Thursday, October 25, 2012

You’re reading this already—you’re doing something right!

Here at the Louisiana Restaurant Association, we love to pass on the knowledge to our members because it’s important that you stay up-to-date on the latest information about the foodservice industry.  The difference between an informed and uninformed restaurant operator could transform into a competitive advantage. Whether it’s through Facebook posts, Twitter tweets or stories from our blog, we aim to send you news you can use, as much as possible. We do this with you, our members, in mind.

You might ask: where do we get a lot of our topics of conversation? Well, that’s easy to answer—we read—a lot. Part of our job is stay informed so we keep you informed. National trends translate differently across the country and it’s our job to let you know about that here in Louisiana and open the discussion about how these happenings affect you, whether it’s helping, challenging and/or hurting your business. Sometimes it’s a combination of all three. If you own a restaurant, you know how important it is to be able to roll with the punches, and we hope we give you strength to keep fighting.

Every day, we read through the restaurant and hospitality industry’s headlines and pull out what’s relevant right now for our members. However, there’s so much information that we couldn’t possibly share it all. We can reveal what we read, though, and encourage you to pick up where time constraints force us to leave off. Maybe you’ll find something interesting that we haven’t seen or been able to let you know about.

Below are some sources for our industry news. We encourage you to spend a few minutes each day scanning the headlines. Tips, techniques, legal issues, politics and trends found in these resources may be just the thing to spark your curiosity, solve that burning problem or help you save more on the bottom line.

The National Restaurant Association News Hub- similar to the LRA blog, these daily posts cover news, with a national focus in mind.
Nation's Restaurant News- Subscribe to their free e-newsletter to dig deep, on a daily basis, into a particular industry segment and learn about the newest products and trends.

Restaurant Management/RMGT- This platform-neutral, digital publication is designed to service restaurateurs and executives with the daily news and insights they need.

American Express Restaurant Briefing- This is a restaurant business newsletter with 35 years of history in the industry. It’s a unique blend of best practices and expert insights that continues to help restaurateurs compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Restaurant SmartBrief- Sign up for this free daily briefing on top stories for restaurant and foodservice professionals. They also offer e-newsletters on food service, travel and hospitality, business and leadership.

Food Sections of Local and National Dailies- (formerly the Times-Picayune) and the websites of Baton Rouge’s The Advocate (now with editions exclusively for New Orleans, Acadiana, the River Parishes and the Florida Parishes), The Lafayette Advertiser, and the Shreveport Times, just to name a few, have food sections with local food news. Seek out your local paper. National newspapers such as USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal all have dedicated restaurant and food sections that highlight our industry at a broader level. Becoming familiar with these papers’ websites and journalists could go a long way in becoming more informed.

Business Publications and Alternative Weeklies- The non-traditional newsprints cover news differently than daily news organizations, and often their insights are more specialized and content rich. Some publications to check out are the websites of New Orleans’ CityBusiness and Gambit, Baton Rouge’s BusinessReport and 225 Magazine and Lafayette’s The Independent, just to name a few.

Social Media Feeds- A great source of late-breaking news, happenings and inspiration can be found in the news feeds of your social media platforms. Who doesn’t scroll through Facebook news feeds and Twitter posts multiple times a day? Follow and like the right people and companies (many of the publications mentioned here all have Facebook and Twitter pages) and you will be among the first to know the news. And don’t forget about Pinterest. Although you won’t read any news on the site, you can get fantastic ideas and inspiration from various pinboards. Try it out! But be warned—you could get lost in all the glorious and aspirational photos posted.

Are we leaving any one out? Are there publications out there that you absolutely can’t get through the day without checking out? Let us know!



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our workers' comp rates are falling in 2013!

The Louisiana Restaurant Association Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation (LRA SIF) is pleased to announce a rate reduction in classification codes related to the hospitality industry.

The LRA SIF rate reductions were approved by the Louisiana Department of Insurance as a result of the positive claims experience of its members in those classes. The overall claims rates decreased by 4.2 percent.
Stan Harris, LRA SIF
“Most workers’ compensation providers in our state have taken rate increases, particularly in the hospitality-related business classes. Given our LRA SIF members’ commitment to workplace safety and prevention measures, these rate reductions should make our fund a more attractive option for our industry,” said Stan Harris, President/CEO of the LRA SIF.  
The rate reductions for these hospitality and retail focused classifications will take effect January 1, 2013 and include: fast food restaurants, bars, hotels, country clubs, drivers, food manufacturing and convenience stores.

“As the economy has been slow to recover, this reduction provides members of the LRA SIF with added value and potential savings,” added Harris. “The LRA SIF has over a 30-year track record of serving the industry’s workers’ comp needs with effective claims management that prepares workers to return to work sooner or works to resolve claims efficiently and can now, offer more competitive rates.”  
The benefits of having workers’ comp coverage with a self insured fund allows business owners to spread risk among all participants and positive claims outcomes can benefit all the fund’s policyholders. Through safety and annual dividends (nearly $100 million returned to date) after claims and operating expenses are met, the LRA SIF is committed to being the solution provider for restaurant and hospitality-related businesses workers comp requirements.

Workers’ compensation coverage is required by Louisiana law and applies to any enterprise in the state regardless of the number of employees. The LRA SIF offers free loss prevention and safety training that provides practical methods for performing work tasks in a manner to reduce the risk of accident or injury.  Whether you have questions on fire safety, preventing slips and falls, or any other safety concern, the LRA SIF loss prevention professionals can provide helpful information and training for your staff. 
As the LRA SIF enters its 31st year, we are expanding our program to encourage insurance brokers and agents to offer the LRA-SIF to their hospitality related clients. Since its inception in early 2011, this program has provided a new business channel for our fund and through our membership and partnership of PIA and Big I, we are working diligently to meet the specific needs of the agency community with superb service.
To learn more about how the LRA SIF can help you reduce your workers’ compensation costs and to get a quote, call Babs Schultz at (504) 454-2277 today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Have it your way

When I order a pizza, I want it with shrimp and pepperoni with extra sauce on the side. It’s a request that earns me odd looks, but it is really a great combination of flavors. When I order other types of pizza—veggie, hold the mushrooms, or all meat, hold the ham—I want my pizza served the way I like it.

A recent visit to a Neapolitan-themed pizza restaurant had limited options for toppings, only offering traditional pizza of the Italian region of which they hail. That’s not my style and I felt extremely restricted and therefore, my experience was not what I wish it could have been for this new establishment.

In an article by the Nation’s Restaurant News, “Restaurantsplay with customizable bowls,” the ever evolving mindset of the “have it your way” meal has a new rendition—a bowl. A bowl filled with all the ingredients you want with nothing you don’t is designed to capture those finicky eaters, many of which are millennial diners that have grown up having food served to their particular tastes. 

“I’ve had a burger bowl on my menu since the restaurant opened in March 2007,” said Phil deGruy, owner of Phil’s Grill in Metairie. “Particularly when it comes to low carb diets and the number of times people request a burger with no bun, it was really something that I saw as a no brainer and it’s a stronger seller.”

Many restaurant concepts have gotten on board, from fried chicken and Asian to Mexican—Taco Bell is now competing with Chipotle’s burrito bowls with great success. It’s safe to say the bowl has hit the mainstream consumer, offering versatile servings and modern comfort with a fresh taste and flavor.

“The Cantina Bowls are bringing more women into the restaurants,” said Greg Hamer, owner of B&G Foods, which operates more than 50 Taco Bells locations in Louisiana and Texas. “One of the locations in Texas is located next to a health club and has not had the sales volume of our other stores, but the release of the Cantina Bowls has increased traffic and sales for that location.”

Can you think of any other Louisiana restaurants that sell on the “have it your way” concept?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Did Hurricane Isaac result in an economic loss for your restaurant?

Preparation, duration and recovery measures from a hurricane are costly for restaurants. When Hurricane Isaac hit August 28, 2012, it caused flooding in some areas and massive power outages. No doubt, as a restaurant owner, you were impacted by these occurrences. 
The LRA, along with the UNO School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration, is interested in learning more about the economic impact of Hurricane Isaac on your operations. We ask that you complete this survey, which should take approximately seven to ten minutes. The information and responses will remain confidential, but should provide valuable data. We encourage you to participate and thank you in advance.

Monday, October 15, 2012

New ADA toolkit offers compliance tips for restaurateurs

In an effort to help restaurateurs better navigate the newly revised 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, the National Restaurant Association's toolkit on compliance suggests application of the following steps:

1. Inspect the facility, including sidewalks, parking area, entrances, passageways, floor coverings restrooms and table/booth configurations, to determine whether architectural and communication barriers to individuals with disabilities exist.

2. Periodically review your facility to ensure that accessible elements are being maintained in an operable and accessible condition. For example, accessible routes and parking spaces must be kept in good repair and free of leaves, ice and snow.

3. Consider accessibility requirements when planning new construction, making alterations or engaging in simple repairs. Confirm that architects, contractors or other consultants you hire are familiar with both the ADA Standards and applicable state or local accessibility requirements.

4. Review the lease if your facility is leased to determine whether the landlord or the tenant has the responsibility for making alterations required by law. Consult an attorney if necessary.

5. Review and, if necessary, modify customer service policies to ensure they adequately reflect your obligations under Title III of the ADA.

6. Ensure staff receives job-appropriate training regarding your restaurant's obligations under Title III of the ADA

7. Increase the staff's sensitivity to people with disabilities. Ask local rehabilitation agencies for tips or help with training.
To receive a PDF copy of the National Restaurant Association's toolkit on ADA Compliance, please call the Louisiana Restaurant Association at (504) 454-2277.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Louisiana seafood certification program announced

If you adore Louisiana Seafood as much as we do at the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA), you know that it has a fresh flavor and quality like no other. The freshwater minerals from two major rivers—the Mississippi and Atchafalaya-combine with salt water from the Gulf, creates one of the most productive nutrient-rich natural habitats in the world.

"Louisiana restaurants have long served the bounty of fresh seafood from the rich waters of Louisiana and the Gulf, but until now, a certification program had not been developed," said Stan Harris, President/CEO of the LRA. "Shrimp, crab, oysters, crawfish and finfish have held prized positioning on restaurant menus and have been the ingredients for which Louisiana has become known for worldwide."

To help secure the prominence and favor of our seafood, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) introduces its new Louisiana Seafood Certification Program (LSCP). Chefs can now rest assured that if they are purchasing product with the LSCP logo on it, that the seafood was harvested by licensed Louisiana fishermen and processed and packed in Louisiana.  
The creation of a nationally recognized brand is the goal of the program which was designed to build a brand known for fresh flavor, consistent quality and safety. In order for a product to bear the LSCP logo it has to be caught in the Gulf of Mexico or Gulf Coast state waters by Louisiana licensed fishermen, landed in Louisiana and processed and packaged in Louisiana.
“While we know that our seafood is the best in the world, the development of the LSCP will help the world to know it is the best,” said Randy Pausina, LDWF Assistant Secretary. “We encourage consumers to look for the certification logo at their local grocers and restaurants to help support our local seafood community and to demand the very best!”
Participating wholesalers in the program have received advanced training on program guidelines; best-quality handing and sanitation practices and state and federal regulations. In addition, a strict chain-of-custody enforcement by the LDWF and the La. Depts. of Health and Hospitals and Agriculture and Forestry ensures proper control at every stage of the fishery process.
For restaurants, participating in the program has its advantages. Access to the logo to use in advertising, table tents, POS materials, fresh product displays and be listed on the website as a registered supplier of this program are some of the benefits touted.
Enrolling is easy. A simple one-page form per store location and marking the box “yes” to allow allow LDWF to promote your business as a program participant is all it takes.
“Of course, you can always purchase Louisiana Certified Seafood without enrolling,” said Pausina. “But by participating, you get the additional exposure on the LDWF website and logo access to use in your promotions.”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Ask the Nutritionist" video series encourages the use of more whole grains

The National Restaurant Association’s Director of Nutrition and Healthy Living Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., explains how to incorporate more whole grains into restaurant menus.

Current recommendations suggest that half of our intake of grains should be whole grains, which means three of the six daily serving of grains should be whole grains. Nine out of 10 people do not meet the whole grain recommendations. Scientific evidence indicates that consuming whole grains may reduce heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer and obesity.

Here are a few tips for restaurants to incorporate more whole grains into their menus:
  • Serving oatmeal or whole grain cereal
  • Brown rice or wild rice
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Tortillas or wraps
  • Quinoa
  • Couscous
In cooking and baking, alternatives include:  
  • White whole wheat
  • Whole wheat
  • Oat
  • Barley
  • Sorghum
When looking for whole grains make sure you look at the ingredient list and ensure that the word whole is used. You may also look for the Whole Grain Council stamp or that at least 8 grams of whole grains are being provided which is typically stated on the food package.
For more information on whole grains and delicious foodservice recipes, visit and check out more Ask the Nutritionist videos for more helpful tips.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Heartland Payment Systems® Launches Mobuyle™ Restaurant Mobile Payment Acceptance Solution for Apple iOS Mobile Devices

Heartland Payment Systems (HPS), one of the nation’s largest payments processors, just made it easier for restaurateurs to accept/process card payments anywhere inside and outside a restaurant by unveiling its Mobuyle mobile payment acceptance solution for Apple iOS mobile devices, enabling merchants to take credit, debit and gift card payments on the iPhone®, iPad® and iPod touch®. This release follows the successful launch and adoption of Mobuyle for restaurants Android version and Mobuyle for retail iOS and Android versions.

“Technology innovations in restaurants has arrived in the restaurant industry with the use of tablets and iPads for ordering and is one of the top trends in 2012,” said Wendy Waren, VP of Communications for the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA). “This payment option technology makes the closing out process for restaurant staff and guests much more efficient.”

As one of the first secure, mobile payment applications fully designed and developed by a leading card payments processor, Mobuyle can be used by existing HPS card restaurant merchants (new HPS merchants must open an account) by downloading the free application from Apple’s App Store and purchasing a Mobuyle Encrypting Card Reader from HPS (866) 427-0804.  Merchants just plug the reader into an Apple mobile device audio jack and swipe cards to process customer transactions from anywhere inside or outside a restaurant.

“Restaurant merchants need payment acceptance capabilities from just about anywhere,” said Mike English, executive director of product development for HPS, which is endorsed by the National Restaurant Association and 45 state restaurant associations including the LRA. “By accepting credit, debit and gift card payments through Apple iOS mobile devices, Mobuyle enables restaurateurs and their staff to enhance the overall customer experience.”

LRA invites restaurants to compete in Kids Recipe Challenge

Access to healthy menu options is a growing concern for diners and is a top trend on restaurant menus across the country. To add a dose of excitement to the standard grilled chicken, garden salad and steamed vegetables menu options, the National Restaurant Association has launched its Kids Recipe Challenge. The competition will showcase restaurants’ culinary ingenuity for creating healthful menu items for children.

In partnership with McCormick For Chefs, the food-away-from-home division of McCormick & Company, the NRA will recognize the best recipes used on children’s menus at restaurants around the country.

"The Kids Recipe Challenge is another great example of galvanizing the restaurant and foodservice community around the importance of ensuring that American families have ready access to nutritious food," said Dawn Sweeney, the NRA's president and CEO. "We designed the initiative to be a fun and creative way to showcase healthful menu options, and a source of inspiration for foodservice operators and chefs to continue to add those options to their menus."

Phil Kafarakis, McCormick For Chefs vice president of foodservice, said supporting operators and chefs who provide nutritionally balanced kids' meals that are great tasting is a key aspect of the company's mission.

"Kids' palates are evolving and they want food choices that are authentic and globally inspired," he said. "McCormick For Chefs helps meet demand and deliver the flavors that kids love. Partnering with the NRA to conduct the Kids Recipe Challenge provides the ideal way to showcase recipes that combine our passion for flavor and nutrition."

Restaurant and foodservice operators that are interested in participating in the Kids Recipe Challenge can submit one or more recipes from their children's menus that meet the nutrition guidelines of the NRA's Kids LiveWellSM initiative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate program. Participants can compete in four categories: independent restaurants or company with fewer than 20 units; multi-unit company with more than 20 units; contract-managed foodservice; and independent noncommercial foodservice. A panel of industry professionals will select the contest's finalists and elementary school students will choose the winners. The deadline for recipe submissions is Jan. 7, 2013.

Winners of the contest will be revealed at the 2013 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, May 18-21 in Chicago.

The Kids Recipe Challenge is a complement to Kids LiveWell, which the NRA launched in July 2011 in collaboration with Healthy Dining to help parents and children find healthful menu options when dining out. To date, more than 100 brands representing nearly 30,000 restaurants are participating in Kids LiveWell.

For details on submitting recipes, nutrition criteria, and contest rules, visit

LRA Education Foundation teams up with Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue

There’s no doubt that if you live in Louisiana, you’ve seen the Blue Dog. He’s on Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Metairie standing a story high on the neutral ground, the namesake of the popular Lafayette eatery and in the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s (LRA) conference room with Pete Fountain commemorating the 2000 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The Blue Dog is everywhere.
Artist George Rodrigue's Blue Dog has become a
Louisiana pop culture icon in recent years. The LRAEF & the
GRFA team up to inspire young artists and culinarians to
express their creativity through tradition and culinary arts.
The LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) and the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA) have partnered on an exciting new and groundbreaking project—an art-inspired cookbook celebrating the theme “Louisiana’s Culinary Heritage.” The GRFA holds an annual art contest for high school juniors and seniors in Louisiana and this year’s winning artwork will be used in the cookbook project.

“Louisiana is an international culinary melting pot,” said Rodrigue. “For centuries our food reflects a cultural history of adventurous cuisine. Our beloved Creole and Cajun culinary traditions and our cultural ‘gumbo’ of French, Spanish, African, Italian, Irish and German flavors influence a vibrant restaurant industry, impacting our state’s economy through jobs and tourism.” 

In addition to the cookbook showcasing the winning student artwork, it will include 100 authentic recipes from Louisiana’s greatest chefs. The proceeds will benefit GRFA and the LRAEF.

“The LRAEF administers the ProStart program in more than 45 high schools statewide, therefore the partnership is perfect to help raise awareness for careers available in the traditional art and the culinary arts fields,” said Alice Glenn, Executive Director, LRAEF.

ProStart is a two-year, dynamic and comprehensive culinary arts and restaurant management curriculum, also for juniors and seniors, designed to attract young people to rewarding and exciting careers in the Louisiana’s restaurant industry. Through fundraising and event sponsorships, the LRAEF has awarded more than $80,000 in scholarships to ProStart students and others wishing to pursue careers in the culinary arts, since the inception of its Scholarship Fund in 2010.

“We have such a bounty of seafood, wild game and produce in Louisiana which is center plate on menus throughout Louisiana,” said Glenn. “These indigenous items paired with the creativity of our chefs and home cooks have made our state an internationally recognized destination for native and fusion cuisines.”

Winners of the 2013 GRFA Art Contest will receive one-time college scholarships and awards totaling over $45,000 to the top 10 seniors and top five junior winners. If you are a junior or senior in high school and interested in flexing your creative artistic muscle, visit this site for details. The deadline is Feb. 20, 2013.

“We invite Louisiana’s high school juniors and seniors to create a work of art representing our state’s unique culinary heritage while honoring its festivals, dishes and local ingredients,” said Rodrigue.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's now free for members to Conserve!

The National Restaurant Association’s Conserve initiative is designed to inspire actions that improve a company’s bottom line, but also are good for people and the planet. Conserve explores conservation efforts being adopted by restaurant around the nation, and in Louisiana, and offers suggestions and resources to help you reduce the cost of running your operation—both for your bottom line and the environment.

Beginning Oct. 1, the Conserve program is now free to Louisiana Restaurant Association restaurant members, who are also members of the NRA through the dual member program.
Several restaurants in the New Orleans area have already taken action. Two LRA members—Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (RBRG) and Ye Olde College Inn –participated in the first Idea Zone at the recent Louisiana Foodservice and Hospitality EXPO to share their progress and successes in the sustainability arena.

Restaurant Management magazine featured the Idea Zone Restaurant Sustainability Initiatives panelists in the article, Restaurateurs Offer Eco-Friendly Solutions just last week.  Five ways to shrink a carbon footprint were outlined from RBRG’s Chef Haley Bittermann, Ye Olde’s Johnny Blancher and Tales of the Cocktail event founder Ann Tuennerman.

The NRA Conserve can help you implement a plan today by providing industry-tried best practices, educational videos by industry experts, money-saving techniques and a personalize action plan.

It’s free and can save you big bucks and win you more customers in the process.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Boil Water Advisory issued for East Bank of Orleans Parish

This morning, at approximately 8:30 a.m., the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board (NOSWB) lost power to its water purification plant. East Bank residents and businesses should not drink, bathe, brush teeth, shower or rinse vegetables and/or fruit without boiling the water first. (Rolling boil for 1 to 2 minutes).

The NOSWB reported in a 2:30 p.m. press conference that the power outage lasted only three minutes and in their professional opinion, "the water is fine." In an abundance of caution, the advisory could last until 2 p.m. tomorrow October 9, when the results of tests of water samples will be completed. This boil advisory is in effect for the residents of the East Bank of Orleans Parish until further notice.

Tips for restaurants while under a boil advisory (per La. Dept. of Health & Hospitals):

  • Bottled water can be used for food prep, cooking, washing/rinsing/sanitizing of utensils and food contact surfaces, as well as for hand washing.
  • Single service utensils (paper/plastic plates, forks, spoons, knives) can be used.
  • In bathrooms, provide bottled water or potable water for washing hands.
  • Notify your customers of the boil advisory and explain precautions and safety practices.
  • Ice machines must be disabled.
Do not use fountain drink dispensers that use water as a component of the drink mix. (If possible, offer canned or bottled soft drinks.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LRA GNO Chapter hosts 28th Annual Golf Tournament Oct. 18

The most anticipated Greater New Orleans (GNO) area golf tournament will take place at Stonebridge Golf Club in Gretna on Thursday, October 18, 2012. Only 220 golfers have the chance to tee off for a great cause—the Louisiana Restaurant Association GNO Chapter’s goal to the LRA Education Foundation, which administers ProStart, a two-year culinary arts and restaurant management program taught in more than 45 high schools statewide.
Registration starts at 8 a.m. with a shotgun start at 10 a.m. The cost for a foursome is $800 and scoring is based on a four-person scramble format. All golfers will receive a gift certificate to the onsite Nike store, which will be open from 8-10 a.m.

“This is the LRA GNO Chapter’s premier event and time after time we hear from past attendees that it’s the best tournament in town,” said Paul Rotner, event chair. “The funds raised benefit the future of our industry through our Education Foundation, a cause near and dear to me and our members.”

With a delicious lineup of cuisine by LRA members eateries like Acme Oyster House, Drago’s, Outback Steakhouse, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Zea Rotisserie and Grill, Phil’s Grill, Walk-On’s, Superior Seafood, Mr. Mudbug’s and Lucky Dogs, no doubt you’ll be sated during your golf game.

“One of the features of the golf tournament is the mulligans and these are not your typical mulligans,” said Rotner. “Some golfers purchase hundreds of them for the chance to win big prizes like TVs, grills, iPods, camping gear, bikes and more.”

In the event that the heat index gets up in the 90s, there’s a myriad of libations for golfers can chose from.  Republic and Crescent Crown, Glazer’s of Louisiana, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coca-Cola products will keep you hydrated through the duration of the day. 

The event culminates at 4 p.m. with an awards presentation followed by the after party sponsored by Centerplate.

There are still spots for those who wish to golf and sponsorships are also available. To reserve your foursome and your sponsorship, call Cassie at (504) 454-2277 or email