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Make the Most of Valentine's Day at your Restaurant

A couple celebrating Valentine's Day at a restaurant

 

Make the Most of Valentine's Day at Your Restaurant

Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. To make it a success, have your menu mapped out and enough staff on hand to ensure that everything runs smoothly. But don’t forget about wooing your guests! Let’s take a look at how you can make Valentine’s Day a success at your restaurant.

 

Menu Planning

The menu is arguably one of the most important elements on Valentine’s Day. You want to make sure that you have something special and unique for couples to share together. Start by creating a few set menu items that feature your best food and drinks. Consider offering a variety of price points so that there is something for every budget. Additionally, it may be helpful to offer “couple specials” such as two appetizers or entrees with a bottle of wine or champagne for one price. 

 

Wow Factor Strawberry Champagne Cheesecake

Wow Factor Strawberry Champagne Cheesecake

 

Valentine’s Day calls for something extra special in the dessert category! Consider these carefully selected desserts from Wow Factor and Daboom – perfect for Valentine’s Day.

 

Daboom Molten

Daboom Molten

 

Staff Preparedness

Finding labour can be difficult for restaurant owners during peak periods such as Valentine’s Day. It is important to take into account seasonal fluctuations and plan ahead by hiring extra staff before the big day arrives. Consider offering incentives such as bonuses or free meals to attract more applicants. If you are short on time and resources, contact local staffing agencies who may be able to help you find qualified candidates quickly and efficiently.

 

Make sure all staff members understand their roles beforehand and are prepared to handle any potential issues that might arise throughout the night. If possible, provide additional training sessions prior to the big day so everyone knows exactly what is expected of them.

 

Experience

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about food – it’s about creating an unforgettable experience for your guests. Think outside the box when it comes to creating a romantic atmosphere in your restaurant – from subtle decorations like candles or fresh flowers, to music or even a themed photo booth where couples can take photos together. You could also consider offering “extra touches” like complimentary champagne or desserts as part of their meal package - these small gestures can really add up and make a big difference in terms of customer satisfaction!

 

Valentine’s Day doesn't have to be overwhelming – if you plan ahead and pay attention to details, your customer satisfaction will be high, hopefully leading to repeat business.

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 2:25 PM
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Consider Stew for your Winter Menus

Shrimp and mussel stew in a bowl

 

In a Stew

Add slow food to your pot during the colder months

Give your customers the pleasure of slow food in this fast-paced world. Simple, yet sublime with infinite variety, this staple of kitchens worldwide brings comfort in every bite. Slow and relaxed, evoking an island state of mind.

 

Stew defines you. Ethnically diverse using cost-effective (and local) ingredients, stew can warm up your menu this fall and winter while at the same time keep your budget cool.

 

Love cooked into every bite

 

Yes, the love is in every serving of stew. You can smell and taste the memories – home, family, friends, meals shared. As one-pot wonders, traditionally using simple ingredients, stew is undeniably greater than the sum of its parts and a part of every nationality.

 

Find a stew that tells customers your story and transports them to happiness.

Philman George, corporate chef for High Liner Foods, has a life full of stew. “Every Sunday, my mother, who hails from the Caribbean, would prepare a one-pot stew. The house would smell so good, with aromatics like thyme and ginger root.”

 

Now, Chef Phil loves dry stew, a traditional West African dish, an influence of his wife, who is from Sierra Leone.

 

“It consists of taking a mix of vegetables and spices and cooking this mixture with roasted chicken legs and thighs until nearly all of the liquid has evaporated. What’s left is a rich paste that sticks to the chicken,” he says. As a fish and seafood-focused chef, he has adapted this stewing method and created a dry fish stew.

 

“Great care is taken to ensure that the seafood retains all its natural tenderness. I season and sear the seafood in cast iron and set aside. The vegetables, stock and aromatics are stewed down and seafood is added at the end. It’s big time comfort food!”

 

Chef Phil prides himself on fun, ethnic and approachable food. His goal is to place craveable seafood on your menu and generate more profit through the “Heart of the House.”

 

“Every culture has their version of stew. In Canada, especially on the east coast, chowders are our seafood stew! High Liner has some delicious stew recipes using cod and PEI mussels.”  

 

As he says, “Stews are the go-to bowl for winter and fall.” 

 

Stir up some fun with innovative approaches

 

“All ethnic stews can find a place on cold weather menus, when there is a focus on a single stew. There needs to be a story behind it – where the recipe comes from or a signature ingredient or cooking method the chef used to make it stand out,” says James Keppy, national culinary manager foodservice at Maple Leaf.

 

A favourite of his is a Mexican-Style Chicken Stew with chicken thighs, black beans, tomatoes and hot sauce, finished off with sour cream and tortilla chips.

 

Coaxing flavour and tenderness from underappreciated cuts is the real magic of stew, he says. “Using raw boneless, skinless chicken thighs and the pork cuts from the shoulder are cost-effective options for a great stew,” the chef reminds us.

 

Mix and match flavours and ingredients

 

Definitely not a thing of the past, a stew session using ingredients and flavours which do not regularly play together or crossing ethnic boundaries will create a unique stew that tells your story. If you do it right, it may even transport the ingredients to a new, undiscovered place.

 

Plant-based proteins will continue to drive menus. Maple Leaf’s au naturel! line of products and their Lightlife Plant Based Burger and Grounds deserve a place on your stew menu. Good for you, your customers and the planet – and distinctly on-trend.

“Maple Leaf also offers turkey breasts, pulled pork and beef, and sausages (Oktoberfest, Mediterranean, Andouille and Spanish Chorizo) for non-traditional twists to a stew,” adds Chef James.

 

With infinite protein, vegetable and spice combinations, there is a stew that is right for you and your customers. You will run out time before you run out of ideas!

 

Beef and vegetable stew

 

Stew tips
  • Think frozen. With the increasing number of dietary requests and restrictions, you may want to stew up delicious solutions that can be at the ready in the freezer. Simple additions like a hazelnut parsley gremolata add a punch of freshness and detail your customer appreciates.
  • Go beyond the bowl. Elevate your stew with a puff pastry topper, drop in some signature dumplings or pull out a vegetable and showcase on top. Present with artisanal breads (great for getting every last morsel), mash, steamed grains, polenta or pasta.  Or when in doubt, serve with more veggies.
  • Consider the upsell. “Remember that shrimp is the most consumed seafood item in Canada. So, no matter what stew you’ve made in your establishment, upsell that stew with the addition of shrimp,” says High Liner’s Chef Phil.

Your time-starved kitchen deserves a break. Stew, a hands-free, budget-saving option that tastes even better the next day is the perfect solution. Don’t you worry about a thing, because in a stew, everything is going to be alright!

 

Try veggies (and fruit) first

Stews can showcase delicious locally available ingredients throughout the fall and winter months. Creatively choose seasonal options and design a stew around them, maybe a specific farm-focused flavour profile.

 

Customers increasingly crave food transparency, even for their fruits and veggies. Why not choose your veggies and fruit first? For instance, the humble rutabaga (not the same as turnip) soars out of obscurity in a spice-drenched Tagine.

 

Fruits deserve a spot in the pot, too. Apples, peaches, pears and plums add sweetness and a native flavour. How about Rhubarb Koresh, for instance? A fruit stew is a new approach to the dessert menu in the colder months.

 

Using seasonal vegetables and fruits in stew makes sense – and cents – cost-effective, locally sourced, with a twist on the flavours of home. Keep customers coming back for seconds and thirds. 

 

TRY THIS RECIPE:

 

Hearty Mussel Chowder

 

Written by Cherie Thompson

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 3:21 PM
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Fire up your grill for BBQ season

Cooked hamburger with fries

 

Here comes summer and, once pandemic numbers are under control and dining opens up widely, it will be time to get your grill on. Customers are raring to get back to outdoor dining, and nothing entices more than the smells wafting from a BBQ grill.

 

This year’s BBQ hot trends include flat plate grilling, high-end buns, layering, non-meat (plant-based innovations) grilling, and sauces and spices that take old favourites and present them in new and exciting ways. 

 

Light up your BBQ options

There’s nothing like cooking over live fire to really ignite the taste buds. If you have that option at your operation, you’ll be able to bring out the flavour in any number of grill dishes — from vegetarian to meat and fish.

 

Always go big on burgers

Burgers are here to stay, even with more Canadians choosing plant-based options. 

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 really turns on burger lovers looking for a premium burger experience:

 

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%.

 

Pile on the extras

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. They’re marketed as an indulgent, and ultra-savoury meat-on-meat combination.

 

Don’t forget the bun

Most Canadians like it simple and classic when it comes to buns, however new and exciting formulations 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% each)

 

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 10 prefer a grilled beef patty. But new grill contenders are ready to take their place. Think seafood skewers and grilled fish.

 

Kick up your spices a notch

Salt and pepper remain the most popular burger 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. Smoky flavours are no longer limited to just meats and cheese but are also being paired with contrasting 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. 

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 1:45 PM
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Serve your Diners on a Winning Patio

Restaurant patio with plant on table

Get Ready for Patio Season!

 

Whether you are seating 10 guests or more in a physically distanced space, creating an outdoor patio environment that is just as good as your indoor guest experience should be the key focus throughout your patio planning.

 

The space may be temporary, but guests’ experiences are long-lasting and so are their memories, so it is remains critical to a restaurant brand’s overall success to invest sufficient planning and development to create a seamless dining experience.

 

By being thorough in designing and executing your perfect patio experience, you will be in an ideal position to attract diners.

 

Daniel Lemin, Strategy & Analytics Lead at Convince & Convert, says, “When choosing a restaurant, GenZ and Millennials are 99% more likely to rely on social media and online reviews than are GenX and Boomers.” By being thorough in designing and executing your perfect patio experience, you will be in an ideal position to attract these diners.

 

Seasonal patios often pose many challenges for restaurateurs. Should you install heat lamps for cooler nights? What’s the seating plan? How do you schedule wait staff for patio season? What patio trends make sense to your restaurant brand?

 

There are many considerations in how you approach your patio to ensure it is “the place to be seen” this summer with many Instagrammable moments. To create this winning formula, you must consider important factors from an operational perspective as well as the details of the atmosphere.

 

What you serve inside, you serve outside

Be prepared for your kitchen to handle the extra capacity. Consider your current equipment capacity, the amount of space in refrigeration and storage, as well as your team’s skill level. A streamlined offering or change of purpose for the area is a better option than having your customers wait an extra 30 minutes for food because you cannot execute to expectations.

 

Stock up!

From plate ware, glassware and cutlery to napkins, to-go containers and chopsticks, all items need to be stocked up to support the additional seats to service. Be prepared by ordering in advance, as suppliers tend to get busy with patio orders as spring approaches.

 

Need more staff, but how much?

Calculate the number of shifts per week this will add to your front-of-house schedule and determine the date your new staff need to be hired and trained by. Then work back from that date to allow for enough time for hiring and training.

 

TIP: Hire gradually over a few months to alleviate the pressure of mass training to allow new staff to get comfortable and ready for patio season. It does incur higher labour costs on the front end, but will pay off with greater productivity and less turnover throughout the summer.

 

Your patio design, décor and overall outdoor experience are the fun part of the planning process, and also what define your patio as a place to be and shared on social media.

 

So, what are the “rules” of patio design?

 

Know the laws

Each province and municipality has different laws on what restaurants can serve, how they serve it, when they serve it, and where they serve it. Some local laws prohibit outdoor bars while others require partitions or café barriers around sidewalk seating. Educating yourself on local laws and obtaining permits sounds about as appetizing as a spam and prune salad, but it’s a crucial part of the process. Punishments violating local laws and not having proper permits can range from a citation to fines or even closure. Before you start building your outdoor patio, research your local laws and be sure to obtain the proper permits.

 

Design your seating plan

Your gut instinct might be to place as many tables and chairs in your patio design as possible. After all, more tables mean more customers and more revenue, right? Not necessarily. Make sure you have ample space between tables and chairs for both servers and guests to manoeuvre through your restaurant’s outdoor seating, struggle free. A cramped floor plan can take away significantly from the patio experience and have a negative effect on sales.

 

As well, ensure your patio can take advantage of a view if you have it with as many seats possible. Obviously, these will be in high demand and the more you can take advantage of the view, the more you can mitigate potential customers being upset. If a view is not part of the patio experience, use high walls to create a more intimate experience. Some of the best patios are ones in parking lots that have used this strategy to make you feel like you are in an oasis.

 

Find appropriate furniture

TIP: Do NOT reuse your interior table and chairs for your patio.

 

A patio requires patio furniture made of durable materials that can hold up to the wear and tear of the outdoors. Look for furniture that’s weatherproof and easy to clean. If space and storage are an issue, opt for stackable chairs. Additionally, make sure your patio furniture jives with your restaurant’s décor and atmosphere. For example, if you run a high-end restaurant, you may want to reconsider outfitting your patio with foldable plastic chairs.

 

Patio pitfalls

When serving outdoors, you must be prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store. You’ll need solutions for keeping bugs away, providing shade from the sun, keeping your diners warm on cooler evenings, and of course what to do in case of rain! Your weather preparation plans can significantly add or detract from the outdoor dining experience.

 

Patio perfection

Acceptable restaurant patios have these basics and essentials mastered, but great restaurant patios take it a step further. Give your outdoor seating a personal touch to distinguish yourself in the market. Enhance your diners’ experience with food and bar specials, live music or yard games. A restaurant patio that’s well planned, unique, and full of character can quickly turn those one-time customers into regulars and boost profitability. And remember, 35% of Canadians prefer to visit a restaurant or bar when going out with family and friends – far ahead of the second-favourite option, outdoor activities, selected by 23% of Canadians (Source: Restaurants Canada-sponsored poll). Canadians will come if you build your patio the right way.

 

When all these items are considered in your patio planning, the result will be a patio experience that customers will remember and great word of mouth for your brand. With your operational overhead covered by your revenue inside, a well-operated patio can add 30% profitability on the additional revenue brought in. It can be very lucrative indeed to ensure these details are part of your plan to create the perfect patio experience!

 

Written by Sephen Hamelin and shared with permission from Chef Connexion.  

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more great articles!

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 8:21 AM
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Host the Super Bowl Party of the Year

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.
Flanagan Foodservice at 7:10 PM
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