Fresh Blends Creates World’s First Digitally Integrated Platform with 100% Natural Ingredients

Fresh Blends Creates World’s First Digitally Integrated Platform with 100% Natural Ingredients
  • Fresh Blender is an intuitive high-performance smoothie machine that allows customers to create 600 varieties.

  • Fresh Blends’ technological advancements allows for operator and consumer convenience.

On this episode of On Foodable: Industry Pulse, we talk to Sean Larkin, executive vice president of global commercialization at Fresh Blends, North America, as he showcases the Fresh Blender powered by Fresh Blends’ innovative beverage platform.

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'The Academy Awards of Foodservice' — The IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards 2017

IFMA'S Gold & Silver Plate Awards

As the Oscars are for the film industry and as the James Beard Awards are for culinary, the Gold & Silver Plate Awards are the academy awards of foodservice. The celebration, which honors the nation's most prestigious operator talent, is hosted by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) every year in Chicago.

The 63rd Annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards night was held on May 20th at Revel Fulton Market and highlighted eight Silver Plate Award winners, all from different foodservice categories. All of which were chosen through a painstaking, thorough jury process of the most innovative foodservice icons of the industry. From that elite group, one winner is honored with the Gold Plate Award.

The Class of 2017: Silver Plate Winners

This year's winners within eight different categories, were all nominated by the industry's leading companies. From those candidates, the Gold Plate Winner was voted on through a secret ballot by the previous Silver Plate Award winners, national trade press editors, and a group of foodservice experts.  

The Class of 2017 Silver Plate Award Winners include:

  • Independent Restaurants/Multi-Concept: Wolfgang Puck, chef and owner, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group (nominated by Nestlé Professional)
  • Chain Full Service: G.J. Hart, executive chairman and CEO, California Pizza Kitchen (nominated by Wayne Farms)
  • Chain Limited Service: Chris Newcomb, co-founder and president & CEO, Newk’s Eatery (nominated by Wenner Bakery)
  • Health Care: Patti Oliver, director of nutrition, UCLA Health (nominated by Hobart Corporation & Basic American Foods)
  • Elementary & Secondary Schools: Betti Wiggins, executive director, Office of School Nutrition, Detroit Public Schools (nominated by Schwan’s Food Service)
  • Colleges & Universities: Ted Faulkner, director of dining services, Virginia Tech (nominated by Basic American Foods)
  • Business & Industry/Foodservice Management: Jeff Metz, president & CEO, Metz Culinary Management (nominated by Basic American Foods)
  • Retail & Specialty Foodservice: Chris Gheysens, president & CEO, Wawa Inc. (nominated by Nestlé Professional)

Meet the 2017 Gold Plate Winner: Wolfgang Puck

"I'm really appreciative, and on behalf of all my partners, all my associates all the people out there who work so hard day in and day out, who make a big difference... Thank you! " said Wolfgang Puck, owner and chef of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, proudly as he received his award.

Puck has more than 40 years of experience in the foodservice industry. He began cooking at a young age by his mother's side, but it was his perseverance that helped him forge a culinary, and then, leadership career. Through his flagship restaurant, Spago, first opened in West Hollywood and now in Beverly Hills, Puck was able to propel his business to a whole new level by creating a friendly and inviting environment through his open kitchen. This then led to his continued success in the foodservice industry.

"When I built Spago, normally the chefs at the time are hidden somewhere in the kitchen. I said: 'Okay, I'm going to build a kitchen in the middle of the dinning room so I can see every guest and they can see me...'," said Wolfgang Puck. "Everybody used to come by, if it was John Collins, Billy Waldo, Michael Douglas, they used to come by and say hello and everything... So this is really a great thing!"

Puck's message to future operators and chefs at the 2017 Gold and Silver Plate Awards ceremony was very clear, "If you're passionate and you can dream... You can do it!"

Washington Report: FDA Postpones Menu Labeling Requirement — Again

Video Produced by Denise Toledo

The seven-year journey to menu labeling is once again hitting another hurdle. Initially proposed in 2010 along with the Affordable Care Act, this federal mandate, which would enforce that all food establishments of 20 locations or more would be required to list calorie information on menu boards and menus, was supposed to take effect this Friday.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has postponed it again — for the third time. Original deadlines for 2015 and 2016 were pushed off the plate, but the new deadline for food businesses to be transparent with calorie information is May 7, 2018

Prior to the delay announcement earlier this Monday, the National Restaurant Association encouraged the successful implementation of this law, seeing the federal requirement as the final say among a mix of conflicting regional rules and as a protection to small businesses.

"The National Restaurant Association strongly cautions against any actions that would delay implementation of the menu labeling law. Previously, menu labeling laws were being passed on a state-by-state or city-by-city basis and in some cases, counties were competing with cities to pass similar laws," Cicely Simpson, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs & Policy, said in a release. "If the federal standard is repealed, we will once again return to this patchwork approach that will be even more burdensome for restaurants to implement and will not have the legal safeguards included in the federal law. We must protect small businesses by not delaying implementation of this important rule.” 

While the rule first came about to give consumers more education and information on the nutrition of their meals, allowing them to perhaps make alternative choices if they are able to see their fat, sodium, sugar, cholesterol intake, multiple trade groups criticized the rule, saying it did not provide enough flexibility for food sellers that weren't restaurants.  

"I think the delay happened because...the menu-labeling requirements were burdensome to business owners who owned twenty locations. It would have been very expensive for owners to accomplish and most likely not have been successful. The National Restaurant Association wanted it put in place now to alleviate jurisdiction battles across the country. The FDA has delayed to gather further comments and input from the public. This was a smart decision in my opinion," said William Bender, Rock My Restaurant host and founder of restaurant consulting firm W.H. Bender & Associates.

According to Chicago Tribune, a single menu board can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000, and those costs add up, depending  on the size of the chain. Naf Naf Grill, for example, paid $17,000 for new menu boards. Bender also noted that poorly designed menu labeling could be a barrier to sales, saying that the data has to be designed and presented in a guest- and brand-friendly way.

"My advice to operators is they should prepare and design their menu ingredients — and recipes — to provide guest information and market to help achieve their brand’s strategic marketing plan. All decisions from menu development, sourcing ingredients, purchasing, distribution to delivery need to be transparent. Training is essential to teach the food culinary team and sales service team the correct information, so that all brand ServPoints™ are delivered to Guest accurately and professionally. Then we are in a win-win situation and relationship with guests," he said.


On the other hand, several national chains have supported the federal rule to remove the complications of adjusting to different city, county, and state regulations. Major brands such as McDonald's, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread, and Starbucks have been fulfilling the requirement ahead of the May 2017 deadline, and even movie theaters were preparing to meet the compliance deadline.

This is a movement Jaclyn Morgan, principal of JM Foodservice Consulting, LLC., agrees with. 

"A restaurant, as a food company, has always carried a burden to supply customers with nutritional information. Ingredient and calorie count information could be stored in a recipe book or within a database in the past.  Now, it needs to be readily available on menus for chains with 20 or more locations as a means of full-disclosure. Many chains have been following this practice for years, and others have met the new standard earlier than the deadline. So, why the delay?" she said, and added that it's workable even for grocery stores.

"Chain grocers and chain convenience stores employ dietitians and executive chefs. Commissaries that produce sandwiches, salads, and more en masse for these establishments have the tools to label ingredients accurately. If there is a recipe of ingredients as well as a knowledge of calories for each ingredient, a calorie count per serving can be mathematically derived. This easily translates to food labels, as well as menu boards.  It’s an investment that we have been prepared for since 2010."

Still, she understands that there are valid arguments on several challenges for implementation, especially for pizza brands. The American Pizza Community, which called for more flexible menu labeling, stated that updating menu boards with calorie information could cost an individual pizza store between $3,500 to $5,500 annually. Crusts, sauces, toppings, and sizes vary drastically, but Morgan still believes it is mathematically achievable. She recommends that because pizza chains portion out toppings for standard items, an algorithm could be close.

"This is the new face of food as politics. The labeling requirements were born as part of the ACA with the intent to reduce obesity in America.  The thought was that people would shy away from foods high in calories and saturated fats as we became more conscious of our individual intake. ...It is a push back for large businesses to save money, even if contrary to public health and nutrition disclosure," Morgan said.

As of today, the FDA is opening another public discussion on the regulations, asking particularly for "approaches to reduce regulatory burden or increase flexibility," as well as recommendations on providing calorie information outside of a menu. Clearly, the reactions to this regulation delay are mixed, and according to the Times-Picayune, the studies on the effectiveness of menu labeling is mixed, as well. Calorie information may reduce purchase in some areas and have minimal impact on others.

Will menu labeling have true real-world behavior change? And how effectively will consumers apply this vast wealth of nutrition information, along with a more transparent restaurant industry that shares its sourcing and food preparation? How much will purchasing habits really transform?

"We all have wondered how much fat, sugar, or calories a dish has at some point during our adulthood. The reason for calorie menu labeling might be the increase in health issues linked with the amount of dining out. The government stepping in is a bit much, as they might seek even more regulations and even taxing for fatty or salty food, much like the sugar tax," Salar Sheik, founder of Savory Hospitality, said.

"All forms of restaurant have increasing challenges on the daily with food cost, labor, marketing, and the list goes on. When will they draw the line with all the hurdles for the operator is the real question that no one can answer. We all have to be prepare, and many are with smaller portions and lighter items, which are lower in fat and calories. The upside will be the restaurants that have been aware of the calorie count can now have a better selling and marketing platform."

Restaurant Technology Must-Haves: Free WiFi, Data Management

Foodable’s 2016 Restaurant Technology Guide is expected to release in just a couple short weeks. In the meantime, we’re talking to Jack Abraham, CEO of Zenreach, to discuss some of the most recent technologies in restaurants today. One such technology was created by Abraham.

“I’ve always been focused on how the internet is influencing the offline world and offline sales in particular. The vast majority of people are spending their time online, but 95 percent of the commerce in the United States is being done offline, and there are a lot of bridges that need to be built between those two worlds,” he said.

Abraham’s interest in offline data loops began with his first company, a local shopping engine called Milo, which he sold to eBay in 2010. Now focused on his new venture, Zenreach shows operators how many times individual customers actually return to their restaurant. Using a piece of hardware that allows operators to create a customizable log-in portal to offer free WiFi for their patrons, Jack aimed to grow owner’s knowledge of their customers using their online activity. When visitors log in to a location’s WiFi, they share an email address that can then be monitored during later visits to track restaurant visits.

Foodable Labs Data shows that Consumer-Facing Technology Adoption is up by 87 percent over 2015 while Restaurant Native Mobile Apps are down 31 percent. Abraham notes the reason for this gap is that sometimes consumers don’t want to download an another app to their phone.

“Even if you can convince them — even if you can put all the effort into trying to get them to do that — they’re probably going to delete it,” he said.

That’s part of why Abraham created Zenreach. He wanted to give restaurants the ability to gather data from their consumers while simultaneously avoiding the issues normally faced when providing free WiFi like security and management.

Find out how technology is changing and where it’s headed within the industry on this episode of On Foodable Weekly!