Tag : Food Safety

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

Here’s part three, the final installment, of the Moneyball article. Part one was posted on Monday, click here to read. Part two was posted on Wednesday, click here to read.

Make no mistake, daily line checks and temp logs are important. But they are not the only thing that a restaurant manager should be looking at. In fact, a great deal of that data is collected on a CYA basis, and it doesn’t really affect the bottom line of the operation.

However, every day, every restaurant generates data points that can be recorded and measured. So, our SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol covers all of the basics of an operations review and captures key data points that can provide deep insight into operations…all in an expedited fashion that provides ample opportunities to look for operations issues before they become issues.

Here’s a sample of just one of the protocols from our SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, but you have to imagine this running as an app on a tablet or iPad. The app itself walks the worker through the paces of a “pre-flight ” inspection.

Sanitation

  • Sanitizer buckets
    • Number of
    • Location
    • Rags present
      • How many
  • Signs of cross contamination
  • Chef and prep staff drinks put away
  • Hand sinks free and clear
    • Soap present
    • Paper towels present
  • Chemicals stored safely away from food prep areas
  • Dishwasher
    • Sanitizer ppm
    • Rinse water >= 180 degrees
  • Sign of pests
    • Yes/no

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Just that list will prepare you to pass more than half of the most common health inspection issues, where a “fail” – which is a matter of the public record – can doom your sales for weeks, or maybe tank the restaurant entirely.

Want another example? Here ’s another pre-flight protocol, for management:

Management

  • Pre-shift staff meeting
    • 86 ’d Items/Substitutions
    • Wait Staff ready to go
  • Drawers

Accountability

  • FIFO
    • Day Dots – Ensure that food online is stocked to par
    • Ensure that food items that have a longer remaining shelf life are not being used first.

Now imagine this level of thoroughness – checked multiple times a day; as often as you desire – were also applied to your kitchen readiness, readiness for guests, building, server stations, kitchen, dining room, host stand, and temperatures. The list of sub protocols is only limited by your imagination, because custom protocols for SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol are easy to create and “app-ify” on your staff’s tablets or iPads.

As data is collected, it is time-date-location stamped. And that ’s where the real force and power of big data can be brought to bear. The data can be reviewed in correlation to such data points as labor cost, food cost, Yelp reviews, TripAdvisor comments, or even the weather and road work or the frequencies of area traffic jams. By gaining perspective, using data that can be sliced and diced and compared, restaurants can optimize their operations…and their profits.

Why not bring the same rigors to a pre-shift inspection that airlines bring to flight safety? The same type of approach that surgeons bring to pre-op review, that NASA and SpaceX run with their flight crews? Given the complexity of restaurant operations (which just might be so complicated as to baffle the best NASA engineers!) we are really well situated to make data, big and small, work for making our locations cleaner, smarter, and more profitable.

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McDonald’s CEO: Why we’re raising wages

You had to know that this was coming. Once Walmart committed to raising wages it’s only a matter of time before others have to follow suit in order to remain competitive in attracting employees as well as public perception. Walmart employs roughly 500,000 people so when they unilaterally raise their base wage it’s going to move the market.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook wrote a commentary piece in the Chicago Tribune explaining their reasoning for raising wages. McDonald’s has been in the press recently with their announcement around ending the use of human antibiotics in their US chicken supply.

McDonald’s has committed to raising their minimum pay in their corporate owned US restaurants $1 over the locally mandated minimum wage starting July 1 of this year. They estimate that their average wage will be over $10/hr. The main reasons that Steve Easterbrook sites for the wage increase are:

  • To make McDonald’s a modern, progressive burger company on many fronts, focusing specifically on the consumer perception of our food, and our people
  • The time is right to take a first step in rewarding our team members who work so hard every day

He also talks about providing training opportunities for their employees to gain job skills and high school or college credit. He was very clear that this was just for the corporate owned stores obviously because the franchisees make their own decisions on compensation etc. But I suspect in order for them to compete with talent they are going to have to be very close  in order remain competitive for hiring talent. We’ll be seeing more and more of this from now on, but obviously will only hear about the giants like McDonald’s, Walmart, etc.

I have copied the full article below:

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Amid the continuing national dialogue on wages, benefits, job creation and providing marketable skills to our nation’s workers, we have challenged ourselves as to whether we can do more to make a real difference in the lives of our employees. Specifically, what can McDonald’s — as the restaurant industry leader — do right now?

McDonald’s raising its minimum wage, but some say it’s not enough

As the new CEO of McDonald’s Corp., I’m taking action to make McDonald’s a modern, progressive burger company on many fronts, focusing specifically on the consumer perception of our food, and our people. I believe the time is right to take a first step in rewarding our team members who work so hard every day. Wage is just one part of the equation. Getting people started on the road to success by providing the skills, training and opportunities they need to continuously improve is also important.

Our first step will impact the more than 90,000 employees at McDonald’s 1,500 company-owned U.S. restaurants. On July 1, we’re raising starting wages by $1 over the locally mandated minimum wage and adjusting pay for existing restaurant employees. By the end of 2016, we project that the average hourly wage rate for McDonald’s employees at company-owned restaurants will be in excess of $10. In addition, we’re offering paid personal time off for any reason to restaurant crew members who have been with us for at least one year. If they choose not to take the paid leave they’ve earned, they will get a check for the value of that time. We understand that life balance is important and believe that this will make a difference for our people.

McDonald’s plunges on Fortune’s list of most admired companies

In addition, in partnership with our independent owner-operators, we are offering new and enhanced educational opportunities to employees at all McDonald’s restaurants across the U.S. Eligible employees who want to advance their education will have an opportunity to improve their language skills and earn a high school diploma or college credit.

Providing opportunities is essential for fostering professional growth and advancement in the workforce. Employers need to create more programs and pathways to help people stretch and develop — and to give them the tools and guidance necessary to succeed. At McDonald’s, we have seven Hamburger University campuses around the world where restaurant managers and corporate employees can build on their talents and find new opportunities to keep them competitive in today’s marketplace. They can also earn college credit. McDonald’s is one of only eight Fortune 500 companies that already award college credit for certain training courses and e-learning modules.

I worked to redefine the term “McJob” when I ran the McDonald’s United Kingdom business because we saw firsthand how these front-line jobs can bring out the best in people — embodied by what we call the Three C’s (commitment, competence and confidence).

At McDonald’s, we must recruit and retain talented people and motivate them to bring their best to the job every day. We must provide them with valuable skills that they use at McDonald’s or wherever their career might take them. Our challenge is the same as other large companies that seek to close the skills and education gap America is confronting.

This is an initial step for our U.S. business. I understand that some may believe it doesn’t go far enough. These actions demonstrate meaningful progress, and it is what we can do right now in our company-owned stores. We remain committed to regularly reviewing the total employment experience we offer our people.

This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and cannot be for a company like McDonald’s, which is based on a franchise model. McDonald’s is a very large system that also includes 3,100 independent owner-operators in the U.S. who make their own decisions about how they run their business and pay their employees, based on their local market environment.

As I mentioned earlier, I am committed to taking the actions reflective of a modern, progressive burger company. In that spirit, we recently announced that we’ll stop using human antibiotics in our U.S. chicken supply. We understand that when we improve in key areas like food, our restaurants and our employees, it can have a tremendous and positive impact — both within our industry and in communities across the country. Our energy is focused on making even more meaningful changes to benefit our customers and employees.

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

Here’s part two of the Moneyball blog. Part one was posted on Monday, click here to read part one if you haven’t already.

SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol™ is a checklist system, not unlike the pre-flight checklists that pilots run through to ensure safe operations. Except that the restaurant data that’s captured is not viewed in isolation, nor just logged and stored and never looked at again.

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.

The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is performed by your workers at any skill level, using a tablet or iPad to log in the restaurateur’s most valuable assets: “in-game data.”

Since this approach is a protocol (a programmatic workflow, based on a pre-established critical path), the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is not dependent on the skill levels of your workers. The intelligence is embedded in the protocol itself. Literally anyone can run the protocol.

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Baselines are covered first. The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol captures data that is essential to operations and inspections (fridge temps, food temps, locations of sanitizing buckets… everything you need for CYA moments and health inspections).

But the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol also collects the seemingly extraneous data that could be far more telling than the fact that the cooler maintained a <41F temperature, as required, or that cleaning chemicals were safely separated from potential contact with food.

“Seemingly extraneous data.” What’ s that?

Well, we all know that restaurants succeed and fail as much on human interactions / human discretion as on the wholesale price of a salmon steak or a plate of wings. Much depends on the intangibles, which are really not intangibles at all, if they are recorded and examined.

Imagine if you have a protocol checklist for how well dressed the wait staff is. (Crisp shirt? Check. Spotless tie? Check. Clean apron? Check. Finger nails clean? Check. Tattoos covered? Check.)

Or if the protocol checklist checked that the side work has been done.
Or if you had a check-off system to ensure that your workers didn ’t take all the parking spaces nearest the entrance, when that act alone could attract (or deter) enough customers to get a solid second turn at brunch.

Or that you were aware that the ice machine is undersized for the required volume of glasses, which delayed the refills, which caused half of your patrons to skip dessert, which triggered spoilage, which made your dumpsters full one day too soon, which turned away another 30 diners who thought the establishment just looked filthy when they circled around back to park.

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Click here for part III.

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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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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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.’”

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