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July 11, 2016

The End of the Entrée as We Know It

By: Piet Jones

Entree_snackChange. It keeps happening. Look at menus from a hundred years ago and you see what would be considered now to be a gluttonous number of courses with meals that started late and ran well into the evening, lasting many, many hours. Between the Great Depression and war rationing, things got a little more streamlined with but one entree course (instead of a fish and a fowl and a meat!), a reasonable number of starter courses, and maybe a dessert if the menu is really enticing. 

Over the years, restaurants and their diners fell into a fairly predictable routine that most of us recognize today. Early couples grabbing a bite to eat before a movie or a show, a main dinner hour with sets of two or three couples, and a few late couples out for a more romantic, quiet meal. Restaurant design grew to accommodate this with the right mix of four-tops and two-tops, menus and staffing to match, and a reservation book tuned to turning tables every hour and a half or so.

Change, however, is in the air again and the old paradigm is showing signs of fracturing. Some tables order a couple of appetizers and leave. Others split a side, a couple of cocktails, and stay long past closing. Deuces dominate, leaving many a four top half full with the corresponding income lost. What is driving this change and how can you cope?

Technology and the more frenetic pace of our lives are possible contributors. The Washington Post points to Tinder, the ubiquitous dating app, as one of the culprits. Ill-conceived first dates that range from public disaster to R-rated floor show playing out in the middle of the dining room. Sometimes it’s harried parents who, on a special night out, have traded in bar-hopping for restaurant-hoping—making the most of getting a babysitter by hitting four or five restaurants in a single night, ordering nothing but appetizers and top shelf cocktails. Then there’s the reserved 12 top, taking up a big chunk of dining real estate and sometimes a server’s only table for the evening that turns out to be a “girl’s night out.” That can end up being a huge check with lots of fun or a whole lot of side salads and single glasses of Pinot Grigio. 

The Post reports that some restaurants are dealing with this by rethinking their dining space. Adding more two-top tables, creating private nooks with a little privacy to encourage more romance, even expanding foodservice and space in the bar areas to shift some people away from the dining room. Of course, not everyone can afford costly overhauls or even shutting down while they occur. You can, however, make some tweaks to your existing operation to better accommodate the new reality.

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June 13, 2016

Step Outside the Box and Inspire Summer Sales

EggsBy: Piet E. Jones

Summer is here. Warm days and long evenings. Extended weekends full of holiday cookouts, grilling with friends and unless you’re lucky enough to be a tourist destination, empty tables. What can be done to keep that revenue flowing during the off season?

You could start by thinking outside the box. The box being your restaurant. And outside being, well, outside. In today’s busy world, people love weekend cookouts and holiday barbecues, but many don’t have time to make a dish to bring. Add to that the increasing sophistication of people’s palates, along with a desire to show off to friends, and suddenly that quart of three-bean salad from the grocery store just doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

Why not take advantage of the season and offer your menu as an alternative for all these needs? Look to your side and appetizer menu, even your dessert list, and let your imagination run. Got garlic mashed potatoes as a side? Maybe you’re well known for your gruyere mac-n-cheese. You probably already make these items in bulk—why not offer them in portion sizes perfect for picnic tables? Some items might not even require reheating. Your green bean and bacon side with a mustard vinaigrette? It’s just as good served cold as it is hot.

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June 6, 2016

Find The Perfect Burger For Your Restaurant

BurgerBy: Piet E. Jones

The lowly burger.

There used to be a sameness about it. No matter where you went. Same buns. Same toppings. Same slices of yellow cheese. Same taste—too often dry and overcooked. Sure, there were good ones to be found, but all too often it was just a quick bite on the run, an afterthought on many a menu.

Today, things have changed. A lot. Burgers have become exciting and dynamic. Buns that can absorb the juices without becoming soggy and disintegrating have elevated the texture. Artisanal cheeses add flavor while celebrating local food culture. Toppings are designed to complement the theme of the restaurant.

With these innovations, the burger, once relegated to diners, fast food, and pubs, has exploded onto the scene. Out of the way, hole in the wall diners are now foodie destinations. Trendy hotspots in newly gentrified neighborhoods tout their burger on social media. Even the most upscale and pricey establishments are jumping on the burger bandwagon.

The key to getting all components together for a signature burger isn't that hard. It just takes a little bit of thought to create a unique combination that appeals to your clientele and fully represents your eatery.

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March 21, 2016

James Beard Nominee Spotlight: Tyler Anderson

Chef_tylerHaving cut his teeth in Chicago, learning his craft from the likes of the late Charlie Trotter and two-time James Beard Award winner, Sarah Stegner, people expected a lot from Tyler Anderson. And the Best Chef, North East Division, semifinalist for the 2016 James Beard has lived up to those expectations.

Striking out on his own in 2012, Chef Tyler opened up Millwright’s in Simsbury, CT, and set to work celebrating New England cuisine. Inside this 17th century sawmill, he focuses on reviving regionally traditional techniques and ingredients to create dishes that are both nostalgic and fresh. - PEJ

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February 8, 2016

Fat Tuesday Traditions

 

Chargrilled oysters from New Orleans Creole Cookery
You can't visit the Crescent City without trying some Char-Grilled Oysters from New Orleans Creole Cookery.

Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.  No matter what you call it, this celebration of indulgence, the last day before the fasting season of Lent, has become something of a cultural phenomenon enjoyed by all, religious and non-religious alike.  And, like St Patrick’s Day when everyone becomes Irish, on Fat Tuesday we all channel a little bit of Cajun into ourselves.

In New Orleans, the epicenter of it all, the celebration starts well before Fat Tuesday itself.  One of the oldest restaurants in New Orleans, Antoine’s, founded in 1840 and the birthplace of Oysters Rockefeller in 1899, should be on every visitor’s agenda for the week, but plan your visit carefully.  Each day, from Hermes Friday to Proteus Monday (named for the krewe leading the parade for the day) might be booked for a special luncheon or dinner by the day’s lead krewe.  And Fat Tuesday itself?  Forget it.  The Mistick Krewe of Comus, the oldest of all the krewes, has for decades sent its 220 members there for a traditional dinner of Oysters Rockefeller and Filet de Boeuf en Brochette Marchand de Vin - prime tenderloin tips in a red wine sauce that serves as a nod to the French origins of both the city and the holiday - before marching out to officially close the festivities.

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December 22, 2015

2016 Food Trends

Korean food will be popular in 2016
As we approach the end of 2015, we have to admit this has been an interesting year for food. Labeling regulations have inspired restaurateurs to take a fresh look at their menus. The search for fresh, new flavors has inspired crazy concoctions like a Bloody Mary topped with a slider, bugs packed as snacks, black hamburgers for Halloween, and cotton candy grapes in mainstream grocery stores. With all the happenings of 2015 in mind, here are our trend predictions for 2016.

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September 24, 2015

Food Trends for Football Season

Foodcentric_burger
Throughout the year we look at global food trends, fine dining food trends and even fast casual food trends, but it seems like the venerable sports bar often gets left in the dust. No, your Sunday watering hole isn’t serving cronuts, seaweed risotto or whole roast pigs (not a bad idea, actually), but the menu does evolve to meet consumer demand. So, with the start of football season, let’s take a look at some sports-bar-centric food trends.

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August 10, 2015

Greek Food Showing Up On More Menus

Beet hummus is one of the latest Greek-inspired food trends. Greece may be making headlines these days for a lot more than yogurt, but that’s not stopping Greek food lovers from enjoying the fruits of Greek labor. From Greek wines to fanciful desserts, Greek food is enjoying a renaissance as part of the healthful benefits of a Mediterranean diet and the excitement over the long awaited sequel to a popular 2002 movie. Here’s where growth in this market is occurring:

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July 14, 2015

News You Can Use to Plan Your Next Move

Crepes_sizedWhen we see an important trend or two or three or four we just gotta weigh in, you know, before the trend is passé and everyone’s on to the next big thing. Last year, we were writing about food trucks and how they rolled into towns giving restaurateurs a venue to try out a new concept without major expense. Now we look at the next evolution in the process, along with some other noteworthy game changers.

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June 29, 2015

Salsa: The Sauce That's Not Just a Sauce

Salsa_foodcentricSalsa is the Spanish word for “sauce”, and it has also come to mean the same thing in English. However, this iconic condiment, which can consist of vegetables, fruit, herbs, spices, and even grains, and which can range from mild and tangy to searing hot, is much more than a simple topping.

There are numerous categories of salsa, some uncooked (salsa cruda) and some cooked.

  • Salsa verde is “green salsa”, which is typically made from pureed tomatillos, green chilies, and cilantro.
  • Salsa roja or “red salsa” usually includes cooked red tomatoes, onions, and chili peppers.
  • Pico de gallo is a popular form of uncooked salsa made from lime juice and coarsely chopped raw ingredients including tomatoes, onions, and cilantro leaves.

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