Monthly Archives : March 2015

Dozens sickened at banquet

So probably not the best banquet to have a foodborne illness outbreak at considering the attendees. With 100 of the 250 attendees being lawyers and law students this is not going to go away anytime soon.

This article from Philly.com will be forever and will pop up decades from now if you Google search “foodborne illness Philly” (I just searched and a version of this article shows up as number 5). There are social media and Yelp! reviews that are out there as well, but there are ways to get those “expunged” if you will, but news articles don’t go away.

Although it appears from the article (copied below) that the restaurant providing the food has a track record of violations with the health department. The health department legally can’t publically talk much about the restaurant other than posting the publicly available information, but the lawyers and law students aren’t holding any punches.

It doesn’t appear that this restaurant is practicing a due care approach to their health and sanitation standards and it could wind up costing them their business this time. More and more data and apps are available to consumers to check on restaurant scores etc. Now more than ever, restaurateurs need to make sure that they are running safe operations. There is so much competition that most can’t afford to bear the cost of the brand damage that results from this type of press.

There are tools available that are simple to implement that can help drive accountability and prove to health inspectors that you are taking a due care approach to health and sanitation. It’s worth investing some time investigating what’s available. It could wind up saving your brand.

I have copied the full article below:

In one of the largest outbreaks of suspected foodborne illness in Philadelphia, nearly 100 lawyers and law students were sickened last month after attending a banquet celebrating the Lunar New Year in Chinatown.

But even though the restaurant has a history of food-safety problems stretching back several years, the city Health Department says it cannot publicly discuss details of its investigation, citing a 1955 state law.

That law hasn’t silenced the outbreak’s victims.

About 250 people attended the feast Feb. 27 at Joy Tsin Lau, the venerable dim sum restaurant at 10th and Race Streets. Dozens of the diners reported that they felt the first symptoms two mornings later.

Chi Mabel Chan, who has owned Joy Tsin Lau for more than 30 years, denied that the diners had suffered food poisoning from the banquet.

“It was not a problem with my restaurant,” she said, theorizing that chilly weather or festivities at a karaoke bar after the dinner might be to blame.

“Maybe they got cold or drank too much,” she said of the victims.

The eight-course dinner – well-documented on social media – was a fund-raiser for a group of Temple University law students, the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

“This was the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever witnessed,” Antima Chakraborty, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, wrote on Yelp, a restaurant review site. “Many individuals had to go to the ER.”

City inspection reports show that Joy Tsin Lau has long had a problem maintaining food-safety standards.

Just 17 days before the banquet, a Health Department sanitarian was at Joy Tsin Lau to check back on an earlier problem. In a report dated Feb. 10, Kyria Weng wrote “that current management practices have allowed unacceptable public health or food-safety conditions.”

An Inquirer analysis of city inspection reports found that the average eat-in restaurant in Philadelphia last year had 2.3 risk factors for foodborne illness, the more serious of the two main categories defined by the Food and Drug Administration.

Weng cited Joy Tsin Lau for five such risk factors. Several of those – dumplings held at a bacteria-friendly 57 degrees, and a lack of soap and paper towels in the employee restroom – were noted as repeat violations. Weng also found nine lesser violations, called “lack of good retail practices.”

But that was an improvement over Weng’s Dec. 22 visit, when she cited the restaurant for seven risk factors for foodborne illness (including a chicken held at unsafe temperatures) and 13 lesser violations.

Back in 2010, the city Health Department filed suit against Joy Tsin Lau after deeming it a “public nuisance” and issued a cease-and-desist order for “failure to ensure that public-health standards for a safe and sanitary operation . . . are being maintained.”

City legal officials did not respond to questions asking if the city ever acted on the order or if the restaurant ever was forced to close.

David S. Haase, a Center City lawyer, said he began to feel nauseated about 30 hours after the banquet. Contrary to Chan’s theory, he said he was warmly dressed and did not go to the karaoke bar.

A combination of nonstop puking and explosive diarrhea kept him bedridden for four days.

“It was freaking terrible,” Haase said. “I’d crawl back into bed and curl up into a ball, moaning like a child with the cramps.”

Organizers, in a post-banquet e-mail to attendees, said multiple guests had sought medical attention.

Thursday, nearly four weeks after the banquet, Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran would say only that a “food source” had been identified for the outbreak.

“We are not permitted, by law, to publicly release the findings of outbreak investigations,” Moran said.

He cited the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, which prohibits health authorities from disclosing reports or records of diseases. Though the law primarily addresses patients with venereal diseases and tuberculosis, its confidentiality clause keeps secret the details of all health investigations.

Most states have similar laws, according to Scott Burris, the codirector at Temple University’s Center for Health Law, Policy, and Practice.

“It’s pretty typical,” Burris said. “Pennsylvania is not an outlier.”

Investigators need some secrecy to collect sensitive information, he said, but the laws may go too far when it comes to alerting the public of potential threats.

“That’s a price we pay,” Burris said of secrecy laws. “It’s probably worth working on our privacy laws to see if we can find an approach that lowers that price.”

But there is no law silencing the sickened.

“If you enjoy being on your back for the 48 hours post-dinner writhing in pain, burning up, and exploding out of all orifices, then this is the restaurant for you,” wrote Jack Jiang, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who attended the banquet with his girlfriend.

In an e-mail to a reporter, Jiang said he had been bedridden for three days and suffered lingering effects through the end of the week.

Haase, who missed his daughter’s championship track meet due to the illness, said he had contacted a Health Department coordinator, who told him the outbreak was likely brought on by norovirus.

Norovirus, the most common cause of foodborne illness, sickens about 20 million people a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pathogen is often spread by contact with an infected person or by ingesting food or water contaminated by fecal matter. Acute gastroenteritis strikes usually between 24 and 48 hours after exposure to norovirus.

Caroline Johnson, director of the city’s division of disease control, said she couldn’t talk specifics, but in general said the goal of investigations “is to find out what happened, correct that problem, and move on.”

As for the secrecy, she said, “We don’t want to drive underground the facts we want to uncover.”

Her agency told Haase about the norovirus because “we feel that by telling them, they won’t need to have the wrong antibiotic prescribed to them or have unnecessary testing. It’s the right medical thing to do. I wouldn’t withhold information from them because it might have medical significance to their situation.”

Foodborne illness outbreaks in Philadelphia are relatively uncommon – about 10 a year – and when they do occur, they usually strike fewer than 20 people, Johnson said.

“They’re not always as impressive as this one,” she said.

“These foodborne outbreaks can happen to the finest of restaurants and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the restaurant did anything wrong,” Johnson said.

None of the lawyers or the Temple group said they were planning to sue Joy Tsin Lau. They have two years before the statute of limitations runs out.

Haase, whose law firm sponsors a table at the banquet each year, said he would continue attending under one condition.

“It will have to be at a different place,” he said.

In the meantime, Haase said he won’t collect the two raffle prizes he won at this year’s banquet: two dim sum dinners at Joy Tsin Lau.

Banquet Menu

Full menu for Temple APALSA’s 8th Annual Lunar Banquet, Feb. 27, at Joy Tsin Lau:

Chicken sweet corn soup

Walnut shrimp

Stir-fry beef celery

Peking duck

Spare ribs

Deep-fried fish Hunan

Veg fried rice

Veg spring rolls

Sautéed string beans

Black bean eggplant

Braised bean curd

5-spice bean curd bean sprouts

Kung pao vegetables

Lo mein

Chinese vegetable with hearts of greens in light gravy

Fresh oranges

Fortune cookies

Tea

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Moneyball for Restaurants. It ’s Here. On Your Tablets and iPads. – Part I

Ever wish there were a Moneyball approach  to managing multi-location restaurants?

It would be a business model where we would field dozens of scouts ” who could fan out across multiple locations, logging in data, observing and recording in-game activity, ” and making note of even the smallest thing … like the fact that the day the dumpster was overflowing, the location sold 23 fewer desserts.

Or that when the men s room was dirty, the bar take was down 29%.

Or that at Saturday lunch (when the young wait staff looked as though theyd come directly from an afterhours party) you got only two table turns and not three.

Just like in Moneyball, an overlord ” manager would sit at a computer and view a dashboard of data, some of it raw, and some of it synthesized, based on algorithms. Hed make decisions based not on guesses. Not on theories. But on facts, gathered in real time in the field.  It would be a Big Data solution for multi-location restaurants.

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 Impossible to put in place, right?  Too expensive!

Heck, you ’d need to field a team of scouts out there walking the floors of your locations.

(Wait, don ’t we have that now? Aren t our managers walking the floors and building grounds already?)

And they ’d all have to be carrying tablets or iPads.

(Wait, everyone ’s got tablets or iPads now. If not, the costs are minimal.)

And the data would have to feed a system that analyzed it.

(That exists today as well, and plus, these days, customizing analysis of data streams is not cost prohibitive, especially given the amazing ROI thats achievable.)

So, with the workforce in place 

And the technology in place 

The only thing missing is a protocol, a process, a workflow that would prompt the workforce to start collecting data.

The question is: Which data? What things should our Moneyball scouts  be looking at?

That ’s where SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocols come into play.

With the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, you can leverage your workforce to collect data, which will let you draw correlations between operations, sales, and costs. That will help you determine your shortest path to optimized profits.

Old Pilots Don’t Crash. Old Restaurants Managers Do. Ever see an old pilot skip a pre-flight checklist? Nope. That ’s why so few planes crash. Ever see an old restaurant manager (over confident that he knows it all) crash a restaurant? Yup. Happens all the time. That’s why we have to bring the rigor of the preflight inspection to the management of restaurants.

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Restaurant workforce demographics are shifting

No real surprises in this article from the Missouri Restaurant Association with the way the economy performed between 2007 and 2014. Here are some of the stats from the article about the shifting demographics in the restaurant association:

  • At its peak in the late 1970s, roughly 58 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds were in the labor force
  • 41.3% in 2007
  • 34% in 2014 – the all time low
  • In 2007, 16-to-19-year-olds represented 20.9 percent of the restaurant workforce
  • 16.6% in 2014
  • The restaurant industry is still the largest teen employer at 1.5 million employees – representing 1/3 of all teens workers
  • The number of adults aged 55 or older working in the restaurant industry jumped 38 percent between 2007 and 2014

Do you see this trend continuing, staying the same, or reversing over the next 7 years?

I have copied the full article below:

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The teen labor force participation rate declined sharply in recent years, a development that directly impacted the restaurant workforce.  Although restaurants are still the economy’s largest employer of teenagers, the shrinking teen labor pool has led many restaurant operators to look to alternative age cohorts to fill their staffing needs, according to the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy.

The Great Recession and its aftermath had a significant impact on the U.S. labor force. The labor force participation rate fell to a 37-year low, with many people who lost jobs deciding not to return to the workforce. Contributing to this decline was the retirement of baby boomers, as well as a growing proportion of teenagers choosing to remain on the sidelines.

As the nation’s second largest private sector employer, the restaurant industry was directly impacted by these shifting labor demographics in recent years. Of significant note for the restaurant industry was the sharp decline in the teenage labor pool.

At its peak in the late 1970s, roughly 58 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds were in the labor force. This participation rate remained above 50 percent until 2001, when it started trending downward. The Great Recession exacerbated this decline, with the teen labor force participation rate plunging from 41.3 percent in 2007 to just 34.0 percent in 2014 – a record low.

The net effect was a decline of 1.4 million teenagers in the labor force between 2007 and 2014, a development that was reflected in the restaurant workforce. In 2007, 16-to-19-year-olds represented 20.9 percent of the restaurant workforce. By 2014, these teens made up only 16.6 percent of restaurant employees.

To be sure, the restaurant industry is still the economy’s largest employer of teenagers, providing jobs for 1.5 million individuals between the ages of 16 and 19. Put another way, one-third of all working teenagers in the U.S. are employed in a restaurant. However, the shrinking teen labor pool has led many restaurant operators to look to alternative age cohorts to fill their staffing needs.

With teen representation in the restaurant workforce declining, a majority of the new restaurant jobs went to millennials in recent years. The share of restaurant jobs held by 20-to-24-year-olds rose from 21.4 percent in 2007 to 24.2 percent in 2014, while 25-to-34-year-olds also took on a larger role in the restaurant workforce.

Although older adults still make up a relatively small proportion of the restaurant workforce, they were the fastest growing demographic group in recent years. In fact, the number of adults aged 55 or older working in the restaurant industry jumped 38 percent between 2007 and 2014, an increase of 218,000 individuals. This trend is expected to continue in the years ahead, as older adults make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force.

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Proposed grading system concerns some restaurateurs

Posting health inspection letter grades in the front window or on the door of the restaurant seems to be picking up steam everywhere. California has been doing it for years. I don’t think it’ll be long before this is the norm. From a consumer perspective it’s great. There are a bunch of apps that you can get now as well that will give you the latest scores right no your phone. This certainly affects a lot of dining decisions so if you own a restaurant or restaurants you need to be on top of your operations.

This article is from the local NBC affiliate in Baltimore. The main concerns by the restaurateurs in the article are:

  1. The length of time that they may have to wait to get a follow up inspection if they had gotten a bad grade
  2. The inconsistency with the inspectors

Both valid points, as stated in the article, it can take up to 3 months before you see the health inspector again. The county isn’t going to staff up to cover rechecks. They don’t have the budget. Inconsistency with the inspectors is very difficult to manage. I’m sure they are trained the same way, but we are dealing with people and everyone does things just a little different. The best option is to diligently stay on top of operations and avoid bad grades because the info is public knowledge and is more readily available than ever.

I have copied the full article below:

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BALTIMORE —Some Baltimore restaurateurs are worried about how they’ll be treated if a new ratings system is approved.

Baltimore soon could join other cities that use a grading system of restaurants that puts a report card on a restaurant’s door.

The city’s restaurants have long been subject to inspections, but a public grading system based on what inspectors find would be new. Some are concerned about whether the city’s Health Department has the resources to manage a new system fairly.

At Pete’s Grill in Waverly, owner Dave Stahl has seen enough city inspections to know no two health inspectors are alike.

“I have health inspectors come in who are tough as nails and I have other ones who come in here and actually ask me to walk around and tell me to look at the temperatures in my refrigerator and tell them what the thermometers read rather than checking it themselves, so there is an extremely wide variation I find in the extent to which the detail to which these inspectors go,” Stahl said.

It’s one reason Stahl is concerned about the bill before the City Council. If passed, inspectors won’t just write up violations, which they currently do. They’ll use a new software system that scores the restaurant. A top score is excellent, followed by good, then fair, which is the lowest score without being shut down. The grade will then be posted on the restaurant’s door.

Of concern to the restaurant industry, if a less-than-excellent score gets posted, it may take a while for a restaurant to get re-inspected and graded again.

“I don’t frankly believe there are enough health inspectors on the street to re-inspect these non-critical violations in a timely manner,” Stahl said.

Since fiscal year 2011, the number of food inspectors in the Health Department has dropped from 23 to 18.

Two different audits criticized the department’s inspection effort. One audit completed in 2007 said the department’s inspections weren’t performed with the frequency specified by state and city regulations.
A 2013 audit also cited as a deficiency inspection frequencies.

The WBAL-TV 11 News I-Team’s review of cases shows the Health Department re-inspects quickly if a restaurant has been shut down. But under the proposed system, if a restaurant just gets downgraded, the city health commissioner admits that it may have to wait months to get re-inspected and graded again, regardless of how quickly it corrects the problem.

“We visit our restaurants on a trimester basis, so at least three times a year, and so that sign could be up for that period of time. We believe that is a fair process,” Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said.

The first version of the bill required re-inspections with seven days. That provision is gone in the current amended bill. The City Council is set to take up the proposal Monday night.

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Technology that puts the ‘fast’ into fast casual

It seems as if quick service and fast casual brands will be relying more on technology to help cut labor costs as drastic minimum wage and health care changes are on the way. Since their employees don’t rely on tips this makes sense (although there are changes in the works for tipped employees as well). There’s also the convenience benefit for the customer to be able to order from their phone for example, but let’s be honest rising labor costs are the driving force.

The technology has been available for years now, but I feel like recently there are more articles about customer facing technology being implemented in the restaurant industry. Wawa, the mid atlantic chain, has had ordering kiosks in their stores since 2001. Like everything else restaurant technology is going mobile. Now you can order from your phone no matter where you are, at any time. 1 less person on the phone, 1 less person at the counter taking orders, 1 less person checking out, etc and it adds up quickly.

The National Restaurant Association published an article on the topic. I have copied the full article below:

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According to NRA research, roughly one-quarter of consumers say technology options are important features that factor into their decision to choose a restaurant. This is up from the nearly one-fifth the prior year that said the same, underscoring that technology rapidly is becoming an expectation rather than a novelty when dining out.  See how three fast casual restaurants plug into technology to speed up and improve service.

It’s lunch hour in the Windy City, where time-pressed office workers head to Wow Bao for a quick bite. Even if there’s a line at the counter, they know they can order at a kiosk and get their food within a few minutes. The restaurant specializes in Asian fare, including bao — hot, doughy buns stuffed with meats and/or vegetables. Kiosk ordering is offered at all five Wow Bao locations.

When Wow Bao President Geoff Alexander introduced kiosk ordering in 2009, he expected it to speed the ordering process without increasing labor costs. The happy surprise was that kiosk ordering also upped check sizes. Depending on the unit, the check average is 89 cents to $1.49 more at kiosks. The reason? The kiosks are programmed to upsell. “With every item that you order, the kiosk asks whether you want to make it a combo and whether you want to add a drink,” says Alexander.

Today’s consumers crave customized items, so they love the control kiosks give to order exactly what they want, he adds. Plus, staff doesn’t have to worry about making mistakes when entering orders. Alexander acknowledges that the technology comes with its own headaches, including occasional crashes (which he says are few and far between).

Wow Bao received its return on the kiosk investment in eight months because of the higher check averages and labor savings. “I don’t understand why more restaurants aren’t using kiosks,” Alexander says.

One Boloco customer loves the restaurant’s “Cajun Burrito;” another prefers its “Bangkok Thai Bowl.” Likewise, consumers want a range of ordering methods to meet their preferences. An office worker sitting computer-side might prefer online ordering; college students on the run order via the app; and a retired baby boomer is happy to order at the counter.

Eleven of Boloco’s 20 units feature kiosk ordering. “It’s all about having what’s most convenient for each guest,” says Alexandra Dunk, director of marketing for the Boston-based chain, which specializes in globally inspired burritos

The challenge: how to integrate all the ordering options seamlessly with a loyalty program. The solution: Boloco ditched its plastic rewards card and launched its Passport loyalty app earlier this year. Guests register their biographical and credit/debit card information. They use the app, powered by Boston-based LevelUp, to order and pay ahead from a mobile device or for payment in-store at an iPad kiosk or at the counter. They can also use their same log-in information to order and pay online at boloco.com. Guests automatically earn and redeem reward dollars when paying with the Passport app, which displays an encrypted QR code for payment. Guests who don’t have access to the app can pick up a QR code sticker at a Boloco unit and register it online.

“Paying in the store is now superfast and convenient,” Dunk says. “All you need is your phone.” Boloco also sped up mobile ordering by improving the menu’s loading time with the help of Conshohocken, Penn.-based Zuppler.

With some customers resisting registering a credit or debit card with the app, Boloco is educating guests about security measures. “The card information is tokenized,” explains Dunk. “We at Boloco never actually see the information and neither can LevelUp.” Still, the restaurant is exploring the option of allowing consumers to load cash payments. Says Dunk: “We’re always listening to our guests.”
This fast casual giant is introducing a series of integrated technologies coined “Panera 2.0.” It aims to reduce wait times, improve order accuracy, and minimize or eliminate crowding; and create a more personalized experience,” Chairman and CEO Ron Shaich says.

As a first step, St. Louis-based Panera Bread launched an advanced ordering system for to-go orders. It lets customer place and pay for online/mobile orders, which they pick up at a designated spot in the restaurant.

Panera is rolling out an option that enables dine-in guests to place an online or mobile order from their table and have their meal delivered directly to them. The café is adding ordering kiosks in addition to cashier stations to reduce wait times. Guests who order from cashiers or kiosks will have their meals delivered to their tables by an associate using an electronic table locator.

Customization should be easier because kiosk, mobile and web ordering will store purchase history. So, guests who prefer their tuna sandwich with onions, but no tomatoes, won’t have to remember to make the request each time. The company, which operates more than 1,800 bakery-cafes under the names of Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Café, expects the 2.0 technology to be in substantially all its units by 2017.

Millennial eating demands are splitting in two

I have seen and read a bunch of articles about millennials in the workplace and how to manage them etc. But this is the first I have seen about their eating habits and it’s potential effect on the restaurant business. The Indy Star had an article on this topic that was very interesting. Here are some points that stuck out for me:

  • The split between the millennial parents and the millennials without kids is posing an issue
  • Both are visiting restaurants less; 33 less per year per person for the younger and 50 less per year per person for the older in 2014 vs. 2007
  • Millennials account for $96 billion per year in spend
  • The 2 main concerns for millennials with kids are: healthy kids menu that tastes good and reasonable prices – that could be tough to pull off as costs keep rising
  • The main concern for millennials without kids is customization

Are you seeing these trends in your establishments? I was expecting to read the need for technology, but there wasn’t any of that mentioned. I was a little shocked. Interesting article still.

I have copied the full article below:

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Even as Millennials continue to cut back on restaurant visits, restaurant owners are facing a new headache: Millennial eating demands are splitting in two.

The problem: Younger Millennials are focused on what they eat. Older Millennials — many of whom are parents ◊ are more focused on what their kids eat.

It’s not so simple to please both, according to two separate restaurant industry surveys out today, one by by the research firm NPD Group, and the other by the consulting firm AlixPartners.

“Restaurants — particularly fast-food — will have to work a lot harder to get people to come in than they have in the past,” says Warren Solochek, vice president of client services at NPD Group. What’s more, he notes, there’s a “sizable difference” in attracting Millennials age 18 to 24 vs. Millennials age 25 to 34.

Restaurants have little choice but to chase after Millennials of all ages. That’s because Millennials account for about 14.5 billion annual restaurant visits and spend about $96 billion in the process. Even though Millennials have continued to cut back on restaurant visits since the recession, they still account for 23% of all domestic restaurant spending, estimates NPD. But the decline is real: Younger Millennials made 33 fewer visits per person in 2014 vs. 2007; and older Millennials made 50 few visits per person, during that same period.

“The industry used to feel, if you built a new unit, people would come,” says Solochek. But that’s no longer the case, he says. “Now, you’ve got to make it worthwhile.”

Two key issues top the lists of Millennials who have kids:

  • Healthy kids food. The kids menu must have better-for you offerings that truly are better, says NPD’s Solochek. “The days of take-it-or-leave-it kids meals won’t cut it any more,” he says. But besides the meal passing mom’s “sniff test,” he says, the kid has to actually enjoy the meal.
  • Low prices.Millennials with young kids are just starting to discover the difference between a dinner check for two, and a dinner check for three or four.

“Millennials want to eat healthy and cheap at the same time,” says Adam Werner, co-managing director at AlixPartners, who helped to oversee the company’s new study.

But younger Millennials without kids are primarily concerned with one thing:

  • Choice. They want to be able to customize their meals. “Each person in a party has to feel like they can get something different — and something made just for them,” says Solochek.

This is particularly a problem for traditional burger joints that get 60% or more of their business through the drive-through. “Customization slows down the drive-thru,” says Solochek. “Operationally, it’s a huge challenge.”

Some restaurants may need to respond with early dinner options for Millennials with kids and later dinner options for Millennials without kids, says Eric Dzwonczyk, co-managing director at AlixPartners. “Both types of Millennials want to feel in control.”

FDA: 3 People Die from Foodborne Illness Linked to Ice Cream

Blue Bell Creamery is being tied to a listeria outbreak. 5 people in Wichita were hospitalized, 3 of them wound up dying due to the foodborne illness. Blue Bell has stopped production and distribution of the products linked to the illness. They say it’s related to one piece of equipment in one production plant.

The FDA is warning consumers to stay away from and discard the following products from Blue Bell Creamery:

  • Chocolate Chip Country Cookie
  • Great Divide Bar
  • Sour Pop Green Apple Bar
  • Cotton Candy Bar
  • Scoops
  • Vanilla Stick Slices
  • Almond Bar
  • No Sugar Added Mooo Bar (regular Mooo Bars are not included)

What does something like this do to a brand? Take away all the waste ie throwing away already produced product and recalling already sold product or the lawsuits that will surely come from the deceased families. What are the long term losses in brand value and lost revenue?

I recently read a study about health inspection letter grades being posted in the restaurant window. They had found that an A could result in a 4-5% increase in sales and a C could result in a 1% decrease. I’d be interested in hearing any experiences in this area. Are these numbers accurate from your experience? Please share.

I have copied the Blue Bell article from the local ABC News affiliate below:

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(WICHITA, Kan.) — An outbreak of listeria in five patients at a Kansas hospital is being connected to ice cream products from Blue Bell Creamery.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday the five people sickened were at Via Christi St Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas for other medical treatment when officials believe they ate the listeria contaminated ice cream.

Three of the patients who were sickened at the Wichita hospital later died.

The Texas-based company has since stopped production and distribution of several products linked to the deadly illness. A Blue Bell spokesperson said on Friday the outbreak is related to one piece of equipment in a production plant.

The ice cream contaminated was sold to convenience stores and private companies, such as hospitals.

The Kansas hospital was not aware of any listeria contamination in the Blue Bell Creameries ice cream products, and immediately removed all Blue Bell Creameries products from all Via Christi locations once the potential contamination was discovered, according to Maria Loving, Communications Coordinator for  Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita.

Health officials are warning consumers who have purchased the following Blue Bell Creameries novelty items and have not consumed the items to discard them:

  • Chocolate Chip Country Cookie
  • Great Divide Bar
  • Sour Pop Green Apple Bar
  • Cotton Candy Bar
  • Scoops
  • Vanilla Stick Slices
  • Almond Bar
  • No Sugar Added Mooo Bar (regular Mooo Bars are not included)

Potentially contaminated items have been pulled from retail locations by Blue Bell Creameries and are no longer available for purchase.

At this time, officials say no other products from Blue Bell Creameries have been linked to this outbreak.

Tipping the scales: Wage increase gets mixed reaction from restaurant industry

Read another article today, kind of a follow up to the Glens Falls article we discussed a week or so ago, about the effects of NY State upping tipped workers’ minimum wage by 50% by the end of the year. The Saratogian talked to restaurant owners, tipped workers, and customers to get a perspective on the effect on each of them as they see it.

Here are some of the opinions that came back:

Restaurant owners are nervous about the pay hike of course. They feel that it will be tough for single unit / non chains to compete and/or not to raise prices. Even if they do raise prices they would have to compete with the larger chains who have more resources to implement technology to help reduce the amount of staff they would need, while not impacting service negatively. They feel that fine dining will be the only establishments able to go on as a single unit operation as their clientele will be able to absorb the price hikes with no problem.

Tipped workers are mixed on the whole thing. Some think it will help them cover some of their taxes. Whereas others say they never pay attention to their paycheck and only rely on tips for income. Some also felt that service may suffer some as there will be less of an incentive to give great service.

The customers for the most part said the raise won’t affect the way they tip. They will tip the same as they do now based on the service they get. Although nothing was mentioned how they would feel about a price hike.

The full article is posted below:

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Tipped restaurant and bar employees making minimum wage in New York State are in for a 50 percent raise at the end of the year, but this change is expected to have a much larger impact on the industry than a few extra bucks in the workers’ pockets.

The current minimum wage for waiters and bartenders throughout the state is $5 per hour. On Dec. 31, 2015 that will change to $7.50 an hour. This is still less than the untipped worker’s pay current rate of $8 and hour, which is also set to increase to $9 in 2016.

The final decision to raise the tipped workers’ rate was made by acting Labor Commissioner Mario Musolino last month. “It increases wages for those who have been without a raise for far too long,” Musolino wrote in his ruling.

However, some are criticizing that the move is not small business friendly, despite Governor Andrew Cuomo’s expressed goals to improve the small business climate.

Though the raise may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, it adds up. For one full time employee, paying the $2.50 more per hour calculates to $100 extra per employee, per work week. In a year, one full time employee will cost $5,200 extra. If a medium-sized restaurant has 10 full time waiters, bussers and bartenders, that equates to $52,000 a year, on top of their already-existing expenses.

Workers, management and tippers all have different perspectives on the decision.

Though The Purple Pub in Maplewood appreciates its staff and find them to be deserving, the minimum wage raise is putting the business in a tough position, said general manager Drew Rentz. The medium-sized restaurant, which offers lunch and dinner six days a week, has about 30 employees total, and 15 to 17 of them are tipped. As food costs go up, and well as minimum wage, which is what the pub’s tipped workers make upon entry, “There’s only so much we can do,” he said.

Rentz wishes to keep menu prices at a reasonable rate for customers without cutting back on quality or quantity. But with minimum wage increases, “It’s going to back us into a corner where we may have to start raising prices, or we may have to reduce some staff,” he said.

When the restaurant opened in 1972, minimum wage was $1.60. Also, a burger at the pub was just 45 cents. In the restaurant’s 43-year history it’s seen many changes, but “It just seems like in the last several years, and the next several years to come, there’s a drastic increase,” Rentz said.

“We’ve been here for 43 years and hope to be here for 43 years more,” Rentz said, but without resources like the chain restaurants have, “every year it just gets to be tougher and tougher and tougher.”

Already, Rentz said, “There’s not many mom and pop places left.”

The founder agrees, “It’s just becoming extremely hard to run a small business with all the regulations,” co-owner Greg Rentz said. “It’s entirely different than it was when we started 40 years ago.”

The Purple Pub predicts this change will cost it between $500 and $600 dollars per week, which converts to $25,000 to $35,000 per year. Put simply, “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Greg Rentz said.

The restaurant’s workers recognize it as a problem, too. “I think it’s going to change the entire industry,” said Ken DuBois, a bartender at the pub. When DuBois first started working at the restaurant 20 years ago, tipped workers’ wages were about $2.50. Soon, it will be three times that amount.

As a tipped employee soon to be getting a raise, “I could care less about it going up,” Dubois said. Most tipped employees in the business don’t even look at their paycheck, he said. “They rely on their tips for income.”

Even though he’ll be getting more money, DuBois isn’t particularly excited. “I’m not disappointed in it, but I see it damaging the industry in the future, and that’s what scares me,” he said.

Those tips, though split between the Purple Pub employees, are reflective of the level of patron satisfaction. DuBois always strives to provide top notch customer service. However, with state government giving every tipped worker a 50 percent pay increase, DuBois is concerned that others may not learn the hard work ethic it takes to actually earn and deserve the raise. “If they’re lazy already, they’re just going to be lazier, and it’s harder for somebody that actually works hard to get what they’re worth,” he said.

For customers, if menu prices stay the same that could mean quality of food at locally owned restaurants could drop. “If it keeps going up, corporate businesses are going to have an advantage, especially in New York state, because they buy stuff in so much bulk that they can sell something cheaper than small businesses are going to be able to,” DuBois said.

“Part of the American dream is coming here and starting your own business, and it’s just going to be crushed by corporate America in New York state,” DuBois said. Looking even further, “At some point I see privately owned businesses just being fine dining, and everything else being corporate if it continues this trend,” he continued. “It’s sad.”

Upscale downtown Saratoga Springs restaurant Sperry’s will be affected, too. As a small business, “It does hurt us,” said general manager Seth Berger, who has been in the industry for 26 years. “New York is rather tough as it is right now with taxes.” While it could eventually lead to price increases on the menu, he doesn’t expect it to effect restaurant’s volume of business.

The 13 year-round waiters, waitresses and bartenders at Sperry’s, “They live off their tips,” Berger said. The good news for them is that the clientele at Sperry’s aren’t likely to tip less than average, as long as service is good.

“It seems a little foolish,” said Sperry’s co-owner Scott Johnson, “for New York state to be putting small businesses at greater risk and more burden.” The former Saratoga Springs mayor continued, “Unfortunately, this is but another example of New York State putting more burden on small businesses that are already over taxed. It’s the classic phrase of ‘penny wise but pound foolish,’ when considering the potentially negative impact to tipped employees not getting the maximum tips from patrons aware of the increased wage. It’s well known that tipped employees rely more on tips, for their livelihood, than minimum wage.”

As a former restaurant owner who used to own Daisy Baker’s in Troy and now bartends at Sperry’s, Jared Horton knows both sides of the business and has mixed feelings on the wage increase. “I went from being an employer to an employee, and I am now in the group of workers who the increase is supposed to benefit,” he said. “If I still owned my restaurant, I would have to increase prices across the board to offset the increased labor cost. I would figure a 15 to 20 percent increase depending on the menu item.” Now as an employee, Horton said of course he will appreciate a higher wage. “The question is whether or not customers will tip less after the wage increase; I certainly don’t expect that to happen at the place I work. In fact, if menu prices go up, I might even expect total gratuities to go up. It certainly depends on the the place you work, and what type of customers it draws.”

“At this point I see it almost impossible for the small, independently operated businesses to survive,” said Michael Coleman of Wilton. Having worked in the restaurant industry for many years, he predicts menu price increases resulting in less business, and eventually less restaurants for New Yorkers to enjoy.

Former Troy Cafe owner Sarah Fish noted that in addition to hourly wage increases, payroll taxes and insurances will increase in proportion to the labor hour costs. “A fifty percent increase in pay comes with other costs, and to absorb that kind of increase means prices will go up,” she predicted. Furthermore, “It will definitely hurt smaller businesses.”

Another unfortunate factor, Fish recognized, is an unhappy kitchen staff that did not receive a 50 percent raise, and already likely make less than servers once tips are considered. Rentz said he thinks his tipped staffed probably makes significantly more than his other employees at the end of the day, as is also true in many other establishments.

But will customers catch on? In Europe, it’s less common to tip well, or even tip at all, because workers tipped and untipped make the same wages.

New rules for servers worrying restaurant owners

The article below from the Glens Falls Post-Star showed up in my feed. Glens Falls is a small resort town in the Adirondack mountains in NY. Very heavy summer traffic. The rest of the year is sporadic. Foliage in the fall, some ski traffic in the winter and that’s about it.

The article is focusing on the increase in minimum wage for tipped employees in NY. A 50% increase up to $7.50/hr will take effect by December 31, 2015. In the article they interview a few local restaurant owners for feedback. For the most part:

  • They all expect to increase prices
  • Some expect to cut staff or not backfill a server position if someone leaves
  • They feel the customer will be affected in one way or another whether it’s a price increase, less staff so potentially slower service, or both

Another point raised a few times in the article is that they are so seasonal they aren’t sure how that will play into the whole situation. I guess we’ll find out in about a year.

With these increases more than likely coming everywhere sooner or later do you feel that the owners in the article are correct in their assumptions or are they way off base? Thoughts?

The full article is copied below:

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Area restaurateurs are still trying to calculate the impact of a minimum wage rule for tipped employees that will go into effect Dec. 31.

They know it’s not going to be good.

“New York State just keeps getting worse and worse and worse as a place to do business,” said Paul Bricoccoli, co-owner of the Bullpen Tavern on Glen Street in Glens Falls, the Talk of the Town restaurant in Glens Falls and the Horseshoe Inn Bar & Grill in Saratoga Springs. Among them, the operations employ around 60 tipped workers during the peak summer tourism months, Bricoccoli said.

“This is a crippling thing for us,” he said. “You’re going to see mass bankruptcy of restaurants, in my opinion.”

Bricoccoli said he’s not sure how he and his business partners will absorb the additional costs, but he suspects higher prices, reduced staff or fewer hours for existing staff will be on the table.

“I know what we pay and what we have to match,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some serious decisions on how we do business.”

Chris Mozal, owner of the Docksider Restaurant on Glen Lake Road in Queensbury, is equally concerned. She said she’s not sure what her options might be, since she doesn’t want to cut staff or hours.

“We’re a lakeside restaurant, and probably 75 percent of our business is in the summer, so we do have to maintain a full staff,” Mozal said. “I don’t want to sacrifice our service with taking people away.”

In the summer months, the Docksider has about 40 employees, three-quarters of whom are tipped workers, Mozal said.

Donna Sutton, co-owner of Sutton’s Marketplace and Cafe on Route 9 in Queensbury, is also considering her options.

“We might have to raise our prices, certainly,” she said. “We haven’t raised our prices in two years, so we really don’t want to start that now.”

Sutton, who guessed a price increase of 10 percent or more is possible, is worried about the impact that could have on customers’ willingness to dine out — or even tip generously.

A change in cost structure wasn’t part of Gary Patton’s business plan, as he was opening Superior Cantina in Glens Falls — the same week state Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino issued the new minimum wage order.

“All restaurants, and any service business, is going to have to raise their prices,” Patton said. “I understand people need to make a good wage, and I’m all for that, but I think it needs to be more incremental — done over a longer amount of time.”

Patton launched his restaurant with around 20 employees, mostly tipped workers, in order to ensure strong service right out of the gate. But with a new wage structure coming, he’s thinking he might cut back by 2016.

“If someone were to leave, I would consider not replacing them and try to do the same amount of work with fewer people,” he said. “As we get closer, we’ll see where we’re at and try to make it to where it doesn’t affect our customers. But the bottom line is it’s going to wind up affecting them in some way.”

The New York State Restaurant Association, which vehemently opposed the change in minimum wage for tipped workers, said the new rule “will, without a doubt, have far-reaching effects on the industry and its employees.”

The association suggested restaurants might consider paying all employees the full minimum wage and eliminating the tipping system completely.

“It’s troubling that (Musolino) ignored legislative precedent and the pleas of nearly 1,000 hospitality industry representatives who asked him for a moderate increase phased in over time,” said Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut, in a prepared statement. “By rubber-stamping an extreme, unprecedented 50 percent increase, it becomes hard to believe New York is really ‘open for business.’”

How are you mitigating rising beef costs?

I read this article from NRN, Restaurants find ways to mitigate beef costs (see article below), and here the bullets that I thought were most interesting:

  • Overall foodservice sales of beef in the U.S. in terms of volume fell slightly in 2014, to 7.9 billion pounds, compared with 8.7 billion pounds in 2013 – (800 million lbs is a slight decrease?)
  • Americans ordered 3 percent more hamburgers in restaurants in 2014 than in 2013, according to The NPD Group
  • Cheaper Cuts:
    • The chuck eye roast — a less expensive substitute for prime rib — is the fastest growing cut, rising by 6 million pounds in 2014 compared with 2013
    • Followed by Delmonico steak, or chuck eye steak, a less expensive substitute for a rib eye, whose sales rose by 5 million pounds in 2014
  • To help mitigate those costs, Dove suggests changing portion sizes and offering different types of protein.  “Instead of an 8-ounce sirloin, run a 6-ounce sirloin combined with a shrimp or lobster deal.
  • Kevin Good, senior analyst at CattleFax, said ranchers are working to rebuild herds that were reduced in the aftermath of multiple years of drought that drove up feed prices. Although more cattle should mean lower beef prices, it takes up to three years from gestation for cattle to reach market weight. That means prices of many cuts aren’t likely to fall significantly until 2016 or 2017.

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Fri, 2015-03-06 10:38

Beef is expensive and expected to remain so for the next year, but Americans still love it. They’re eating more hamburgers than ever and buying more premium steak. At the same time, restaurants and purchasing cooperatives are using an array of strategies to mitigate costs and get the most out of their beef.

The Centennial, Colo.-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reported in January that overall foodservice sales of beef in the U.S. in terms of volume fell slightly in 2014, to 7.9 billion pounds, compared with 8.7 billion pounds in 2013.

Hamburger sales remained robust: Americans ordered 3 percent more hamburgers in restaurants in 2014 than in 2013, according to The NPD Group.

Kevin Good, senior analyst at CattleFax, said ranchers are working to rebuild herds that were reduced in the aftermath of multiple years of drought that drove up feed prices. Although more cattle should mean lower beef prices, it takes up to three years from gestation for cattle to reach market weight. That means prices of many cuts aren’t likely to fall significantly until 2016 or 2017.

“You can potentially expect a little bit of relief in the second half [of 2015], but it won’t be much,” Good said.

Retail operations might see customers trading to less expensive proteins, such as pork or chicken, or from premium cuts of beef to less expensive ones, which Good said might help lower premium steak prices a little bit. However, he said he expected demand of high-end cuts in foodservice to remain robust. “That’s tied more to the stock market and corporate expense accounts,” he said.

At the high end, steakhouses are committing to even higher-end cuts of beef, as well as local steaks.

Steakhouses such as RPM Steak in Chicago and Charlie Palmer Steak’s New York City and Las Vegas locations are offering A5-grade Wagyu beef from Japan — the highest grade available.

“It’s surprising how much it actually gets ordered,” said Matt Zappoli, executive chef of Charlie Palmer Steak New York, where an 8-ounce strip costs $162.

Zappoli and other steakhouse chefs are also sourcing local steak. Houston steakhouse 60 Degrees Mastercrafted focuses on steaks from a Texas herd of Akaushi cattle, while Zappoli is sourcing naturally raised 30-day, dry-aged rib eye from a supplier that procures it mostly from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“It’s part of what they call a local harvest program,” Zappoli said.

He also offers two different varieties of American Wagyu and a USDA Prime rib eye and New York strip.

Outside of premium, expense-account-driven venues, less expensive cuts are experiencing robust growth. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, citing its 2015 Technomic Usage and Volumetric Assessment of Beef in Foodservice, reports that America’s beef roast, also called the chuck eye roast — a less expensive substitute for prime rib — is the fastest growing cut, rising by 6 million pounds in 2014 compared with 2013. That was followed by Delmonico steak, or chuck eye steak, a less expensive substitute for a rib eye, whose sales rose by 5 million pounds in 2014. Although premium porterhouse is the third fastest-growing cut, rising by around 4 million pounds, it is followed by two other less premium cuts — flank or skirt steak and the ranch cut, which is a lean cut from the shoulder clod.

The popularity of such cuts might not just be due to rising prices, but to demographic shifts, said Andy D’Amico, partner and founding chef of the three-unit 5 Napkin Burger chain, based in New York City, and of 5 Napkin Grill in Miami. The latter has an expanded entrée section, including more steaks, and the skirt steak is a big seller.

“In Miami, where there’s more of a Cuban clientele, they really love skirt steak, and we sell a lot of it. “

By contrast, “New York understands hanger steak,” another flavorful, less expensive cut, and D’Amico just added it to the 5 Napkin Burger locations in New York, in a pepper sauce.

Mitigate costs during purchasing process

(Continued from page 1)

Dave Woolley, chef of restaurant consulting firm Food & Drink Resources, said he sees large and small chains continuing to push steak items.

“I think a lot of them are going into different parts of the sirloin,” he said, noting that the subprimal sirloin cut is a large piece of meat that can weigh a couple hundred pounds.

“You can call different things ‘sirloin’ on the menu that aren’t traditional sirloin,” he said, such as the tri-tip, a cut at the very bottom of the subprimal that’s popular in the western U.S. and growing in popularity elsewhere, Woolley said, “especially in the last year and change, it’s as mainstream as possible.

“Americans’ hankering for beef, the drive for it, is not going away,” he added, so restaurants are figuring out how to provide it and still turn a profit.

DeWayne Dove, vice president of risk management for the purchasing cooperative SpenDifference, said he sees both restaurants and retailers trading down to less expensive cuts, which is driving up prices of those less premium parts of the cattle.

“We have seen retailers moving from rib eyes or strips to top sirloin,” he said, which means top sirloin is now trading at record levels. He indicated top sirloin rose by 15 percent this year compared with record highs of 2014.

To help mitigate those costs, Dove suggests changing portion sizes and offering different types of protein.

“Instead of an 8-ounce sirloin, run a 6-ounce sirloin combined with a shrimp or lobster deal. … Those strategies are going to have to be in place not just this year, but pretty much through all of 2016,” he said.

Dove is figuring out ways to bring prices down at every part of the purchasing process.

“We’ll line up every component [raw materials, yield, labor, overhead, packaging and freight]. We’ll put five, six, seven suppliers side by side and figure out why one’s higher than the other,” he said.

“It’s important to understand how to dive into those opportunities, because the raw material market is working against you,” he said. “You’ve got to pull every penny out of every part of it that you can.”

Although some independent restaurants buy entire carcasses and process them in-house in an attempt to cut costs, Dove says that the journeymen meat cutters at a supplier are likely to be more skilled and get higher yields than cooks in a restaurant. However, he said, restaurants might consider purchasing whole primals and subprimals and having the supplier cut them for them.

“We work a lot on utilizing the entire subprimal,” he said, using the best parts for steak and the trim for kebabs or hamburgers.

He said suppliers are open to those solutions.

“To clean up that whole carcass and find other homes for it is very labor-intensive, so it’s definitely a door that’s always wide open” as far as suppliers are concerned, Dove said.

He also suggested buying flash-frozen meat when prices are at their lowest and having your supplier thaw them in advance of the high-cost season at the end of the year.

He pointed out that the faster meat is thawed, the more volume is lost, but good meat suppliers will have the meat undergo a thawing process that lasts between three weeks and four weeks.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary