Wednesday, February 27, 2013

ProStart® Students Compete for More Than $870K in Scholarships

Louisiana Seafood on board as title sponsor

The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) will host its 12th Annual Louisiana Seafood ProStart® Student Competition, March 5-6, 2013 at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, Hall A. A total of $872,000 in scholarship opportunities will be awarded to students whose teams place in the top three in both the culinary and management competitions. The funds were donated from nine of the leading post-secondary culinary and hospitality programs in the country, including Louisiana Culinary Institute, Le Cordon Bleu and University of New Orleans School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism, among others. This year begins a multi-year relationship with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, the competition’s title sponsor.

The competition showcases the culinary and academic talents of high school junior and senior ProStart students from 17 schools across Louisiana. The competition features two primary components: the Culinary Competition and the Management Competition.

During the Culinary Competition, Tuesday, March 5 from 10:45 a.m. – 3 p.m., teams will demonstrate their creative abilities through the preparation of a three-course, gourmet meal consisting of: a soup, salad or appetizer; a protein such as meat, fish or fowl, vegetable and starch; and a cold or flambĂ© dessert. All teams’ menus must have at least one type of Louisiana seafood. Twenty-one judges from the foodservice industry, and post-secondary educational institutions will observe and rate their performance during the competition.

Teams participating in the Management Competition, Wednesday, March 6 from 8:30 a.m. – 1:35 p.m., will demonstrate their knowledge of the restaurant and foodservice industry by developing a restaurant proposal, delivering a verbal presentation and applying critical thinking skills to challenges managers face in day-to-day operations. Their performance will be observed and rated by 14 judges from leading colleges and universities and industry professionals.

The 2013 LRAEF ProStart Student Competition Sponsors include: Louisiana Seafood, Acme Oyster House, Auto-Chlor Services, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, Performance Foodservice Caro, Atmos Energy, Louisiana Culinary Institute, Ocean Conservancy, Ovations, ECOLAB, Notini’s Restaurant, Capitol City Produce, Centerplate, Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, Freeman Decorating, Pontchartrain Convention & Civic Center, Reinhart Foodservice and Sysco New Orleans.

Budding culinarians compete live and
produce awe inspiring cuisine
at the Louisiana Seafood ProStart
Competition, March 5-6, 2013.
ProStart is a two-year comprehensive culinary management course for juniors and seniors in high school with two primary outcomes: to prepare students for higher education and to train students to go directly to work in Louisiana’s foodservice industry. The LRAEF pairs ProStart students and LRA members together in a mutually-beneficial relationship. Students are required to complete a 400-hour work internship, thus providing hands-on training. Many of LRA members serve as mentors to ProStart students.

The participating schools in the Management Competition are: East St. John HS, Fontainebleau HS, Hammond High Magnet School, Lakeshore HS, N. Vermillion HS, Rayne HS, Salmen HS, Slidell HS and Woodlawn HS.
Rayne High School is the team to beat in the 2013 Louisiana
Seafood ProStart Management Competition. Rayne's team
places first in 2012 in Louisiana and previously won
the National ProStart Management Competition.
The participating schools in the Culinary Arts Competition are: Ascension Parish Center for Excellence, East St. John HS, Fontainebleau HS, Grace King HS, Hammond High Magnet School, Lakeshore HS, Mandeville HS, N. Vermillion HS, Rayne HS, Salmen HS, Slidell HS, St. James Career Center, Thibodaux HS, WD Smith Career Center, W. Feliciana HS, West St. John HS and Woodlawn HS.
The winning teams will go on to represent Louisiana at the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore, Md. April 19-21, 2013.

9 tips to prepare for a health inspection

Health inspections are a fact of life when you run a restaurant. Sanitarians are tasked with unannounced visits to your establishment to ensure that you are following the necessary food safety and sanitation measures to prevent foodborne illnesses among the dining public.

The proper strategy for a successful health inspection is to be ready for an inspection at any time. To stay ahead of the game, managers can conduct weekly, in-house inspections before health inspector arrives.
  • Use the same form ̶ or a similar form ̶ that your health department uses, and put yourself in the health inspector's place. Check with your local health department on what regulations and forms are being used.
  • Walk into your establishment from the outside to get an outsider's impression.
  • Brief your kitchen staff to review any problems post-inspection. This will help convey the importance of food safety to staff members.
  • Ensure all staff are on the same page. If your staff includes employees for whom English is a second language, have the findings translated so everyone understands how important food safety is to the success of your restaurant. Consider hiring a professional translator. A bilingual staff member might use terms or phrases that might not make sense or could be misinterpreted in other dialects.
  • Know your priorities. Your self-inspection priorities for kitchen employees should include: food time and temperatures, personal hygiene (including hand washing) and cross contamination. Temperature guidelines include checking the temperature of products when they arrive, when they are stored and when they are served.
  • Reinforce the importance of hand washing. Post signs at all kitchen sinks and in employee restrooms.
  • Train your managers to ensure they are up-to-date on the latest food-safety techniques. Restaurant employees can use the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's ServSafe food-safety training programs.
  • Review your local health code for any special, local requirements.
  • Get involved politically to give a restaurateur’s perspective. One opportunity could be to join your state's health-code-revision committee. Involve senior staff on such committees as well.
Now that you have prepared for the inspection, you need to know what to do when the health inspector arrives. Be warned that inspections usually arrive unannounced, so you'll want to be ready on any occasion, even during rush hours.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association is a partner in food safety with the industry's regulatory agency, Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals. The LRA also is the state's largest trainer of ServSafe, an eight-hour food safety and sanitation course, and offers classes statewide, year around that meets the mandated requirement in Louisiana.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Safety leadership pivotal to managing your workers’ comp costs

By Stan Harris, LRA President & CEO, Former Restaurateur

The restaurant business is all about the people—your customers and your team. In my previous 25 year career as a multi-unit restaurant owner, my philosophy on workplace safety was holistic. Honing your observation skills is imperative. As the owner or manager of a business, if you want to make a difference in your workers’ compensation cost, make it part of your daily DNA. How does this become part of your daily routine? It’s easier than you think.

When you arrive at your place of business, walk around the parking and delivery areas. Is there broken concrete, curbs or bumper blocks that could be a trip or fall hazard? Is the exterior lighting in good working order? As you enter the door, if it is an exit door, is the EXIT sign properly illuminated? As you go to the cook line, look at the interior of the hood surfaces. Are they clean and free from dripping grease? Are the links in the fire suppression system covered with grease? Is the tag on the ANSUL system up to date? Are the handheld fire extinguishers in an accessible location that wouldn’t require you to be at the source of a fire to reach them?

Is your ceiling clean? Do the light fixtures or lamps have the proper covers or shields? Are the cords of the electrical appliances in good condition? Are the knobs and thermostats of the gas appliances installed and in working order? I know it sounds like a lot, but your powers of observation are important in monitoring the safety process.

Take a look at your dish station. Try to avoid a pre-soak tub that could have broken or chipped glass in it. Be sure to size your dish and glass racks to fit the appropriate glassware or serving items. This helps avoid chips and breakage while also helping to avoid cuts. Is the floor drain working properly to avoid a staff member having to work in standing water?

In the prep areas, do the employees wear cut resistant gloves when prepping lemons or chopping vegetables? Is the can opener cutting edge clean? Do you ensure that each time you access the ice machine bin, you use an air dried scoop?

As you enter the dining room are the floor surfaces clean? If you use dust control mats, are they laid out properly? Are the floor transitions as smooth as possible to minimize slip and falls? Does your staff pre-bus tables to avoid having to carry overloaded trays to the dish station? This will help avoid strains and sprains.

If you want to lower your mod factor and avail yourself of the most competitive rates for workers’ compensation, raising your observations during your walk through each day will help develop a culture of safety. As the owner or manager, if you embrace safety each and every day, so will your staff members. We have a number of tools that can help you better train your staff on the proper use of fire extinguishers, measure the grip of a floor surface, or help you create checklists to review each shift.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Begala, Castellanos to address NRA political conference

Political consultants Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos are among the speakers at the National Restaurant Association Public Affairs Conference.
Castellanos and Begala

The conference, set for April 17 and 18, draws more than 500 restaurateurs to Washington, D.C. Historically, Louisiana has a solid showing with nearly 35 LRA members and restaurateurs making the trip. Over the two-day event, attendees meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and hear from policy experts on issues that affect the restaurant industry.
Begala, a political analyst for CNN, was a counselor to President Clinton. At the White House, he helped define the Administration’s agenda on economic, domestic and international issues. He has advised political campaigns throughout the country and around the world, including Europe, Latin America, the
Caribbean and Africa. At CNN, he is part of the political team that won an Emmy for its coverage of the 2006 elections and a Peabody Award for its coverage of the 2008 presidential election. He also is a columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
Castellanos is one of the Republican Party’s best-known and most successful media consultants and strategists. He was a media consultant to seven U.S Presidential campaigns and helped elect nine U.S. senators and six governors. He has more than 20 years of political consulting experience in the United States and abroad, including campaign strategy, public opinion research and communications experience.
The theme of this year’s Public Affairs Conference is “Carry the Message – America Works Here.” It is related to the NRA’s ongoing campaign to promote the restaurant industry as a leading job creator. The America Works Here slogan references the industry’s workforce, diversity and opportunity, as well as an integral part of Americans’ daily lives.
While on Capitol Hill, attendees will share first-hand experiences with members of Congress and key staffers. They are expected to articulate the need for pro-growth policies, including tax and immigration reform, as well as reforms to the 2010 health care law.
The Public Affairs Conference also features a Restaurant Industry Awards gala, where winners of the Faces of Diversity and Restaurant Neighbor awards will be honored.
Register to attend the NRA Public Affairs Conference here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SIF members weigh in on safety seriousness

When it comes to safety, how aware are your employees to the risk of injury in their workplace environment? It only takes a second for an accident to occur and whether it’s in a restaurant, office, retail floor or warehouse, “safety first” is an affirmation for all of us, no matter our location.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association Self Insurer’s Fund (LRA SIF) provides its members with monthly safety meeting topics for managers and supervisors to conduct in an effort to reduce injuries. They include: slips, trips and falls; cuts and lacerations, back and lifting safety, burns, first aid, driver safety, electrical safety, fire safety, robbery prevention, among others. 
“It’s always a great idea to have a fresh set of eyes looking at your operations for safety hazards,” said Lindsay Midgett, area supervisor for Idora, Inc., which owns 10 Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchens in Lake Charles and its surrounding areas. “Being in the business every day, it’s so easy to overlook safety hazards.” 

With that many locations, Midgett’s store managers and supervisors use the LRA SIF monthly safety meeting sheets to cover the necessary topics to help curtail any accidents. He also appreciates LRA SIF site inspections to further prevent claims and said his top three safety concerns are slips and falls, fryer burns and cuts.  

“Just a few weeks ago, Victor Balbuena, [LRA SIF VP of Loss Prevention] did an inspection and pointed out something that I’d been stepping over and didn’t even realize,” said Midgett, who’s in charge of safety and human resources for the company. 

Creating a culture of safety starts at the top, but is not management’s responsibility alone.  New Orleans Country Club General Manager Bobby Crifasi has, at most, 200 employees to oversee and has created a task force of sorts to emphasis safety.  

“Our seven department heads make up our Safety Committee,” explained Crifasi. “Each week they meet and inspect one of their respective areas of the operation for possible hazards. We also reward line level employees for pointing out possible safety issues. ”  

Buy-in from all staff members is critical in preventing injuries. It really helps to have the staff assist with monitoring other employee activity when management isn’t present.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Volunteerism is a core value for this leader

Meet David Hearn, 2013 LRA Chair

David Hearn, 2013 LRA Chair and
wife Janet.
As the sun rises on the tenure of 2013 Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Chair David Hearn, he has tallied up his commitment this year to the industry, which will be nearly 100 days. When it comes to service to Louisiana’s restaurant industry, Hearn has the market cornered. In addition to his position on the LRA State Board, he’s also a director for the LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) and a trustee for the LRA Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation (LRA SIF).

“David is an individual who is absolutely committed to community service,” said Stan Harris, LRA President/CEO. “This kind of dedication to the LRA is truly legendary. Being around someone who has this kind of philosophy on giving back is inspiring and contagious.” 

As LRA Chair, Hearn will lead four State Board meetings; represent Louisiana at the Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. and install all nine LRA Chapter Boards during each annual Awards Banquet and Officer Installation. There are four meetings each he’ll participate in with the LRA SIF and the LRAEF. This year, the first LRA Board Meeting is in conjunction with the Louisiana ProStart® Competition.

“ProStart is the coolest thing we do as an association for the future of our industry,” said Hearn. “To see high school students compete in the Culinary and Management Competitions is impressive and I wanted all of our board members to see the students in action. If ProStart would have been around when I was in high school, I would have definitely taken it to complement working in my family’s restaurant.”

At the young age of 11, Hearn found himself working as a busboy at his family’s restaurant, Catfish Cabin, in Monroe. As he matured, he learned the ropes of the front of the house during high school and as he entered college, he moved on to experience the back of the house operations. When David married Janet Clark in 1982, the timing was perfect for him to take a job outside the family restaurant in institutional grocery sales where he stayed for the following 12 years.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One-quarter of Americans dine out for Valentine's Day

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) expects about one-quarter of Americans to dine out this Valentine’s Day, making it the second most popular holiday for dining out after Mother’s Day.
The NRA's research also shows that nearly one-third of American adults would like to receive a restaurant gift card as a Valentine’s Day gift. Men show a much stronger preference for restaurant gift cards as a Valentine’s Day gift than women do at nearly half.
Given a list of six Valentine’s Day gift options and asked which one they would most like to receive as a Valentine’s Day gift, 31 percent of adults favored restaurant gift cards, followed by jewelry, clothing/apparel, flowers, chocolate and perfume/cologne. When broken down by gender, 46 percent of men favored restaurant gift cards over clothing/apparel at 16 percent, and chocolate at 12 percent. Women indicated that their preferred gifts are jewelry (37 percent) and flowers (23 percent), with restaurant gift cards coming in third at 13 percent.
When it comes to factors involved in choosing where to dine out for Valentine’s Day, the NRA's research most that consumers (42 percent) say they pick their favorite restaurant or their companion’s favorite restaurant for their special meal. Twenty-one percent select a restaurant with a romantic atmosphere, followed by restaurants that offer special menus or promotions (13 percent), restaurants picked by their companion (12 percent), and a restaurant they haven’t been to before (11 percent).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Restaurateurs seek economic stability solutions

Economic stability is among key policy issues critical to the restaurant industry’s continued growth and success, National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney said before the President's State of the Union address. The economy is the expected focus of the speech.
“While the restaurant industry is expected to grow in 2013, operators continue to face a wide range of challenges, chief among them concerns about consumer confidence and the economy,” Sweeney said. “On behalf of our members, the National Restaurant Association urges policymakers to provide long-term, sustainable solutions necessary to keep our economy moving.”

As an industry of about 13 million people, one million locations and $660 billion in sales, restaurants are affected by many legislative and regulatory decisions. For example, reform of the immigration system, tax policy and the 2010 health care law are key to continued restaurant industry job growth, Sweeney said. The restaurant industry is the second-largest private employer in the United States.

The NRA supports federal immigration reform that includes an accurate and reliable employment verification system. But it’s only a first step: Eventually, work site enforcement must be accompanied by provisions that recognize employers' efforts to hire Americans. Those provisions should give employers who make every reasonable effort to hire Americans a way to hire legal foreign workers to keep their businesses open and contribute to the U.S. economy, she said.

As for tax reform, the NRA supports policy that recognizes the restaurant industry's organizational diversity. Congress should examine corporate and individual tax reform simultaneously because a majority of restaurant businesses are built on small partnership arrangements. The NRA has urged Congress to enact a permanent 15-year depreciation schedule for restaurant buildings and improvements and make permanent the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

Another policy priority is health care. As health care regulations accelerate, policymakers are recognizing challenges that require reform. The NRA has worked for more than two years to highlight the industry’s challenges in complying with the health care law. It has filed volumes of comments with regulatory agencies to answer operators' questions and ensure they have maximum flexibility as the rules are written so they can meet the legislation's goals and continue to create jobs.

"Restaurants provide quality jobs in every state and every Congressional district, and the National Restaurant Association will continue advocating for policies that create an environment conducive to job creation and growth for our industry," Sweeney said.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Restaurants not required to serve allergen-free foods, Justice Dept. says

Following some confusion over the Justice Department’s stance on how the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to food-allergic customers, the Department of Justice published a Q&A last week reaffirming that the ADA does not require all restaurants to provide gluten-free or allergen-free foods.
The Justice Department, however, indicated the ADA might require restaurants to take "reasonable steps" to accommodate people with celiac disease and other food allergies, as long as the accommodation doesn't result in a “fundamental alteration” of the restaurant’s operation.

For example, it said the ADA may require restaurants to answer questions about menu ingredients and omit or substitute certain ingredients upon request if the restaurant normally does this for other guests. But, a restaurant would not be required to "alter its menu or provide different foods to meet particular dietary needs."

The agency's Q&A came in the wake of a December agreement between the Justice Department and Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. The school agreed to provide gluten-free and allergen-free food options as part of the university’s meal plan, and take other steps to accommodate students with celiac disease and other food allergies. In this case, the meal plan was mandatory for all students living on campus. Food-allergic students filed the ADA lawsuit to force the school to modify the plan.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Restaurant job growth hit 17-year high in 2012

In his latest commentary, the National Restaurant Association's Chief Economist Bruce Grindy looks back at 2012 jobs growth and offers projections for 2013. Restaurants added jobs at a strong 3.4 percent rate in 2012, the strongest increase in 17 years. Looking ahead to 2013, job growth in the restaurant industry is projected to outpace the overall economy by a full percentage-point.

The restaurant industry was an engine of growth for the nation’s employment recovery in 2012, and the trend is expected to continue in 2013. Eating and drinking places – the primary component of the restaurant industry which accounts for roughly three-fourths of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce – added jobs at a strong 3.4 percent rate in 2012, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The robust restaurant industry job growth doubled the 1.7 percent gain in total U.S. employment in 2012, and represented the strongest increase since a 3.9 percent gain in 1995.

This disparity marked the continuation of a long-term trend, with 2012 representing the 13th consecutive year in which restaurant job growth outpaced the overall economy. In fact, during the last 13 years, the number of eating-and-drinking-place jobs jumped 25 percent, while total U.S. employment rose by only 4 percent.

Job growth within the restaurant industry was broad-based on 2012, with several of the major segments registering strong gains. Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars – including coffee, donut and ice cream shops – set the pace with a robust 4.9 percent employment gain. Foodservice contactors (4.8 percent), quickservice restaurants (4.1 percent) and fullservice restaurants (3.0 percent) also added jobs at rates well above the overall economy in 2012. 

Looking ahead to 2013, job growth in the restaurant industry is projected to remain solid, albeit somewhat slower than the torrid pace registered in 2012. The National Restaurant Association expects restaurants to add jobs at a 2.7 percent rate in 2013, a full percentage-point above the projected 1.7 percent gain in total U.S. employment.

The projected 2013 gain will represent the 14th consecutive year in which restaurant industry job growth outpaces the overall economy, and the third consecutive year in which the industry registered job growth in excess of 2.5 percent. In comparison, the overall economy hasn’t posted job growth above 2.5 percent since 1998.

With the release of the February 1 jobs report, BLS included revisions that gave a clearer picture of employment trends during and after the recession. Restaurant employment fell 3.9 percent during the recession, while the overall economy lost 6.3 percent of its employment base.

The restaurant industry was certainly not immune from the effects of the Great Recession, with job losses in 2009 and 2010 representing just the second and third years on record that the industry cut staffing levels.

However, the restaurant industry bounced back quickly after the recession, with January’s employment level up 8.8 percent from the bottom of the cycle. In comparison, total U.S. employment is only up 4.3 percent from the recession trough. 

Overall, restaurant employment currently stands 441,000 jobs above its high-point before the recession, while the overall economy is still down 3.2 million jobs from the pre-recession peak.