The French's Food Company Releases New Crunchy Vegetable Products

The French's Food Company Releases New Crunchy Vegetable Products

For operators looking to add a crunch or a spice to simple menu items like salads, sandwiches, soups, The French’s Food Company recently announced new products that could serve as a tasty companion to any dish.

According to Food Newsfeed, “each product enables operators to build new excitement and increase the margins of existing menu items without adding operational complexity.”

French’s Crispy Vegetables come in three different varieties: crispy fried onions, crispy jalapeños, and potato sticks.

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Amazon Will Absorb 25 Percent of Restaurant Visits by 2020

In today's fast-paced and highly competitive business environment, there are those brands, services, and concepts that recognize what's next and then there are the brands that are left catching up.

Plugged In brings you exclusive analysis of the most influential disruptors of the foodservice industry utilizing data from Foodable Labs™, the largest and most reliable destination for business insights, to reveal who is "plugged in" and who is missing that spark that drives business forward.

Join Foodable Network's CEO and editor-in-chief Paul Barron, the man who predicted the proliferation of fast casual as the next big thing in the restaurant business, for insider information on what's next in food and business.

On the first episode of Plugged In, we kick off with one of the biggest shakeups the foodservice industry has seen in decades: Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods Market.

Amazon, of course, has changed retail forever— consumers now checking Amazon before they run out to the nearest Walmart or specialty store.  They have proliferated delivery with Amazon Prime Now delivering directly to your door within a few hours of ordering.  Food is the next frontier and if their track record proves correct, there will be a shift in how consumers get their food.

Watch the entire episode to learn about Amazon's master plan as they bring their online behemoth to the foodservice industry.

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6 Steps Towards Solving the Chef Shortage Problem

6 Steps Towards Solving the Chef Shortage Problem

It’s no secret.

I think we’ve all heard by now that there’s a “shortage of qualified cooks and chefs” across North America, the U.K. and Australia specifically. If you’re not experiencing it first hand as an operator or chef, you’ve surely read one of the numerous articles on why it’s happened.

How big is the problem? It’s got to the point now where we’re seeing operators offer financial incentives to the general public who refer a chef to them.  We've got to be realistic and address these issues now before it’s too late!

Before we go yelling about ‘millennials’ again, we can’t blame them wholeheartedly for this one. Owning a restaurant has become easier since the economy recovered and establishments are opening at a rate that the pool of qualified cooks just can’t keep up with.

When we then pair that with the ‘history of harassment’ within the kitchen, the ‘low wages,’ and the ‘long hours’— what we have is a bursted bubble. These problems are not the fault of millennials, many of these issues started before they were even born!

As an industry, let’s stop complaining, let’s stop feeding excuses, and let’s collectively come up with winning solutions. These solutions may not be for every concept and size of kitchen, they may not drive results overnight (it will take time), but it’s a start and we have to start somewhere.

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The Main Dish: Building a Start-Up Restaurant Brand, Getting Past The "Fry or Die" Mentality, and Other Highlights

In the age of information overload, refinement is key. That was the thought behind The Main Dish — a quick compilation of the most bookmark-worthy links from the Foodable Network. Aside from our usual daily content, every Sunday, The Main Dish will serve a fresh batch of handpicked pieces of the most appetizing lists & literature that you may have missed.

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Miami Spice Newcomers to Try Post Hurricane Irma

In the wake of Irma, where ruble dresses the streets and electricity serves as currency, Miami is gallantly finding its way back to normalcy; and we have never been hungrier. As hurricane snacks dwindle and stale, locals are in search of a stiff drink, good meal and strong AC. Thankfully, Miami Spice offers just that. Miami Spice is the coveted sampler platter of South Florida’s restaurant year.Every August and September, hundreds of top-ranked eateries slash their prices and foodies flock to their tables like it’s Black Friday.

7 Tips for Your Restaurant to Stand out on Social Media

Take a look at your Facebook feed and you will  see a world vying for your attention. The thing is you are trying to capture the attention of your current guests and even entice new guests to come for a visit too. Kind of a conundrum, huh? Throw on top of that TV and radio commercials, then you have messages 24/7 out there. We all want to be seen. We all want your attention. If you don't want your share of the attention out there, never fear because others will gladly take your share. So, how do you stand out?

Buena Onda's Scratch Kitchen Stands Out in Fast Casual

Aside from earning the prestigious title of Iron Chef in 2009, Jose Garces has many other claims to fame such as his many restaurant brands in Philadelphia. VolvérDistrito, and Amada are just a few of his successful concepts. But you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get a taste of the chef's famed fish tacos. The Garces Group’s only fast casual concept, Buena Onda, takes Garces’ culinary excellence and serves it up at affordable prices. Take, for example, their 5-dollar margaritas available on Taco Tuesdays!

Restaurants Support Florida Communities Post-Irma

With more than 100,000 Floridians still without power, the state is working feverishly to return to normalcy. All the while, the Category 5 Hurricane Maria looms nearby. Though Maria is not expected to hit Florida, residents are still cautious and have not fully recovered from Irma’s destruction yet. But restaurants in Florida have stepped up in the wake of Hurricane Irma, offering discounts, ice, and even power to those without. Though many restaurants are recovering themselves, they have come out in droves to support their communities.

Building a Start-Up Restaurant Brand

The risk involved with a startup restaurant can be steep. How steep depends on the source of the report, as Upserve suggests, with a reported failure rate ranging from 17 to 30 percent. No matter the study, and no matter the percentage, restaurants fail. The reasons for failure run the gamut from poor hiring to lack of inventory controls. While those things can bring down even the most successful of establishments, the lack of a cohesive concept and brand serve as the culprit in many startup failures. Don’t be a statistic.

Kitchen Life Lessons: Getting Past The "Fry or Die" Mentality

I have met cooks that would crawl across a desert made of mayonnaise and broken glass to help a fellow kitchen mate. I have witnessed the current boyfriend and the ex-boyfriend work shoulder-to-shoulder during a fully-racked Friday night grind that pushed sales into the outer stratosphere. I have worked with some of the fattest human beings to waddle across the street to get behind a six-burner and push out food that would make your mama cry, all with the grace of the entire Bolshoi Ballet. All for one reason.

Like With Its Slow-Cooked Ribs, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Paces Itself With Expansion Plans

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Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a New York-based barbecue concept that got its start on the road in 1983.

It all leads back to a mobile concession stand and three business partners: John Stage, Mike Rotella and a guy who “would just go by Dino,” according to Stage, owner of  Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. They called themselves dinosaurs because they listened to old blues and rode old Harleys. Together, they would serve barbecue rubbed sausages, peppers, onions and steak sandwiches at fairs, festivals, and motorcycle shows.

People really enjoyed the food, but once work led them to cross the Mason-Dixon line some customers started to say: ‘Wow, this is good... but it ain’t barbecue.’ Stage, who began working at 22-years-old, admitted he knew nothing about smoking meat having grown up in the state of New York. He was simply grilling, pouring barbecue sauce on meats and calling it barbecue.

“It was really the fair business that drove me south and got me that taste of barbecue,” said Stage. “Then, I got on my motorcycle, rode off [from] New York to Memphis, and just hit every barbecue joint I could come up, just to get that taste profile.”

That’s when the quest for barbecue began. Soon after, as Stage looked to settle down from his gypsy lifestyle, the first Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant followed, opening in downtown Syracuse, N.Y. circa 1988.

Stage got himself a fire pit and began to teach himself how to smoke meat through trial and error.

“[At the time] there weren’t really any barbecue places north of the Mason-Dixon line. No internet, no cookbooks. It was mostly trial and error,” says Stage.

Now, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has expanded to nine locations across the northeast and is best known for its ribs and seven barbecue sauces, which can be found online and in the shelves at Whole Foods for purchase.

Foodable sat down with John Stage to learn more about his most popular dish, new menu offerings, and outlook on the restaurant industry, among other topics.

Q&A with John Stage

Foodable: When you went to Memphis, Tennessee in your quest for that barbecue taste profile, was there a barbecue joint that was memorable for you?

John Stage: There are so many places, but I do love the Cozy Corner.

Foodable: Can you walk me through the cooking process of your best selling item at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que?

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John Stage: It’s the ribs, definitely. We use St. Louis ribs. We have our proprietary spice rub that we put on it. We give it about 24 hours with the seasoning. And then we slow cook it from 225 to 250 degrees. We use a mix of hickory, apple, and oak wood depending on what’s plentiful at that time and we smoke it until the meat gently tears. It’s not falling off the bone, but you could pull it off the bone. Then, we put it on the grill for a minute just to re-carmeralize it and brush some sauce on it.

Foodable: How long did it take you to master this process?

John Stage: “It’s a never ending process. I don’t think you ever want to say you’ve mastered something because then you have nowhere to go but down. I just would like to think it’s a continual work-in-progress. I’m always trying to get better”

Foodable: What is your best selling sauce out of the seven you offer?

John Stage: The Original. But, my favorite is the Habareno Hot Sauce. I also like to mix the Original sauce with the Habanero Hot Sauce.

Foodable: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que added a vegan bowl to its menu in seven locations. Why is it important to your brand to cater to non-meat eaters, as well? Are there any other new menu items in the works?

John Stage: The vegan bowl is really a collaboration between us and a local restaurant in Syracuse. They did some of our pulled pork and we smoked their tofu. We developed a couple of other bowls. More vegetables and less meat while still getting that barbecue taste. Our veggie burger is with smoked mushroom. We are testing it in Brooklyn... People sometimes come and they don’t know what to make of it. People come in and they have meat on their mind… but it’s a dish for those who want to come in, hang out with their friends and also have something healthy to eat.

Foodable: What are your expansion plans by 2020?

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John Stage: We are focused on what we got. I never say never, but our goal is to improve every aspect of the businesses we got.

Foodable: When opening a new Dinosaur Bar-B-Que location, your team opts for repurposing existing buildings rather than building new ones. What are other elements that are factored in when deciding where to open the next location?

John Stage: We choose to open in cities that are closer to each other to maximize resources and have some continuity.

Foodable: How do you go about choosing which charities and organizations the restaurant decides to partner up with?

John Stage: It starts with hunger, and organizations that help people help themselves.

Foodable: How important is to find an experienced pit master for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que over taking the time to train one?

John Stage: There is no one formula. No. 1 is the attitude... Do they want to learn? We have a great training program. It’s repetition and giving a shit. Teaching people judgement. You gotta be there for them during those decision processes. It’s also very physical. We have men and women doing the job. We have a few badass female pit bosses. In order to be a managing partner, you have to have spent a considerable amount of time in the barbecue pits and we have seven female managing partners and two males. We never planned for it, it just turned out that way! It’s good to see.

Foodable: What is your outlook on the restaurant industry right now, while it's experiencing many changes and uncertainties?

John Stage: Recalibration. That’s why we are focusing on what we have, recalibrating for the realities of wage increases, labor shortage, construction costs, land cost. We live in a different regulatory environment. It’s a different world than it was five years ago. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and in the last five year, I’ve never seen so many external pressures on the industry as it is right now. And the amount of restaurants that are out right now. There are many many different ways people can get food right now. So, to me... it’s about recalibration of taking it all in and decide what’s the next strategy. Everything we are doing right now is to position ourselves with what’s next with all these challenges. That’s why we are just looking inward right now.

Small Kingdoms: The Pubbelly Boys and Their Culinary Empire in Miami

Small Kingdoms: The Pubbelly Boys and Their Culinary Empire in Miami

We are well-aware that being an operator with just one concept isn’t easy. Then it often takes years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears to expand to a culinary empire with several concepts. 

Foodable’s Small Kingdoms series highlights the restaurant groups, whether they are emerging or well-established. with multiple successful concepts in one specific area.

The Pubbelly Group is based in Miami and has three founding partners. Often referred to as the Pubbelly Boys, Chef José Mendín, Andreas Schriner, and Sergio Navarro– have a Small Kingdom of restaurants in South Florida that foodies, especially those that love pork, can’t get enough of.

Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Pubbelly Sushi, Pawn Broker, PB Ysla, and even the Food Republic, a restaurant which is on Norwegian Cruise Lines­– are all operated by the Pubbelly Boys.

We decided to sit down with Chef José Mendín to learn what it takes to create multiple thriving concepts and what advice he has for inspiring restaurateurs.

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Albertsons Acquires Meal Kit Company Plated

Albertsons Acquires Meal Kit Company Plated

Move over Blue Apron, one of the meal kit company’s biggest competitors Plated is now making headlines.

One of the largest grocery store companies in the nation, Albertsons has announced that it is buying Plated for an undisclosed price.

While the meal kit industry as a whole has seen some impressive growth that is expected to continue, Blue Apron’s recent IPO has been perceived as “lukewarm.”

Plated, along with Hello Fresh, are the other meal kit companies gaining traction in the market.

Even Kraft is jumping on the meal kit bandwagon. The company has just partnered with Oprah on a meal program that will be available soon in brick and mortar retail stores.

But after Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, the pressure on food companies to offer consumers more on-demand food options has drastically increased.

“Today’s consumer is looking for a variety of personalized shopping alternatives, and this transaction is the latest example of Albertsons Cos. meeting our customers wherever and however they like to shop,” said Bob Miller, chairman and CEO of Albertsons Companies in a press release. “With Plated, we’ve found a partner who shares our commitment to delicious, affordable food; superior technology and innovation; and world class customer service. Plated knows its customers better than anyone, and together we will accelerate our ability to serve them. We are excited to offer our customers more online options and fresh, quality ingredients along with distinctive recipes at their doorstep or through traditional shopping trips.”

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Kitchen Life Lessons: Getting Past The "Fry or Die" Mentality

"Do more of what makes you happy." —Carmel McConnell, author

I have met cooks that would crawl across a desert made of mayonnaise and broken glass to help a fellow kitchen mate. I have witnessed the current boyfriend and the ex-boyfriend work shoulder-to-shoulder during a fully-racked Friday night grind that pushed sales into the outer stratosphere. I have worked with some of the fattest human beings to waddle across the street to get behind a six-burner and push out food that would make your mama cry, all with the grace of the entire Bolshoi Ballet. All for one reason.

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These kitchen hooligans, societal deviants, ex-cons and culinary school darlings alike care about what they do. We don’t have the best working hours, nor drive the prettiest of cars. Hell, we can barely behave in public - or not at all - but the unique care that some cooks bring to the meal is measured in cleaned plates and out-loud smiles. How do you teach a cook to care? Once there are some guiding lights, it becomes a reality.

Cooking is a challenge. No revelation there. Often, the space is tight, the equipment can be questionable at best, and it is Death Valley hot, even in the throes of a darkened winter’s day.

Through emotional investment, cooks get better, customers are loyal spenders, and wrangling the obnoxiousness of dealing with a trembling labor pool gets manageable. Here's how:

Métier

Make it nice. A simple concept, yet infinitely difficult to teach somebody that doesn’t care. Show them the way. Put up a plate that is (gasp!) Facebook-worthy. Seriously. Take a second to wipe the rim of the plate, dispense with the errant panko crumbs, drop some crispy onions on top for garnish, do a swoosh of relevant sauce. You know, what? They will want to do that, too.

Metier, is French for vocation or profession. And like with any vocation, you want to put your best work out there and “make it nice.” Métier is part of the kitchen lexicon, right up there with ‘Heard!’ and ‘86.’ Make it so and they will replicate the intentional steps you took.

Model & Set Expectations

Cooks get pissy when they make mistakes. They get even pissier when they have no guidance on how to make the new beer-cheese sauce and aren’t instructed to make a roux for the base. Menu success isn’t just about a printed recipe with a shiny picture in some kitchen bible tucked on a shelf. Take a minute to demonstrate, allow the process to be practiced, then correct the course as needed. Revisit. It is impossible to set an expectation for — and then hold accountable — anybody not provided clear direction.

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Test for comprehension, ensure the crew knows the flavor of the crab dip using a bit of tasting and analysis, then set expectations. Model behaviors, leading by example. Taste food for burnt, under-seasoned, or lackluster and then correct. Dig in with tasting spoons and engage your crew to do the same. Having the power to make adjustments is invigorating. We all like to feel important in what we do.

Reward

Incentive is not a new word, nor is the concept of a raise based on performance. This isn’t about merit, pay, nor is it about employee retention. Rather, it is about creating purpose in coming to work everyday. Gratitude comes in all forms: public praise, a namesake mention on the menu, a social media feature, or a round of shots after the shift. Money is not always a motivator. And, actually, it hardly ever is. Put your wallet away (mostly) and get creative with rewarding the hardest working crew in show business.

Did Dave just make the finest cornbread you have ever tasted? Did Carter just make transcendent alligator pie, none finer through which a spoon has ever crossed? Snap a pic for Instagram with credit to the cook. Gather the front-of-the house crew to sample. Make a fuss. Those are moments that are worthy of reward, cost nothing, and harness infinite payback.

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We all pick-up on the good vibes when the boss cares about us and our growth. Send a few of the gang to a food safety class or a trade show. The staff feels the love and ownership reaps the benefit by further developing their staff. How is that not a win?

Empower & Ask

Landing a dish on the menu is a euphoria— that is, and will always be, a rush. Charging a cook with coming up with next month’s feature for the dinner menu is a big step. It is a bunch of responsibility heaped onto the shoulders of somebody that may never see the dining room. Ask for input on the fall menu and actually put worthy suggestions into play. Name a dish for the prime contributor.

Putting my name on a dish or sharing my concept with our social media audience, for instance, is a great way to keep me from that fry or die malaise of doing it just to get it done. The mindset shift is nearly palpable as the smile stretches across the face of a talented cook as “Boyd’s Sticky Finger Toffee Pudding” pops out of the POS printer for the first time.

Pride ranks right up there with skill and energy. Pride is also synonymous with care. Listen to your crew and to your cooks as individuals that are part of this alchemy we call a kitchen to instill pride.

Cooks are no different than any other segment of the workforce. They still want to use their phones from time to time. They may need an extra day off without having to fear the verbal lashing of a tyrannical general manager. They want to be fed. So listen. Caring, however, is that next-level motivation to be part of the solution.

Take the time to listen, not just hear, what makes for successful talent. Model expected outcomes and know that rewarding a job well done isn’t any type of practical magic. Rather, let’s get back to that rule of treating this cursing, bleeding, tattooed crew the way you want to be treated.

 

Buena Onda's Scratch Kitchen Stands Out in Fast Casual

Aside from earning the prestigious title of Iron Chef in 2009, Jose Garces has many other claims to fame such as his many restaurant brands in Philadelphia. Volvér, Distrito, and Amada are just a few of his successful concepts. But you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get a taste of the chef's famed fish tacos.

The Garces Group’s only fast casual concept, Buena Onda, takes Garces’ culinary excellence and serves it up at affordable prices. Take, for example, their 5-dollar margaritas available on Taco Tuesdays! The Vice President of Culinary Operations for the Garces Group, Gregg Ciprioni, helped Foodable understand how Buena Onda is able to create top-level dishes keeping costs low.

“We featured mahi-mahi when we first opened here but there was an issue with overfishing in the past year and so it became prohibitively expensive,” Ciprioni explains. “You have to be really flexible with what you’re serving. You have to find what works right in this concept and we found that [Perch] is super consistent, it’s sustainable and delicious.”

Taking tips from its upscale big brothers, Buena Onda makes its flour tortillas from scratch daily. The tacos are topped with delicious garnishes like pickled purple cabbage, scallions and chipotle remoulade. With all this flavor, Greg also gave us some tips on retaining freshness for delivery. Watch the episode above to see how they’re doing it!

 
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Taco Bell's Urban Store Plans and Latest Menu Items

Latest news about Taco Bell are proving the brand’s tagline, ‘Think Outside The Bun,’ still fuels corporate’s decisions. The Tex-Mex QSR chain is breaking its mold by shaking off drive-thrus and adding alcohol to their future locations, in their latest push to expand into urban areas.

According to “Business Insider,” the company that brought to you the Naked Chicken Chips and, most recently, the Naked Egg Taco, had been testing its Taco Bell Cantina concept in seven locations and was slated to open four more by the end of 2017.

Now, they are expecting to open 300 to 350 “cantina-style” stores by 2022.

According to “Food & Wine,” the brand is “zeroing in on big cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York (including a plan to open at least 50 locations around the city’s five boroughs.” Each store will be somewhat unique with designs aligning with the local city culture, while featuring digital menu boards and open kitchens.

Taco Bell is known to push the envelope with its menu offerings. Take, for instance, the forbidden bowl and burrito, featuring forbidden rice, being tested in their Irvine location. According to “Thrillist,” a spokesperson told them “No other [fast food restaurant] has tested a black rice product like this." Claiming to be the first to test a dish with a grain product only eaten by royalty in ancient China, hence the name— ‘forbidden.’

That’s why it comes at no surprise that the chain will finally offer boozy drinks like beer, wine, sangria and Twisted Freezes with tequila, rum or vodka at their new urban, cantina-style stores. 

In their Las Vegas flagship location, for example, Spring Valley visitors continue to post pictures with their favorite spiked slush.

I came to Vegas just to get a bacardi baja blast

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I think I speak for everyone when I say: It was time, T-Bell! It was time...