These Chef Innovations are Poised to Breakout in 2019

Let's face it, restaurant customers are finicky. And we are all customers. We want trusted dishes. But we want new dishes that are interesting. We want to be entertained. But we don’t want every meal to be an adventure. We like some pieces of the menu to be thought-provoking, but don’t want to be confused and frustrated with whackadoodle inventions.

Let’s all agree that innovation has a place, albeit controlled and calculated. Innovation does not mean the latest kitchen gadget, either. Innovation is as much technique as it is the tools in your hand.

So, how can chefs stir customer interest when they want it to be stirred in 2019?

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3-D Food Printing

Definitely not something that will ride the wave of tenacity and ubiquity, but interesting, nonetheless.

Think of 3D food printing much in the way chocolate fountains were kinda cool when they first started dribbling their goopy chocolate all over tablecloths at weddings far and near. Novel? Yes. Technology-driven? For sure. Practical? Debatable.

But there are serious chefs latching on to the technology. For example, Paco Pérez at Barcelona’s Enoteca has unleashed 3D printed dishes. The Michelin-starred chef uses printing technology in place of design work that would be nearly impossible to accomplish by hand.

Do you really need a sneaker printed out of marzipan? No. But you also don’t need a big-ass block of ice carved into the likeness of King Tritan leaking water all over the floor, holding up chilled shrimp. But we still do it.

For now, it is something to talk about it. We did the same thing with those pictures printed on rice paper and layered onto sheet cakes. Why? Because we can. And, yeah, it sells.

Plant Proteins

Tofu. Chickpeas. Almonds. Hemp seeds. At casual dining restaurants like Firebird’s, Red Robin and Chili’s, healthy halo dishes are flourishing. And it isn’t just vegetarian dishes. It is the dynamic flavoring as much in demand as their meat-based counterparts.

Zaytina, for instance, menus a stew of green chickpeas and tomatoes. Not a timid offering for the likes of José Andrés. Then there's the flourishing fast casual darling, Honeygrow, big on noodle, rice, and greens as the basis for their popular bowls, but takes tofu one step further with a roasted, spiced treatment. Veg-centric is a macro-trend that is pervasive with strong ties to plant protein menuing.

Digital/Continuous Temp Logging Tools

A real piece of technology that we can - and should - hook our food safety talons into? Anything dealing with improved food safety. And a technology piece that takes some of the human factor (translation: labor) out of the cost equation is definitely on the menu. T

aking temperatures of refrigerators, freezers, low-boys, and walk-ins is a forgettable annoyance at best and tedious at worst. But it needs to be done. Or should be done!

Logging temperatures is a health department requirement in many municipalities or shortly will be. And it is good business sense to keep an eye on equipment performance to prevent failures and hella costly repairs or replacements. Continuously record temperatures of in-place equipment and get alerts to keep things smooth. While it takes 30 seconds for a cook to log temps, he can forget or fake it. Yes, I am looking at you. Take the risk out of this risk factor and sleep easier.

Tableside Cooking - What’s Old is New. Again.

Not every innovation is new. Some developments are reinventions from the by-gone days. Remember Dover sole prepared tableside? Or crepes in a copper pan set aflame to the "oohs" and "ahhs" of onlookers? The novel element of tableside cooking is much akin to the allure of open kitchens.

Guests like to see the action that it takes to make Aunt Stella’s alligator pie get flambéed. If Chicago’s Tony Mantuano is doing tableside dishes at River Roast, then it must be cool.

The Wayback Machine

Classic French fare is not going to replace braised short rib, jackfruit tacos, or quinoa bowls today. But it is getting a refreshed nod. The demise of jacket-and-tie restaurants is no secret. Like tableside cooking, though, what is old is new again. Elevated French food is the highwater mark for classically trained chefs. But what about for the new crew of kitchen renegades? Well, they appreciate - and execute - a good confit like their predecessors. Most recently, a refresh to French-grounded menus with structured appetizer, entrée, dessert formats is reemerging.

Small plates, shareables, and communal dining are not fading. New York’s Benno, the recently opened namesake of Chef Jonathan Benno, brings acclaim to classical French (and a dollop of Italian) to the notorious trend epi-center of the U.S. The turn to classic dining as a mainstream option is still a ways off. But it does hold enough novel individualism that it is new to people that grew up without fitted suits, button downs, and carpeted dining rooms devoid of Edison lights.

A little flourish to the ordinary keeps customers interested. Yes, eighty-percent of sales will still come from the top 20 percent performers. But giving customers something to keep them involved is what has chefs, customers, and Instagrammers asking for the “what’s next.”

Why You Should Forget About Improving Your Restaurant

Your restaurant is a composition of thousands of details. All those details contribute to what your restaurant is today. The good and the bad.

Here’s the problem: With the New Year comes new plans to improve your restaurant. Usually, it's the same plan. You start off strong and around March the best designed plans start to fall to the wayside.

By June, those plans are pretty much forgotten. In November, you start to make plans for next year and the cycle goes over and over, again and again, year after year.

Perhaps it time to get off this masochistic treadmill and get some real results?

The first thing to do is stop trying to improve your restaurant. Wait? Did that last sentence say stop trying to improve my restaurant? Yes. It’s not a typo. Improvement to a thing is like throwing new paint on a rusted out car. It looks nice on the surface, but underneath is still a rusted out piece of junk. Instead of trying to fix temporary issues, how about we dig down to inspire real lasting change. That starts with you as the leader.

Your restaurant is a direct reflection of who you are as a leader, owner, operator, or chef. When you’re the one who is driving the brand you have to know where you want to go!

Too many leaders focus on temporary solutions that just compound the real problem lurking under the surface...you might just suck at running your restaurant.

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Shutterstock

But here are a few things that lead to this situation of mediocrity:

You Focus on the Wrong Things

There are probably days when you think that your restaurant would be awesome if it wasn’t for those other people just messing things up day after day. You know it’s all their fault. Let’s just invite a few more people to this pity party and turn it into a total bitch fest! Get a bunch of unhappy people together and it ramps up pretty quick.

There was a restaurant owner who said to me the other day, “My cashiers are a bunch of idiots!” My reply was rather calm, “Well, who hired them?”

“I did”, he said.

“Well, maybe the real issue is who allowed them to work here in the first place?”, I said.

Yes, the truth will set you free. Yes, it’s going to piss you off. After a minute of silence, the owner replied, “Yeah, I haven’t done a very good job of screening people. I get desperate and hire anybody with a pulse!”

I said, “When you panic hire you only solve a temporary issue and create a long term problem in the growth of your culture.”

What are you doing to improve yourself to become a better leader?

What are you doing each week to recruits and search for better people to join your team?

The answer to these questions will lead you to start focusing on the one thing you truly have control over and that is you. Restaurants get better when the people in them become better people. You don’t tolerate mediocrity in others, so why do you accept it for yourself?

You Don’t Schedule Time to Work on Your Plan

Let’s talk about being busy. You’re busy, I get that. The question is what are you busy with? Are you blocking time out of your day to move your brand forward? It’s easy in the restaurant world to fill a day up with minutia tasks that have little long term impact on growth.

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Growth is not just about increasing sales. It’s about becoming better. Better at marketing. Better at guest relations. Better at cultivating a team that lives your mission. Better at being a better person.

Time has the ultimate “I don’t care what you do” attitude. Seriously. Time does not care what you do with the 14,400 minutes you get gifted with each day. Waste it or invest it, it’s always your choice.

Remember that...you choose all day what is important by where you place your attention. So, the "I’m too busy excuse" is really a bunch of BS. You should be honest and say that it’s not important to you.

Taking small blocks of time and putting them on your calendar is the one sure way to ensure your agenda (your life) moves forward. Take a tip from the most successful people on the planet...use your calendar to schedule EVERYTHING! Don’t take random meetings. Don’t allow people to control your day by not having your calendar booked. White space on your calendar is the lazy person’s life. Multimillionaire Grant Cardone is found of saying, “If you want to meet the devil, have white space on your calendar.” Your productivity will come to a halt when you have too much idle time on your hands.

So, what do you scheduled? Everything! Gym time, breakfast, time with family, meetings, phone calls, pre-shifts, computer time, reading time, meditation, and whatever else is important to you. I do block off open time for things that might need my attention. I tell clients to contact me during this scheduled blocks of time. If you want to really improve the quality of your restaurant and your life, then take control of your calendar and schedule everything!

You Get Discouraged and Give Up

Life loves to throw curve balls at you. Persistence and perseverance are required if you want massive success. Hey, things are not going to work all the time. Even if your restaurant started out with a Big Bang, as the time goes by (and more restaurants move into your market) you’ll start to become a little less appealing to the shiny new restaurant brands popping up.

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You’ll try something new to get your brand back on top. Maybe some video marketing on social media. You’ll get a few likes and then it seems to die off. You throw in the towel and throw out the excuse that your guests don’t want that. You could be so wrong.

Marketing is not a one time thing. It’s a consistency thing. Throwing out that video and then not really promoting it is your downfall. You made a half-ass commitment and the results show. If you want to play the social media marketing game, you will need to put in the energy and effort to get the results you want. Is everything you put out there going to stick? Of course not! Then you try something else. If that doesn’t work, you try something else. If that doesn’t work, you try something else. If that doesn’t work, you try something else. If that doesn’t work, you try something else. If that doesn’t work, you try something else. If that doesn’t work, you try something else. Get the hint?

You keep working and refining your message until you hit the nerve that gets a response from your guests. Then you market it relentlessly! Marketing is about keeping your brand in front (top of feed) to your market. If you don’t want to spend the time and invest in promoting your brand, your competition will.

I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone reading this know who McDonald’s is. Do you see them backing off on the amount they market? Hell no. They keep their foot on the marketing accelerator all the time! When you see McDonald’s slow down on marketing is the time you should slow down. Until then keep your brand at the top of social media feeds to keep your name top of mind.

Stop throwing caution to the wind. Stop playing it safe. Stop playing small in your market. Stop trying to improve things that won’t really improve your restaurant. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself. Control your calendar. Keep your marketing fresh and frequent. Refuse to surrender to complacency and mediocrity!

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.

Craft Producers Are Changing The Way Restaurants Buy Products

Craft producers are shaking the big-box purveyors as the grab for restaurants’ food dollars are always in play. These specialty creators are delivering on the mania of being connected to the community, giving back, sticking with environmental responsibility, and running with old-world values.

In that same vein, Catherine Seisson’s shop is a shrine to traditional French baking. Genuine ingredients, iron-fisted adherence to classic preparations, and an unbroken commitment to quality; the strictest of standards for the esteem of a real French bakery. Except, the bakery is in a suburb of Philadelphia.

Renaissance Woman

Source: Becca Mathias

Source: Becca Mathias

The Lyon native dropped apron in West Chester, PA with only a few months to launch her shop. With a French baker father and flour powering through her marrow, Seisson is an ass-kicking, fierce redhead with a huge smile and craftsmanship to match.

“It’s in my blood; I wanted to make bread,” Seisson says proudly.

And her brioche trappiziane will make you cry tears of bliss and wonder. Those tears are turning into dollars as small-scale merchants, like Seisson’s La Baguette Magique, are making a huge difference on the food scene. Seisson supplies select area restaurants with bread and pastries. Not a lot of restaurants, mind you. But enough to be a contender.

Mammoth Amazon is hawking paper products, smallwares, and appliances. The next frontier will, most certainly, drill into staples and commodities. While Amazon, Sysco, US Foods and other big-rig vendors are looking at the hefty spends, small-scale producers are taking up menu items, one at a time.

Macro Trend: Our Customers Have Feelings

When millennials look to join a team, they frequently want a connection to the community, some form of giving back and environmental awareness. Why wouldn’t the same be true for vendors partnered with restaurants? Having a craftily produced array of products to supply the demands of mission-sensitive restaurants makes sense. Where some larger producers keep, for instance, preservatives, less-than-favorably sourced ingredients, and anonymous origins coursing through their product lines, smaller merchants are able to deliver with a friendlier approach. On trend with consumers digging into the responsible sourcing but not willing to give up flavor and appeal, many smaller vendors are seizing opportunities and profits. Like La Baguette Magique, other crafty producers are juggling the supply chains.

Big On Growth, Small On Changes

La Colombe Coffee has been around for a while. The company is the love child of JP Iberti and Todd Carmichael, the duo who has brewed the once eastern Pennsylvania-only coffee roaster into a coast-to-coast darling, all while sticking to their values, fair sourcing, and unabridged quality. La Colombe has changed very little since its earlier days. Still rocking a roastery in Philly and packaging their workshop roasts by hand, the microastery is disrupting the status quo of traditional coffee distributorship by staying in their lane. Distribution to restaurants, bakeries, and cafes is duty-bound. The beans still come from farms known to be responsible growers, the production standards are inexplicably calculated for quality, and, most importantly, their market growth has been conservatively restrained. Despite a fiscal injection from Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya, the reach of La Colombe to the west coast has only included a few retail spots and limited distribution of the coffee for retail brewing. The result? The brand is maintaining its original identity while offering a true craft approach to coffee grounded in everything that brought the company to life.

The Spicy Rebel Upstart

Source: Spiceology

Source: Spiceology

In 2013, a chef’s collaborative was struck—Spiceology. Started by partners Pete Taylor and Heather Scholten, the chef-centric perspective of building a direct-to-industry spice company was founded. “We do it for the chefs, right down to how we package,” said Taylor. Spiceology was cast of the same craft approach by targeting cooks that are really, really, into their trade. Very intentional marketing, clean lines, and a rebel yell that appeals to living-out-loud culinary types, Spiceology brings color to the otherwise standard staple of sticky containers of generic seasonings sitting in every kitchen.

Why do it? The chef owned and operated off-spring started with an initial retail presence. “We are all chefs; we all think that spices for foodservice is a screwed-up industry, getting jacked on pricing with inferior product, and poor packaging, so Spiceology was born,” said Taylor. “Compared to the broadliners, they don’t put themselves in the chefs’ clogs. Depth and a story have a meaning and purpose that are important. Chefs supporting chefs is customer-centric.”

The approach puts the necessary elements at the forefront. “Our Periodic Table of Flavor keeps the chef’s spice rack organized. It’s modernist! We eliminated the distributor by shipping direct, and built a loyalty program,” said Taylor. The burgeoning business rewards support with a points program that further builds a bond with the culinary community. “With the [loyalty points] you can get cool shit that we, as chefs, know we would want.”

Has this flavor worked for the brand? Spiceology has been rated one of the fastest growing spice companies by "Entrepreneur Magazine."

Growing The Buzz

Produce is a happy place for most chefs. Seasonal changes mean new play toys. New play toys mean new dishes for customers. Growing specifically for exacting chefs has been the crux of The Chef’s Garden for a very long time. A veteran operation by today’s benchmarks, the Jones family of farmers swap big boxes of Romaine for their Painted Oak and Ruby Crystal lettuce varieties. The gain? Customary farming being reinvented to bring collaborative growing practice between kitchens and farms. This is true farm to table. Farmer Lee Jones and company are grounded — literally — in supplying restaurants with produce that is innovative and exciting while endearing to the roots of traditional farming, packed by the ‘each’ versus the case.

Using Smaller Vendors Is Not A Pickled Idea

Money is money, and often the tractor trailers deliver better prices than the little pickup trucks. Being selective in which boutique purveyor gets the dollars seems to balance the sweet and sour proposition of when to spend bigger on smaller purchases. Warehouse vendors are not going away. Instead, they are sharing the food cost spend with less assuming manufacturers, farmers, and creative vendors.

The allure of knowing the origins of the food we are serving is more than a chef’s novelty; it is the power to market. The smaller, more dialed-in merchants, are making products that fill that space, while small, runs deeps with customers looking forward to hearing from operations that are using products that match their values.

A Chef's Day Off And How to Make the Most of it

A Chef's Day Off And How to Make the Most of it

A day out of the kitchen is the opportunity to learn and explore. Most days' challenges include a broken dish machine, two call-outs, and the spastic general manager going crazy about the latest safety audit, leaving you little time to bend the pages of Bread is Gold or Food Lab or Ivan Ramen, or a kick over to the GreenMarket. 

So how do you keep up and make the most of sacred days off? 

Jostling every drop of the often-sparse time away — “What is a day off?” said Aughtum Slavin, event coordinator at Emery’s Catering in Providence — from the restaurant, it means exploring new learning opportunities, doing street-level research, and uncontrived downtime.

Books Still Rule

We love our internet connectivity and the easy answers we can fetch with it. Exploring other cooks’ narratives is often the spark to branch out. And, yes, we still love the classic, bound, page-turning, printed book format. These books should be owned to pass along to your newest restaurant kin. 

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Enough Already! 3 Things About Restaurant Profits You Need to Hear

Enough Already! 3 Things About Restaurant Profits You Need to Hear

How are the profits in your restaurant? Great? Amazing? Is it your best year ever or are your profits on life support? Wherever you are now, it can be said that you want more. It’s human nature to want to climb to the top. 

The restaurant business can be very brutal on people at times especially when it comes to the area of making money. How do you beat the odds and maximize your profit potential? Here are 3 things that are getting in the way of you and your profits:

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