fake food

The Fake Food Scandal

When you hear the term “fake food”, what often comes to mind are the toys children receive along with their toy kitchen set; rubber hamburgers, apples, pieces of bread, etc. However, in America, we have a real fake food problem. Sounds ironic, but the fake food scandal is present among restaurants, grocery stores, college campuses and almost anywhere else food is sold. What is it exactly? Larry Olmstead, author of ‘Real Food, Fake Food” describes it as mislabeled or imposter food. The problem is not that fake food is unhealthier than real food. The problem is in fact that you are a) not getting what you pay for and b) fake food is often illegal.

Parmesan

Olmstead’s book provides many examples of food fraud; however, four of the most common include olive oil, fish and seafood, Parmesan cheese and honey. Parmesan is an easy example of fake food to understand. Similar to many other fake food scandals, including Kobe beef and champagne, Parmesan receives its name from its origin in Parma, Italy. In Parma, strict regulations go into making the authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. In fact, the cheese can only be considered true if it is made with just three ingredients. Finding Parmesan labelled in United States with only three ingredients is rare. While some may ask if real Parmesan really makes a difference, and to real food aficionados, the taste of real Parmesan is incredible. What to learn from Parmesan is not to label a similar product as the true name, but to consider the regulations that go into making the product first.

Honey

In the case of honey, the battle first begins with local honey producers and big name manufacturers. Mass produced honey often receives an ultra-filtration treatment which removes the pollen. Local producers claim this is no longer honey, however no regulations are in place and it is perfectly legal in the United States. The taste preference of the consumer ultimately decides the battle between local and mass produced honey. In addition, producers of honey in the United States grade their own honey without USDA regulation. This means any producer has the ability to claim their own honey meets a certain standard. The United States imports most of the supply of fake honey without knowing so. Many countries dilute their honey with corn syrup or other sugar solutions. The United States deems these mixtures illegal, however without testing; no one knows if this honey solution is indeed fake food.

Olive Oil

Similar to honey, Extra Virgin Olive Oil often does not contain what it advertises. Olive Oil remains the most frequented fake food in the world. In fact, the National Consumers League states that 6 of 11 olive oils are mislabeled. In addition, the New York Times found that 69% of olive oil labelled Extra Virgin do not meet standard. Manufacturers either cut with cheaper oils or do not use olive oil at all, just a mixture of cheap oils and chemicals to mask the flavor. Manufacturers can legally label this oil, “Packed in Italy” or “Imported from Italy.” This deceives consumers to believe that Italy makes the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, while it is only imported to and shipped from Italy.

Seafood

Another very common example of food fraud is fish and shellfish. When you order seafood such as lobster as a main dish, you can clearly see that the food presented to you is what you ordered. However, in the case of lobster bisque, crab cakes and sushi, this is often not the case. Manufacturers often blend lobster and crab with a cheaper seafood option as to keep cost down while growing profit. Same is true with sushi. Whitefish will often replace tuna in the very common tuna roll. With allergies so common among seafood, fake food in this category can be dangerous.

How to Stop Fake Food

In some cases, stopping food fraud is hard for the consumer. Often with mislabeled foods, restaurants will prepare dishes with a different ingredient than they thought. However, restaurants can do their part in preventing fake food. Especially with honey, experts suggest buying from your local farmers. A simple solution is to check labels. In the case of olive oil, checking the label for “made in” or “grown in” will give you the answer about the origin of your olive oil. To be 100% sure about the validity of your food, do your research to check the validity of your product.

Fake food is a real issue in the United States that often goes unnoticed.  With proper investigation you can do your part to prevent fake food from happening. Real food is worth the difference. It’s time to end the fake food scandal.

 

Memorial Day

Spend Memorial Day Out at Restaurants

Memorial Day is a day to celebrate our nation’s veterans and fallen soldiers. While many parades and events take place to commemorate this holiday, families often use this day to kick-off summer and usually do so with a backyard barbecue. While everyone loves a backyard barbecue, here are great ways to entice customers to your restaurant.

Service Our Military

As Memorial Day celebrates our country’s military, so should your restaurant! If you use any signage at your eatery, show that you are celebrating Memorial Day. Use language like, “thank you US military” or “honoring our nation’s military members” on your Memorial Day banners, special menu or coupons. In addition, entice military members by offering discounts or special promotions. Give active members or veterans with discounts or specials such as 10% off their bill or a free appetizer or dessert with valid ID. Military customers will love these promotions.

Bring the Memorial Day Barbecue to Customers

Most Americans receive this holiday off from work, so they may want a day off from cooking as well. Advertise to your customers that they should take the entire day off and leave the cooking to your restaurant; they may be more willing to choose you over the competition. As many consider Memorial Day the beginning of summer, they may want to enjoy the day outside if the weather is nice. Open up your patio if you have one so customers can enjoy the sun. Offer take-out and delivery as well so people can enjoy your restaurant’s food from their own backyard.

As Memorial Day approaches, consider how to bring customers to your restaurant. Advertise to military members by offering free or discounted food items when they show their ID. Show that you appreciate their efforts towards our nation by displaying your thanks in various signage. For those enjoying the day off, bring them in with delivery or take-out options and let them know to leave the cooking to you. This Memorial Day, your restaurant will shine among American consumers.

Mother's Day family

Dining Out on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this Sunday and restaurants everywhere will fill with families celebrating mom. In fact, almost half of all Americans will dine out on this holiday. To stay ahead of the competition, as well as the crowd, consider these ideas when serving Mother’s day customers.

Mother’s Day Foods

For families with children, offer many options for your diners. Remember that Mother’s Day tends to be a family outing as opposed to a date night, so meals catered towards children should be on your menu. For mom, plan something special. According to the National Restaurant Association, moms splurge on Mother’s Day. The most frequently ordered dinner is seafood. In addition, since Mother’s Day always falls on a Sunday, many will celebrate with brunch after church. Add to your breakfast or lunch menu specials including stuffed French toast, steak or crab cakes. Moms will certainly be more willing to indulge in these items during her special day. Offer take-out options as well. Many families may want to enjoy time together at home without having to cook.

Mother’s Day SpecialsMother's Day Dessert

To entice customers to your restaurant to celebrate, offer deals and specials. Often, restaurants will promote Mother’s Day with a discount for mom. Restaurants can also attract customers by offering a free desert or add-on item for moms. Try a creative approach by offering not just delicious food, but give each mom a flower such as a carnation as a thank you for coming. To ensure your Mother’s Day customers will return again, give mom a coupon for her next visit. A coupon is a great way to show your appreciations while retaining loyalty to your restaurant.

Mother’s Day is a day families love to get together and eat. This year, celebrate mom with great specials, discounts or offers at your restaurant. Offer mom delicious food for all meals and give her an option for splurging. Whether you say “thank you for being a mom” or offer a discount, be sure to show moms everywhere that you care on Mother’s Day.

Cinco de Mayo meal

Cinco de Mayo in Restaurants

Although not the most celebrated holiday in Mexico, Americans love to observe Cinco de Mayo. This year, the holiday falls on a Friday, increasing the likelihood of honoring the fiesta for most Americans. Since many individuals will not have to wake up early for work, they will celebrate longer into the night. Most Americans go out for Cinco de Mayo, bringing restaurants more business than the average day.

What to Eat on Cinco de Mayo

On Cinco de Mayo, customers will likely order Mexican cuisine, even if they are not dining at a traditional Mexican restaurant. As an appetizer, consumers love ordering chips and salsa, or chips and guacamole, especially on this holiday. In fact, the California Avocado Commission states that Americans consume 81 million avocados on Cinco de Mayo. Currently, avocados are trending upwards in consumer preference; expect your orders of guacamole to increase!

As a main dish, there are many options for guests to choose from that relate to Mexican cuisine.  Tacos, enchiladas and burritos are very popular among American consumers. For a more authentic taste, consider substituting corn tortillas for flour tortillas. If you are looking for a sandwich option, the torta is a great choice. A torta is a Mexican sandwich, usually on a crusty white sandwich rolls. Tortas can be filled with anything from chicken to steak and avocados to scrambled eggs. Whether you choose one of these dinners or all, any of these options make a great feature for Cinco de Mayo.

What to Drink on Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is also one of the most well-known holidays for drinking. The most common drink for consumers on this day is a margarita. Feature this drink as a special, or add new margarita flavors to your menu. Customers may even splurge on top-shelf tequila. For those looking for a less-sweet drink, Mexican beer is a great choice. No matter what your customers choose to drink, they will certainly enjoy celebrating at your restaurant.

Desserts on Cinco de Mayo

Although not well-known in the United States, there are many delicious Mexican desserts to highlight on Cinco de Mayo. For those looking for something rich, a caramel flan; similar to crème brulè; or cajeta is the perfect option. These two caramel desserts present the customer with authentic Mexican flavors and a creamy and smooth texture. For the chocolate lovers, Mexican chocolate pudding makes a great dessert. While the dark is rich and sweet, a hint of cayenne adds a hint of spice. For those searching for a more traditional dessert, include fried ice cream on the menu. This mixes an American classic with the cinnamon and corn tortilla flavors of Mexico. There is a dessert for everyone on Cinco de Mayo.

This Cinco de Mayo, cater to your customers preferences. Consumers love authentic foods and flavors and will most definitely come out to celebrate if they know Mexican flavors will be highlighted at your restaurant. Whether you choose to feature guacamole, enchiladas, margaritas or flan, you will surely see success at your restaurant at Cinco de Mayo.

customers at a restaurant

Different Customers at Your Restaurant

In a restaurant, a customer is one of the most important aspects of the operation. Without the customer, business fails to exist. Depending on your restaurant’s concept, you may experience a different type of customers. While the customer might experience a different atmosphere, the treatment they receive should stay consistent. The service a customer receives determines whether or not they will return to your eatery.

New Customers

When new customers arrive, make sure they feel welcome immediately. Always ask a visitor if they have ever dined at your restaurant. This will help guide you in your experience with that customer. If the answer is no, make them want to come back. Share your knowledge of the restaurant and menu. When the customer knows more about where they spend money, they will feel more comfortable in doing so. Give suggestions based on your favorite menu item or special. Sometimes ordering can be daunting for new diners. Suggestions will help them feel at ease. Treat these new customers just as your regulars so they are more willing to return next time they eat out.  To go above and beyond, suggest cool places to go if they are a visitor in the area.

Regular Customers

If your restaurant has regulars, surely they are treated as royalty. Your regulars should be like family at the restaurant. You should remember their names as well as their favorite dishes. If these regular customers order the same dish every visit, ask if they would like their usual. You should still however, offer them something different that you think they would like. Since a regular customer brings in so much business, offer them something on the house a token of appreciation.

Complaining or Concerned Customers

Unfortunately, restaurants will always experience a few complaining customers. When this happens, just remember it is only temporary. To make the best of the situation, stay calm and listen to the customer. Understand and empathize what they say while taking responsibility upon whatever went wrong. Work with the customer to find the best solution for both of you. After resolving the situation, follow-up to make sure they leave satisfied. Finding a solution to a problem can sometimes result in a higher likelihood of return.

Take all customers seriously. Whether they are new to your restaurant, an old-timer, or have a concern, treat them all the same. Remember that great service accompanied with great food will leave a customer satisfied, increasing their likelihood of return.

motivating staff

Motivating and Retaining Employees in the Foodservice Industry

The restaurant industry is full of high demand and high turnover. According to the National Restaurant Association the turnover rate in the foodservice industry increased from 66.7% in 2014 to 72.1% in 2015. This rate soars almost 30% higher than the national average for all private sectors.   A variety of different factors impact the turnover rate. These include age and frequent seasonal staffing as restaurant owners continuously struggle to keep employees engaged. Motivating employees may be the biggest struggle for employee retention in restaurants.

Tips to Motivating Employees

Surprisingly, engaging the entire department may be just as easy as engaging just one employee. According to a University of Michigan study, co-workers have the most impact on an employee’s work ethic and enthusiasm. Essentially, the positive energy from one employee will feed the rest of their co-workers with energy as well. This finding would then turn the attention from motivating each person individually to motivating the entire shift. An article written by QSR online’ s Ashish Gambhir  discusses the further details of the U of M study, and gives examples of how to increase employee motivation. This may take practice and time to implement but will be worth the effort in the long run.

 

St. Patrick’s Day Meal

Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Foods and Celebrations

Although not a national holiday, the United States holds huge celebrations around St. Patrick’s Day. This holiday, held on the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death, commemorates the famous Irishman. St. Patrick was known for his noble missionary work in Ireland and some historians believe he introduced the island to Christianity. Nowadays, many of America’s largest cities hold St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and parades. On March 17th, Americans everywhere dress in green, drink beer and eat Irish food. In fact, many American celebrations are larger than the Irish celebrations. In order to attract customers to your restaurant, create your own St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

St. Patrick’s Day Origins

Interestingly enough, the Irish did not make this holiday a major celebration until the 1970’s. Before, they simply attended church in the morning and returned home to a large family dinner of cabbage and bacon. The Irish immigrants celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in the United States beginning in the 1700’s. In 1845, when the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland, many more immigrants ventured to the United States. Seen as a nuisance, the Americans portrayed Irish immigrants as drunken monkeys when celebrating the holiday. Years later, these immigrants discovered their political influence through their large number of people. The Irish-Americans used St. Patrick’s Day parades as a showcase of strength and became a must-attend event for political candidates.

Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Food

By the mid-1900’s, St. Paddy’s Day developed into a major celebration for all Americans. While residents of Chicago turn the river green, many cities hold parades and restaurants serve traditional Irish meals and beer. The most famous meal, corned beef and cabbage, became popular when Irish immigrants could not afford bacon. They turned to corned beef, a cheaper yet flavorful substitute for bacon. Although not as common, serve bangers and mash for the non-cabbage fans. As a side dish, serving a variety of potatoes in addition to Irish soda bread gives a nice Irish touch. For those of legal age, serve Guinness, Ireland’s most famous beer. For dessert, add whiskey to a chocolate cake or make bread pudding with leftover soda bread.

To celebrate St. Paddy’s Day at your restaurant, add Irish specials to your menu. Many consumers have never made traditional Irish dishes and often take this holiday as an opportunity to eat Irish fare. In addition, meals like corned beef and cabbage take hours to prepare, hours that customers do not want to spend cooking. Take this holiday as an opportunity to serve your customers delicious Irish meals.

Throughout the years, St. Patrick’s Day has developed into a massive Irish tradition that Americans love to celebrate. Whether through parades or food, consumers are constantly looking for a way to enjoy the holiday. Add Irish meals like bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage and soda bread to your menu for the celebration. When you serve your customers traditional Irish foods and drinks you will certainly drive traffic to your restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Serving Meat-Free Lent Meals

Although not a holiday, Lent brings major changes to the restaurant industry. During this 40 day period, menus see an increasing amount of fish and seafood. Lent is the period observed before Easter, where Catholics and many Protestants follow restrictive diets. During this time many “give up” foods such as chocolate or junk food, these are up to the individual. The practices started to honor Christ and experience suffering, just as Jesus suffered for his people. In addition, many Christians practice the act of not eating meat on all Friday. Without meat, Lenten Fridays have been deemed as Fish Friday.

Lent Menu Options

Especially as we transition into warmer weather, many fresh inspired dishes include fish. With a variety of fish to choose from, the options are almost endless. Smoked salmon and almond crusted tilapia are very popular among consumers. Also consider a seafood twist on common meat dishes. Try a seafood lasagna or a shrimp pad Thai to allow customers to order their comfort dishes without the meat. Vegetarian meals are another option for those foregoing meat. As vegetables increase in popularity, so do vegetarian dishes. Portabella burgers, falafel and ratatouille are just a few dishes to highlight as a vegetarian entrée.

For those who do not want to change their menu for the Lenten season, consider only highlighting these dishes on Friday. Create specials for Friday nights that do not contain meat. Consider using key words to describe your meatless dishes in order to attract all customers. Words like “organic” and “natural” appeal to most everyone in 2017. When purchasing fish and seafood, locally sourced seafood will entice any trendsetter, regardless of their Lenten practices. Using organic and natural produce will have the same effect on customers.

With these approaches, the menu contains trendy and enticing dishes for both the meat eaters and Lent observers. When your menu includes meatless dishes that taste delicious, everyone will enjoy these options. Remember to market these dishes to both the Lenten observers and those not following dietary restrictions. In addition, those restraining from meat from Lent will only do so on Fridays, so make sure to keep plenty of traditional meat dishes on the menu. When your restaurant includes trendy meat-free meals, customers will return with the satisfaction of knowing you can provide for their dietary needs.

customers at a restaurant

Generational Preferences in Foodservice

Every American falls into a generational category; the generation dependent on the individual’s birth year. Alive today range from the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Gen Z. Generations form through common experiences and current events that shape the individuals in their age group. For example, the Vietnam War significantly impacted the Baby Boomers, while technology impacted their Millennial children. In general, generations each have certain preferences in which they base their consumer behavior. Scholars spend time studying these behaviors to assist the manufacturer or business owner. Different generational preferences include fashion, entertainment, language, work ethic, spending habits and even food.

The Older Generational Preferences

Restaurants must take note of generational preferences in food and dining out. However, Baby Boomers are usually the oldest generation eating out. The consumer’s generation heavily influences the choice of when and where to eat out, as well as what to purchase.  Many factors influence these preferences including free time, finances and children. Baby Boomers usually dine at the traditional restaurants that sell comfort food. According to an article written by Rita Negrete, this generation also eats out at more full-service restaurant than any other. However, do not assume this generation has the largest bill. Generation X spends the most money on a night out. These individuals do not worry about menu price. This stat is likely due to the fact that this generation has a generally high household income with steady jobs. They also prefer restaurants that promote authenticity and upscale items.

The Younger Generational Preferences

The largest gap between generations in regards to dining preferences is likely between Generation X and Millennials. Millennials tend to dine out for the experience rather than the food. To Millennials, restaurants serve as a social setting more than anything else. A Bloomberg.com article speculates that the Millennials are the reason that last year, dining out sales passed grocery sales for the first time in American history. Millennials flock to restaurants that offer something unique or authentic and serve food boasting natural and fresh labels.  Millennials are one a larger generation, second to Baby Boomers, so scholars suggest paying close attention to their dining preferences. Generation Z, very similar to Millennials, enjoy restaurants that provide natural, unprocessed, or sustainable food. Scholars consider Gen Z the digital generation, they love online ordering and digital marketing.

Each generation has the ability to influence food trends, menu items and restaurant products.  Many studies take into account generational eating habits and describe important factors that influence these habits. Consider these studies when planning and creating menus and marketing pieces for your restaurant.

Cinco de Mayo meal

2017 Food Trends- Ethnic Cuisine

In our last “Trendy Tuesday” segment, we will focus on ethnic cuisine. Foods like tacos, spaghetti, and fried rice have been a mainstay in the United States for a long time. While these foods have gained popularity throughout the years, cuisines such as Mediterranean and Korean have taken center stage. As our country’s taste buds have developed, ethnic cuisine continuously trend upwards.

Multiple Ethnic Cuisine Trends

Although ethnic flavors have risen in popularity in the past century, Americans demand more. According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual trend list, authenticity ranks in the top ten. As ethnic flavors gain popularity, consumers demand authenticity. Customers no longer desire the American spaghetti, they demand the version an Italian grandmother would prepare for her family. Also included in the NRA’s list is African cuisine. African cuisine showcases simply, flavorful dishes including large quantity or rice, cooked meats and vegetables. Many African dishes are very transparent, a possible reason as to why Americans now flock to the cuisine.

Ethnic spices just missed the top ten, ranking 11 in the overall poll. Popular ethnic spices include harissa, curry, za’atar and turmeric. These spices all originate from Africa and the Middle East.  These spices could be the result of “migratory meals”. Food Business News states that as refugees from the Middle East and Africa make way to the United States they bring their food and flavors with them. Many of these immigrants have opened small restaurants showcasing their heritage. Americans cannot get enough of these flavors, certainly causing the upward spike in trendy ethnic cuisines.

Ethnic Meals and Dishes

The world is huge, giving way to a multitude of different ethnic meals and dishes. Although Americans know fried chicken as an American comfort dish, cultures across the globe render versions of their own. Perdue Foodservice claims that the Koreans, Indians and Japanese all have a different take on fried chicken. The Koreans fry ethnic cuisine- shakshukathe chicken twice, Indians sauté their chicken in yogurt sauce after frying and the Japanese deep fry bite size pieces. While these dishes all include fried chicken, each cuisine flavors the iconic dish to taste their own. Also growing in popularity among American consumers is the rise of ethnic breakfasts. Americans now desire ethnic flavors on breakfast menus including Spanish chorizo and Mediterranean shakshuka. These dishes put an ethnic spin on their breakfast favorites.  In fact, ethnic breakfast is so trendy; the NRA rates this 6 in their top ten trend list.

Ethnic cuisine wraps up our four week “Trendy Tuesday” segment. Encompassed into one large trend, ethnic flavors have segments of their own. As certain cuisines like African and Middle Eastern continue to grow in popularity, many ethnic breakfasts have made their way to menus. As the year continues, try adding ethnic spices and flavors to your menu. You will certainly be a hit to your trendy customers.