Florida Strawberry Season Starts Strong

admin | January 19th, 2015 - 12:49 pm

Gregorio Cruz lifts a pallet of strawberries at Wish Farms packinghouse in Plant City on Monday. SALLY INCE | THE LEDGER The 2014-15 Florida strawberry season is shaping up as one of the best in years, report Florida strawberry officials, who then go searching for the nearest wood to knock on. The quality of the […]

Latest Restaurant Promotions Highlight Health, Not Calories

admin | January 16th, 2015 - 5:33 pm

One week into the New Year, restaurant chains know consumers have stuffed themselves silly with holiday indulgences for several weeks and are now looking to cut back.

These days, however, low-calorie menus are standard year-round fare. The challenge of this diet season is to appeal to New Year’s resolutions in a way that stands out from the crowd.

Restaurant chains have focused on what they’re taking away, the negative aspects of a healthy lifestyle. By taking some bar-and-grill favorites and give them a makeover. You still wanted them to be low calorie, because everyone knows that’s important to people. But just focused on the positives.

Some chains are putting existing healthful items front and center this month.

A Miami-based chain is enhancing its reduced-calorie lineup with a marketing push that taps the motivational power of trim young models frolicking on a beach and eating salad.

When a popular Mexican chain created Sofritas, their goal was to create a delicious vegetarian option, but quickly learned that it also appeals to many of our non-vegetarian customers. This promotion is designed to expose even more of our customers to Sofritas and hopefully give them one more reason to love their chain.

Meanwhile, two ice cream chains are thumbing their noses at New Year’s resolutions, taking the opportunity to promote indulgence at a time of moderation.

The Atlanta-based chains, have declared Jan. 17 “Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day.” Customers can buy one item and get one free if they say they are ditching their New Year’s resolution. They can also claim it on Facebook.

It has been read that people are more likely to stick to resolutions long term if they allow themselves an occasional treat.

Source:  nrn.com, 1-9-2015

Creative Twists on Ethnic Soups and Stews

admin | January 15th, 2015 - 5:31 pm

Classic techniques yield cultural expansions into the world of entrée soups.

In French cuisine, the ability to make soup from a rich and flavorful broth is the test and mark of a top chef. Traditional techniques develop layers of flavor while patience helps the simmer process along. Soups are the obvious answer for using leftover ingredients, and today’s hearty soups, particularly Asian ramen and new takes on Mexican classics, are becoming the go-to choice for American comfort food. These ethnic soups are also the vehicles for some pretty creative combinations of flavor and texture.

Asian Broths

Far removed from the salty and cheap instant ramen associated with life as a college student, chefs are revisiting the classic, broth-based comfort food with their own twists and add-ins.

Chefs adds extra acidic profiles in the form of lime juice or cane vinegar to balance and brighten up rich pork belly ramen. Though ramen originated in China, it is popular in Korea and Japan as well. While regional interpretations of ramen take different forms, they all share one important component: a flavorful broth.

Sticking to this traditional definition, Chefs develop recipes with a rich stock made by simmering the pork belly in a special sea salt water bath machine for 14 temperature-controlled hours, until it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender. Leftover stock is made from the 10 braised pork bellies the restaurant goes through each day and makes for a gelatinous, extra-concentrated flavor intensifier in the final dish. Add a dashi made using kombu, bonito, and miso, along with ginger, nubs of hot chili peppers, mushrooms, a touch of fish sauce, and lime juice for a silky, umami-driven broth with a little spice and heat.

For the other important ramen ingredient, Chefs cook ramen noodles—made with eggs, alkaline, and flour—in a separate pot until just al dente enough to retain the shape and bite. The Urbanbelly ramen is topped off with the pork belly, soft-boiled egg, and chopped cilantro to finish.

Here’s a take on classic Vietnamese pho, an aromatic rice-noodle soup, by enhancing a chicken stock with star anise, allspice, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel seed, plus cinnamon for a little sweetness. For a vegan-friendly version, try making an earthy mushroom broth as the base for the noodles, tofu, bean sprouts, jalapeño, and Thai basil.

Another Chef’s signature stamp on ramen with a 24-hour broth made by simmering pork and chicken bones for a full day and adding bonito flakes, kombu, and dried sardines. Slurping Turtle’s popular Tonkatsu ramen showcases chunks of breaded pork and chewy, thin noodles.

Source:  fsrmagazine, January 2015

Saval Plans Expansion

admin | January 14th, 2015 - 1:25 pm

To satisfy a growing consumer hunger for roast beef, corned beef, pastrami and other deli products, Saval Foods Corp. plans to expand its plant in Baltimore, a move that will double production capacity and mean more jobs, the president and CEO said Tuesday.

The Restaurant Concepts Likely to Bloom or Bomb in 2015

admin | January 9th, 2015 - 3:05 pm
  1. Butcher-restaurant hybrids

Today’s consumers are all about transparency; they want to know every detail about their food—what’s in it, how it’s made, where it comes from. Well, it doesn’t get more transparent than seeing what you’re about to eat being butchered in house. Plus, for an added convenience factor for guests (and a bonus revenue stream for operators), consumers can use these restaurants as specialty stores, purchasing the butcher’s wares to take home.

  1. Single-food concepts

Grilled cheese shops were all the rage a few years back, and New York City-based The Meatball shop still does gangbusters business. Now, ramen shops have taken hold in New York City and are expanding in other large cities elsewhere. There’s room for more single-food concepts; the caveat is that operators need to come up with a new food that’ll work well in this setting.

  1. Distilleries with on-premise food

It’s the next iteration of brewpubs, but with a mixology twist. As the cocktail culture continues to resonate with consumers looking for specialty or small-batch concoctions, operators such as CH Distillery—Chicago’s first vodka distillery with a cocktail bar—are poised for success.

  1. Build-your-own pizza spots

They won’t all bomb, but with the rapid growth that customizable fast-casual pizza joints experienced in 2014, it’s destined to go the way of frozen yogurt. These concepts will hit market saturation soon enough and will have to worry about sales cannibalization both from competitors and their own newest units.

  1. All-tech, no-interaction service

As much as restaurants are trying to incorporate the latest tech into their operation, it’s not always the best fit. Time and again, we’ve heard that millennials want little to no interaction during their dining experiences, and they love to be able to use tech to skirt staffers. A fact about millennials: that’s not always true. As much as this frictionless service is buzzed about, leaving service all to tech alienates a huge number of consumers—and dollars—including some millennials. After all, not every dining-out occasion is meant to be warp speed. Sometimes diners not only need but want a little attention. And someone pointing out how to key in their own orders isn’t enough to do the trick.

  1. Cat Cafes

The jury’s still out on these coffee shops with cats roaming around willy-nilly eating best wet cat food from the coffee shop owners. While there’s the initial “What the heck?!” reaction, the Asia-born phenomenon is shockingly catching on in the U.S. and are expected to open soon in Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles. It does make sense for consumers who live or work alone and need some quick-fix companionship. We keep hearing that dining is all about the experience, and what’s more welcoming and friendly than a furry friend to cuddle up to? Still, cat fur falling in a latte just seems a little too unappealing.

  1. Traditional casual-dining concepts

Sadly, the basic, one-size-fits-all, everyday casual-dining concept might be going down the tubes. Some of the largest chains have cited quarter after quarter of negative sales or traffic. For all those failing, though, there are plenty making casual dining work with today’s much more fickle market.

What Consumers Want from Tablets in Restaurant

admin | January 7th, 2015 - 3:04 pm

As the adoption of self-service POS systems increases across the U.S., consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with ordering, paying, and playing on devices that require little guidance from the server. Software Advice, a restaurant tech research group recently released a report surveying the self-service POS landscape to learn what consumers like and dislike about them in […]

The Pace of Fast Casual Pizza Accelerates in 2014

admin | January 6th, 2015 - 3:04 pm

Recipe overhauls and crust experimentation were popular in the pizza space this year. But the biggest stories from the segment were off the menu – anchored by a growing legion of top-your-own concepts and stubbornly high cost pressures.

Here is a look at 5 of the top (non-menu) trends from 2014:

Fast casual pizza

For the second year in a row, this subsegment of create-your-own concepts is a top story not only in the pizza space, but in the restaurant industry as a whole. Startups continue to emerge while more established brands continue to sign big deals, leaving some wondering if and when there will be a shakeout.

Digital commerce

Another top story carrying over from last year is the acceleration of digital commerce, a path paved by big-named pizza players, with more of the smaller guys getting on board this year. More than 60 percent of Americans now own a smartphone and brands are scrambling to get their attention directly through their device.

The digital arena has officially generated more than 50 percent of sales for Papa John’s, with Domino’s close behind, and Pizza Hut investing heavily to get there as well.

Technology has made it easier for customers to order and we’ve seen this have a significant impact on consumer engagement. Less time answering phones empowers employees to focus on the quality of the pizza and making customers happy.

Commodities, cost pressures

What a tumultuous year for bean counters, as cheese and beef prices both hit all-time highs, and pork skyrocketed due to a widespread pig virus. Although cheese has since tempered a bit, most expect the cost of beef to remain stubbornly high until at least 2016.

Couple these pressures with the lingering minimum wage debate, menu labeling and health care regulations and the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that franchisors are responsible for franchisee actions, and the headwinds in the restaurant industry are strong.

For pizza operators specifically, there is also a rise in competition from every direction – c-stores are enhancing their pizza platforms and adding delivery; and grocery stores and retail outlets are adding take-and-bake options.

As a small business, right now is a very difficult time and a lot of operators are treading water. These trends are why so many mom and pop restaurants close.

But, with every cloud there is a silver lining and most restaurant operators consider that positive to be continuously falling gas prices. Gas is at its lowest level since the fall of 2010. Not only is this trend a boom for pizza delivery companies, but it also puts more money into consumers’ pockets. According to economists, consumers habitually spend more eating out when they are spending less to fill up their cars.

Looking forward, restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about continued growth, and the underlying economic fundamentals point toward an improving business environment in the year ahead.

Franchising and growth

Additionally, the headwinds are also being somewhat offset by improving sales and traffic, as well as more capital than in recent years. In response, many brands are expanding their footprints, both overseas and stateside. After hitting a 10-year high in global net openings in 2013, and its 1,000th international location, Papa John’s hasn’t slowed this year, with a recent focus on India, the UK, Russia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Still, there is plenty of activity domestically as well.

IPO/private equity activity heats up

With 288 deals and $95.2 billion raised, 2014 will end with record activity in the US IPO markets, according to an EY Global IPO Trends report. As of December, the number of listings was at its highest point since 2000 and is a 27-percent increase over 2013. Restaurants were very much at play with this trend.

In addition, as stock markets have been trending higher, IPOs have been outperforming market indices. Companies that have listed on US exchanges in 2014 have averaged year-to-date returns of 27.8 percent, compared to the S&P 500 at 12.2 percent. One of the stock market’s top performers this year has been Domino’s Pizza, which has turned in seven straight weeks of lifetime highs and is trading 3,000-percent higher than it was in 2010.

Source:  pizzamarketplace.com, 12-17-2014

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