Food Out Loud: GMO Questions and Answers

The use of GMOs has been a hotbed issue in the U.S. for many decades and there are strong concerns happening on both sides of the conversation. For me historically, I have been against GMOs , I have taking part in protests and advocated against the spread of GMOs in our food ecosystem. But, working here at Foodable, I am often questioned on why I feel they way I do. Sometimes I simply do not have all the answers.  I realized that when it came to GMOs I was in a bit of an echo chamber, only talking to people who were on my side of the argument. So I started to think about what I didn’t know.

One of the biggest arguments for GMOs is the idea that we need them to feed a growing population. I realized that I don't understand enough about what it takes to feed the world, let alone what it will take to feed future generations. I also did not know exactly what was considered a GMO and how present they are in the food we eat every day.

With that in mind,  I decided that I wanted to try to find someone who was an advocate of GMOs to ask them some of the basic questions that I just simply do not have the answers to.

In this episode, I speak with Leia Flure, a GMO advocate who writes for a site called “GMO Answers.” Leia is a registered dietitian based in Champaign, Illinois. She is also an educator, has a psychology and a nutritional science degree, and is a mother - so she has to truly believe that GMOs are safe and useful. And that was what I was looking for. Someone who did not have a horse in the game, someone who did their own research and came to their own conclusions based on her own research and education. She has decided to write for “GMO Answers,” which is a partially funded by GMO companies, but her conclusions are her own.

If there is a takeaway for me from this discussion it is that we may have to separate the science from the practices of some of these companies. We all know the case of Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto and how that turned out. Of course, this validates a lot of my viewpoints on GMOs and the damage they can cause to people and the environment. So does the bad really outweigh the good?

This podcast may upset some hardcore proponents against GMOs and I get it, I didn't dig in and barrage my guest with rage against some of the points that I don't necessarily agree because it’s important to keep an open dialogue. But rest assured this is not a topic that I am done exploring because it is not a topic that we have come to final conclusions on. So please shoot me an email or a tweet and let me know what questions you have and I will continue this conversation.

Research by:

Nathan Mikita

Nathan Mikita

Director of New Media/Producer


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Emerging Brand Series: McAlister's Deli Looks to the Future with Joe Guith

On this episode, seasoned food industry leader, Joe Guith, President of McAlister’s Deli®, shares with Foodable insightful information about the future outlook of the brand.

Within the course of the next year McAlister’s Deli plans to continue to elevate its menu to offer more premium items.

“We know that our guests want more from us and we can offer more and so you can expect to see that start in our soup lineup and more to salads, sides and even more spuds and sandwiches from a premium standpoint,” said Guith.

Be sure to download the Top 150 Emerging Brands Guide to see Foodable Lab's full list of emerging brands.

How Food Safety is Marketable

Audits, cleaning schedules, SOP's, and a glowing health department inspection are a marketing advantage. Identifying key elements in your operation to keep media recognition positive makes sense. Is there a balance between clean and museum-like? Form and function strike a balance with the right systems, people using tools and brainpower that matter.

“I always look for the place where I would want to eat after I am done doing the inspection,” said “Grace.”

Grace is a department of health inspector in the mid-Atlantic whose identity is being kept concealed for her privacy as well as those locations which she inspects. Grace tells of stories of cockroaches left bobbing in salad dressing, seeing blood dripping from a cook’s open wound into meatball mixture, and “that one time I saw a dishwasher using glass cleaner in the sanitizing sink in place of sanitizer,” amongst others.

Her tales of ill and disgust are numerous. But so are stories of stand-out operations that take customer safety as a guiding light. We know what bad publicity does - ask our friends at Chipotle how the last few years have gone.

Market food safety like any other marketable element of your operation to earn repeat business and shine as a professional establishment. 

Shuttershock

Shuttershock

Violation-Free and Proud!

“I make visits, usually, twice per year. Those are two good opportunities to impress me. If I am there any other time, it is because we have a problem,” said Grace. “A visit outside the two routines [stops] means that somebody has called [the health department] after being sick. That usually isn’t a good day for everybody involved.”

But what about a really good routine visit?

Most municipalities archive health department reports online for anybody to review. Take the A+ report card and make an Instagram post. Celebrate with your team and reward their work, while making that highlight a point of public engagement.

The FDA Food Code stipulates that the most recent health department inspection be available for the visitors to your operation to review.

Have a glowing report? Blow it up and hang it for all to see.

“One of the restaurants in my area posts [my] report in their bathroom stalls with a sign above it: ‘Relax and enjoy a healthy shit - Our food didn’t make you sick!’ While absolutely laughable, it is also a memorable experience that is sure to make its way into a discussion. That’s good marketing.

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Audits aren’t Just for the IRS

Self-policing is better than, you know, the actual police, or in this case, an extra visit from the health department.

Dropping an audit tool into standard operating procedures means you never need to get ready for an inspection.

“I can always tell when there is panic in the kitchen when I visit,” said Grace. “You really aren’t hiding anything. There is nothing you can fix when I am walking through the dining room on my way [into the kitchen.] Forget it! Just always be ready.”

Many successful operations either engage a third-party sanitation auditor or use their own auditing tool. Grace says that "the dishwasher company or chemical suppliers often have services included in the cost of leasing a [dish] machine that will conduct cleaning audits.”

An audit tool can be twenty areas, or more,  of concentration or concern that is completed in check-box form by, say, a junior member of management.

Why? They learn what to look for and then share the information with the staff. The responsibility can even be passed around so there are always fresh insights.

More advice from Grace? Train the way you fight, fight the way you train. Expect every day to bring a health department visit and there will never be an issue. You owe it to your customers. Taking temperatures of chicken, logging refrigerator temps, and using the right sanitizer concentration should be the habit, not a one-off when there is an official visit.

What is too clean?

Share information about cleaning regimens across social platforms. Post a Boomerang video of deck-mopping the kitchen. No need to show the super gross stuff - like pumping out the grease trap - but put a highlight on your commitment to a clean operation by humanizing the hard work that goes into a solid facility.

No need to make every FaceBook post about cleaning, though. Overload starts to raise red flags, for customers and staff. Standard operating procedures and master cleaning schedules work in concert with daily cleaning routines, front-of-the-house ‘sparkle’ sessions, and regular maintenance. Ask staff for their input on what they feel needs a little extra attention, keeping in mind it is a kitchen, not a museum. There will be errant smudges, splatters, and stains. Commit to a food-safe operation without making the staff neurotic.

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Advertise the Occasional Shut-Down

As much as we don’t like it, there are slow days. There is the predictable downturn, say, after New Years and before the Valentine’s Day rush. Make the most of a slouching Monday by advertising a day “Committed to Cleaning.”

You were going to do a deep clean anyhow; take advantage of the time by sharing the news.

“I have seen several places put a sign on the door about being closed for cleaning. They missed an opportunity. They should have said something like, ‘Hey! We are closed today so we can make sure your next visit is great,’ or something like that. Make it look like something they [the restaurant] wanted to do, not had to do.”

When Grace is gone, the next steps are up to you. But she will be back.

Engage staff in a formal, recognized food safety training, provide the right cleaning tools and food safety resources, and then tell the world about your seriously healthy operation. Use your website to share the latest self-audit and explain your food safety commitment.

Either you do or the health department will, but maybe not the way you want.

Operator Guidelines For Building Delivery Sales Through Third-Party Service Providers

The massive growth of off-premise third-party service providers is going to continue to proliferate. Working with third-party service providers can be a lucrative venture when done correctly, but it can also be a curse when done wrong. With so many variables, there are a lot of challenges that operators have to tackle on the quest to create a streamlined, successful, and profitable off-premise program. From technology, staffing, and packaging to call centers, order entry, and delivery – today’s restaurants have gone from a retail operation to a manufacturer with several distribution points.

On this episode of The Takeout, Delivery, and Catering Show, Valerie and Erle speak with Gracie Prasanson, director of sales for Jason’s Deli and a member of the Catering Council for Multi-Unit Operators, about how restaurant operators working with third-party service providers can make sure that a strong foundation is in place, and known risks are mitigated so that your restaurant does not get outmaneuvered by the third-party service provider.

SHOW NOTES

14:21 - The data paradox
17:49 - There is a connivence customer and Amazon knows it
20:04 - Food safety and legal concerns with third-party service providers
22:34 - How can one unit operation navigate the off-premise landscape?
27:50 - Rethinking packaging when it comes to delivery

00:55 - Gracie Prasanson, welcome to the show!
04:24 - We have to separate third-party marketplaces from third-party service providers
07:02 - Make sure you understand the fees
10:38 - Every detail about these transactions are different
12:54 - Third-party completely changes your menu pricing structure