July 2018 Culinary Depot Blog Posts

    Designing a Restaurant Menu

    The importance of designing a restaurant menu cannot be understated. Especially if your foodservice doesn’t have much notoriety, your menu is a tool that can draw customers in. This means your menu should not only reveal what you offer, but it should be capable of driving business on its own. That might seem like a tall order, but there are several things you can do to give yourself a leg up when it comes to designing a restaurant menu:


    Write Engaging Meal Descriptions

    write engaging meal descriptions

    It’s easy for a menu to simply list all the food a restaurant offers. But what menus should really strive for are meal descriptions that appeal to a diner’s inner food lover. For example, one way to describe a hamburger is an “8 oz. patty with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and Russian dressing.”  But what would make a customer choose that hamburger over all others? So instead, describe that same hamburger as “8 oz. of charbroiled beef topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and grilled onions. Drizzled with homemade special sauce and served on a toasted Kaiser roll.” Now that sounds much more appealing, doesn’t it?


    Clarity is Essential

    clarity is essential

    Ever read a meal description and have no idea what it means? If your customers do that, there’s a good chance they’ll just leave. After all, why put extra effort in when there are so many other menus that are easy to understand? So if your menu includes foods that aren’t well known, consider adding a layman’s term translation that anyone would understand. This will help prevent any confusion.


    Menus Should Be Easy to Read

    menus should be easy to read

    Fancy fonts might look cool, but they can also be difficult to read. This can frustrate customers and motivate them to eat elsewhere. The same clarity principle applies to small font. Squinting shouldn’t be required to read your menu. Instead, the font should be large enough to be easily read.


    Include Multiple Languages if Necessary

    include multiple languages if necessary

    The United States is becoming a more diverse place. So if you’re located in an area where multiple languages are spoken, then having a menu with only English meal descriptions will make your restaurant less appealing to non-English speakers. In these situations, it doesn’t hurt to include multiple languages on your menu.


    Appeal to Your Specific Target Market

    appeal to your specific market

    Your menu’s design should be most appealing to the patrons you expect to carry your business. So if you operate a fine dining restaurant that attracts an older crowd, your menu should be formal in nature. But if your restaurant is in a college town and is targeting young adults, a more colorful menu will help you appeal to them. The bottom line is know who you’re trying to reach and what they’ll respond to.

    How Much to Tip a Waiter

    quality of waiter service - how much to tip


    Tipping a waiter is more of an art than a science. With so many different variables, patrons often times have trouble finding that sweet spot between what’s frugal and what’s overly generous. We’re here to help make that easier. This post offers a couple guidelines to use when deciding how much to tip a waiter.


    Tips Depend on Quality of Service

    Tipping 15-20% of your bill’s pre-tax total is standard. Giving more than 20% is warranted when the service is truly exceptional. Tipping less than 15% should be a very rare occurrence, reserved for when your waiter is rude or incompetent. And if service really is that poor, you might want to talk to the manager so it can be corrected.


    Tip $1 per Alcoholic Beverage

    Since alcohol is sold at marked up prices, a few large margaritas can run up quite a bill. But patrons aren’t expected to tip 15-20% on each of those drinks. Those percentages are more geared toward food. So when tipping for alcoholic beverages, leave $1 per drink ordered and don’t include the drink prices in your pre-tax calculation.


    Large Parties Don’t Get Discounts

    It’s common practice for large parties to spend several hours at restaurants. Naturally, this leads to some pricey bills. Sometimes these parties are so surprised by their massive bills that tips become afterthoughts. And the waiter who spent all night focusing on one table is drastically under-compensated. This is a big issue for servers, and it’s why automatic gratuities are becoming more popular. But while automatic gratuities solve one issue, they have their own set of problems.


    Know the Local Customs

    Every country has a different custom when it comes to tipping. For instance, places like China, Australia, and Switzerland are just a few locations where people aren’t expected to tip at all. In fact, some waiters might even interpret a tip as rude! So always research tipping etiquette before visiting a new country. It’ll not only prevent potential awkwardness, but it can also save you some hard-earned money!


    Written by J. Vigotsky

    The History of Pizza



    Pizza is one the most popular foods in the world. The dish’s perfect blend of bread, sauce, and cheese creates a delicious whole that far surpasses the sum of its parts. Adored by nearly everyone who tries it, pizza also has a rich history. This post will detail the history of pizza--including where pizza came from, how it’s evolved, and where it’s going in the future.


    The Birth of Pizza in Naples, Italy

    The precursor to pizza was an Italian bread product called Focaccia. Similar to pizza dough, Focaccia is a flatbread that’s seasoned with olive oil and salt then baked. More complex versions of Focaccia feature herbs, vegetables, and cheese. Focaccia is most associated with Ligurian cuisine and today mostly serves as an appetizer.

    In the late 18th century, bakers started combining tomatoes with cheese as toppings on focaccia. And like that, pizza was born. The official birthplace was Naples, Italy, and the city quickly became a tourist attraction as a result of its culinary marvel. The dish was sold by street vendors and pizza bakeries.


    naples italy


    Today, Naples is still known as one of the premier pizza cities in the world. But many of the city’s bakers remain pizza purists. They only offer margherita and marinara pizzas. While both those pies are delicious, they might not satisfy all pizza lovers. Luckily, there are plenty of other pizzerias that will.


    The Evolution of Pizza Toppings

    It took about 100 years for pizza to make its way from Naples to the United States. Italian immigrants in the late 19th century popularized the dish in cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Lombardi’s in Manhattan’s Little Italy was founded in 1905 and is widely accepted to be the first American pizzeria. The term “Pepperoni” first appeared in print in 1919, and the cured meat soon became the pizza topping of choice in America. Although it was similar to salami, pepperoni didn’t require the same precise climate and was easier to store. Today, pepperoni can be found on more than 1/3 of pizzas.  


    pizza topping chart


    The next big step in the evolution of pizza took place in Chicago, Illinois. The year was 1943, and people were ready for a bigger, bolder pizza pie. The Chicago deep dish pizza gave them just that. The pizza featured extra deep crust that was more like a pie than a focaccia. It was baked in a round pan and had an extra-thick layers of toppings. The toppings are piled atop cheese then cooked. Uncooked sauce is often added atop the finished product. The deep dish pizza continues to be one of the most popular pies available.

    While New Haven, Connecticut’s famed Pepe’s Pizzeria opened in 1925, it wouldn’t be until the 1950’s that the restaurant invented its renowned clam pizza pie. The clam pizza was a groundbreaking feat, but only a sign of things to come. Because in 1962, the Hawaiian Pizza would be invented. Not in Hawaii, but in Ontario, Canada of all places. Featuring pineapple and ham, this polarizing pizza pie paved the way for future untraditional toppings.


    Hawaiian Pizza


    Also in 1962, the world was introduced to frozen pizza. Pizza lovers would no longer have to order pies or venture out to pizzerias. They could simply buy pizza products from the grocery store, put them in their home freezers, and cook them when ready. The introduction of frozen pizza has led to similar advancements like pizza rolls and hot pockets.

    In the 50 years since the Hawaii Pizza and frozen pizza were debuted, the dish has undergone an evolution that its Naples forefathers could not have possibly imagined. These days, almost anything can be thrown atop a pizza and someone will be there to gobble it up. Pizza is just that delicious.


    Pizza Ovens

    The first types of ovens used to cook pizzas were wood-fired or coal-fired. These pizza ovens were made with fireproof brick, stone, clay, or concrete. And believe it or not, similar ovens are still available today. Some run on natural gas, but others use traditional fire. These modern wood-fired ovens give pizza a natural smoky flavor.


    wood fired pizza oven


    The more popular ovens that you’ll see at pizzerias are pizza deck ovens. Since they have multiple decks, these ovens are capable of cooking several pizza pies at the same time. That makes these ovens ideal for pizzerias that tend to get large orders for delivery.


    The World’s Largest Pizza

    In December 2012, the evolution of the pizza pie peaked when the largest pizza pie on record was debuted in Rome, Italy. The location was appropriately just a couple hours north of pizza’s original birthplace in Naples. The record-breaking pizza pie measured a mind-boggling 13,580.28 sq. ft. That converts to a little less than 1/3 of an acre! Prepared by four chefs, the gluten-free pizza was named “Ottavia” in tribute to Rome’s first emperor. It weighed an absurd 51,257 pounds and took 48 hours to bake.


    worlds largest pizza rome, italy


    The Future… and Beyond

    It might seem like we’ve pushed the pizza pie as far as it can go. But if the past has taught us anything, it’s to never underestimate man’s love of pizza. The future will surely lead to even more innovative pizza toppings. And it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see the record for the world’s largest pizza broken. Especially now that robots might help bake the pie.


    Written by J. Vigotsky

    5 Tips for Owning a Successful Restaurant

    Owning a successful restaurant is an American dream of sorts. To make a living by serving your community delicious food is both noble and highly rewarding. But as many restauranteurs know, owning a restaurant can be a challenge. Here are 5 tips that will make it a little easier:


    1)      Find the Best Workers


    find the best workers


    Running a restaurant isn’t a one-person job. That’s why owners should make hiring workers a top priority. Ideally, workers should be both capable and enthusiastic. People who can do a job are valuable. But workers who can do a job and also spread positivity are invaluable. Those are the types of staff members owners should strive to hire.


    2)      Create an Ambiance


    creating an ambiance


    Restaurants should do more than offer good food and friendly service. The environment should also appeal to customers. Best way to do this is by providing comfortable seating and beautiful decorations. An outdoor dining area is another great option—especially during the summer time. A unique music playlist can also help give your restaurant a distinct vibe that customers gravitate to.


    3)      Menu Design


    menu design


    Designing an effective restaurant menu is a big key to attracting new customers. Your menu’s dish descriptions should be simple yet informative. They should also appeal your diners’ appetites. Customers should be able to practically taste your food by just reading the menu’s description. If you can do this, diners will be more likely to give your restaurant a shot even if they don’t know much about it.


    4)      Location, Location, Location


    restaurant location


    Even great restaurants don’t last long if they’re in bad locations. It doesn’t matter how outstanding the food or service is. And that’s why securing a good location is essential to your restaurant’s success. But here’s the catch. It’s not enough for your restaurant to be in a spot that’s heavily trafficked. What matters most is that your restaurant is in a location that’s popular with your specific target audience.


    5)      A Restaurant is a Business


    restaurant business


    Cooking can be an art. But a restaurant is always a business. It’s fine to let your chefs experiment with new recipes. But never lose sight of your bottom line. Because if your restaurant dips too far into the red, then it won’t matter how flavorful or unique the food is. Remember that a successful restaurant is a profitable restaurant.


    Written by J. Vigotsky

    Blogs Directory

    What Kind of Deep Fried Food is Right for You?

    what kind of deep fried food is right for you


    Go to any festival, carnival, or state fair and you’re likely to find plenty of deep fried goodness. Concession stands offer attendees nearly endless fried options. But often times, the choices can be quite overwhelming. This post will explore some popular fried offerings and help you decide what’s perfect for you.


    Ice Cream


    deep fried ice cream


    I know what you’re thinking… ice cream is supposed to be cold, right? Doesn’t matter. There are no rules when it comes to the deep fryer. Besides, it’s only the outer shell of your ice cream that will get fried. The inside remains cold and refreshing as ever. This makes fried ice cream perfect for hot, summer days. As a result, festival-goers who tend to run a little warm should accept no accept. For some extra flavor, ask for your ice cream to be dipped in cinnamon before frying.




    deep fried banana


    For when you’re in need of a quick snack. Deep fried bananas are delicious pick-me-ups that’ll give you energy and result in minimal crash. They are also known as pisang goreng and found in several far-eastern countries. Places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and the Philippines are well-known for offering this fried treat. Plantains are also commonly used instead of bananas.




    deep fried pickles


    Pickles are a “love it or hate it” type of food. Some people can eat them until the jar’s empty, while others would rather starve than stomach a single pickle. With this in mind, deep fried pickles are even more divisive. Even some of the most passionate pickle eaters draw the line somewhere. And for many, that’s when their beloved pickled cucumber has been cooked in boiling hot oil. Deep fried pickles are best-suited for the most loyal of pickle devotees.


    French Fries


    french fries


    The classic fried option. On first glance, French fries might seem a bit bland. Most people have eaten more than enough to last a lifetime. Thankfully, fries come in more forms than ever. Steak fries, curly fries, crinkle-cut fries, waffle fries and shoe string fries are just a few options. Sweet potato fries are perfect if you’re looking for a different taste. Maybe you love the taste of classic French fries but crave a condiment other than ketchup. Try topping your fries with cheese, chili, or anything else in you’re in the mood for. All these variations make French fries perfect for variety seekers. Food connoisseurs have nearly endless options when it comes to French fries.




    deep fried poptart


    For breakfast lovers! Or at least breakfast lovers who are short on time. As if 30+ Poptart flavors weren’t enough, you can now try them all deep fried. Most people prefer Poptarts to be toasted or microwaved. But deep fried Poptarts have the same hot temperature along with an extra punch of flavor. These are dangerously addictive for sweet tooths. So be sure to exercise caution.


    Mozzarella Sticks



    Deep-fried food for the cheese lover. Mozzarella sticks feature gooey mozzarella cheese on the inside and a crisp exterior on the outside. Served alongside a variety of sauces, deep fried mozzarella sticks can also serve as appetizers. The extra-hungry festival goer can get started on these before moving onto bigger game.




    deep fried oreos


    For the cookie monster in you. A deep fried Oreo is pretty much a cookie inside a cookie. The Oreo is dipped in batter, and then the whole thing is deep fried. The cream filling softens up and takes on a delicate consistency that makes it all the more sinful. It achieves a level of deliciousness that is likely a public safety hazard. If you thought the Oreo peaked with the Double Stuf, then you are sadly mistaken.


    Corn Dog


    deep fried corn dog


    The classic State Fair treat. For the traditionalist who yearns for a simpler time. For a time before there were deep fried Poptarts. When a corn dog was all anyone could ask for all anyone could have wanted. It doesn’t matter where the future of deep fried food will take us. The corn dog is an American institution. And it will always remain one.


    Onion Rings


    deep fried onion rings


    Deep fried onion rings are ideal for perfectionists who prefer their food to be completely symmetrical. They’re also great for someone who doesn’t want to feel completely guilty about eating deep fried goodness. Since they are made with real onions, you can truthfully say you’re getting your vegetables. The onion rings can also be used to make your own carnival game. Maybe you’re tired of paying full price for ring toss. Grab a plastic knife, stick it in some food, and try to land some onion rings around it. If playing with food is appropriate anywhere, it’s at the State Fair.  




    deep fried pizza


    There are a few different ways to deep fry pizza. In Italy, pizza dough is deep fried rather than baked and toppings are added after. This is common among street vendors who don’t have access to pizza ovens. In Scotland, a pizza is cooked fully then submerged into a deep fryer to add extra flavoring. There is usually no batter involved in this process. And then there are those who dare to batter a pizza slice and then stick it in the deep fryer. Not for the faint of heart, this type of deep fried pizza is great for people who love to exercise and will have no issue working off the calories.




    deep fried peanuts


    A long day out in the sun can take a lot of you. By the end of it, you’ll likely be tired. Maybe you'll want a tasty snack to help perk you up. Some peanuts perhaps. But the hard labor that goes into deshelling each peanut? No thank you. Luckily, deep fried peanuts can save the day. These peanuts are fried whole, shell and all. They come with differing flavors like salted, barbecue, Cajun, garlic, hot pepper, and even caramel. So if you want some peanuts but are thoroughly exhausted or maybe just kind of lazy, deep fried peanuts are the answer.




    deep fried dough


    Deep fried dough sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Fried dough can come in the form of zeppoles, funnel cakes, and even churros. Deep fried dough is of the one more classic options on this list. Perhaps best-suited for people who are planning to take a nice nap in the near future. The carb crash combined with the sugar crash will leave you begging for sleep. If you still have a long day at the fair in front of you, opt for something else.




    deep fried butter


    This is not a joke. Deep fried butter actually exists. It was invented in 2009 at the Texas State Fair by the immortal Sergio Guerrero Ble. It rightfully won the prize of “most creative food.” And naturally, deep fried butter was put on a stick two years later at the 2011 Iowa State Fair. And thus marked the apex of human achievement. Making the culinary marvel known as deep fried butter is relatively simple. All it requires is some frozen butter along with either batter or breading. Coat the butter and deep fry it in oil. What you get is essentially very buttery bread that tastes similar to French toast but has way more calories. Deep fried butter is best left for those who have lower cholesterol. 



    deep fried coke


    Deep fried coke comes from the same brilliant mind that gave us deep fried butter. So you know it’s a quality product. The culinary marvel was debuted in 2006 at the deep fry Mecca known as the Texas State Fair. Very different from regular Coca-Cola, deep fried coke is made with flavored batter balls that have been deep fried and topped with several tasty items. Coca-Cola syrup, whipped cream, cinnamon sugar, and a cherry are among the toppings. Deep fried coke has come a long since its introduction. The dessert is sold worldwide and has even been copied by deep fried Pepsi.




    deep fried fish


    For the more “health-conscious” fried food eater. Deep fried fish offers great bang for your buck and can keep you full for hours. So if you plan on spending all day at a State Fair, one serving of deep fried fish might be all you need. Just don’t expect the health benefits of the fish to offset its fried coating.




    deep fried bubblegum


    Another proud winner of the Texas State Fair’s “Most Creative” award. But the dirty little secret about deep fried bubblegum is it’s actually a bubblegum-flavored marshmallow. The marshmallow is covered with bubblegum-flavored batter then deep fried and sprinkled with frosting. By all accounts, the best thing about it is its smell. The flavor is allegedly a crime against good taste. And not only does the taste of fried bubblegum not satisfy, but it also lingers. You’ll taste a hint of fried bubblegum with everything else you eat that day. As a result, deep fried bubblegum is recommended for only the most masochistic of fried food aficionados.



    The truth is you can deep fry just about anything. All you need is food, a fryer, and an imagination. This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s possible. There’s little doubt that the coming years will result in an even more delicious deep fried food discoveries. It’s up to you whether you want to be a deep frying pioneer or merely a beneficiary. There’s no shame in either.