Tips to Promote Allergen Awareness

Many legislative measures have been taken at both state and municipal levels to improve allergen awareness in the food industry. Betsy Craig, a spokesperson for the labeling company MenuTrinfo, LLC, is committed to bringing more awareness to both customers and staff and is launching her new company, Kitchens with Confidence, LLC which is fueled by this desire. After having spent years teaching the importance of allergen awareness through the AllerTrain certification courses, Betsy has offered some helpful insights and steps for staff to protect the health and safety of restaurant diners:

  • Print recipes and make them readily available to the staff. Educate the staff on each of the ingredients in a particular recipe or dish and show what could be changed or substituted for customers with allergens.
  • Learn the alternate names of the big 8 allergens developed by Food Allergy Research & Education.
  • Create a policy that described how each staff member (both front and back of house) should handle and react to allergen related questions about the menu.
  • Make a disclaimer visible in the restaurant that explains to guests that they must alert the servers if they have a food allergy. Post the same disclaimer on the paper menus, online, and on menu boards. The disclaimer will reassure the guests that your restaurant has made strong efforts to accommodate special dietary needs.
  • Always use sanitized cloths to wipe down surfaces after a first wipe with soapy water.
  • Identify allergen-free dishes on the menu with either special icons, or different font/colors.
  • Label tools and plates in the kitchen used for allergen-free dishes. Purple is the most common color now used in the kitchen to identify allergy-friendly foods.

To read more about how to ensure the health and safety of diners and the protection of staff regarding safe serving, click here


Starbucks’ Food Sales Increase Average Check

Starbucks completed a very successful third quarter with a $513 million net income  (23% gain compared to the year prior), and a 6% growth in global same-store sales. The coffee shop credits its non-beverage sales for the increase in traffic and average check. The sales of the new breakfast sandwiches that were launched in March increased by 40% during the quarter. Same-store sales increased 7% during the quarter with the new food items being responsible for 2% of that growth. The new hand-crafted Fizzio sodas and Teavana Oprah Chai and shaken iced-teas were also big contributors to the sales increase in the quarter.

This news came in sharp contrast to its competitor, Dunkin Donuts, who released a more disappointing quarterly report. Dunkin’ Brands adjusted their expectation of a 3-4% increase in same-store sales to being in between 2-3%. Nigel Travis, Dunkin’ Brands’ chief executive and chairman stated, “Our performance in the second quarter was disappointing, both domestically and internationally.” Dunkin’ Brands mentioned that the increased competition during the breakfast daypart (TacoBell now increasing breakfast offerings) combined with challenging macroeconomic factors (including a harsh Spring climate) all contributed to the disappointing 2Q. The brand now expects a revenue growth between 5-7% compared to the 6-8% projection set earlier in the year.

Food sales at Starbucks are allowing the chain to increase traffic during what would usually be considered the slower day parts for coffee establishments such as evenings and afternoons. Howard Schultz, Starbucks Chief Executive Officer and chair, has hinted that the company is working on making the lunch hour at Starbucks look different soon. Starbucks is also hinting at solutions for paying in advance and picking up using new mobile technologies. Schultz states, ” It’s clear to us in our research that express order and pay is a big, big idea.”

Overall Starbucks has plans for down the pipeline that include more food offerings and new mobile payment technologies which have already proven to increase average check and traffic. To read more about Starbucks’ success with improved food offerings, click here



Summer Seafood Boils Pop Up Around NYC

The season of crab, lobster and crawfish boils is among us. Restaurants around the city have been or are starting to offer weekly summer seafood boils at set prices for guests to enjoy. Whether you crave crawfish, crab, lobster or shrimp there are many options in the city this summer to indulge in. Large family-style seafood boils have become a very popular trend in restaurants in the summer months.

Why not opt for a lobster boil this Sunday for brunch? Beginning this Sunday July 27th and running weekly through to August 31st Hearth Restaurant on E 12th St and 1st Ave will be hosting Sunday Lobster Boils. The series was inspired by the Chef’s vacations in Martha’s Vineyard for the past five years where he and roughly 30 friends would dig a very large hole in the sand (above the tide line of course) to build a bonfire. The bonfire would be left to burn with about 50 volleyball-sized stones being thrown into the fire over the course of six hours. While the fire pit was heating up and being monitored, the corn in its husk was put into large drums filled with seaweed to soak in the ocean. When the time was right, a drum of cold seaweed was dumped onto the coals of the fire pit followed by the lobsters, corn, potatoes, sausage and steamer clams, then topped with another drum of seaweed to cook for just over an hour. After the seaweed was raked off and the seafood pulled out of the pit it was time to enjoy the feast!

While the restaurant does not house a massive coal burning bonfire-sandpit, the lobster is still tasty and the atmosphere is still light and summery. The three course meal for $68 includes a tomato and watermelon salad with bluefish paté, a lobster pot containing a pound of lobster per person, potatoes, chorizo, steamer clams and corn on the cob, and lastly a delicious peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. To read more about Hearth restaurant’s weekly lobster boils click here

Another establishment offering summer seafood boils is Back Forty in Alphabet City. Back Forty specialize in crab boils every Tuesday night hosted in their garden come rain or shine. The $74 ticket includes the food, tax and gratuity. Tickets go on sale every Wednesday prior at 10AM on the Back Forty website, here, and each seating is for a total duration of 2 hours.

Another southern style seafood boil which can be enjoyed on any day of the week can be found at the Boil on Chrystie St between Broome and Delancey. Claw Daddy’s is another great destination in the Lower East Side to get a fix of creole and cajun flavors with a traditional Louisiana-style boil. For more information on the menu, click here

This seasonal restaurant trend of offering large seafood boils for large groups attracts many guests and guarantees a weekly following. It is comforting to know that these options are available in New York City and not just along the coastline, so go out and enjoy!




New Starbucks in Williamsburg

A new Starbucks coffee shop opened July 21st in Williamsburg next to the Lorimer/Metropolitan subway stop. The Williamsburg residents appear to be on the fence about the coffee shop’s new location. There is a strong concern that the Starbucks will hinder local coffee shops’ business. Although the opening was well advertised weeks in advance, few people chose to stop into Starbucks for their morning coffee or later for their afternoon frappucino. The adjacent deli, however, continued doing business as usual by serving the breakfast crowd their coffee.

It could be difficult to open a large coffee chain outpost in a neighborhood surrounded by independent roasters and where the vibrant coffee culture is already very established. The Starbucks staff seem confident that the residents will eventually warm up to the coffee shop as the location is very convenient; aside from being across from the Metropolitan Avenue subway, where the shop will serve many commuters on the L and G trains, it is also surrounded by building complexes and condos.

Residents may be concerned that the new Starbucks in Williamsburg is another reminder of the accelerated rate gentrification in the neighborhood, but Starbucks is determined to continue providing a good customer experience and attract a local stable clientele. To read more about the views surrounding the new Starbucks opening, click here



Chef Bowien to Curate Brooklyn Taste Talks Festival

The Taste Talks food festival will be back in Brooklyn this September 12th-14th for the second consecutive year. Top talent in the food industry from chefs to critics to writers will be gathering to discuss and reflect on the future of taste. It will be featuring three days of workshops, discussions, tastings and symposiums. The festival will be presented by Chef Mario Batali and the Northside Media Group, and curated by James Beard Award winner Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese and Mission Cantina. Last year April Bloomfield (Spotted Pig, The Breslin) hosted Taste Talks and acted as the Master of Ceremonies.

Events that will be hosted by Chef Bowien include:

Mother of Pearl: an cocktail hour featuring an Island Creek oyster and Champagne pairing which will lead into a multi-course sit-down dinner at Villain Restaurant in Williamsburg.

Taste Talks All-Star BBQ: Over 20 star chefs including Dale Talde, Christina Tosi, Alex Guarnaschelli and Andy Ricker amongst others will prepare a barbecue feast along the East River Park.

The panels that will be hosted at Taste Talks include topics such as photography and media, the future of food culture, the future of food magazines, expert food photography for everyday cooks and many others that will be concluded by a private chef’s dinner at Fitzcarraldo in Bushwick. Taste Talks will then migrate to Chicago for the first time on October 4th and 5th and will be curated by Paul Kahan of Blackbird and Avec.

To purchase tickets click here, and to read more information about the festival’s upcoming events click here


Tara Berman on Heritage Radio’s “All in the Industry”

Tara Berman, managing partner of Tarapaige Group, will be featured on Heritage Radio’s show, “All in the Industry” on Wednesday July 30th. The show is hosted by Shari Bayer, Founder and President of Bayer Public Relations, a full-service marketing agency specializing in the culinary and hospitality industry. The radio show focuses on providing insight into the process behind opening a restaurant by bringing in restaurant industry experts.

Tara Berman is a leading industry expert on business planning, conceptual development, accounting and financial management, operations and overall strategic guidance for early stage brands and growing enterprises. The episode series touch upon the aspects needed to make a restaurant truly successful beyond the food; this can include location, marketing, staffing, and atmosphere amongst other important factors.

Tara earned her Certified Public Accounting license in 1997 from a public accounting firm and later progressed to working in investment banking with JP Morgan in trading and sales for the capital markets division. A few years later, after her completion of culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education, she began her tenure in the kitchen of the French Laundry with The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.

Tara continued to work with TKRG in management at Bouchon Bistro, Per Se and Bouchon Bakery. Tara is also a guest lecturer at the New York University Food Studies Program. In 2013, Tara earned her Executive MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business.


Tune in to the broadcast on Wednesday July 30th at 4PM to hear all the advice and insights Tara has to offer to aspiring and established professionals in the field.


New Shake Shack Dumbo

The new Shake Shack location in Dumbo opens today on the corner of Fulton St. and Water St directly across from the Brooklyn Bridge Park. This location’s décor has a nautical vibe with sailboat images hung on the cedar plank walls that were stripped from old New York rooftop water towers. The burger chain’s new Dumbo location is the first to offer their Frog’s Leap “Shack Red” and “Shack White” wines on tap and not just in bottles. There are also a few other features that are only specific to this location. For instance:


  • The “Caramel Carousel,” made with a vanilla frozen custard base with bananas, caramel sauce, sugar cone pieces, and sea salt was inspired by Jane’s Carousel; a nearby tourist attraction.
  • The “Brooklyn Pie Oh My” consists of vanilla frozen custard blended with a slice of Four & Twenty Blackirds pie. Currently the Brooklyn Pie Oh My features a slice of strawberry-balsamic pie; the pie flavors will rotate.
  • Although not convenient in the summer, the gas-burning fireplace in the front window will definitely be a bonus come winter!
  • 5% of proceeds from the location-specific beverages will benefit the nonprofit “Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue.”


To read more about the opening of Shake Shack’s new location, click here


Coffee Operators Driving Revenue Through Mobile Payments

There is a definite compatibility between specialist coffee shops and mobile payments due to the fact that their primary product is purchased at such a high frequency. Consumers purchase coffee daily (often multiple repeat purchases per day) and would benefit from a streamlined payment method and loyalty programs such as can be offered by mobile payment solutions. The consumer demographic is also most likely to participate in the mobile payment methods as it consists mostly of young students interested in technology and consumers who have easy access to mobile technologies.

While Starbucks was the first to launch its well-known loyalty program and mobile payment app years ago, third-party mobile payment technologies are now cropping up targeting independent coffee shops to help them drive revenue and better compete with larger chains such as Starbucks. CUPS is one example of a third-party mobile payment apps designed to engage consumers by providing incentives through loyalty programs that offer discounts and special offers based on their purchase history. BeansUP is another recently launched innovative app that allows consumers to set coffee pick-up times; this will allow for an enhanced consumer experience as the product is prepaid and the guest can avoid peak hour lines and pick up their coffee directly at the counter.

The increased demand for efficient, streamlined transactions will only continue to grow and these mobile technologies definitely help meet this need. In order for consumers to adopt mobile payment methods they must first be intrigued by the incentives and sign up for a subscription to their preferred coffee shop’s mobile app. As consumer engagement increases so too will the use of mobile payments and therefore help to drive traffic and revenues.

To read more about these two new innovative mobile payment technologies, click here


Rescue Plan for Crumbs Bakery

Marcus Lemonis, star of the CNBC show and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterpries, decided to take action when Crumbs Bakery closed their doors last week. Lemonis is devising a plan to attempt to rescue the bakery by partnering with owners of ice cream brand Dippin’ Dots to not only loan money but also to outline a new strategy which involves incorporating more products into a larger sweets shop beyond just cupcakes.

For the moment Lemonis is financing the chain to get their doors back open but is still working on a plan to really bring the company back to life. The owners of Dippin’ Dots are already investors in Crumbs whose ultimate goal is to buy the company. Lemonis is seeking to involve the founders of Crumbs, Mia and Jason Bauer, throughout the process even if it is only at an advising capacity.

Lemonis, who hosts a reality show based on helping troubled companies return to turning a profit, stated,  “I don’t believe a single (product) cupcake business is viable in the long term,” Lemonis said. “It was originally envisioned as a bake shop.” Hopefully Lemonis’ plan will be successful and enable Crumbs Bakeshop to recover, stay open and do a complete turnaround.

To read more about Lemonis’ involvement in resuscitating the bakeshop, click here



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