Tips on How to Work on Your Side Dish Hustle

Culinary-driven sides can make your restaurant the destination for picky eaters

Side dishes aren’t free, right? So why not give them the same nod as the other categories of your menu? Vegetables and non-entree elements can heft 20% of sales, while desserts, for instance, may be only about 3%, yet chocolate gets more attention from the back-of-the-house than the roasted beet salad or the cheese plate.

Right that wrong for the sake of driving sales, keeping your menu sharp, and making good restaurant sense.

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Side dishes make the meal. Just don’t call them side dishes.

Add-on dishes drive top-line sales and raise the per-person average (PPA.) Desirable side dishes jazz guests - even picky ones -  with more opportunities to be impressed by your food.

What do interesting ‘sides’ look like? Start by not calling them sides. Just like the value of vegetables is diminished with “veggies,” find nomenclature that works for your brand, but stay away from sides. Vegetables, shareable, or ‘for the table’, are more marketable terms than sides, unless you are pedaling a 2-ounce soufflé  cup of coleslaw or apple sauce, you can do better. Also, bump the list to better menu geography to raise the dishes’ status.

Feed the table

Portions large enough to make a lap around the table impact more guests and fetch bigger sales; that’s easy math. Take Toronto’s Fat Pasha’s roasted cauliflower; the whole vegetable is roasted with tahini, skhug, pine nuts, pomegranate, and halloumi. Something for guests to talk about (and post on Instagram) and it pays your rent.

A fundamental ingredient upended with a culinary flourish can coax some of the reluctance out of those less food-forward. Again, another win.

Take the lead from Joe’s Stone Crab and label the vegetable category “...large enough to share.” Why? Group mentality. If it’s for the table, then there’s no guilt about ordering too much food. A humble order of grilled asparagus or onion rings both could fetch a cool $10. That translates to one dish dropping an extra $2.50 to PPA.

Easy on the season

An accompanying dish is easy to re-engineer with the season versus a main course that may have a multi-pan pick-up. Who says specials are only for main dishes? When Mark from the produce company calls with a deal on a bumper crop of little eggplants, make the move. Deliver the vegetables as a feature, share it with the table, and put good margins on an item at the top of its seasonal game.

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In the era of community tables and shared dining experiences, having dishes designed to divvy is an automatic. Cleveland’s Flying Fig boasts only two sections on their core menu - entrees and everything else. It’s the latter that ups the stakes for the culinarily enchanted. Their taleggio polenta, tempura green beans, or bacon wrapped dates tickle the right spots.

A concert is live music. Garnish the performance with lights and some crazy-ass visuals and you have a happening! The same goes for a meal, right? Some devil is in the details, all the way across the menu, not just center stage. There is the same seismic emotion in great food - regardless of where it falls on the menu - as the charged arm flailing at a great show. Do not diminish the value of righteous cornbread studded with currants and caressed with maple butter. A dish is a dish is a dish. Allowing any victual to languish as “just” a side, is a culinary felony. Get each dish up and moving.

Looking for some more words of wisdom from Chef Jim? Check out the latest Chef AF podcast episode below where he discusses with fellow Chef Derek Stevens about cities where the culinary scene is somewhat forgotten in the food world and which cities are now seeing a food resurgence.

McDonald's Move to Only Serve Cage-Free Eggs Makes Major Impact

The quick-serve giant McDonald's set a goal to serve only cage-free eggs by 2025. As the company gradually start to change its egg supply, this has made a significant impact on the farming industry and on the prices of cage-free eggs.

"The expected surge in demand has sparked barn upgrades across the country over the last several years, with producers building facilities that give hens a bit more space. This increase in supply is reducing cage-free eggs’ market premium over regular eggs," writes "Bloomberg.

Back in February, the cost of a dozen cage-free eggs was about 81 cents more than regular eggs. In 2017, cage-free eggs were double the cost of regular eggs at some retailers.

But due to McDonald's recent pledge, which has influenced other restaurants to follow-suit, the price of cage-free eggs have started to decrease as more suppliers are ramping up production to fulfill the demand.

The fast-food giant buys about 2 billion eggs a year in the U.S., which amounts to almost 2 percent of the country's annual production.

“The supply-and-demand equation will change such that pricing will go down,” said Marion Gross, head of supply chain at McDonald’s in the U.S. “More people will be able to afford cage-free eggs.”

McDonald's made the pledge to go cage-free at its 16,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada back in 2015 and so far, 30 percent of stores in Canada serve these eggs.

As mentioned before, McDonald's isn't the only company implementing this change.

"Walmart Inc. and General Mills Inc., are moving in the same direction as McDonald’s. Kraft Heinz Co. says 60 percent of its supply is cage-free or free-range globally, while General Mills reached 40 percent last year," writes "Bloomberg."

Burger King previously set the goal of being cage-free by 2017 but wasn't able to achieve it. The fast-food chain is now also aiming for 2025.

This is one of the many ways QSR brands are trying to compete with the fast casual segment. Last year, McDonald's launched a new Dollar menu too. Watch the On-Foodable Weekly below to learn more.

Uber Eats Data and Financials Have been Unveiled in Uber's IPO Prospectus

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For the last few months, the media has been reporting that the tech company Uber is on the verge of an IPO.

Well, it's officially happening this week. On Friday, Uber has released its S-1 financials document as part of the IPO process.

In this document, Uber had to disclose data on all of its companies, including its popular food delivery service platform Uber Eats.

Uber Eats is the largest growing sector in Uber's portfolio and according to the document, there are 91 million monthly active users of the platform.

"Of the 91 million [Monthly Active Platform Consumers] on our platform, over 15 million received a meal using Uber Eats in the quarter ended December 31, 2018, tapping into our network of more than 220,000 restaurants in over 500 cities globally," writes Uber Eats, as reported by "The Spoon."

Some of the other stats released by the company this week include-

  • The average Uber Eats delivery time is 30 minutes.

  • Uber Eats grew by $2.6 billion in gross during the quarter that ended in December of last year.

  • Uber Eats made $7.9 billion in gross in 2018

The company also claims that these findings make the third-party delivery app "the largest meal delivery platform in the world outside of China."

Although the company's popular ride-sharing app made it easy for the company to branch out into food delivery, 50 percent of first-time Uber Eats users in 2018 were new to the Uber app.

So what's next for Uber Eats? The company announced it has plans to expand into grocery delivery.

Read more about the Uber IPO and Uber Eats' financials at "The Spoon" now.

Late last month, Uber Eats rolled out a new fee structure, a move by the company to increase profits. Watch The Barron Report episode below where Host Paul Barron breaks down the new fees and the impact they will have on the restaurant industry.

If These 5 Things are in Place You MIGHT Have a Restaurant Business

You have a location. You have a menu. You open the doors and guests are coming in and eating at your establishment.

But do you have a business? Don’t answer so fast. There are certain things that must be in place to have a real business.

Not to burst your bubble, but without these 5 things, you actually have more of what would be classified as a hobby. An expensive hobby.

The restaurant industry has a horrendous reputation for being tough and with especially high failure statistics. Perhaps the reason is due to the fact that most don’t run their restaurant like a business? Restaurant success is not a game of luck. It is a business and there are rules that those that find long term success follow.

The good news for you? You just need to follow the rules.

Now, some might cringe at the ideas of following “the rules.” You started your own restaurant because you didn’t want to follow the rules. Rules allow you to instill some discipline in your business. You need discipline to reach high levels of success. You can’t get there without it.

Know Your Numbers

Least we forget that the restaurant business is a business. For that, you must know your financial numbers. This is not a luxury, it is a necessity! There is a fiduciary duty you have as an owner or a leader in a restaurant to protect the brand assets. Those assets are the bottom line. There is an overflow of creative culinary talent in the market, I would wager that only 10% know how to make money with that talent.

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How many top chefs have you heard of lately either going bankrupt or being kicked out of their own company for malicious behavior? And those are the ones that make the headlines. There are countless more that just slowly fade away without being noticed.

Economic responsibility starts and ends with the small business owner in a local community. You make money and spend money within your community. When that cycle breaks down, towns become vacant and are left as remnants of once prosperous so-called boom towns that became ghost towns (think Tombstone, Arizona; Calico, California; Rhyolite, Nevada).

So where to start? How about knowing the exact cost of every item on your menu? You might be shocked that this is a major area that most restaurant operators fail to implement. If you don’t like numbers or you don’t know how to calculate this, then hire someone! You can’t go any longer without getting on top of your numbers. Stop saying you “should” and start saying you “must”.

Know Your Market

If you are going into a market it is far better to disrupt the status quo than to create it. Starbucks didn’t invent the coffee market, they disrupted how we thought about coffee by transforming it from diners to its own cozy shop people would want to spend time at. Chipotle did not invent the burrito, they disrupted the way we order a burrito with the customization model. Chick-fil-A did not invent the chicken sandwich, they disrupted the service associated with getting a chicken sandwich!

Are you trying to create a market or are you disrupting your market? This is where so many go astray. They look at the market and think that Ethiopian BBQ Sushi would be great! There is nothing else like that currently in their area...and there might be a very good reason why.

Creating a market takes a lot of money, marketing, and a brilliant brand positioning strategy to make it work. While you might have one or even two of those three things, you’re going to need all three to make it work. Many a restaurant has gone under thinking that they were going to change the restaurant world with an unproven business model.

Know Your Team

When you look around at your team, what do you see? Friends? Family? Co-workers? Strangers? Professionals? The way you answer that says a lot about you as a leader and is a reflection of your culture.

One thing that the restaurant industry is lacking is real leadership. We have plenty of managers, but a few leaders. My definition is fairly straightforward: a manager manages the shift, while a leader, leads the vision. Managers tend to have a style that can best be described as a firefighter. You’ve surely seen these managers in action. They rush around all day busy putting out fires (problems). In fact, they pride themselves on the number of fires they can put out each shift. The firefighter manager lives to be a problem solver.

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The leader has a totally opposite mindset. Their drive is to empower their team to be solution seekers. When the fire (problem) pops up at the restaurant, they ask the team for solutions. They also talk to their team to understand them on a deeper level than the traditional employee-employer relationship.

If you want to build a successful team around you that can solve complex issues (that will arise in the restaurant industry), you need to know what each team member can and cannot do. If a team member doesn’t like or is not proficient in spreadsheets, why make them in charge of accounting? You have a shy and reserved person yet you put them in front as a host because you think it will help them grow. At what cost? A poor first impression for your guests when they walk in and are greeted with a lack of enthusiasm.

Know Your Strengths

Knowing your team is one side of the equation. The other side is you have to know yourself. Awareness precedes choice and choice precedes change. You must become self-aware of who you are as a person and as a leader. No, that does not mean you need to sit in meditation for 3 hours a day (however 20 minutes is good for you). This is about knowing what you are good at. Knowing what you are okay at. And, knowing what you just suck at.

Trying to develop your weaknesses is a waste of time. You will grow stronger as a team when you focus in on what you are amazing at. Oh, and allow me to digress on the topic of having passion. The gurus out there say if you're passionate about what you do, you’ll be fine. Not exactly. Passion is nice and it amplifies your skills. It won’t replace skills and being damn awesome at what you do. Screw passion, become a badass with your skill sets!

So, what are you so damn great at that people cannot ignore you? That’s your strength right there! Focus on what you excel at and build a team around you for the areas you are not so good at (or perhaps you suck at). When you do have your dream team in place, step back and allow them to do what they do best.

Remember that you hired them for their skills and there is a big difference between training and taming a person. When you train your team, you harness and focus their natural strengths to higher levels. When you tame your team, you suppress those natural strengths and make them less.

Have a Solid Plan

Without a crystal clear plan, you will not get very far in the restaurant world. Sure, you might have some initial success without a plan. Hey, even a broken watch is right twice a day! Long term success requires a long term vision and a plan to get there.

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Look at it this way: you could drive from Los Angeles to New York City without a map. Chances are without a clear route or even a vague plan, your chances are very slim you’ll get there. Hey, it could happen. So could getting hit by lightning twice in the same day!

Proper planning allows you to make adjustments when you get off track. Think of a plan like having a map. In fact, I use the analogy of a map as having a Massive Action Plan (M.A.P.).

  • What is your plan to develop yourself?

  • What is your plan to develop your team?

  • What is your plan for marketing?

  • What is your plan for growing sales?

  • What is your plan to increase profits?

  • What is your plan for recruiting?

  • What is your plan for improving your systems?

  • What is your plan for improving the guest experience?

  • What is your plan for your menu?

These questions above are a great place to start if you don’t already have a plan in action. The bottom line is that successful restaurants always have a plan. They know precisely where they are and where they want to be (1 year, 3, years, and 5 years) down the road. Once you have a plan in place, you just need to map out your journey with action steps that will take you there.

Want more tips from Donald Burns on how to create a better restaurant? Check out the recent episode of The Barron Report below where Burns breaks down some of the psychological principles that get in your way from building the restaurant and life you truly desire.

Whole Foods is Offering a Food Hall Experience at its 500th Store

Food halls have become wildly popular with today's consumer and for good reason. They offer a variety of food options, paired with a unique dining experience.

From an operator-standpoint, food halls are a great entry point into the foodservice business. They have much lower startup costs than the traditional brick-and-mortar store.

With that in mind, food halls are popping up all over the country and Amazon's Whole Foods just announced that the grocer is jumping on this trend too.

The organic grocery giant opened its 500th store, which is 70,000-square-feet and four levels, last Friday in midtown Atlanta.

The new store will have four fast casual concepts and is offering a “food hall experience” at its Canopy Court on the store's rooftop terrace.

The court will feature restaurants like Farm Burger, Capital Experience, along with the 14th Street Bar and a food truck serving wines, local brews, and rotating food items. The store will also have the grocer's coffee shop Allegro, which serves coffee, wine, beer, baked goods, and sandwiches.

“Whole Foods Market Midtown will be a true gathering space for the community,” said Bobby Turner, president of the South region for Whole Foods in a statement. “We worked hard to create a place that offers our neighbors a destination to get together, enjoy great food and connect with members of the local community through a variety of culinary, wellness and cultural events. We’re proud that our new South Region flagship has the honor of opening as Whole Foods Market’s 500th store, marking an incredible milestone for the company.”

The grocery shopping experience at this location has more food experiences incorporated too. There is a build-your-own avocado toast bar, made-to-order sandwiches station, lettuce wrap bars, and a skillet bar serving fried chicken and wings. There will also be seasonally rotating culinary popup stations.

Learn more about how Whole Foods is infusing the grocery experience with more food experiences at "Supermarket News."

Speaking of Food Halls, Miami has become a hot spot for these dining experiences. Don’t miss this recent On Foodable Side Dish episode below showcasing some of Miami’s best food halls.