone+ of long-term success because it is so expensive to find new customers. Nonetheless, if expansion and growth are a goal – and of course they are – new business must be a top priority. To continue to grow your business you’re going to need more people frequenting your restaurant – and lots of them. Although you want to maintain a relationship with your existing customers, it will always be important to bring in fresh business in the form of new customers.
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How to Choose Restaurant Seating
Although you may think that it’s your food that keeps customers in their seats, it’s not just that. Sometimes, it really is the seats! Many factors have to combine to create a restaurant that diners find appealing and that they keep returning to. And while your chairs, barstools, sofas or other seating options may not be your #1 priority, it can make or break your customers’ dining experience. Seating is worth a second look.
Things to Consider When Choose Seating
Planning the layout and seating capacity of a restaurant dining room involves more than just setting some tables and chairs out in a room. To start with, for safety reasons, you must comply with occupancy limits set by state or local fire codes. In addition, you want to make your restaurant’s patrons comfortable.
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Restaurant Health Department Inspections
Restaurant owners generally view a visit from the health inspector as an inconvenience – or worse – as opposed to an opportunity to learn. Most restaurant owners dread health inspections; however, as we previously discussed, preparing for these inspections means that there is no reason to fear the inspector’s visit. Proper food storage, careful personal hygiene, meticulous attention to cleanliness, ongoing training, and self-inspections are all part of the “before.” Now, we’ll talk about how you should act during, and after, the health-inspection process.
Frequency of Health Inspections
The more complex the food-service operation, the more often the health department will visit. A restaurant where meat and fish are prepared and served could be visited two or three times a year, whereas a coffee house or a small bakery will require inspections just once annually. However, other factors can affect the frequency of an inspector’s visit. If, for instance, you regularly receive low inspection scores, you can expect to be inspected up to four times a year. Similarly, if someone reports your establishment for a foodborne illness, or for substandard operating procedures, the health department is authorized to come out and inspect based on that complaint.
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How Your Restaurant Can Keep Its Competitive Edge
The restaurant industry is highly competitive; even with a star chef and a unique cuisine you may have to struggle to stand out in the crowd. Gaining a competitive edge requires a detailed analysis of the demographics of the surrounding area and the nature of existing competitors. And, even if you are successful at first, new competitors could enter your market at any time to steal your clients. The trick is ensuring that you shoot to the head of the line – and stay there.
Easier said than done…
It’s a Diner’s Market
Diners have plenty of options these days. According to Franchise Times, an estimated 1 million restaurants are open for business in the United States. And, according to the National Restaurant Association, roughly 60,000 new restaurants open each year—and 50,000 close. As a result, the net gain is about 10,000 new businesses in a typical year. However, U.S. restaurant trends in terms of real dollars spent on dining out has only increased by about 3 percent over the last few years, and you and your competitors have no choice but to fight for every one of those dollars.
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How to Work with Health Inspectors
How you interact with health inspectors can go a long way to securing the health of your customers and the reliability of your license to do business. If, as a restaurant owner or caterer, you view your local health inspector as a nemesis, the time has come for you to rethink this position. Health inspectors are not your enemy; if anything, they are your partners, and the goal is to work together to prevent foodborne illness and ensure your customers’ wellbeing.
Why Restaurant Inspections Are Important
Health inspections are not designed to cause stress to restaurant owners and caterers; rather, their goal is to ensure safety for your customers. According to Food Services of America, more than half of all foodborne illnesses are acquired from eating at restaurants. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that half of all produce has chemical contamination. Faced with these challenges, it makes sense that the food in restaurants and catering facilities should be stored, thawed, and cooked according to strict regulations, and that the kitchen, freezers, and storage areas kept sanitary and sterile.
Continue reading Train Staff to Always be Ready for a Health Inspection
So… You Want to Open a Catering Business
Even if your muffins are divine and your tempura chicken is to die for, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got what it takes to run a successful catering company. By following a step-by-step, pre-launch plan, however, you can determine in advance how likely it is that you’ll be able to pursue your dream of starting your catering business and making it work.
Research is Your First Step
The first step in launching a catering company is to assess who else is offering catering in your area. Check out your competitors’ menus, their list of services, prices, and – if possible – their customer base. Visit their website and see if you can quickly find their unique selling points. Successful caterers sell more than just food; they also sell the reasons that customers buy food from them instead of somewhere else. To be a successful caterer, you’ll need to promote convenience, affordability, unique menus, and a specific style; food is just part of what you’ll be offering.
Find a Niche for Your Catering Business
Chances are you’re going to start your business by offering “off-premises catering”: serving food at a location away from your food production facility. There are three major markets for off-premises caterers:
Continue reading Tips for Opening a Catering Business and Making it a Reality
Training your Restaurant Service Staff for Success
In the restaurant and catering business, you are only as good as your personnel; therefore, priority must be given to the professional training and development of your wait staff. Service is such an integral part of the dining experience, that even excellent food preparation and presentation will not support a restaurant without a well-trained and attentive wait staff to showcase it. At the end of the day, the success of your restaurant may depend on your ability to ensure that professional, courteous service ranks right up there with skillfully prepared dishes and delicious cuisine.
Start Early to Train Wait Staff
Training restaurant servers should start before your business opens, or ahead of a new employee’s first day of work. You want all employees thoroughly trained before you make them the public face of your restaurant. Training includes being ready to interact with customers, knowledge of the menu, and familiarity with any tech equipment your wait staff has to use.
Every person learns in a different way. There are no 100% correct methods to train all your wait staff, nor do you have the time or resources to custom-make a training system for each employee. But by starting early, and paying attention to the way an employee learns best, you can more efficiently convey information.
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What to Do if You Recognize a Food Critic
Even in this era of online reviews written by faceless patrons and amateur foodies, a real, live food critic can cause a restaurant owner’s knees to shake. The most confident restaurateurs will still get nervous when they see a well-known food journalist cross the threshold. This seemingly anonymous character is actually loaded with the ability to make or break a restaurant. Plenty of articles have been written about how to recognize a food critic; his signature behavior, which usually includes questions galore and a highly focused attention to detail, will alert staff to his presence. However, in this post, we’re going to focus on what to do when you recognize a food critic. (Also in this post, we’re going to refer to a food critic as “he.”)
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How to Update an Out-of-Date Restaurant
In this era of online restaurant reviews, you may be amazed at some of the criteria by which your restaurant is judged. You would expect comments about food and service; even criticism regarding noise levels probably wouldn’t surprise you. But did you know that a restaurant’s outdated décor can negatively affect a diner’s experience? In this day and age, all the senses must be satisfied at a restaurant. A Cornell University study found that ratings for food, décor, and service are all associated with a restaurant’s top-40 rating on Zagat’s listings, and it takes a combination of all three to land a restaurant in the top 40. Therefore, for the price of a good meal, today’s discerning restaurant-goer wants top-notch service, fantastic food, and an environment that has not been left back in the last century.
Continue reading Modernizing Your Restaurant’s Look with a Fresher Décor