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Outdoor Dining at Restaurants

outdoor dining

 

As the weather continues to warm up, more and more diners will prefer to eat outside where they can enjoy fresh air, chirping birds, and beautiful sunshine. But setting up an inviting outdoor eating area isn’t as simple as throwing a few tables and chairs in front of or behind your restaurant. Be sure to take the following info into consideration when designing an outdoor dining area:

 

Comfort is King

 

outside dining comfort

 

Nothing repels a customer quite like an uncomfortable chair, table, or booth. After all—nobody wants to constantly squirm and adjust his posture during what should be a relaxing meal. That’s why it’s essential to outfit your patio or eating area with comfy outdoor table and chairs that will encourage patrons to return in the future. If your chairs are made of a hard material, their comfort level may significantly increase by the addition of cushions. Adding a cushion to each chair can be the difference between a customer becoming a regular or never returning.

 

Preparing for the Elements

 

patio canopy

 

Even though comfort is a top priority, it’s alsoimportant for your patio furniture to be durable enough to withstand the outdoor elements. This means investing in furniture made with quality materials like wood, cast aluminum, wrought iron, or steel. Doing so ensures your furniture will not only last the season—but also for the years still to come. Some restaurants utilize patio canopies that completely cover their outdoor seating areas, protecting furniture from damage caused by the rain and sun. These enclosures are particularly ideal for providing shade at restaurants where the heat and sun can be oppressive.

Restaurants in ultra-hot regions can also utilize umbrellas and outdoor misting fans to help ensure their customers remain comfortable. While umbrellas keep patrons shaded from the sun, outdoor misting systems provide a cool, refreshing breeze that’s saturated with moisture. Standard fans are also great options for outdoor seating areas. Restaurants in hot climates should ensure they have plenty of ice available, as some customers might request ice to chew while waiting for their meals.

For nights that get a little chilly, equip your outside eating area with an outdoor patio heater. Utilizing natural or propane gas to generate warmth, these heaters are available in a wide assortment of styles and sizes. Some heaters conveniently sit atop tables, while others are tall enough to stand on their own.

 

Decorations

 

outdoor patio decorations

 

Lavishing your outdoor patio with attractive items like plants and flowers can help the area be more inviting to potential diners. Just make sure not to display flowers that can induce allergic reactions from customers. Another decoration option, candles are great for setting an alluring ambiance. Fire pits are both aesthetically-pleasing and practical—as they keep patrons warm on chilly summer nights. If you really want to go all out, outfit your dining area with an elegant water fountain.

Depending on how much space you have and what type of restaurant you’re operating, consider offering fun outdoor games like cornhole and shuffleboard. Many establishments like to hang tasteful strings of lights overhead to provide delicate but functional lighting. If patrons are accustomed to hearing music at your restaurant, you will also want to outfit your outside eating area with a stereo system. Providing an inviting atmosphere is especially important for restaurants whose patios are in front where passers-by have clear views.

 

Equipping Your Tables

Make sure to stock your outdoor tables with everything that’s usually provided on your indoor tables. So whether you offer condiment squeeze bottles, salt & pepper shakers, oil & vinegar cruets, spice shakers, or entire condiment caddies indoors, make sure to remain consistent and provide the same items at your outdoor dining area. Vinyl table covers are also popular for outdoor dining because they make clean-up easy and provide further protection for the table. By using a skirt clip, you can help ensure your table covers remain stable and in-place.

 

Pest Control

Especially if your restaurant is situated in a hot, humid region of the country, bugs like mosquitoes, flies, yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets can be a constant source of irritation for customers. To combat this, equip your outdoor dining area with an electric or glue insect trapper. Other options for pest removal include citronella candles and bug spray.

Although the law varies by state, some restaurants are allowed to keep epinephrine on hand in the form of an epi-pen. When someone who’s allergic bee stings get stung, an epi-pen shot can be the difference between life and death. Keeping your restaurant stocked with up-to-date epi-pens is a small price to pay to potentially save a customer’s life.  

 

Offering a Bar

 

outdoor bar

 

On warm summer nights, customers love flocking to trendy outdoor bars. If there’s room in your outdoor patio, install a unique outdoor bar that has a style all its own. Make sure to choose bar stools that complement the style you're going for. In the event that you don’t have enough space to install a permanent bar, consider using a portable bar. Make sure you also have the bartending supplies, bar blenders, and underbar equipment necessary for your staff to operate at peak efficiency.

 

Special Promotions

If your restaurant’s patio is new or underperforming, you might want to consider offering food or drink specials to customers who choose to dine there. This is particularly applicable to restaurant’s whose patios are in front and visible for the whole world to see. If potential customers frequently walk or drive by your establishment and see that no one is ever dining there, they’ll be less likely to try out your restaurant themselves. But if the porch is packed with diners, people will assume your restaurant is worth giving a shot.

 

Smoking or No-Smoking

 

patio smoking

 

You’ll want to clearly label whether your patio is a smoking or non-smoking area. If your patio is large enough, you can even designate specific sections for both. The type of restaurant you operate—and whether it attracts smokers or non-smokers—should play a large role in whatever you decide.

 

Many customers venture out specifically looking for a restaurant where they can eat outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather. By offering an outdoor patio, you put yourself in the running to attract these curious patrons and convert them to repeat customers. 

 

outside patio

 

Spring Menu Ideas

outdoor dining 

 

With the official start of spring only a few days away, it’s only a matter of time before diners emerge from winter hibernation and descend upon their restaurants of choice. The arrival of spring also means a wide assortment of healthy and delicious green vegetables will be in-season. Welcome customers in from the cold by offering a spring menu that features foods like, asparagus, broccoli, artichokes, and more!

 

Asparagus 

Ancient Egyptians first started cultivating asparagus for medical use over 2,000 years ago. Those Egyptians might have been on to something, as it’s since been proven that asparagus offers an abundance of nutritional value. Boasting Vitamin A, E, K, and B6, asparagus also contains zinc, iron, fiber, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and more! All this adds up to reduce oxidative damage, help blood clot, prevent liver disease, and improve eye and heart health (1). Asparagus is in-season from February-June, with April being the absolute peak of asparagus season (2). Here are a few tasty asparagus-based dishes that your customers will love:

 

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

 

shaved asparagus pizza

 

A new spin on an old classic, asparagus pizza is a refreshing and nutrient-filled treat for pizza lovers. The shaved asparagus cooks perfectly into the pizza, and the olive oil gives helps the pie bake to a crispy golden-brown. Perfect for cheese lovers, this pizza is made with gorgonzola instead of traditional tomato or marinara sauce. Serving 3-4 people, this shaved asparagus pizza should take no longer than 30 minutes to prep and cook. These are the required ingredients for the pizza:

  •          3/4 lb of asparagus
  •          6 scallions, diced (both whites and most of the greens)
  •          2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  •          Cornmeal, for dough
  •          1 ball of pizza dough
  •          1 clove garlic, minced
  •          4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  •          2 ounces gorgonzola, crumbled 

For detailed instructions on how to cook this shaved asparagus pizza, reference Naturally Ella’s recipe page.

 

Crispy Parmesan Asparagus Sticks

 

crispy Parmesan asparagus sticks

 

Coating asparagus sticks with appetizing Parmesan cheese and crunchy Panko bread crumbs creates mouth-watering treats that can be served as appetizers or side dishes. Great alternatives to French fries, Parmesan asparagus sticks are deliciously addictive while also providing nutritional value. The following ingredients are all you need to cook crispy parmesan asparagus sticks for a party of two:

  •          1 bunch of asparagus (About 30 spears)
  •          2 egg whites
  •          1/4 cup flour
  •          1 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
  •          1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (Grated)
  •          Salt and pepper

This WikiHow article details every step to preparing and cooking crispy parmesan asparagus sticks.

 

Broccoli

Belonging to the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli is native to the Mediterranean and has been used by Italians since the Roman Empire (3). The leafy green vegetable offers an assortment of health benefits, as it’s been linked to reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (4). The large amount of Vitamin K found in broccoli helps improve bone density, and the vegetable’s natural Vitamin A, C, and E help reduce wrinkles and help skin remain vibrant. Although broccoli is available throughout the year, its peak season is from October-April (5). Here are a few interesting broccoli-based dishes that can help attract customers to your restaurant:

 

Broccoli Hummus

 

broccoli hummus

 

A delicious dip that goes well with chips, vegetables, and pita bread, traditional hummus features chickpeas as its primary ingredient. Although broccoli hummus still uses chick peas as its secondary ingredient, it calls for broccoli to be the dish’s main attraction. A refreshing and healthier alternative to traditional hummus, broccoli hummus is a novelty that your customers are sure to crave more of. The following ingredients yield 2 Cups of broccoli hummus:

  •          2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
  •          2 tablespoons tahini paste
  •          2 tablespoons olive oil, extra-virgin
  •          3 tablespoons water
  •          2 tablespoons lime juice, (or lemon juice)
  •          2 cloves garlic
  •          1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, or one 14-ounce can
  •          2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes, optional
  •          1/4 teaspoon cumin
  •          1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For detailed preparation instructions, check out the original recipe at Healthiersteps.com.

 

Broccoli Fritters

 

broccoli fritters

 

A great way for family restaurants to provide a vegetable dish to kids, broccoli fritters are tasty fried treats that can be served as appetizers or during breakfast. Since the fritters also contain eggs, diners will be getting protein as well. These broccoli fritters go great with some yogurt dipping sauce on the side. Here are the ingredients required to make 6 small fritters:

  •       3 cups broccoli florets and stem (about 1 medium head of broccoli), roughly chopped into 1 inch pieces
  •       2 tbsp oil (vegetable, olive oil, canola)

Batter

  •       1 garlic clove, minced
  •       ½ cup plain flour
  •       ¼ cup grated parmesan
  •       1 egg
  •       2 tbsp milk (low fat or full fat)
  •       ½ tsp salt
  •       Black pepper

To see comprehensive instructions, view the original directions at Recipeineats.com.

 

Artichokes

One of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet, artichokes are superfoods that offer a wide variety of health benefits (6). The vegetable is native to the Mediterranean region and can help boost immune support while preventing cancer and heart disease. Artichokes also have an abundance of other health benefits—including digestive support and improved cognitive functioning. Make sure to take advantage of peak artichoke season—March-May (7)—by trying some of the creative artichoke-based recipes listed below:

 

Stuffed Artichokes

 

stuffed artichokes

 

Stuffing and seasoning artichokes with cheese and spices can add dynamic flavor to a food that many people consider a little bitter. A hearty and healthy appetizer, these stuffed artichokes take over an hour to cook. Consequently, it’s important to prepare and cook them prior to your restaurant’s rush. Holding cabinets and drawer warmers are especially useful for keeping cooked stuffed artichokes warm before serving. Below is a delicious recipe for stuffed artichokes:

  •          6 whole artichokes
  •          3 slices Italian bread, cubed
  •          1 clove garlic, minced
  •          1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
  •          1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  •          1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  •          5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  •          Salt and pepper to taste

Check out this link to allrecipes.com for detailed cooking instructions.

 

Roasted Artichoke Hearts

 

roasted artichoke hearts

 

Artichoke hearts are widely considered to be the best tasting part of the artichoke. The simple recipe below does not require much but provides delicious results:

  •          1 (15 oz.) can of artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry
  •          1 tablespoon olive oil
  •          2 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
  •          Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Reference cookforyourlife.org for comprehensive cooking directions.

 

Make sure to leave a good impression on your customers this spring by offering delicious dishes based on vegetables that are currently in-season. We carry an assortment of kitchen hand tools that can help your prepare any of the aforementioned meals. Our offerings include measuring cups, measuring spoons, garlic presses, and whips. We also offer a large selection of kitchen cutlery and cutting boards.

 

Works Cited:

(1)    http://foodfacts.mercola.com/asparagus.html

(2)    http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/in-season-asparagus

(3)    https://www.thespruce.com/broccoli-history-1807573

(4)    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266765.php

(5)    http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/in-season-broccoli

(6)    http://www.oceanmist.com/artichokes/12-unexpected-artichoke-health-benefits/

(7)    http://www.oceanmist.com/artichokes/artichoke-season/

 

 

Preparing Your Sports Bar or Restaurant for the NCAA Basketball Tournament

One of the most anticipated sporting events of the year, March Madness is a single-elimination tournament that includes 68 college basketball teams. Taking place over a multi-week span, the NCAA tournament attracts die-hard fans, casual observers, and everyone in-between. Millions of Americans fill out their brackets, attempting to predict the future and potentially win prizes. Even President Obama had a yearly special while in office to reveal his picks.

 

obama bracket

 

The tournament—also known as the “Big Dance”—kicks off with a whopping 16 games in one day! Lending itself to marathon viewing, the tournament begins at noon EST and usually does not conclude for the day until around midnight. There are several games happening simultaneously throughout the day, and a large portion of fans don’t want to miss any of the action. Many people will be looking for a comfortable and inviting to locale to watch the games. By providing the atmosphere these viewers want, you stand to attract a signicant amount of customers to your bar or restaurant. There are several variables to consider when catering to college basketball fans.

 

TVs Galore

With so many games happening at the same time, viewers often flock to sports bars to catch them all. Rather than sitting on their couches at home and flipping through channels every 10 seconds, it’s easier and more enjoyable to watch multiple TVs. Allowing them to focus on the games that are most interesting, it also frees fans from the burden of switching between games when there are commercial breaks.

It’s the responsibility of every sports bar to not only provide enough TVs, but to also ensure access to all the necessary channels. CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV will be broadcasting this year’s action. As long as you provide quality HDTVs and access to the aforementioned channels, your patrons will have their bare basketball necessities met. If you have space for a projector, consider installing one to showcase marquee match-ups. It will also serve you well in the future when it comes to other highly anticipated sporting events.

 

bar tvs

 

March Madness Specials

Give customers extra motivation to make your establishment their NCAA Tournament headquarters by offering unique drink and food specials throughout the tournament. Staples like chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, and nachos are easy to make and commonly devoured by sports fans. By offering a certain glasses of beer—not hard alcohol—at a discounted price, you can help ensure your patrons remain level-headed enough to watch hours of basketball.

Another idea is to offer a bracket contest. After the tournament bracket is finalized on Selection Sunday, encourage your customers to enter a bracket contest—the winner of which can receive a free party at your establishment! If you want, only allow people enter their bracket in-person at your bar or restaurant. This will give them further incentive to stop by during the few days between Selection Sunday and first tip-off on Thursday.

Since there are 12 days of basketball action during March Madness, it’s feasible for you to offer a price-drop promo that rewards repeat customers. For each day of basketball a patron spends at your establishment, he or she can unlock cheaper and cheaper prices on food and drink items. Reserve a special reward for fans that make it out for every day of the tournament.

You can also let customers predict the final score of each game, rewarding whoever chooses the correct winning team or is closest to the final score. This keeps customers engaged even if their brackets have already been busted.

 

chicken wings

 

Home Team Love

If your home town college team is in the tournament, it’s in your bar or restaurant's best interest to show fervent support. During games, bartenders and servers should be encouraged to wear jerseys or school colors. Pennants and balloons can be used to further amplify your support. Maybe offer a special promotion that rewards your customers in the event of a home team victory. If you know a retired sports player who used to play for the school, try to get him to come by for a promotion. His presence alone might attract fans who otherwise would have gone elsewhere.

Other promotional opportunities include offering discounts to customers wearing team gear and providing free giveaways to bring in more fans. Items like T-shirts and posters are inexpensive but can leave lasting impacts on recipients—encouraging them to return to your establishment in the future.

If you have a large sports bar that attracts fans of several teams, it might be best to designate specific tables or parts of the bar for fans of certain teams. This helps ensure that if by some chance bitter rivals—like Duke and North Carolina or Michigan and Ohio State—play each other, passionate fans of each team will be far away from each other and consequently remain civil. This will make each game an enjoyable experience for everyone—just as it should be.  

 

syracuse bar

 

Leveraging Email and Social Media

Make sure patrons are aware of your promotions by using mediums like email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep them informed. Update each platform throughout the tournament, hyping big games to get fans excited about what’s still to come. You can also post highlights like slam-dunks and game-winning shots from the previous round to keep your customers engaged and craving more basketball.

 

Renaming Drinks

Give your alcoholic drinks names that honor some of NCAA basketball’s greatest coaches and players. Just some examples:

  • Coack K Konkoction – Named after Duke Coach Mike Kryzewski
  • Bob Knight Negroni – Named after ex-Indiana coach Bob Knight
  • John Wooden Whiskey Smash – Named after ex-UCLA coach John Wooden
  • Pistol Pete Piña Colada – Named after immortal LSU guard “Pistol” Pete Maravich
  • Lew Alcindor Sea Breeze – Before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Lew Alcindor dominated the college basketball landscape

 

coach k

 

March Madness provides a unique opportunity for sports bars and restaurants to bring in and win over new customers. If you can provide fans with a positive experience, you stand to become their venue of choice for watching future sporting events—including the Olympics, Super Bowl, NBA Championship, World Series, and more. This type of repeat business can be a boon for your establishment and lead to exponential growth.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

celebrating st. patrick's day

 

Now that we’re just two weeks away from St. Patrick’s Day, it’s time for bars, pubs, and restaurants to start getting prepared–if they haven’t already. First celebrated in the early 17th century, the holiday was originally meant to commemorate St. Patrick bringing Christianity to Ireland. Since then, it has evolved into a cultural phenomenon–replete with parades, festivals, bar crawls, and green as far as the eye can see! Falling on Friday, March 17th this year, St. Patty’s Day will likely bring out even more party-goers than usual. Make sure you’re ready for the massive influx of customers by adhering to these simple steps:

 

Stock Up on Traditional St. Patty’s Day Drinks

It’s no secret that many of the people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by drinking alcoholic beverages. Whether your customers want to indulge in just one drink or test the limits of their livers, it’s in a restaurant’s best interest to offer all the classic Irish standards. These drinks include:

  • Guinness Draught (4.2% ABV) and Guinness Original (5.0% ABV): the preferred stout beers for everything St. Patty’s Day
  • Murphy’s Irish Red (5.0% ABV): a red ale that tastes like freshly baked bread
  • Irish Coffee: hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar. Topped with thick cream
  • Irish Car Bomb: a shot of Irish cream and whiskey in a glass of stout beer
  • Irish Flag: a layered cocktail with green crème de menthe, Irish cream liqueur, and Grand Marnier
  • Irish Cola: Irish whiskey, Bailey’s, and cola
  • Grasshopper: crème de menthe, white crème de cacao, and cream
  • Shamrock Juice: gin, tequila, rum, vodka, blue curacao liqueur, and orange juice
  • Honeydew Martini: vodka, Midori, triple sec

Make sure you’re also fully stocked with beverageware that will help keep your St. Patty’s Day crowd satisfied. Beer glasses, cocktail glasses, and shot glasses are absolutely essential to any bar, pub, or restaurant.

 

irish flag drink

 

Special Menus

Serving St. Patty’s Day-themed food and drink specials can help attract patrons who want to completely immerse themselves in the holiday. One way to do this is by offering discounted prices on popular Irish dishes like potatoes, Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, corned beef, and cabbage. Restaurants can also serve green foods like spinach pizza, green Jell-O, salads, broccoli pesto, and stuffed avocados.  Another option is to utilize food dye. Potentially turning any meal or drink into an Irish celebration, green food dye goes exceptionally well with bread, pancakes, cake, mashed potatoes, and rice crispy treats. You can also rename meals so they’re more in tune with the Irish theme of the day.

 

st. patrick's day food

 

Decorating the Restaurant

Ideally, your bar or restaurant will be a sea of green for St. Patrick’s Day. Green balloons scattered throughout! Green shamrocks that hang from the ceiling! Green wreaths that festively decorate the walls! Green plates and green table covers adorning your tables! Every little bit makes a difference. If you really want to go all out, outfit bars or countertops with small pots of gold! Or at least pots of candies with gold wrappers.  

 

Music

Your foodservice should both look and sound the part for St. Patty’s Day. This means crafting an Irish music playlist that will help cultivate a fun and celebratory atmosphere. A nice mix between traditional Irish music and well-known musicians of Irish descent is the ideal formula. Artists like U2, Van Morrison, The Script, The Cranberries, and Thin Lizzy are all great options. Though not from Ireland, the Dropkick Murphys have plenty of Celtic influence and are another great choice. If you want to go all out in the music department, consider bringing in a band to perform live.

 st. patricks day decorations

 

Social Media

Make sure to utilize social media to inform customers about your St. Patrick’s Day plans. Mediums like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can show patrons what you’ve done in past years and what you plan to do this year. By promoting your bar or restaurant’s planned festivities, you can bring in customers who otherwise would have gone elsewhere. Show them a good enough time, and they’ll return in the future for more food and drink!

 

Staff Attire

Consider allowing your staff to break from their usual attire and dress in green clothes that complement the holiday. Many bars and restaurants encourage this, as it enhances the environment and experience for customers. Other popular options include green top hats and green bowties. Much cleaner than paint, face stickers can also make great impressions on customers while getting your staff in the holiday spirit.

 

st. patricks day bartender

 

Alternative Patricks

Maybe St. Patrick’s Day isn’t so popular with your clientele. If that’s the case, use March 17th as an opportunity to differentiate yourself. St. Patrick Swayze Day has gained some nationwide popularity, but there are plenty of other options if he’s not your style. St. Patrick Ewing Day is perfect if a lot of New York Knick fans frequent your establishment. If you’re located in Canada or Colorado, St. Patrick Roy Day might be more your speed. Music-based locales can celebrate a legendary jazz guitarist by embracing St. Patrick Metheny Day. Patrick Tillman–an ex-NFL player who left the league and passed away on the battle field–is also more than worthy of honoring.

 

 

The Early Bird

Eager to get the most they can out of the holiday, some St. Patty’s Day fanatics like to start celebrating first thing in the morning. One way to attract these holiday diehards is by offering a hearty Irish breakfast and a voucher for a free shot or beer. Another option is to feature an eggs and kegs promotion. The strategy that’s right for you depends on your particular establishment and who makes up the majority of its customers.

 

irish breakfast

 

By properly preparing and executing a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, your bar, pub, and restaurant can have an extremely profitable day while winning over new customers who will return in the future. That’s why it’s important to get an early start on your planning and take every detail into account. On March 17th, make sure your foodservice takes full advantage of the St. Patty’s Day celebration.

8 of the Best Spring Food Festivals

 

With the first official day of spring less than a month away, it’s time to start looking forward to warmer weather, budding flowers, and a wide range of spring food festivals. With popular festivals scattered all over the United States, there are options for food lovers in every corner of the country. Before deciding which festivals you’ll attend, make sure to educate yourself about all the great offerings. Here are just a few of the great spring food festivals available to gourmets around the country:

 

Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit – Las Vegas, NV – Thursday, April 27 - Sunday, April 30

A four-day event that takes place in six different luxury hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, Vegas Uncork’d has been attracting epicures since its inaugural event in 2007. Featuring 25 unique events and 80 of the world’s most talented chefs, the food festival enables attendees to eat meals that are usually only served in exclusive restaurants of Paris, New York, and the UK. This year, cooking icon Bobby Flay will prepare and serve brunch in an intimate private setting. The festival’s main event is “The Grand Tasting,” in which more than 2,500 food fanatics sample the signature dishes of some of the world’s most famous chefs. Each Vegas Uncork’d event stands by itself, and most tend to be pretty costly. But if you have cash to spare, Vegas Uncork’d offers an unrivaled experience.

vegas uncork'd

 

Austin Food and Wine Festival – Austin, TX – Friday, April 28 - Sunday, April 30

Benefitting the nonprofit Austin Food & Wine Alliance, the Austin Food and Wine Festival features chef showcases and artisanal food. Not to be outdone by food, the wine and spirits offered at the festival come from all over the country. With more than 70 food and lifestyle exhibitors, the Austin Food and Wine Festival also provides live music that sets the tone for a rockin’ weekend of fun, food, and drink. Culinary demos allow festival-goers to learn all the newest cooking techniques, while the beer, wine, and spirit tastings enable drink lovers to indulge in all the tastiest beverages. The festival culminates with a “Rock Your Taco” showdown in which chefs battle it out to see who can cook the best taco. Attendees reap the rewards by sampling each delicious creation. Most events at the Austin Food and Wine Festival are accessible with an “All-in Ticket.”

 

austin food and wine festival

 

Taste of Vail – Vail, CO – Wednesday, April 5 - Saturday, April 8

Perhaps the most scenic spring food festival in the country, Taste of Vail benefits from the breathtaking backdrop provided by Vail Mountain. Showcasing more than 30 of Vail’s best chefs, the festival also attracts winemakers from close to 50 of the country’s finest wineries. Taste of Vail features four signature events, ensuring there’s something for every food lover and wine connoisseur. The events include a tasting that will have over 100 varieties Rosé wine–a diverse wine best-known for its prevalence in Mediterranean France. For meat lovers, Taste of Vail offers “The American Lamb Cook-Off,” which provides a sampling of several unique lamb dishes. A Mountain Top Tasting event includes gourmet food, beer, wine, and spirits–all enjoyed with awe-inspiring views from 10,350 feet above sea level. The final signature event is The Grand Tasting and Auction, which offers food and drink from all of Taste of Vail’s restaurants and wineries.

 

taste of vail

 

Italian Market Festival – Philadelphia, PA – Saturday, May 20 - Sunday, May 21

Taking place at Philadelphia’s famed South 9th Street Italian Market–Amercica’s oldest outdoor market–the Italian Market Festival will return this year for another weekend of food, drink, music, parade, and sport. 70,000 attendees are expected as it’ll be cannoli, roast pork, sausage, pepper and pizza galore! Local Italian-American vendors line the streets, offering specialty meats and cheeses. There is also no shortage of international food like Mexican, Asian, and South American dishes. The festivities also include the Procession of Saints and a half ball tournament. But the real main event is the greased pole climbing! Traditionally known as Albero Della Cuccagna, the contest sees teams of contestants attempting to climb a 30 foot high pole that’s been thoroughly greased with lard. At the top of the pole are meats, cheeses, gifts, and money. At the bottom of the pole are padded mats for soft landings.

 

Italian market festival

 

2017 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest – Memphis, TN – Wednesday, May 17 – Saturday, May 20

Celebrating its 40th year, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest will take place at Tom Lee Park–a beautiful 33-acre piece of land that overlooks the Mississippi River. For the first time in the illustrious history of the contest, the competition will span four days. The festival features a variety of competitions in which teams compete for culinary supremacy. The competitions include beef, poultry, seafood, sauce, and hot wing contests. But the main attraction is the pork division–the winner of which brought home a whopping $30,500 last year! There are also fun special events in which people dress up as pigs and perform songs or skits. A Kingsford Tour of Champions ticket is required if you want to taste and judge delicious barbecue from the competing teams.

 

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

 

New Orleans Wine & Food Experience – New Orleans, LA – Thursday, May 25 - Sunday, May 28

Featuring over 1,000 wines from around the globe, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience has raised more than $1.2 million for non-profit organizations during its 25-year history. The festival also spotlights top local chefs and attracts over 7,000 food and wine fanatics. The festival’s events include wine tastings, educational seminars, intimate dinners, pastry competitions, and even a parade with art and music! With many events taking place in the heart of the French Quarter, this spring food festival also offers a slice of culture. There are several different types of tickets that can be purchased, which enables attendees to personalize their experiences.

 

New Orleans Wine & Food Experience

 

SAVOR Blowing Rock – Blowing Rock, NC – Thursday, April 20 - Sunday, April 23

Formerly the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival, SAVOR Blowing Rock is a celebration of food, wine, craft beer, and entertainment. The festival’s itinerary includes a restaurant showcase, cooking classes, educational seminars, and even a 5K race. Wine, beer, and spirit tastings are also on the schedule. This festival has a more of a small town-feel than others on this list, so it’s perfect for food and wine lovers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle. The area surrounding Blowing Rock is also exceptionally beautiful. After all, the town was named after a rock formation that extends out over John’s River Gorge and provides spectacular views.

 

blowing rock

 

Crawfish Music Festival – Biloxi, MI – Thursday, April 20 - Sunday, April 23 & Thursday, April 27 - Sunday, April 30

Taking place on consecutive weekends at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, the Crawfish Music Festival brings together fans of both crawfish and music. With the Mississippi Sound setting a scenic background, festival-goers enjoy live performances while eating a southern classic–spicy boiled crawfish with potatoes and corn-on-the-cob. There are also a wide range of food vendors that offer unique crawfish-based dishes. Crawfish etouffee, crawfish pies, and fried crawfish are just a few of the many offerings. This year’s music lineup includes 26 different artists over the two weekends! If you are particularly confident in your own crawfish dish, enter the festival-hosted crawfish cook-off for the chance to win $3,000! If cooking isn’t your thing, you can instead purchase a ticket to sample other chefs’ crawfish.

 crawfish music festival

 

With so many great spring food festivals, it’s difficult to choose just one. Luckily, these celebrations take place throughout the spring season, allowing you to attend multiple events. Start planning your trips now, as it’s always preferable to ensure lodging well in advance.

Hot Drinks and Warm Foods for Winter

stay warm during winter

 

With more than a month of winter still left on the calendar, your restaurant’s customers are almost assuredly growing increasingly tired of the cold weather. That’s where you come in! Keep your patrons warm and their spirits high by offering hot drink and food specials. Here are just a couple of items that will help bridge the gap until the snow melts and spring arrives.

 

Revitalize with Coffee

It’s no secret that America loves coffee. Found in nearly every office throughout the country, coffee is more than just a pick-me-up: it’s a lifestyle. And rather than brewing cups at home, people are increasingly turning to coffee shops and restaurants to get their fix (1). As espressos and gourmet coffee products increase in popularity, restaurants will be pressured to compete with shops that carry specialty products like butterscotch lattes and caramel macchiatos.

A great way to contend with these niche coffee shops is to offer coffee at a reduced price during winter months when customers need it most. By doing so, patrons will become accustomed to having delicious coffee in your restaurant. Before they know it, stopping by for a hot cup of Joe will just be part of their daily routines.

Another option is to improve the quality of your house coffee or start offering alternatives like cappuccino, espresso, and gourmet coffee. This is of particular importance if Millenials make up a large portion of your restaurant’s target market, as they are the most likely to drink those types of products and willing to pay a premium for their coffee (1).

 

hot coffee

 

Stay Cozy with Tea

With nearly unlimited flavors, there’s a type of tea to satisfy every customer’s palette. Whether you prefer something spicy or tame, there is a tea out there for you. Unfortunately, most restaurants don’t carry such a wide selection of tea. By offering a variety of tea flavors, you can differentiate yourself from other restaurants and attract new customers.

 A lighter alternative to coffee, tea can boost the immune system and help your customers stave off illness throughout the winter months (2). Since tea contains significantly less caffeine than coffee, it is a great option for customers who want just a small energy boost. Herbal teas like chamomile can even soothe the digestion system. Offer cups of tea with add-ins like honey and lemon, and customers with sore throats will be forever grateful.

Indulge in Decadent Hot Chocolate

Family restaurants that are often frequented by kids should make sure to always have hot chocolate on hand during the winter. That way, when a child’s parent asks for tea or coffee, the child can order a cup of hot chocolate and fit right in. Although commonly believed to be an indulgence, hot cocoa has also been shown to be a significant source of antioxidants (3).

Don’t forget to also stock up on marshmallows and whipped cream for the ultimate hot chocolate treat! If you really want to spice things up, try offering a hot chocolate special of the day. Some possibilities include gingerbread hot chocolate, peanut butter hot chocolate, and salted caramel hot chocolate. Not just for children, sometimes there’s nothing that hits the spot quite like a hot cup of delicious hot cocoa.

 

decadent hot chocolate

 

Relax with a Hot Adult Beverage 

Although there might not be anything like a cold beer on a hot summer day, there are several hot alcoholic drinks that can keep you warm on a cold winter night. Restaurants that have liquor licenses can help keep their customers satisfied by offering liquid escapes from the cold. Irish coffee–hot coffee mixed with Irish whiskey–is perhaps the most well-known example. A glass of hot spiked apple cider is another common choice, with rum and bourbon being delicious alcohols to mix with cider. Perfect for drinkers who are looking for more of a kick, a hot toddy is whiskey infused with hot water, honey, herbs, and spices. Try asking your customers what special hot drinks they’d like to see offered during the cold winter months.

Healthy Soup

Even if your restaurant already carries soup, consider expanding your offerings for a month or two. It’ll give diners extra motivation to leave the safety of their comfortable homes and venture into the cold if a large bowl of hot soup awaits them. Chicken noodle soup is the obvious choice, as it’s been shown to have a wide range of positive health effects–including:

  • Reducing upper respiratory cold symptoms by minimizing inflammation
  • Increasing air flow and movement of mucus
  • Hydration
  • Improving of the efficacy of cilia – tiny hair-like projections in the nose that prevent contagions from entering the body
    (4)

Depending on what region of the country your restaurant is located, you can offer a specific soup that will satisfy the locals. A restaurant in the northeast would benefit from serving a hearty New England clam chowder, while foodservices in the southwest can thrive by offering spicy tortilla soups.

 

chicken noodle soup

 

Never-Ending Chili

Few foods spark unbridled passion quite like chili does. Inspiring hundreds of annual cook-offs throughout the United States, chili has a dedicated following of fans who crave variety. When the temperature starts to drop, these chili-obsessed diners don’t just consume their favorite chili. Instead, they want to try every kind of chili this world has to offer! As a restaurant owner, you can take advantage of this by offering a chili of the week throughout the winter.

According to the foremost authority that is the International Chili Society, chili is “any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red/green chili peppers, various spices, and other ingredients, with the exception of beans and pasta which are strictly forbidden”(5). While this chili con carne style usually includes beef and is what most Texans strictly adhere to (6), there are certainly alternative chili recipes that have become prominent elsewhere. Black bean chili is popular among vegetarians who crave the warm, hearty taste of chili but have don’t consume meat. Common in New Mexico, chili verde is made with pork simmered in spicy hatch peppers. By alternating changing the chili your restaurant offers, you will ensure chili connoisseurs keep coming back for more.

 

Hearty Stew for the Soul

Stew differs from soup in that it’s prepared by simmering meat and/or vegetables in a covered pot for a long period of time. Typically heartier, more filling, and containing less liquid than soups, stews usually feature a meat like beef along with an assortment of vegetables that might include potatoes, carrots, peas, onions, beans, and tomatoes. Other items commonly found in stews include chicken, lamb, sausage, and seafood.

Since stews utilize slow moist heating to make meat tender, juicy, and flavorful, you can use less tender cuts of meat and still yield a delicious meal. This makes stews one of the more cost-efficient dishes for restaurants. But since it takes a long time for a meat’s juices and flavors to seep out via slow cooking, foodservices should prepare a large amount of stew that will provide for many customers’ meals.

 

beef stew

 

References:

  1. https://nationalcoffeeblog.org/2016/03/19/coffee-drinking-trends-2016/
  2. http://www.today.com/series/one-small-thing/top-10-health-benefits-drinking-tea-t81111
  3. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031106051159.htm
  4. http://share.upmc.com/2014/12/health-benefits-chicken-noodle-soup/
  5. http://www.chilicookoff.com/Event/Event_Rules.asp
  6. https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/173623/styles-of-chili-worth-knowing/
Getting Your Restaurant Ready for Valentine's Day

valentine's day dinner

 

Valentine’s Day–the second busiest day of the year for restaurants–is fast approaching. In less than a week, restaurants all over the country will be overrun by thousands of lovebirds who crave delicious food and a romantic ambience. As a restaurant owner or manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure couples fall in love with the meals and décor your restaurant offers on their special day.

 

Love At First Bite

Pleasantly surprise dining couples by altering your menu to include special foods that are natural aphrodisiacs. Start your diners off with a tasty appetizer that incorporates vitamin- and mineral-rich asparagus. Avocados are also a great choice and have been considered ‘love foods’ since the Mayans used them 1700 years ago. For an entrée, you can’t go wrong with delivering oysters on one of our elegant seafood serving trays. High in zinc, oysters are renowned for their aphrodisiac effects. Don’t forget to also throw in a few red peppers, which stimulate ‘feel good’ endorphins and are the perfect color for the holiday.

 

valentines day oysters

 

No Valentine’s Day meal is complete without dessert. With several delicious options to choose from, there’s no crime in offering more than one. Said to have been used by Aztec emperor Montezuma for its aphrodisiac effects, there’s a reason chocolate is such a popular Valentine’s Day gift. Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a compound that boosts serotonin levels and also contains caffeine. Our catalog carries an assortment of chocolate molds that enable you to give your homemade chocolate unique a shape. Bananas are another great dessert option, as they are filled with nutrients that boost the male libido. Fitting the red color of the holiday, watermelon relaxes blood vessels and boosts energy levels.

 

valentine's day chocolate

 

Serving red and pink food will further immerse your diners in unique Valentine’s Day ambiance you’ve created. Foods like tomatoes, shrimp, salmon, strawberries, and red-skinned potatoes are perfect for the holiday. Shaping food is another common practice that can help enhance a Valentine’s Day dinner. Simply shaping oysters to look like a heart or arranging the asparagus you serve as an appetizer to spell “LOVE” will be appreciated by your diners. Although it’s great to add small touches, it’s essential to do so without compromising the quality of the food.

 valentines day sushi

 

Drink to Your Heart’s Content

Make sure to stock your wine buckets and wine racks with plenty of red wine for Valentine’s Day! Not only does red wine match the holiday’s color, but it is also an aphrodisiac that increases blood flow and improves heart health. Enabling your patrons to relax and enjoy themselves, red wine increases a women’s libido and a man’s testosterone levels. However, drink too many glasses of red wine and these positive effects quickly diminish. Make sure to stock up on wines with lower alcohol content so your diners can split a bottle for optimal results.

 

valentine's day red wine

 

Another option for restaurants that boast large selections of wine is to offer free wine tasting on Valentine’s Day. Many couples share a passion for wine, so this type of promotion provides extra motivation for wine-loving couples to choose your restaurant over the competition’s.

Renaming your shots and cocktail beverages to reflect the holiday is another idea that many restaurants embrace. Drinks that feature red and pink mixers like grapefruit juice and cranberry juice are perfect candidates for name makeovers. For example, rename your Bloody Marys to be something like ‘Cupid’s Potion.’

 

The Perfect Scent

Utilizing flowers, incense, and scented candles can help you establish a great-smelling environment that sets a romantic tone within your restaurant. But it’s also important to find a good match between your chosen scent and clientele. Boosting the mood and energy of patrons, jasmine is ideal for restaurants frequented by older diners. On the other hand, lavender helps diners relax and is perhaps best suited for young couples who are possibly spending their first Valentine’s Day together. Other popular scents include ylang ylang, which helps relieve tension, and sandalwood, which is a well-known aphrodisiac.

 

Music for the Mood

Serenade your diners with the sounds of pleasant background music. The key word here is background, as couples’ conversations will be their main focus during their Valentine’s Day dinners. You can’t go wrong with instrumental genres like string quartets and classical music. If you want to really impress your guests, hire a string quartet or piano player to perform live in your restaurant. Just make sure the music’s volume remains low enough for your patrons to easily converse.

 

valentine's day music

 

Creating an Ambiance with Lighting

Whether you want to illuminate your restaurant with overhead lightingcandles, or a combination of both, it’s important to maintain a romantic ambiance for Valentine’s Day. Dimmer lighting is especially effective in this regard. Candles, whether scented or not, can also really enhance the romanticism of your restaurant’s ambiance. Regardless of how you choose to create a romantic atmosphere, your diners will appreciate you going the extra mile to honor their special day.

 

valentine's day ambiance

 

Planning the Day and Leveraging Social Media

The Valentine’s Day plans of your restaurant should be made well in advance of the actual holiday. This will give you ample time to inform your customers of holiday specials through mail, email, social media, your website, and any other outlets. Twenty days prior to Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to start getting the word out.

If you’ll be featuring a special menu just for the Valentine’s Day, you can post it on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram to let your diners know. Since certain couples can’t dine out on Valentine’s Day, many restaurants extend their holiday specials to the following weekend. This allows busy couples to properly celebrate when their schedules allow them to.

 

Show Your Gratitude

Thank your diners for spending their Valentine’s Day at your restaurant by giving them a small gift that commemorates their night. Personalized wine or shot glasses that display the date and your restaurant’s name are inexpensive ways to show your appreciation. If you want to give something a little more extravagant, wine bottles and boxes of chocolate are also great options. Sending diners away with gifts will encourage them to return to your restaurant for future Valentine’s Day dinners, as well as meals throughout the year.

wine gift

Starting a Food Truck Business – What to Know

food truck

Starting a food truck business is the perfect plan for chefs who desire a less risky and lower cost alternative to opening a restaurant. Requiring lower overhead, fewer employees, and a less costly up-front investment, food trucks also offer the freedom to travel to different locations and serve food to a wide variety of people. Free marketing through social media platforms is yet another advantage of mobile food trucks. Whether you’re a restaurant owner who’s looking to do something new or a chef who wants to make a name for himself, opening a food truck business might be the right move for you!  

 

Trucks vs. Carts vs. Trailers

Although many use the term ‘food truck’ as a general, all-encompassing term, the truth is there are distinct differences between food trucks, food carts, and food trailers. Food trucks are the largest and most mobile of the three. Single continuous units, food trucks usually range from 14-34 feet and provide plenty of space for your staff to prepare, cook, and serve food. Food carts are the smallest of the three and consequently can limit the amount of food you serve. Easily attached to vehicles for transportation, food carts are simple to clean and cost significantly less than the other two options.  Food trailers are like a mix between trucks and carts. Closer in size to food trucks but requiring to be towed like carts, food trailers boast enough interior space for a decent-sized kitchen. Now that we’re clear on the differences between the three units, the rest of this post will focus primarily on food trucks.

 

Rules Are Rules

Before you invest in a multi-thousand dollar truck, there are a couple of important details that should be considered. First, check the local bylaws of your city, town, or neighborhood to ensure mobile food trucks are legal. Even if they’re legal in your city, places like New York and Los Angeles are notorious for limiting the number of permits they distribute. It can often takes months or even years to procure the proper permits and licenses.

Maybe you scouted out a few locations and found a heavily-trafficked area that would be perfect for your food truck. Unfortunately, many locations restrict food trucks from parking on their premises. So while you might think you’ve found the location of your dreams, it’s in your best interest to ensure food trucks are permitted there.

 

Finding the Perfect Truck

Since trucks are significant investments, it’s essential that you find the right one before moving forward with your business. There are several factors that must be taken into account when you buy a food truck. Perform a little informal research first by asking other food truck owners what they like and don’t like about their trucks. Some of their answers might resonate and give you a better idea of what kind of truck you’d prefer. It’s also important to be aware of any local or state regulations regarding the design of food trucks. By knowing what type of truck can satisfy these requirements, you will save yourself from dealing with potential future issues. When you find a food truck for sale that fulfills your personal needs as well as the local and state requirements, try to envision yourself in that truck. If you can easily do so, you know you’ve found ‘the one.’

 

food truck festival

 

Deciding What Food to Offer

The obvious advice is to offer food you love and know how to cook. But if other local food trucks have already cornered or saturated the market on those specific items, it will be in the best interest of your food truck to offer something else. This idea is particularly applicable to smaller cities and neighborhoods. It’s also important to consider what types of food are popular in your area.

As the cost and availability of food ingredients can vary significantly, these variables should also be assessed when determining what type of food is best suited for your food truck. Last but not least, the cost efficacy of your food should also be taken into account. After all, your food truck is a business that will need to produce a positive bottom line.

 

Designing a Menu

Designing effective menus is an art-form. Leaving lasting first impressions on your customers, menus should accurately convey the style, attitude, and personality of your food truck. But before focusing a menu’s style, an owner must decide what dishes will be listed and what their prices will be. Researching other local food trucks can help shed some light on each of these dilemmas. Ideally, dishes that are like those of your competition should be priced similarly. This means they should be offered for within $1 more or less than your competition. Once your food options are known, you’ll have the freedom to name dishes something elegantly simple or wildly extravagant. Whatever you choose, make sure it complements the unique personality of your food truck.

Small font and illegible writing can frustrate customers and motivate them to eat elsewhere. To avoid these issues, ensure the words on your menu are large and easy to read. Especially in certain diverse neighborhoods, it’s essential to offer appropriate menus for non-English speakers. Provide food photos that accurately represent what your serve. If you Photoshop an item to look more appealing, your customers will inevitably be disappointed when their food doesn’t match the picture. Make sure to highlight dishes that are specialties or exceptionally popular. More than just informing people of your food options, menus should enhance the visual experience provided by your food truck and encourage customers to refer their friends and family.

 

food truck menu

 

Tracking Your Finances

Obtaining a truck is just the first step toward creating a successful food truck business. As the owner, you will also have to account for expenses like fuel, kitchen designs, commercial cooking appliances, food truck equipment, and employees’ salaries. Make sure to lay out a detailed financial plan that addresses these expenses along with anything else you can think of.

 

Hiring Employees

The most important trait a potential employee can have is a passion for people, food, and the food truck industry. Since you and your staff will be spending long, fast-paced hours together, it’s essential that your employees maintain positive attitudes. This is not only for your benefit, but more importantly for the customers who expect to be a greeted and helped by friendly faces. Cooking experience is also important, but your unique kitchen procedures and recipes will need to be taught regardless of the employee’s expertise. Also make sure you know what hours you will need your staff to work, as this helps you identify which potential employee’s schedule aligns well with yours.

 

Marketing

Launching a successful marketing campaign is one of the most important factors in generating buzz for your new food truck. Successfully leveraging digital marketing platforms like social media is immensely helpful when it comes to informing the public about your business. Mediums like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram will help interested customers stay informed about the location of your mobile food truck, and what it’s offering. Even if computers aren’t your thing, it’s easy to delegate this responsibility to a more tech-savvy employee.

 food truck social media

 

Hard Work

There’s no getting around the fact that hard work is an absolute necessity for owners who wish to run a successful food truck business. A lifestyle that encompasses more than just cooking delicious food, owning a food truck requires you to work long days that will test your stamina, patience, and dedication. Customers expect to receive their great-tasting food promptly, even during chaotic meal time rushes. This means you’ll have to cook more quickly and efficiently than ever before. And even if you excel at working long, fast-paced hours, it will ultimately be your skills in business, marketing, time management, and relating to customers that make the difference between a failing and thriving food truck.

 

 

Culinary Depot Restaurant Supplier to Exhibit at Kosherfest 2016

Culinary Depot, a leading vendor, supplier, and installer of commercial restaurant equipment and supplies, is excited to announce it will host an exhibit at Kosherfest 2016. Taking place at the world-famous Meadowlands in New Jersey from Nov. 15-16th, Kosherfest is the largest and most-attended kosher-certified trade show in the US. The two-day event brings together vendors and businesses from various backgrounds and locations, helping them connect and network with each other.

Culinary Depot plans to hold a live Kosher cooking demo with a Rational Combi Oven and showcase brand new equipment for the first time.

Culinary Depot the Restaurant Equipment Supplier

https://www.culinarydepotinc.com/restaurant-equipment

"We're very honored and humbled to be the leading supplier for Kosher kitchens," stated Culinary Depot CEO Michael Lichter. He continued, "We understand the important role and responsibility we carry and are confident that our knowledge and expertise can benefit our kosher customers and improve their experiences."

Over the years, Culinary Depot has worked with various leading equipment manufacturers to create Sabbath-friendly ovens and refrigerators, including Vulcan Convection OvensMetro Warmers and Traulsen Refrigerators.

Metro C539-H-DD8890-U Sabbath Mode

https://www.culinarydepotinc.com/restaurant-equipment/holding-cabinets/metro-c539-h-dd8890-u-sabbath-mode-analog-c5-3-series-heated-holding-cabinet-analog

"We're thrilled to be a part of Kosherfest for both business and social reasons. No matter how much we grow, we like to keep in touch with our roots and make sure all of our customers are happy," stated M. Lichter.

 

About Culinary Depot

Culinary Depot has been building, renovating, and servicing commercial kitchens for hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants, caterers, and synagogues for 15 years.

Culinary Depot prides itself on helping customers design and build kitchens that truly meet their needs. Projects are completed on budget and on time.

For more information about Culinary Depot visit there new mobile friendly website at https://www.culinarydepotinc.com/or call 888-845-8200.

How to Write Powerful Menu Descriptions That Increase Profits

The Expert: Gregg Rapp, Menu Engineer | September 2016

 

At most restaurants, menu descriptions are a lifeless list of ingredients

A good description adheres to a set of best practices, and you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from them

When written well, descriptions convey the soul of your restaurant and lead to higherrofits

 

GOOD MENU DESCRIPTIONS LEAD TO HIGHER PROFITS

A very big problem I see with most restaurants is that they describe their menu items with a lifeless list of ingredients. This is unfortunate, because menu descriptions allow you to share the heart and soul of your restaurant with customers and can have a defining impact on a restaurant’s reputation and profits. They really are that important. In particular, they can positively impact your restaurant in the following ways:

 

1. Menu descriptions allow a restaurant to differentiate itself

Strong menu descriptions take a dish out of the realm of being a commodity and make it appear better than a similar dish being sold by a competitor across the street. A good description won’t compensate for bad food, of course, but when customers believe that you are offering something distinctive, something that they can’t get anywhere else, your restaurant reaps the benefits through increased traffic and guests’ perception that the dish’s price is more justified.

 

2. Good menu descriptions entice guests, leading to repeat business

When tempting language makes three entrees seem irresistible, customers will order one of them and possibly return two more times to try the other two on future visits.

 

3. Good menu descriptions lead guests to order more items at a given sitting

Customers typically spend just 90 seconds looking over the menu, and this time does not expand to accommodate any confusion caused by a poorly written menu. Good descriptions require less work (e.g., reading, searching) from the customer, and less confusion or searching during the item-selection process means customers have more time within those 90 seconds to find and add additional items to their order.

Now that you know the importance of how you present your restaurant’s offerings to the world, I will teach you how to describe them to your customers. All of the information I present applies to all types of food establishments, from high-end restaurants to hotdog stands to food trucks. And note that it is important to adjust the language you use to suit your particular audience. While reading, please keep in mind that each piece of information below addresses one or more of the three positive impacts listed above: it differentiates your dish, entices your customers to order your dish, and/or makes it easier for customers to find and order more of what they want.

 

 

HOW TO WRITE A MENU DESCRIPTION

Descriptions can be split into parts, and their order matters

A menu description can be split into three parts, and you should usually present them in the following order:

 

1. The name of the dish

 

2. The ingredients

Place the main ingredients of the dish first, starting with the most expensive and important ingredients (and make sure to include any that commonly cause allergic reactions). The reason for this is that guests read as little as they can when deciding what they want to order, and the main thing they want to know about your dish is what’s in it.

 

3. The “sell copy”

This phrase refers to language whose primary purpose is to sell the dish.

 

Example in the suggested order: 1 > 2 > 3
Chicken Pot Pie – Roast chicken, baby carrots, spring peas topped with grandma’s flakey pie crust.

To keep the menu from being monotonous, occasionally reverse the order of the second and third parts and place the “sell copy” before your ingredients. There is no rule dictating which dishes should have this less common presentation – just go with what you think makes the most sense in your situation.

 

Example in reverse order: 1 > 3 > 2
Chicken Pot Pie – Grandma’s flakey pie crust filled with roast chicken, baby carrots, and spring peas.

As you read on, you will learn how to optimize each part of a description. The topics presented below roughly follow the 1 > 2 > 3 order displayed above, but note that some of the advice can apply to more than one part of the description.

 

Don’t force customers to read the description

A dish’s name should clearly identify the dish so that guests don’t have to read the description in order to obtain this basic information. When customers can easily determine if they want to read further by just reading the name of the item, it saves them time. To achieve this level of clarity, you often must mention the specific item in the dish name. For instance, instead of writing “Joe’s Special” and then describing this mystery dish, you would write “Joe’s Lasagna Special,” which allows customers to quickly decide if they want more detail.

 

Reinforce how the item is categorized on the menu

When a menu has a section with a heading such as “Salad,” some think that it is OK to list dish names such as “Greek” and “Buffalo Chicken” under this heading because it will be obvious that both dishes are types of salads. Instead of relying on customers to always make this connection, make things easier for them by sprinkling the word “salad” into some of the dish titles in order to reinforce to customers that they are reading through the salad section: e.g., “Greek Salad” and “Buffalo Chicken Salad.” Not every dish within a given section has to include the section heading in its name, but seeing such obvious dish names frequently within a menu section makes it easier for customers to read through the menu and make decisions.

 

Add value to an ingredient by stating its geographic origin

When you add value to an ingredient, it is no longer just a commodity that everyone else has, and one way to do this is to inform guests of where the item came from. For example, the following descriptions of the same menu item add more value to the ingredient as you read from left to right:

Midwest Pork Chops > Iowa Pork Chops > Muscatine, Iowa, Pork Chops

As you move from left to right, the term before the ingredient “Pork Chops” gets increasingly specific (the Midwestern region of the U.S. contains the state of Iowa, and Iowa contains a city named Muscatine), and this further differentiates the dish vs. its more generic competition. To obtain such geographic information, you can ask vendors and distributors about the origins of the food that you buy, and if you are buying from local farms, you can include these locations in your descriptions. Most items you buy come from a specific farming area or small town, and the smaller the town, the more interesting the menu description.

 

Examples:
Strawberry Sorbet – Hidden Valley Fruit Farm strawberries, shortbread crumb, and cream.

Deviled Eggs – Baffoni Farm egg, bacon lardon, and crispy shallots.

Short Ribs – Soy-braised Blackbird Farm short ribs, shiitake and snap pea risotto.

This method of adding value allows you to avoid resorting to an uninspiring list of ingredients, and it can also easily be applied to dish names (the first part of the description).

 

Mention brand names

In addition to stating the geographical origin of your dish, if an ingredient is supplied by a well-known and respected brand, you can also mention the brand name in your descriptions. Adding a few brand names among your menu descriptions makes it appear that you are buying “the good stuff,” which in your guests’ minds raises the value of all your dishes.

 

Describe how unfamiliar ingredients taste

If you write something in a description that people don’t understand, they won’t order that item. Listing the name of an uncommon ingredient without any supporting information alienates the many people who are not familiar with it, and people in groups (think business lunches, people on dates, etc.) are often embarrassed to ask for clarification because it can make them look uncultured.

 

 

If you write something in a description that people don’t understand, they won’t order that item.

 

 

You can overcome the pitfalls of listing an uncommon ingredient by including three pieces of information in your description:

 

1. The name of the ingredient

2. A description of how the ingredient tastes

3. The food category to which the ingredient belongs

 

For instance, by writing “buttery cacio bufala cheese,” you not only name an ingredient that not everyone is familiar with (cacio bufala), but you also let readers know that the uncommon ingredient is a type of cheese (the food category) and that it has a buttery taste. This description allows customers to be far more confident and comfortable when ordering a dish. Note that there is no correct order for these three pieces of information. Simply include all three of them and go with the order that makes sense in your situation.

 

Examples:
Shakshuka – Farm egg baked in sauce of sweet tomatoes, chiles, and smoky cumin.
(Category: Egg; Taste: Sweet

Blistered Shishito Peppers – Bite-sized mild peppers with grilled lemon and flake salt.
(Category: Peppers; Taste: Mild)

 

Provide a “backstory”

As I noted earlier, “sell copy” usually follows the ingredients in your menu descriptions, and it has the task of “selling” your items outside of any interest generated by the ingredients. An ingenious way to create this copy is to share the “backstory,” or history, behind the dish.

I don’t see this effective technique used in restaurants very often, and you don’t need to be a copywriter to generate such content. In fact, the best place to start is with the chef. In my experience, chefs are usually pressed for time and would much rather cook than write, so try to pull the backstory for each menu item out of the chef verbally while using a dictation device. You can then transcribe the comments and edit them down for inclusion in the menu description.

Here are some examples of the kind of content that you can generate from this exercise: The chef used this recipe for his own wedding reception. The recipe is a long-held family secret. The chef experienced this dish while on vacation. The chef’s grandmother created it. The length of time the item has been on the menu. Why the recipe is worthy of being on the menu vs. the many other options the chef could have chosen.

Note that the geographic origin of certain ingredients (a factor mentioned earlier in this article) can also be part of the backstory.

 

Examples:
Grandma Dot’s Kickin’ Cornbread – Sweet summer corn, stone-ground cornmeal, and a touch of jalapeno. Cornbread with a kick of personality – just like Grandma Dot.

South Street Chicken Wings – Smokey peach chipotle barbecue sauce, smothered crispy chicken wings. A summertime favorite for years at the South Street block party!

A backstory takes the dish out of the “same old, same old” realm. It gives your menu its own personality and allows the dish to stand on its own and become even more appealing. And remember that this method is as valid for a high-end, full-service restaurant as it is for a fast-food restaurant.

The backstory is critical when creating a description, and its importance extends beyond the menu. Having a written backstory behind a menu item also allows your servers to better understand the item, to be more confident in suggesting it, and to sell it better. In some cases a dish’s backstory can become a legend in your restaurant.

 

Use photographs with great caution

Using food photographs on your menu is a way to visually “describe” your menu dish. Guests like them because pictures allow them to avoid reading, and when used very sparingly (just one per menu page, for example) they can significantly increase sales of a given item.

That said, the use of photographs comes with large downsides. To start with, pictures cheapen a menu, which limits pricing flexibility. In addition, professional food photographs are often more perfect than reality, and when the dish arrives looking somewhat different, customers can be disappointed. Along the same lines, the unrealistic expectations built up by a professional photograph can extend into the realm of taste, and that’s definitely not something you want to compete against.

 

Use evocative language

Your menu descriptions should be more than just factually accurate. They should also create desire within the reader, and to do this your descriptions should engage readers’ imaginations so that they want to experience what they are reading about.

 

Examples (Uninspired)
• Pork Chop – Served with apple braised cabbage and jus.

• Chocolate Cake – Served with raspberries and whipped cream.



Rewritten Examples (Evocative)
• Wood-Fire-Grilled Pork Chop – Double-cut, bone-in Berkshire pork chop, sweet & sour braised cabbage, apple cider jus.

• 5-Layer Chocolate Cake – Espresso-soaked chocolate sponge cake, milk chocolate ganache filling, raspberry coulis, and fluffy whipped cream.

There are no inherently good or bad words to use in your descriptions; your choices depend on your particular situation and what you feel is the best reflection of what you are trying to accomplish.

 

 

There are no inherently good or bad words to use in your descriptions…

 

 

Here is a list of words and phrases to help jump-start your creativity:

aromatic complex drizzled encrusted
fit for the gods grass-fed house-made infused
juiciness knead local meticulously
nosh organic pan-seared quintessential
roasted seasonal time-tested unbeatable
vibrant wild-caught yummy zesty

 

 

The importance of language is underscored by the following:

 

1. The financial impact of a well-worded menu description can be highly significant. In his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Professor Brian Wansink of Cornell University tells of a study he was involved in, in which a cafeteria attempting to enhance its image and sales rotated the same dishes for six weeks, alternating between basic and descriptive dish titles. The descriptive titles led to an impressive 27 percent increase in sales over their basic counterparts.

 

2. Language can impact a guest’s impression of how a dish tastes. No kidding. In the same study, participants reviewed the meals that used the descriptive dish titles more positively than the identical meals that used the basic titles.

Your words matter. Take them seriously.

 

Adjust the length of your descriptions to your advantage

There is no ideal length for a description, but here is some guidance on this topic:

1. Guests spend a limited amount of time reading the menu, so be practical.

2. Ask yourself: Are your hamburgers described in more detail than your steaks? Doesn’t it make sense to spend more time describing the steaks rather than the burgers?

 

 

…the length of a description should reflect an item’s importance…

 

 

In other words, the length of a description should reflect an item’s importance, so save your longest descriptions for the most popular and profitable dishes and limit other dishes to more basic descriptions. Failure to follow this rule is the most common problem I see when it comes to menu descriptions, and it is relatively easy to fix.

 

When writing in two languages, make them easy to navigate

When your audience does not share a common language, you can reduce the amount of time that guests spend searching through your menu by having two separate menus (one in language A and the other in language B) or by creating graphic cues that allow guests to easily navigate to their desired language – two possibilities include distinguishing the languages through font color or italic text.

 

Write your own descriptions

You should use a proofreader after you put your menu together in order to catch mistakes, but I advise against hiring a writer or an advertising team to write your descriptions. Doing so can result in a menu that is unrecognizable to the chef who created the dishes because outside writers may not understand the heart and soul of the restaurant. Instead, the operator or person who put the menu together is the right person for the job.

Keeping the writing in-house can help give the menu a much desired personality – and note that this personality is more important than perfect grammar. I will often joke that if you misspell a word on your menu, just make sure that you do so three times so that it “becomes” a word.

 

 

…I advise against hiring a writer or an advertising team to write your descriptions.

 

 

Menu descriptions should come from your heart and soul, and they should feel right to you. Both guests and workers will be able to spot a contrived menu, and that negative impression will end up hurting your establishment.

Because of their larger employee base, chain restaurants must try harder to find their heart and soul when writing menu descriptions. Also, for a franchise organization, if the franchisees don’t understand the descriptions, they won’t believe in them. These issues are beyond the scope of this article, but note that the problems created by having many locations to work with are not insurmountable.

 

PUTTING MENU DESCRIPTIONS IN CONTEXT

Optimizing your menu descriptions is one of many ways to generate higher profits from your menu, and the practice falls under the broader topic of menu engineering, which is the study of the profitability and popularity of menu items and how these two factors influence the placement of these items on a menu. Menu engineering covers everything from determining which items to display on a menu, to the optimal place on a menu to display these items, to how many dishes to display and in what order.