How a Strong Operator-Supplier Partnership Leads to Success

There's more to restaurant success than the perfect operation, service staff, chefs, or menu items. It all begins with the right ingredients, which is exactly where suppliers come in. How does having a strong operator-to-supplier relationship lead to success? Find out in this episode of "Rock My Restaurant," hosted by William Bender and Eric Norman.

And the two special guests joining them? The first is Katy A. Jones, who serves as vice president of marketing at FoodLogiQ, a supply chain management software company whose products aim to improve food safety, traceability, and sustainability. Jamie Davis, the director of supply chain of 400-unit brand Tropical Smoothie Cafe, also shares her insights on how to improve communications between restaurants and food sources.

What kinds of questions should operators expect to answer while evaluating their supply chain?

"What it comes down to is how do you balance between...food safety, your food costs...to what consumers are asking for?" Davis said. "How do you engage your suppliers to meet that need?"

Jones also brings up another concern operators should be aware of as they're moving from being a one-to-two-unit chain to a 15-to-30-unit chain.

"Do you have suppliers that can really grow with you?" She said.

A common challenge for a brand and its supply chain is staying true to its vision, Jones said. A chain can start with a strong brand promise, such as being a farm-to-fork establishment. When a chain expands nationwide, how can operators stitch their supply chain to stay true to their foundational values? 

Do as much research as possible, Davis encouraged. Take a look at suppliers' history, their processes, and their own goals and missions statements. You can never over communicate.

"Years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, [with suppliers] you either take it or leave it. But these days, it's more of you build a relationship. You build a solid relationship with your supplier, with your customers, so you can succeed," Davis said.

Watch the full episode now to learn more!

Cost Control and Operator ROI with ENERGY STAR

The path to sustainability and energy saving doesn't mean you have to start running off the grid — it can be with a simple step in the right direction. In this episode of "Rock My Restaurant," join show hosts William Bender and Eric Norman as they sit down with Kirsten Hesla, product manager at ENERGY STAR, and Carly Burke, energy efficiency consultant at ICF International, to chat about how ENERGY STAR can take your brand to the next level.

The EPA's ENERGY STAR program is the largest, most successful voluntary energy conservation movement. Anyone familiar with the blue label knows to a certain extent that it means a product was stamped with efficiency approval, but what exactly does that entail?

Every year, ENERGY STAR products go through series of testing and are certified by third parties, signaling that those tools meet the highest standards in quality, performance, and efficiency — everything an operator should be looking for.

"So, that really means they're [operators] getting a high-efficient, high-quality product, and I think that operators who are looking to incorporate those types of products, or want to move to a more sustainable practice, or save money in general, these are the products that have been vetted through rigorous testing," Burke said.

ENERGY STAR also recognizes products through the Emerging Technology Award, which is an honor bestowed upon the best innovative technologies that reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, all without sacrificing features or functionality. How can you find these products? On ENERGY STAR's commercial foodservice equipment page, operators can use a product finder tool that allows them to search for specific models or by category. There is even a rebate finder tool that allows buyers to find the best deals in their region.

The program aims to make the choice for sustainability and energy-saving easy. While some operators do not have the time or resources to research the best technology effectively, these ENERGY STAR tools take the guess work out through search engines and blue labels. But efficient products don't just save energy, they also save money.

As far as ROI, ENERGY STAR encourages the idea that they are two price tags associated with all equipment.

"One is the cost at the point of purchase. And second, and most importantly, is the cost of energy to run that product throughout its entire lifetime," Hesla said. "With ENERGY STAR, you know you're getting an efficient product, and your cost of energy over the course of [the] 10, 15 years you have that product, you're going to reap a lot of benefits as far as money."

Watch the full episode now!

Innovations from NRA Show 2016

At the NRA Show, the industry's biggest and most dynamic trade show and event, it is an endless sea of exhibitions, educational sessions, products, and new ideas across the 2.6-million-square-foot-space of Chicago's McCormick Place convention center. Needless to say, while every inch is filled with discoveries, it can get a little overwhelming.

In this episode of "Rock My Restaurant," show hosts William Bender and Eric Norman do the leg work for you. After walking the floor, they sit down and product review some of the best innovations they spotted at NRA Show 2016. Trying to figure out the latest software and technology to take your restaurant to the next level? Check out these finds and get ready to rock your restaurant.

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The Lineup

Noodoe: Noodoe could potentially be the next breakthrough in efficiency and speed of service. This device consists of a wristband, which servers wear, and a cube with different icons symbolizing different needs, such as a check or beverage refill, that the table of guests hold onto. These pieces of tech connect wirelessly to the cloud and effortlessly speeds up waiter-to-diner communications, and in the future, could lead to better communications to the back of house.

"I thought that [Noodoe] was pretty cool because it's fully customizable, too, so the owner or operator can put anything they want on there. So, depending on what side the little unit is sitting on, that's what translates to your wristband," Eric said.

Zenreach: Email capture and marketing is one of the most challenging aspects when it comes to improving your restaurant's client base. Through Zenreach, brands can build a database through their Wi-Fi. When guests log in by submitting their email addresses, Zenreach collects this information and brands can use these lists to drive sales in marketing, whether through sent reminders, customer loyalty programs, or other incentives.

HotSchedules: HotSchedules it a revolutionary, restaurant management platform. From talent recruiting, to a continuous training e-learning program, to flexible staff scheduling, to instant message communications, this software does a lot of hard work to make processes a lot easier. Not to mention other features such as inventory and asset management — what can't you accomplish with HotSchedules?

STUBBORN Soda: STUBBORN soda is a paragon of what craft beverage should be all about. Through its natural ingredients and unique flavors (Orange Hibiscus, Lemon Berry Açaí, or Pineapple Cream Soda, anyone?), guests will be thirsty for more.

"What this does is really allow an operator to be better, special, or different," Bill said. "They also have a wonderful dispenser for fast casual restaurants called a pumper."

TradingTable: Whether you are an operator, distributor, or supplier, it doesn't matter what side of the table you sit on — this digital, paperless ordering platform connects each party involved in the transaction. It is a seamless solution and is a total automation of a purchasing agent's duties. The system has algorithms set to help operators find the best prices for products, which they can then order through the platform.

Ovention: Ovention may look like a typical conveyor oven, but this high-capacity, high-speed oven has two shuttles, allowing chefs to cook different food items with similar cooking temperatures. Chicken strips cooking on one side (through closed cooking, which means no need for exhausts or hoods) can then switch over to cookies on the other. This maximizes versatility and speed.

Riage X3: Two words: massage chair. 

"You were able to fit that into your schedule?" Bill asked.

"Ahh, 20 minutes of pure heaven, man. I could hardly get out of the chair" Eric said.

Watch the full episode now!

Merchant Maverick and A'La Carte Foodservice Consulting Group Rock the FCSI Symposium

When you design a restaurant, where do you start? In this episode of "Rock My Restaurant," join show hosts William Bender and Eric Norman at the FCSI The Americas Symposium, where they sit down with Amad Ebrahimi, president of Merchant Maverick, and Chris Tripoli, president of A'La Carte Foodservice Consulting Group, to find out.

The Mission of Merchant Maverick

It's one thing to perfect the back of house and cook line, but when it comes to the end of the restaurant experience and it's time to pay the bill, what goes behind choosing the perfect point-of-sale system to streamline service? The process is complex and in-depth.

"If you say point-of-sale to a restaurant owner or operator, I don't care if it's a manager or CEO of a 5,000-unit chain, their eyes over glaze over because of the complexities involved and the requirements to do it right," Bill said.

Enter Merchant Maverick, a site of the best merchant account reviews to level the playing field for businesses looking to get the best products and credit card processors. Most people are afraid of POS because its integration can be difficult to understand, but Ebrahimi's group aims to close the gap on that disconnect.

"What our goal is to try to make that complexity a little bit easier to understand and to use our knowledge to help business owners make better decisions when it comes to choosing a point-of-sale system or a credit card processor," Ebrahimi said. "The POS should always be chosen first."

By choosing the POS first, a restaurant can account for its integration needs, from financial booking, online ordering, ingredient-level inventory, table management, and more. 

A'La Carte Foodservice Group Says Management Determines Design

FCSI member and A'La Carte President, Chris Tripoli, works deep in the trenches when it comes to opening a restaurant. 

"As you all know, the restaurant business looks more inviting from the outside than it really is on the inside," he joked, speaking on the challenges that come with the process of an opening.

From management development and staff training to menu development and modification, Tripoli is an expert on operational improvement for emerging brands. His expertise has even been featured in an episode of "BUILT.," which showcased his involvement with putting life back into small, old, downtown park Market Square in Houston, Texas.

Why is management development so important prior to design?

"The more knowledge, I think, that the design side has on expectations, financial goals, menu expectations, labor costs they want to operate...[designers] will be able to hit the target, and the client is happier," Tripoli said.

Watch the full episode to get a bigger bite out of these experts' food for thought!

From Sanitation to the Bar, Product Reviews Featuring Franke and Perlick

From fast casual to casual dining to quick-service, restaurant models are all different — but one thing stays the same: every restaurant needs the proper equipment to keep the lights on. How do you set up a model correctly? In this episode of "Rock My Restaurant," filmed at the FCSI The Americas Biennial Conference, where best in foodservice management and consulting share ideas and innovative products, we are joined by Owen Slaughter, regional sales manager for Franke, and Corrinne Ward, regional sales manager for Perlick, who dive deep into the game-changing products their brands offer.

Keeping it Clean

It's no surprise that consumers are now putting more emphasis on the quality of ingredients than they are on the speed of service.

"They're starting to demand a difference at the foodservice level of the actual ingredient. And so as that shifted, we started to look for these types of opportunities to say, 'Now, how does the technology need to change to support this growing demand for more honest food?'" Slaughter said.

Franke's solution? The Air Purification System.

To increase the shelf-life of ingredients and the freshness of perishable food, operators who own this piece of equipment are the proud owners of a machine that uses ozone-based technology to reduce food waste, prevent flavor transfer between foods, and eliminate odors. Placed in a walk-in cooler, this system sanitizes the air by pulling the air into the unit and scrubs the air of anything carbon-based, from mold and bacteria to viruses and ethylene gas.

"What that ultimately means for the operator is that they now can bring in fresh produce and not have to be worried about it as much," he said. "We're also doing things for the ice machine as well."

Manufacturer Trends Behind the Bar

From craft brewing to creative cocktails, the beverage industry is just thirsting for disruption. What technology and equipment are helping operators keep up?

"There [are] a couple of key trends out there. First and foremost [are] cocktails. Cocktails, hard liquors are absolutely on the rise. In particular, using really fresh ingredients to make cocktails. And so it's really important, just like a chef needs to have the mise-en-place station, a bartender actually needs the same thing," Ward said.

"They need to have all their tools lined up and organized, they need to have all their ingredients right there in arm's length, and they need to have everything they need right in front of them so that they're able to make their cocktails not only correctly, but quickly because time is money."

Introducing the Perlick Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station. This station, ideal for night clubs or high-luxury hotel lobby bars that expect a high volume of cocktail making, is a breakthrough achievement. Now that cocktails now use fresh ingredients, especially for garnishes that need to be refrigerated, this station is a catch-all answer for cocktail creating challenges. 

Want more? They are other products waiting to be discovered. Watch the full episode now!