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Back and white photo of happy people watching a game

The Super Bowl and food go together like, well, Tom Brady launching one to Julian Edelman. The big game is arguably the largest single sporting event on the planet. That translates to millions of dollars in business for the city and state where the game will be played, and restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia will get a nice, tasty piece of the football pie on Sunday, February 3. However, your restaurant can share in the party even if it is located in a different time zone and a different country.

 

Create a party around the game

Build a stadium atmosphere at your restaurant and reap the benefits. Perhaps unlike any other television spectacle, the Super Bowl is itself a “destination” for family and friends, not just an event, says Greg Fash, vice-president of marketing at Cavendish Farms. He says your restaurant should plan carefully in order to really boost your completion percentage.

 

“Restaurants are uniquely positioned to create the party around the game without the work and hassle of having the gang over to someone’s house,” Fash says.

 

He paints a larger picture of the gridiron gala: it represents a perfect opportunity, by virtue of its winter-time scheduling, for Canadians to get out and enjoy a warm and exciting diversion from snow and frigid air.

 

“It’s the first event to bring people together since Christmas and break mid-winter boredom,” said Fash.

 

“Everyone is looking for a bit of an escape in February without waiting for Valentine’s Day, and the Super Bowl is the perfect reason to look for good times with friends.”

 

Prepare your game plan

Like a good offence, customers are anticipating a Super Bowl atmosphere that is dynamic and energetic - an experience that they just can’t duplicate at home, according to Fash. Recognize before you start planning that expectations are high.

 

“Don’t disappoint. Engage and activate the experience from the minute they arrive. If possible, schedule additional service staff to manage any special entertainment that does not involve food and beverage,” says Fash.

 

Take a moment to select a theme around the game itself. Do some research into the location and see if there’s a food or beverage that is distinctive to Atlanta, Georgia—this year’s Super Bowl city.

 

Provide “close coverage” of your theme

If you pick a theme, engage customers immediately when they arrive and stick with it, says Fash.

 

“If you have premiums with the Super Bowl team logos, make sure they get them immediately and create a game-like atmosphere,” he adds. “Servers, signage and games need to be high energy and consistent with the theme you’ve chosen. Remember that people could have stayed home and watched on their own big screen entertainment centers. That, in part, is your competition.”

 

Fash suggests promoting the event in January, and if possible, give away door prize tickets and appetizer discount coupons that could be used at the Super Bowl party.

There are many variants of pools and games throughout North America focused on the Super Bowl. “Do your homework to understand if there is a local market preference, Fash says. “Build a contest around the game that might offer a discount for declared Patriots fans, for example, on a specific platter if they’re ahead at the quarter.”

 

Another approach may be to team up with local sports associations and other organizations that may be looking for new and clever ways to fundraise and raise awareness.

 

“A local team or association may be able to assist you in organizing the in-restaurant Super Bowl contests in return for a portion of the proceeds. Just make sure that you’re associating with adult teams or associations if the event includes alcohol,” Fash says.

Despite the food, for many customers, the game comes first.

 

It may not be enough to merely serve what is on your regular menu. He suggests special dishes that are specific to the game location. “You need to build a game-day menu. Like the famous television Super Bowl commercials, make the food memorable."

 

“But at the same time,” continues Fash, “recognize that people aren’t at a Super Bowl party generally to have big meals. They want fun food frequently. Offer appetizer specials every hour and focus on sharing platters. What is important is that you get people engaged and that you activate their experience.”

 

Appetizers and beverages are a natural fit with friends and fun. Create shareable appetizers that offer a variety of tastes and textures which—"and this is key," adds Fash—allows a restaurant to customize for the game and will encourage multiple orders.

“Work with your suppliers to feature, or even get support to sample, new and interesting appetizers that your customers may not have had a chance to try before. It gives the restaurant the opportunity to evaluate potential for new menu additions. Linking appetizers and beverage specials throughout the evening is a natural, of course.”

 

Regardless of the food choices, make sure your restaurant affords great sight lines for the fans (that is, your customers), Fash recommends strongly. “If you don’t have enough screens consider acquiring additional ones. It’s all about atmosphere.”

 

There is a caveat, however, he notes, and that is to know your clientele and decide whether you have to divide your space between rabid fans who want a loud and raucous “tailgate party” environment and those customers who will nevertheless enjoy the game but want the spectacle to be a little more low key.

 

But, ultimately, with the hype of the Super Bowl and 30-second television commercials going for somewhere around $3.5 million in the U.S., low-key is going to be hard to come by for this annual sports spectacle.

 

The Super Bowl by the Numbers

  • After Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl is the second largest day of food consumption in the U.S.
  • More than 150 million people will watch the game
  • 1 million: the number of residents and visitors that came through Super Bowl City, the 50th Mile and Super Bowl Experience in 2016
  • Economics studies pegged revenue generation at several hundred million dollars
  • 69 million lbs. of avocados (mostly in guacamole) are eaten
  • With 475 locations nation-wide (U.S.), Wingstop anticipated selling 5 million wings on Super Bowl Sunday
  • Spectators will drink more than 325 million gallons of beer and eat 90 million lbs. of chicken wings, 14,500 tonnes of potato chips and 4,000 tonnes of popcorn.
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Fine dining lamb dish

 

For many restaurants, February 14 is the busiest day of the year.

 

From high school sweethearts looking for as much of an impression as can be made with limited income to older couples who have gone to the same restaurant every year for the past several decades’ worth of Valentine’s Days, it’s a day for couples to go out and enjoy each other’s company.

 

“One of the big things with Valentine’s Day is that people usually go out to treat themselves and each other,” says Jackie Oakes, Marketing Manager at Flanagan Foodservice.

 

Most restaurants put in a bit of extra effort to attract customers for Valentine’s Day, and customers in turn recognize this and are more likely to revisit a restaurant that made them feel special.

 

Oakes says that the effort should start from the moment the customer walks in the door. “As customers arrive, have the hostess greet them with a glass of wine,” she says. “Have flowers or candles on the table to help set the atmosphere.”

 

When it comes to food, many restaurants already provide special Valentine’s Day menus, and with good reason. Couples are looking to make the dinner special—not only compared to what they regularly eat at home, but compared to what they’d normally eat at a restaurant. Spending a bit more than usual is common, and restaurants can take advantage of this by offering some more gourmet options, knowing that their patrons will be interested.

 

“It’s a very common day for indulgence,” notes Oakes. “Think outside the box and change it up with some variety.”

 

Surf-and-turf combos are a popular option with Valentine’s Day diners, though there’s still plenty of room for variety. Oakes suggests that only offering one combination of seafood and steak isn’t enough, as it doesn’t take into account the differences between your guests' eating habits.

 

“Guests enjoy a variety of different meats,” she says. “Some may have the tenderloin steak, versus others who'd prefer a rib-eye. Proportionately, you can get a five-ounce tenderloin. Five ounces of beef is a lot. But when you put it next to a five-ounce lobster tail, that’s 10 ounces right there. That’s a lot of protein. Some will likely eat the 10-ounce or 14-ounce rib-eye plus the five-ounce lobster tail. For others, that’s just too much.”

 

At the end of the night, most Valentine’s Day diners will be looking for a little something sweet—even if they normally wouldn’t be. And more often than not, they’ll also be looking to share.

 

“Consider a special dessert menu for two,” says Oakes. “A very popular trend right now is mini-desserts. They’re a perfect solution for someone looking for a sweet treat to finish off their meal. They’re attractively priced, and customers enjoy sampling two or three different desserts.”

 

Even those customers who might opt to skip dessert could likely be tempted by a specialty coffee.

 

Beyond the menu, Oakes says that with Valentine’s Day competition fiercer than ever, restaurants can stand out from the pack by partnering with local businesses to offer holiday packages (think spas and theatres), providing strong advertising on outdoor signage and social media, and maybe even running the menu for a couple extra days on either side of February 14th.

 

“It’s one of the busiest days for restaurateurs and some people will shy away from the crowds,” she says. “Extending your Valentine’s menu for a weekend or a couple of days prior to the actual holiday can bring more people into your establishment. Make sure you get the word out. Draw as much attention to it as possible.”

 

Above all, though, it’s important for restaurants to remember that while they’re expecting the busiest night of the year, their customers are expecting the exact opposite.

 

For most Valentine’s Day diners, the night represents one of the few times all year when they can get away from the normal hassles of everyday life. Childcare has been arranged, other commitments have been set aside, and most couples are simply looking forward to a nice, slow-paced evening of enjoying spending uninterrupted time with their significant other.

 

The last thing they want is to feel is like they’re being rushed through dinner so that the restaurant can make more money by putting a second couple at their table. If that happens, it’s a sure bet that they won’t be back the following year—and neither will anybody they talk to about it.

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Squash cut into stripes with dip

With fall brings the feeling of new beginnings and fresh starts. The shift from warm to cool innately inspires dishes of comfort and depth. While flavour preferences and trends may not vary much from the summer months, main ingredients and their applications are a whole lot heartier.

 

Jumbo ricotta ravioli complements rich garlic shrimp, Parmesan, chives, and basil as a shareable appetizer. Braised pork shoulder sandwich with apple cider and orange gravy incorporates bright citrus flavour while being autumn-appropriate. For a Canadian-inspired fall dessert, feature blueberry bread pudding with vanilla custard, vanilla gelato and maple syrup.

 

These are the fastest-growing flavours this fall season, by mealpart, to inspire your own signature fall flavour:

 

Appetizers

Blue Cheese - 29.2%
Lime - 29.2%
Celery - 27.1%
Basil - 26.0%
Dill - 26.0%
Sesame - 25.0%
Avocado - 22.9%
Cream Cheese - 22.9%
Cajun - 21.9%
Goat Cheese - 21.9%

 

Entrées 

Dill - 29.2%
Citrus - 26.0%
Peppercorn - 25.0%
Sriracha - 21.9%
Mango - 20.8%
Grape - 20.8%
Beet - 17.7%
Rose - 17.7%
Coconut - 16.7%
Brie - 14.6%

 

Dessert 

Crème Brulée - 19.6%
Espresso - 14.1%
Salted Caramel - 13.0%
Toffee - 12.0%
Vanilla Bean - 10.9%
Buttery - 7.6%
Ginger - 6.5%
Mocha - 6.5%
Butterscotch - 5.4%
Blackberry - 5.4%

 

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Caesar - 10.4%
Passion Fruit - 7.3%
Pomegranate - 7.3%
Blackberry - 6.3%
Cherry - 5.2%
Grenadine - 5.2%
Citrus - 5.2%
Sweet - 5.2%
Cucumber - 4.2%

 

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Asparagus on a cutting board with lemon

Along with maple syrup, fiddle heads and rhubarb, asparagus is a harbinger of spring, a clarion that the winter is behind us and fresh produce is ready to roll out consistently. There aren’t many chefs – or restaurant patrons who really care about good food – who don’t look forward to asparagus season. 

 

To taste the early season, try to eat a beautiful green stalk raw – immediately – after it has been picked: it has amazing flavour and juiciness. It grows well in many areas in the south of the province, and there are a number of producers in Ontario if you want to source local asparagus.

 

Vegetable royalty welcomes spring

The plant’s earliest, most tender stalks are a vibrant apple green with a tip tinged with purple – the colour that we associate with royalty. And the slender vegetable is indeed a royal guest as it starts to appear on restaurant menus. In fact, the earlier in the season, the sweeter the asparagus: the stalks grow from underground rhizomes and, because they must be picked by hand, it helps explain the vegetable’s price at times.

 

A centuries’ old dish

The Romans and none other than Julius Caesar loved the stalk; he simply ate it with his hands. There’s even a Roman phrase: “Faster than you can cook asparagus.” Centuries later, ancient chefs created cooking vessels which kept the thicker stalks submerged in the cooking liquid while leaving the delicate tips above water to be steamed. There were also inventive serving bowls designed for the shape of asparagus which had hollow sides that were filled with boiling water to keep the freshly cooked asparagus warm.

 

At the table, beurre noisette, with its dark hazelnut flavour and colour, has been drizzled over asparagus for centuries of dining. Asparagi alla Parmigiana is an authentic dish of Emilia-Romagna, wherein resides Parma, Italy: cooked asparagus tips are sprinkled generously with Parmesan cheese and melted butter. In Tuscany, a food Mecca if there ever were one, asparagus soup is made with saffron, pine nuts and pistachios.

White asparagus, a more expensive version of the vegetable, but one that retains a certain perceived luxury quality, is popular in Europe. It is grown covered with mounds of earth to inhibit chlorophyll production and has to be harvested by being cut underground, a labour-intensive process that adds to its cost.

 

Treat your asparagus with love

Using the time-honoured mechanical method of preparing asparagus, gently bend the stalk with fingers holding opposite ends aiming for the point where woody and tender meet, and snap it off. You can finish the preparation by shaving the woody end with a harp peeler to create a more uniform size for cooking. 

In terms of ways to serve asparagus, simple is often best. You can do the Julius Caesar trick: just prepare the asparagus spears with a dose of melted butter, as he liked it. Adding a bit of fennel to the butter gives a lovely anise flavour to the dish. 

Grilling the raw asparagus and giving it a liberal salting and peppering along with a squeeze of lemon, a few glugs of some good olive oil and perhaps shavings of Parmesan cheese is an excellent way to highlight this bit of early summer. Grill the spears in batches according to their diameter for even cooking.

 

When the season is moving toward its close, a classic cream of asparagus soup may be in order; garnish it with the delicate tips and a drizzle of cream or olive oil to present it simply and beautifully. Another classic, asparagus Polonaise, is ready for a culinary comeback when it comes to the spears: dress cooked hot asparagus with hard-boiled egg yolk that has been passed through a fine-meshed sieve, drizzle with melted butter and golden-toasted breadcrumbs. For the morning daypart, there are probably few breakfasts as delicious as an omelette with fresh asparagus tips and a few scallions, cut on the bias, for garnish.

As a salad, mix grilled asparagus pieces with a bit of pesto, Parmesan, and perhaps some slices of smoked salmon. Toss with olive oil and lemon juices, a few croutons and top with a sunny-side up egg. Garnish with Parmesan shavings.

 

While fresh is best, remember that asparagus is remarkable as a preserve, so consider a quick pickle. Put together a mix of vinegars with about 100 grams of sugar per litre of liquid. Add peppers, spices, herbs like tarragon or rosemary and garlic. Boil the mixture, pour it over the asparagus in jars and store in the fridge. Your customers will be able to enjoy the local asparagus of May in the depths of February cold.

 

Refreshing asparagus

As the season rolls through its prime months of May and June and approaches July, the rhizomes begin to weaken and become depleted leaving the asparagus less flavourful.

This tender crop loses its freshness very quickly – in a matter of hours, actually, and more rapidly than other vegetables, especially in the first 24 hours. Store asparagus cool and away from light. The stalk continues to draw on its sugars becoming tougher and less juicy.

 

To re-invigorate it before cooking, give it some sweetness: add about a teaspoon of sugar to a half-cup of water and soak the asparagus before cooking.

 

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Fall vegetables in a basket

The summer yields a good bounty of fresh and delicious produce that everyone loves, and yet it is fall that seems to get people excited and thinking about their favourite restaurants for great new menus and time spent there with friends and family.

 

But while the fall harvest is a tremendous offering to restaurant kitchens, the versatility of the produce is too often overlooked, according to Jackie Oakes, Marketing Manager at Flanagan Foodservice.

 

“Taking advantage of seasonal produce is a delicious and inspiring way to boost your menu,” says Oakes. “Fall is all about comfort, so try experimenting with chili, meat pies, soups and stews.

 

“And, of course, fall menu items can be simple additions to your dessert menu that focus on a variety of apple or pumpkin treats.”

 

With those thoughts in mind, here is a short list of potential fall produce that, in their simplicity, freshness and great taste, could boost your customers’ appreciation for the excitement that you share in the fall harvest:

 

Big, Bad Brussels Sprouts

While bacon seemingly goes with everything, it is particularly suited to a duet with Brussels sprouts.

 

Cooked properly - kept slightly crisp and then shocked in an ice-bath to retain vibrant green - the small cabbage relative can have a gentle tart quality with hints of sweetness that comes from slicing them in half and caramelizing them in a bit of butter.

 

You can then add tremendous layers of flavours with honey, nuts, garlic, caramelized onions, and that smokey bacon which in turn adds huge flavor and texture to roasted and deeply flavoured meats.

 

Mushrooms

Available all year, mushrooms, however, seem to cry out for fall dishes in fall weather. Warm, earthy and meaty in flavour, mushrooms can add tremendous richness to a plate.

Pair mushrooms, especially the deep brown varieties, with caramelized onion, strong herbs like thyme or sage and, of course, risotto.

 

Perhaps there is a place among your vegetarian dishes to incorporate cremini or shiitake mushrooms that will give depth of flavour and full mouth-feel.

 

Squash and Pumpkin

Squash can be intimidating to some diners, but not if it is handled with love and creativity.

 

Best in winter when they’ve been “nipped by the frost,” squash like acorn and butternut are versatile and delicious. Try them with other ingredients in soups or on their own. They also work well cut into small cubes for ragouts and sliced for gratins and accept very well deep wintry spices from cinnamon and cardamom to cumin and curry.

Pumpkin can hold up in any dish with remarkable vibrancy and richness. Under-used too often, pumpkins help define fall in both their colours and the traditions like Halloween that they help uphold.

 

In stews, in pasta like pumpkin ravioli, and even in breads, pumpkin can be a fall go-to-ingredient that reflects well on your menu and speaks to the season.

 

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes have ruled the fry-roost at pubs and road-houses for years now. But there are more (and more subtle) ways of using this tuber that comes into its own during fall.

 

Combine sweet potatoes with regular white potatoes to create an interesting and more complex fall “mash.” They can easily be roasted with nuts and maple syrup for even greater utility and imagination, and sweet potatoes are excellent additions to gratin side dishes that can be made ahead and heated at time of service.

 

Kale and Fennel

It can be sweet and savoury, and autumnal kale can be a wonder in the kitchen. Versatile and earthy, it’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins and iron.

 

And yet it is underplayed on menus. Pull together some fresh cider and bacon and it becomes a great accompaniment to pork or roast chicken dishes. It also makes a great fall soup (think Portuguese caldo verde) and adds colour, texture and flavour to pasta sauces and ragouts.

 

The licorice accents of fennel work either raw in salads or cooked in quick sautés or deep braises. Fennel, with a peak season in fall and winter, could be the perfect addition in a stew or a seasonal ingredient in a bean succotash that sits alongside veal or pork.

 

Pears

Pears, like apples, help characterize fall and winter. Poached, stuffed or roasted there are many different kinds of pears that can find a place on menus-they can cover the gamut from appetizers and salads to mains to cheese courses and desserts. To fill out the menu, you could even add a seasonal pear cocktail or a “perry” (a fermented and cider-like beverage alcohol) from the many produced locally.

 

Apples, of course!

The definitive fall fruit? They might just be so from September to November. And with hundreds of varieties available, the flavour and texture potentials that you could add to your menus-any course or any day-part-are endless.

 

Sweet or savoury dishes beg for apples. They can be worked into sauces in main courses or as desserts. Their sweet and sour and tart qualities and their soft and firm or grainy textures pose several possibilities. They welcome a host of spices that can boost chicken or pork dishes to new and seasonal heights.

 

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A bunch of beets

This year, chefs are reinventing the earthy root vegetable and helping beet haters face their phobia and reap the rewards.

 

Beets are a powerhouse full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like folate, vitamin C, calcium, iron and magnesium. By introducing beets in new ways, you can tap into one of this year’s hippest and healthiest foods.

 

Those with beet aversions may be more prone to trying mellow-tasting golden, white or candy-stripe beets in place of the familiar red and purple varieties. Medley beetroot chips are paired with a greek burger for lunch, alongside a spicy tzatziki dip. Take it one step further by adding pureed beets in the burger, or thinly sliced pickled beets arranged on top.

 

Goat cheese and dill are classic beet partners, but sweet or spicy flavours help keep things fresh like a beet, fennel, and orange salad topped with ricotta and candied pecans. Roasted carrots, beets and greens over quinoa and chard get a kick with a creamy horseradish dressing and crunchy pepitas. Don’t forget about their greens, which are great in salads, sautéed or as substitutes to other ingredients such as beet green quiche or quesadillas filled with shredded beet, arugula and mushrooms in a beet green pesto using a vegan nut cheese.

 

The best method to preserve their health benefits is to serve them raw. Fresh juices, such as carrot lemon beet or beet green grapefruit juice, provide a quick dose of nutrients. Kvass is a fermented beverage growing in popularity. It is similar to kombucha, but with a vinegar base instead of tea and is often served as a health shot, such as citrus ginger golden beet kvass, or in salad dressings.  

 

Sometimes you have to start small, like adding beet microgreens as a garnish in an appetizer or over a classic caesar salad. Use beets to put a twist on classic spreads, like apple beet guacamole or beet hummus slathered on a sandwich.

 

Raw stacks and slaws pair well alongside meat and seafood dishes, such as cucumber beet stacks with a cheesy pine nut filling or raw beet, butternut squash and apple slaw sprinkled with pecans. 

 

Root vegetables aren’t often seen as a dessert, but beet juice adds wonderful colour in place of food dye for red velvet cakes. “Cheesecake” gets as healthy as it can with a beet crust, vegan strawberry-beet cashew filling and pistachio crumble.

 

And what is there for those customers that still can’t tolerate the texture or taste of beets? Chocolate beet cake with whipped coconut oil might just be the answer.

 

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Delicious burger with bacon and fries

There’s nothing like cooking over live fire to really ignite the taste buds, says RockWood Urban Grill corporate chef Lloyd Frank. “It brings out the natural flavours of anything you put on that broiler. We choose triple-A steaks, fresh salmon, and top quality ingredients,and when you throw them on that fire, it’s amazing what it does.”

 

Stu Rathwell, president of Rock Creek Tap & Grill and RockWood Urban Grill, says they devised the concept around the wood-burning grill. “It’s an open grill design we sourced from Texas just like a barbecue or an open fire pit with a grate over it.”

 

The concept has been a big hit with customers at their locations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and soon Alberta looking for comfortable dining with home-cooked flair. “Our guests want a casual and friendly experience with the absolute best quality taken to a higher level than they would get on their backyard barbecue,” Rathwell says.

Different wood burns at different temperatures – be it hickory, oak or maple – and affects the flavour profiles of the various proteins and vegetables, Chef Frank says. “We still tweak it a little bit here and there to get the optimum temperature and burning time. You don’t want it to go to amber too quick, otherwise you lose your flavour.”

Brisket is a big trend this year, and Rock Creek and RockWood smoke their own, along with chicken wings, pork ribs, cheddar and garlic, and then finish them on the broiler. Customers love their beef brisket sliders with peanut butter bacon chili jam, and also their smoked brisket grilled cheese.

 

Comfort food meets the grill! 

 

Big on Burgers

Nearly four in 10 Canadians eat at least one burger a week, and men eat even more burgers than women, according to data from Weston Bakeries, which studies burger-lovers’ habits.

 

Here’s what burger lovers take into consideration on a premium burger:

  • The patty (63%)
  • The bun (21%)
  • Toppings (6%)
  • Seasonings/spices (5%)
  • Condiments and cheese (3% each)

For many Canadians, a burger is naked without cheese. Not surprisingly, cheddar is the cheese champion at 47%, followed by mozzarella at 35%, Swiss at 33%, and Monterey Jack at 25%. Sliced is chosen by 63% and shredded by 17%.

 

And to top it off...

Meat-topped burgers are trending...and going beyond bacon. Beef burgers are getting piled high with pulled pork, ham, and beef brisket for a really meaty experience. (Check out our Canadiana burger recipe, topped with thick-cut peameal bacon.) They're marketed as an indulgent, ultra-savoury meat-on-meat combination. 

 

A-Bun-Dance

Most Canadians like it simple and classic when it comes ot buns, however new and exciting formations are adding abundant new bun opportunities. Here's what Canadians traditionally look for:

  • Sesame seed buns (31%)
  • Cheese buns (22%)
  • Garlic bread buns (19%)
  • Onion buns (18%)
  • Whole wheat and multigrain buns (16%)

Innovation is certainly coming to buns. According to Technomic, which collects data from the Top 500 restaurant chains, the fastest growing buns are potato buns, sesame seed buns, and brioche. Even ciabatta buns are beginning to have their moment on the grill. 

 

Beef still reigns as burger king followed by chicken, fish and turkey. Eight out of ten prefer a grilled beef patty, but new grill contenders are ready to take their place. Think seafood skewers and grilled fish.

 

Say Plancha!

Even the method of grilling is changing. As McCormick noted in its 2017 Flavour Forecast, "plancha," or flat-out grilling, is coming on strong with grill-happy diners. Hailing from Spain, France's Basque region, and Mexico, the plancha (a thick, flat slab of cast iron) creates a sizzling, smoky sear and flavour crust. Plancha can easily be used with meats, seafood and vegetables, paired with bold sauces, rubs and glazes.

 

Spice Thrills

Salt and pepper remain the most popular and common seasonings, however garlic salt, Worcestershire, peppercorn and Cajun flavours are all gaining in popularity. 

Diners love barbecue, and that's helping to propel burnt, charred and toasted flavours, Technomic reports. Smokey flavours are no longer limited to just meats and cheese but are also being paired with constrasting flavours such as sweet and spicy to add complexity. The espelette pepper, originating from the Basque region of France, helps deliver that smoky, sweet and mildly hot flavour that makes plancha-grilled food an exciting new trend.

 

The fastest-growing condiments are chipotle aioli, garlic mayonnaise, honey, marmalade and jam, especially savoury flavours like bacon jam and pepper marmalade.

 

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Heart shaped waffles with a berry sauce

 

Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. This creates not only an opportunity to boost business on the day itself, but also for repeat business. You’ll serve guests who may not frequent your restaurant, but are looking for something special. If they have a positive experience, they are likely to come back.

 

Offer more than just a great dining experience

When it comes to Mother’s Day, simply providing a pleasant dining experience isn’t enough - it’s about creating a memory. There are many ways to make the day extra special for mom. For example, moms could be given a card, a gift, a chocolate, or a flower, courtesy of your restaurant.

 

Occupy children

Mother’s Day also means there will be lots of children, and it’s hard for moms to enjoy themselves if the kids aren’t happy. Keeping children entertained could mean providing the usual crayons and colouring pages or you could go the extra distance by providing a craft that the kids could make for mom.

 

One possibility would be to decorate cookies with icing and sprinkles. (Of course, be prepared for the potential messiness of the craft.)

 

Feature a special menu

Create a memorable experience by having a special menu - for example, a pre-packaged special which includes an appetizer, entrée, dessert and coffee at a good price. The same can be done for a brunch menu.

 

Another option is to add interest to common foods by using heart-shaped pans or using sprinkles to make something colourful and fun.

 

Put service first

Service is just as important as the food when it comes to a Mother's Day meal. Schedule lots of staff so you can serve people quickly and efficiently, and be prepared for the volume of people. It will come back to you ten-fold.

 

Promote, promote, promote!

There are many ways to get the word out about your restaurant and special Mother’s Day promotions. Though it does depend on your audience, here are a few ideas to get you started:

 

  • Using social media (such as having a fan page on Facebook or sending messages using Twitter) is free and can be a good way for smaller independent restaurants to advertise. Post messages about specials or have printable coupons
  • Updating your website with information about your Mother's Day promotions is a must. Having a page for your social pages to link back to and share the same message is crucial
  • Don't dismiss print advertisements and radio, as these more traditional forms of marketing are still effective

 

With some forethought and planning, restaurants can capitalize on Mother’s Day. By offering special menus or kids’ activities while being fully prepared with sufficient staff for one of the busiest days of the year, restaurants can create a memorable occasion for families that will keep them coming back time and time again.

 

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Restaurant with a Happy Holidays Message

If it is in fact true that it is better to give than receive, then gift cards must be at the top of a restaurateur’s wish list. These simple plastic cards could be an important marketing tool—and revenue generator—at this busiest of commercial periods on the calendar.

 

Dave Ball, Divisional Sales Manager at Flanagan Foodservice, sees gift cards as a holly, jolly way to make the season bright for several reasons:

 

1. Gift cards raise the stakes

First and foremost, he points out; research indicates that people will spend more on a gift card than they will on a gift. While they might buy a $50 present, they will likely raise the stakes and buy a $75 or even a $100 gift card at a restaurant, the card itself being relatively unsubstantial to hold. “They don’t want to seem cheap,” says Ball, “when it comes to choosing an amount to give.”

 

The established and classic printed gift certificates, though they can do the job, just don’t have the aesthetic appeal and cannot outperform debit card-style gift cards, he adds. “The more professional it looks the more money they are going to spend with you.”

The vagaries of human nature also come into play in a positive manner—and that can play right into a restaurant operator’s hands in terms of immediate cash flow. It turns out that many restaurateurs and the folks behind the scenes who run the business end of things realize that 17 percent of gift cards are never redeemed.

 

“That’s massive,” Ball says. “We know these numbers from a top-rated Canadian restaurant franchise. But even if a small restaurant did $2,000 in gift cards, you are looking at nearly $350 for doing nothing.”

 

2. Boost your slower seasons

Add yet another gift beneath the tree: if the cards are purchased as festive and holiday presents in the hustle-bustle of a busy December, the delay when people redeem them could prove to be a boon to the restaurateur who might see a bump in sales later in January and February when business is typically slower.

 

And when they do get around to redeeming them, patrons often find themselves using the full amount of their gift card—and then some. Customers generally buy additional food and more expensive dishes than they might otherwise; compound that with the potential for increased sales of beverage alcohol, and the result can be some healthy extra revenue in winter’s gloomier months.

 

“Most restaurants see a rapid January decline in sales,” Ball notes. “However, gift cards can bring people into the restaurant in slower times. You are still winning as people go over their gift card value and spend more, perhaps for the purchase a $60 bottle of wine they wouldn’t ordinarily select. They up-sell themselves.”

 

3. Introduce gift card recipients to your restaurant

Even with the excitement of the holiday season taken out of the equation, the gift card offers an additional benefit. If using the card represents the first time the guest has been to your establishment, it is a perfect opportunity for you to show off what you can do—and in doing so, win a new customer who says, “Wow! That was great; I’m going
to come back.”

 

4. Appreciate current customers

Gift card sales can beget gift card sales, according to Ball, and they can also be used in
customer-appreciation situations, too. It is this flexibility and versatility which sometimes goes unremarked. As well, they can be used in a wide range of operations, from fine dining to coffee-shop fare.

 

5. Offer cards to unsatisfied guests

Though it is an ancillary benefit (and one that certainly is not high on the wish list), gift cards can be used by managers to smooth ruffled dining feathers when a guest has not had a fully satisfactory dining experience.

 

It’s yet another advantage: at virtually any level of dining or restaurant business, the gift card has value. Ball maintains firmly that there is not a restaurant or hospitality business out there that can say that a gift card would not work for them.

 

He points out that in probably 75 percent of cases, touch-screen POS systems make the gift card option simple and convenient with perhaps only a software upgrade. That also permits better tracking than paper certificates.

 

“A gift card is a win-win scenario,” Ball states. “Dollars in the restaurant business can be extremely tight, and gift cards mean that you are getting paid first. There are not many other scenarios in hospitality where that happens.”

 

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Wow Factor Slice of Sangria Cake

Wow! Factor Desserts has been a valued supplier of Flanagan’s since 2006, and for more than ten years we’ve had the pleasure of showcasing their delicious desserts at our annual food shows.

 

These longtime customer favourites are just a few of their delicious and unique products:

 

Colossal Carrot Cake  (Flanagan code: 104187)
Cookies and Cream Cake  (Flanagan code: 104481)
Gluten-Free Turtle Cheesecake  (Flanagan code: 104088)
3” Vanilla Crème Brûlée  (Flanagan code: 107032)
 

Here are ten reasons we love Wow! Factor Desserts (and why you will, too):

 

1.  They use premium, high-quality ingredients

If you’ve already enjoyed one of Wow! Factor’s cakes, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Not only are Wow! Factor’s desserts creative and unique, they’re decadently made with real butter, cream cheese, whipping cream, as well as Halal and Kosher-certified gelatin.

 

The chocolate in Wow! Factor’s desserts is Barry Callebaut’s Finest Belgian Chocolate, which is made using the best sustainable cocoa beans of West Africa.
 

2. A selection of their products are gluten-free

Guests with Celiac disease or those watching their wheat intake are not denied Wow! Factor’s indulgent after-dinner treats.

 

Wow! Factor is part of the Gluten-Free Certification Program that is endorsed by the Canadian Celiac Association, and their line of flavourful gluten-free desserts include Strawberry Champagne Cheesecake and Chocolate Almond Torte.
 

3. Their desserts are innovative and original

Wow! Factor’s products absolutely live up to their namesake; Carrot Lava Cake, Warm Ginger Cake, and Cayenne Brownie are just some of their incredibly inventive desserts.

 

Wow Factor Individual Carrot Lava Cake Wow Factor Warm Ginger Cake Wow Factor Cayenne Brownie
Individual Carrot Lava Cake
Flanagan code: 107975
Warm Ginger Cake
Flanagan code: 107036
Cayenne Brownie
Flanagan code: 107976

 

Place an Order
 

4. Their seasonal and special occasion desserts are unique and fun

Each spring and fall, Wow! Factor releases a collection of seasonal desserts that set your business apart. This spring they’ve released three incredible new flavours: Sangria Cake, Reese Blondie Cake, and Pina Colada Pie.

 

 

Wow Factor Candy Cane Mousse Wow Factor Sangria Cake Wow Factor White Chocolate Gift Box
Candy Cane Mousse
Fall 2018
(Seasonal offer only)

Sangria Cake
Spring 2019

Flanagan code: 104169

White Chocolate Gift
Fall 2018
(Seasonal offer only)

 

Place an Order
 

5. They offer direct drop-ships

If you’ve ordered a Wow! Factor product that isn’t yet in the Flanagan warehouse, rest assured; Wow! Factor will personally deliver the product to you.
 

6. They have a free dessert menu program

Every six months, qualified customers* are eligible for 25 custom, full-colour dessert menus complete with mouth-watering photos of your exciting new desserts at no charge.

 

Visit Wow! Factor's website for more information on their Make a Menu program.
 

7. Their admirable community involvement with the Robin Hood Association

Wow Factor and Robin Hood Packing Team

A cherished part of Wow! Factor since 1992 is their practice of employing people from the Robin Hood Association, a local organization that provides assistance and job opportunities for people with disabilities. These employees hand-fold each and every box that their desserts are packaged in.

 

Though this process could become automated—and more cost-effective—Wow! Factor values the rewarding experience these jobs offer to the community.

(Photo courtesy of Wow! Factor Desserts)
 

8. They use sustainable packaging

In addition to being hand-folded by their Robin Hood team, every box used is made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified Paper. That means that each box is made from 100% recycled content and is 100% recyclable.
 

9. They’re Canadian!

A Canadian company, Wow! Factor’s products are made in Sherwood Park, Alberta. Their factory outlet and warehouse is here in Toronto.
 

10. Their people are second-to-none

The Wow! Factor team goes above, beyond, and even further than that. Their excellent customer service is appreciated not only by our Flanagan team, but by every operator who has the pleasure of working with Jacqueline Pancho-Flowers and Rebecca Leonard, Wow! Factor’s Ontario sales representatives.

 

For more information about Wow! Factor Desserts, speak to your Territory Manager, call Customer Relations, or visit wowfactordesserts.com.

 

* To qualify for Wow! Factor Desserts’ free dessert menu program, you must currently purchase three Wow! Factor Desserts products as part of your dessert menu.

 

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