Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Could the delay of spring impact restaurant sales?

The first day of spring came and went, but winter still reigns in much of the country. In Louisiana, it hasn't been this cool, this late in March since 1955. While we still have our scarves and jackets in tow, in a few short weeks, the temperatures will creep up and we'll be reminiscing about these cooler than normal days.

According to National Restaurant Association research, nearly nine out of 10 restaurant operators say local weather conditions impact sales and customer counts. In addition, seven out of 10 say weather forecasts also have an impact.

Restaurateurs say sunny weather and winter temperatures warmer than normal have the strongest positive impact, while winter temperatures colder than normal have the strongest negative impact.

“Since weather conditions do affect consumer behavior in the regions that have seen heightened wintery conditions this March, an impact on restaurant sales can be expected, especially when compared to the more positive conditions a year ago. Even the loss of a party-of-five per day in a typical restaurant can make a difference. So, from a restaurateurs’ perspective, now is the time to think about how to nudge consumers into patronizing in the months ahead to recover that pent-up demand,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the NRA.

For example, consider a tableservice restaurant with monthly sales of $70,000, serving 7,000 customers monthly, with an average per-person check of $10. The loss of a five-party table per day for a month adds up to $1,500 less in sales. Reversely, an additional five-top per day for a month increases sales by that same amount.

While it's too early to assess the actual impact of the March winter storms, restaurant sales in January and February were tepid due to higher gas prices and payroll taxes cutting into consumers’ cash-on-hand. However, operators remain positive overall about future business conditions.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Buffets are most sought-after menu for Easter Sunday

The National Restaurant Association estimates that 33 million Americans - 14 percent of adults - will celebrate Easter by dining out.

When it comes to must-have food items, more than half of consumers who dine out on Easter (51 percent) say they will be looking for a buffet, 39 percent say they have to have ham, 37 percent said pastries are on their list of must-haves, and 27 percent said eggs. Lamb was less popular among the list of must-have food items at 7 percent.

Of those who dine out on Easter Sunday, 46 percent of those do so at lunch, while 44 percent visit a restaurant for dinner. In addition, 29 percent of individuals visiting a restaurant for an Easter meal are planning to dine out for brunch, while 21 percent said they are going out for breakfast. Seventeen percent are planning to have more than one meal at a restaurant on Easter Sunday.

When it comes to factors involved in choosing a restaurant on Easter Sunday, diners are most likely to choose their favorite restaurant, regardless of Easter specials, for their special holiday meal (48 percent). Sixteen percent of Easter diners said they would choose a restaurant with holiday specials or menu items, while 13 percent said they would choose a restaurant that they haven’t been to before. Food and activities for children were the deciding factor for nearly one out of five Easter diners. Fourteen percent said they would likely choose a restaurant with Easter-related activities for kids, such as egg painting or egg hunting.

The National Restaurant Association surveyed 1,000 American adults about Easter dining in 2011. The estimate of 33 million Americans dining out this Easter is based on economic analysis and projections, as well as research conducted over the last two decades.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Calling all foodies, professional and great gumbo cooks

Chef John Folse and L.A. Gumbo Festival serve up $4,000 in cash prizes

Renowned restaurateur and Louisiana’s Culinary Ambassador to the World, Chef John Folse, has teamed up with Alabama restaurateur and former University of Alabama and Miami Dolphin great, Bob Baumhower, to create the inaugural L.A. Gumbo Festival set for April 11–13 at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Ala.
The Ala vs. La showdown came from the “World’s Largest Gumbo” and “Tailgate Cook-off” that Chef Folse did in Tuscaloosa in November 2011.  It was so much fun, Bob Baumhower thought to pit the professionals against each other.

"I can’t wait to get back to Alabama to beat our ‘World’s Largest Gumbo’ record that was set in November 2011," said Chef Folse.  "Orange Beach and L.A., that’s Lower Alabama, are becoming a second home for me."
The festival features a Gumbo Cook-off, pitting Louisiana foodies and professional chefs against Alabama’s “alleged” gumbo cooks.  Both the foodie division and professional division begin cooking at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 13th at The Wharf.  Judging begins at 11:30 a.m. with cash prizes awarded in both categories.  Prizes in the Foodie Category include $200 for 3rd place, $300 for 2nd place and $500 for first place. 
The same prizes will be awarded in the Professional Division, but prizes are awarded to both the Louisiana and Alabama chefs.  Additionally, the first place winners in the professional category for both Louisiana and Alabama will compete for the Grand Champion title and an additional $1,000.  Additional prizes of $500 each will be awarded for People’s Choice gumbo and Best Decorated Booth. 

The L.A. Gumbo Festival is free and open to the public.  Competition tasting tickets for the “People’s Choice” award are $2 each or 30 tickets for $20. 

Entry fees are for the Foodie Division $50 per contestant and for the Professional Division $250 per contestant.  Interested parties can register for the competition online at www.gumboforlife.com, then mail the registration form, payment and a copy of your recipe to: L.A. Gumbo Festival, 26801 Railroad Ave., Loxley, AL 36551.  Deadline for registration is Monday, April 5.

For rules, regulations and registration in either the foodie or professional division OR for more information on the festival, please visit www.gumboforlife.com or contact Kent Lynam (251) 408-7973 or email klynam@alohahospitality.com or Michaela York at michaelay@jfolse.com.

Monday, March 18, 2013

National Agriculture Day Recognized

National Ag Day will be celebrated tomorrow, March 19, 2013,  and this is the time to recognize all of the contributions made by agriculture producers, associations, corporations, universities and government agencies affiliated with the industry.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) and the National Ag Day program make an effort to promote:
  • An understanding of how food and fiber products are produced.
  • The role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • The importance of safe, abundant and affordable products. 
“Because of agriculture, we have food to eat and clothes to wear. So often, our farmers and ranchers get overlooked because so much of what they do is taken for granted because people equate getting their food from the grocery store. As the population grows, our ag producers will be working harder and looking for more efficient, yet healthy, ways to feed the world,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. “With agriculture being one of the largest industries in the state, you may know someone who is affiliated with the industry. Make sure you tell them ‘thank you’”.

Agriculture is an $11 billion industry in Louisiana.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Think you've got the best gumbo? Put it to the test!

A good gumbo is the tell tale sign of a great Louisiana chef. Everybody claims their gumbo is the best and the L.A. Gumbo Festival in Orange Beach, AL, April 11-13, 2013 might be the perfect place to win over the taste buds of the masses. With the melting pot of diverse cultures, traditions and backgrounds that exists in Louisiana, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

This festival pits Louisiana chefs against Alabama chefs in the professional division and a first, second and third place winner will be chosen from each state by an independent panel of judges. Then, the first place Alabama and Louisiana chefs will go gumbo-to-gumbo for the Grand Champion Title and a $1,000 cash prize.

If you think your version of the delicious, rich bowl of goodness, we call it yumbo, has what it takes to beat an Alabama chef’s gumbo, then this contest is for you!
For registration information, please contact Kent Lynam at (251) 408-7973 or email klynam@alohahospitality.com

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

National Restaurant Association Board Member Highlights Health Care Law Challenges before Congressional Committee

Stressing the unique characteristics of the restaurant industry, a National Restaurant Association board member and restaurant industry veteran today told members of Congress that the 2010 health care law poses costly challenges for employers and, without modifications, may sacrifice jobs.
Tom Boucher, an independent restaurateur and CEO-Owner of Great New Hampshire Restaurants, Inc., testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health hearing examining the law’s impact on jobs. 

Independent restaurateur and CEO-owner of
Great New Hampshire Restaurants, Inc. testifies
before the U.S. House of Representatives
Energy and Commerce Committee's
Subcommittee on Health hearing examining
the law's impact on jobs.

“The National Restaurant Association has worked to constructively shape the implementing regulations of the health care law since its enactment,” Boucher said. “Nevertheless, there are limits to what can be achieved through the regulatory process alone. Changes in the law are needed given the challenges employers such as restaurant and foodservice operators face in implementing it.”

The National Restaurant Association has worked for more than two years to highlight the restaurant industry’s challenges in complying with the law, filing volumes of comments with regulatory agencies to get the answers restaurant operators need and to ensure they have maximum flexibility as the rules are written. 

In his remarks on behalf of the Association, Boucher pointed to several requirements that are problematic for the industry, which is predominantly comprised of small businesses, a young and highly mobile workforce and low profit margins. 

“Broader transition relief is needed for employers attempting to comply with the law in good-faith as time is short to make the significant changes required by the law,” Boucher said. “The duplicative automatic enrollment provision should be eliminated as it could unnecessarily confuse and financially harm employees.”

In addition, the Association has said the law should more accurately reflect the general business practice of 40 hours a week as full-time employment. The applicable large employer determination over-reaches to include more small businesses than it should through the very complicated full-time equivalent definition.

Boucher added, “The National Restaurant Association looks forward to working with this Committee and all of Congress on these and other important issues to improve health care for our employees without sacrificing their jobs in the process. We also continue to actively participate in the regulatory process to ensure the implementing rules consider our industry’s perspective.”

Boucher’s complete written testimony for the committee hearing can be found here.


National Restaurant Association Announces 2013 FABI Award Recipients

Top Food and Beverage Innovations Reflect Industry Macro-trends, High Marketability and Lifestyle Needs

The National Restaurant Association announced the recipients of the FABI Awards, which recognizes progressive food and beverage innovations that will make a significant impact in the restaurant industry.

An independent panel of experts, representing a variety of both commercial and non-commercial industry segments, selected the FABI award recipients based on their exciting benefits to restaurant operators. The innovations selected represent high marketability products designed to satisfy consumer trends, including lifestyles such as gluten free, allergen free, low sodium, vegetarian, vegan or raw diets. The award recipients will be showcased at the 2013 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show on May 18-21 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

“Food and beverage innovation helps drive customer satisfaction and profitability for restaurant operators,” said Jeffrey W. Davis, Convention Chair for NRA Show 2013 and CEO of the United States Beef Corporation. “This year’s FABI Awards recipients embody bold imagination with great potential to advance menu development and attract new customers. The NRA Show offers the perfect forum to explore trends and see new products that will shape the foodservice future—today.”

The 2013 FABI Awards recipients are: 
Dawn Foods: TasteFills
Tastefills are freezer-to-fryer bakery bites that come in 6 different filling flavors, with a miniature application that gives restaurants a flexible and convenient, high-quality dessert option to expand their menus.

Edison Grainery: Organic Quinoa Pasta
An organic quinoa and rice flour blend, that is gluten free and high in protein, and helps restaurants satisfy dietary needs and keep pace with culinary trends without sacrificing quality or taste.

Hail Merry Snacks: Merry’s Chocolate Miracle Mini Tart
Consciously prepared to protect the integrity of the pure GMO-free ingredients, including a natural almond crust and organic virgin coconut oil, this mini tart provides operators a way meet special diet restrictions, including gluten-free, vegan, and Kosher.

Kiki’s Gluten Free Foods, LLC: Kiki’s SpinachFeta Pockets
A gluten-free product that delivers excellent flavor and texture, and utilizes special packaging to help eliminate the risk of cross contamination during preparation.

Nu-Tek Food Science: Salt for Life™ Sea Salt Blend
Using a patented, single-crystal technology, Salt for Life Sea Salt Blend delivers the true taste of salt with 70 percent less sodium than table salt, and can be used by operators like regular salt as a one-to-one replacement in recipes.

Sinco Inc.: Italcrust Ancient Grain Handstretched Woodfired Frozen Pizza Crust
A premium, all-natural pizza crust made with ancient grains that is proofed for 24 hours, hand-stretched and wood fired, allowing operators to tap into the highly-popular ancient grains trend and capitalize on the crust’s bold flavor.

Waghal’s Imports: Fermin Ibérico de Bellota Smoked Panceta
A high end, artisanal pork product made from the one-of-a-kind Ibérico de Bellota breed from Spain, traditionally cured and hickory smoked here in the United States for some of the most flavorful, high quality panceta on the market.

To learn more about the FABI program and this year’s award recipients, visit Restaurant.org/Show. The annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the largest single gathering of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals. NRA Show 2013 will be held May 18-21 at McCormick Place in Chicago, and the 2013 International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event held in conjunction with the NRA Show will take place May 19-20.
The events attract 61,000+ attendees and visitors from all 50 states and 100+ countries, and showcases the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues and more growth opportunities than any other industry event. For more information, visit the Show and IWSB websites at Restaurant.org/Show and WineSpiritsBeer.org, and find the NRA Show on Twitter @NRAShow, Facebook, YouTube and its widely read NRA Show blog.


Great American Seafood Cook-off: 4-H Edition 2013

Sensational Seafood – The Healthy Way!

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board and LSU AgCenter invites 4-Her’s from across the country to show off their culinary prowess at the 3rd annual Great American Seafood Cook-off:4-H Edition high school 4-H competition on Sunday, August 4, 2013, at the Louisiana Foodservice and Hospitality EXPO at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Eight teams of two to four contestants will compete for the title of 4-H Kings/Queens of Seafood.  The theme for this year’s event will be “Sensational Seafood – The Healthy Way.” Competitors will prepare dishes that highlight USA Domestic Seafood in a healthy way.  Dishes must contain 500 or fewer calories per serving. 

This contest is geared for high school (9th-12th grades) 4-H youth, who are interested in pursuing a career in the food service industry and have a general knowledge of cooking and food safety practices in the kitchen. The goal of this competition is not only to highlight the exceptional skills of 4-H youth from different states focusing on nutrition, food safety and presentation skills, but to promote workforce development by giving youth an up close and personal view inside the food service industry.
This contest promotes positive public awareness of the importance of consumers using fresh seafood at home with their favorite recipes to support the seafood industry. The contest will also highlight recipes that are healthy and easily replicated at home. Participating teams are also encouraged to include their state commodities in the dishes they present.

Not only will participants compete on the same stage as the professional chefs, but they will be given the opportunity to tour local farmer’s market venues in New Orleans and also sample some of the wonderful cuisine for which New Orleans is so famous. 4-H youth participants will have the opportunity to take a close look into the world of culinary arts by exploring both back-of-the-house operations as well as the front-of-the-house, where the chefs and service staff make magic happen.
The Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board will give the first eight teams to register $500 to assist in travel costs.    

The winning team will take home the title of GASCO: 4-H Kings/Queens of Seafood and also receive awards from the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, Louisiana 4-H, and National 4-H. 

For more information on this event, or to enter a team from your state, please contact Quincy L. Cheek with the LSU AgCenter at qcheek@agcenter.lsu.edu or 318-767-3969 or 318-623-5217.    

Do you have a killer recipe for Louisiana Sweet Potatoes?

Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission seeks your winning recipe

Do you have a killer recipe for sweet potatoes? Get inspired to create a unique dish featuring this exceptional root veggie and enter to win the annual Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission Contest.

The sweet potatoes popularity in Louisiana in the past few years has risen and can be found on many restaurant menus. Most commonly consumed as a side dish complimenting a Thanksgiving Feast, the year round consumption boosts many health benefits and let’s face it, they are delicious.

However, the sweet potato is not a potato at all. Or even a distant relative to the potato. Potatoes are tubers and sweet potatoes are actually roots. In Louisiana, they are often referred to as yams and have found their way onto many restaurant menus as side dishes and desserts mainly in recent years.

Now in its 10th year, the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission is sponsoring a recipe contest in partnership with Louisiana Cookin’ magazine. More than 1,000 recipes were submitted last year from every state in the nation and more are expected this year. 
Sweet Potato Corn Spoon Bread took the top prize in the
Professional category in 2012.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association is also a sponsor and encourages professional chefs and amateurs foodies to submit their most delicious recipe for an appetizers, side dish, entrée or desserts. An overall grand prize winner will be selected and will win $1,000! To top it off, one winner in the professional category will be awarded an additional $500 each. 

"Culinary competitions are really exciting ways to grow your restaurant's customer base and exposure," said Wendy Waren, LRA VP of Communications. "Winning this contest results in a spot in the October issue of Louisiana Cookin' magazine and hard cold cash. What are you waiting for?"

So if you are thinking you want to try your hand at a root vegetable gratin featuring sweet potatoes, a gulf seafood bisque or your specialty sweet potato dessert, here’s your chance to possibly cash in and earn bragging rights.

This year, chefs and home cooks have the option of using fresh, frozen or canned sweet potatoes in their creations.  Deadline to submit your recipe(s) is May 31, 2013. If you enter more than one recipe, you need to complete a separate entry for each recipe.

Prize winners will be determined based on overall flavor, visual appeal and creativity. Finalists’ recipes will be prepared by culinary students at Delgado Community College of New Orleans and judged by an independent panel of food industry professional whose decisions are final.

Those that are the brightest, prettiest orange color are the richest in beta-carotene, contain vitamin B6, iron, potassium and fiber and contain virtually no fat or sodium.  Studies have consistently shown that a high intake of beta carotene-rich foods like the sweet potato can significantly reduce the risks for certain types of cancer.

With the rich soil conditions in Louisiana, the nutritional benefits and a cash prize, that’s a winning recipe in our books! So enter today!

We love to eat them fried, mashed, baked, in a soup and even as a hash for breakfast. What is your favorite way to eat the beloved sweet potato?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hammond and Rayne teams takes first place in Louisiana Seafood ProStart Competition

The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) hosted the 12th Annual Louisiana Seafood ProStart® Student Competition, March 5-6, 2013 at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. The competition showcased the culinary and academic talents of students from 17 high schools across Louisiana, and featured two primary components: the Culinary Arts Competition and the Restaurant Management Competition. This year began a multi-year relationship with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, the competition’s title sponsor.

During the Culinary Arts Competition, teams demonstrated their knife skills, poultry fabrication and creative abilities through the preparation of a three-course meal in 60 minutes, consisting of: a soup, salad or appetizer; an entrée with a protein, vegetable and starch; and a dessert. All teams’ menus had to feature at least one type of the six Louisiana seafood species.

Hammond High Magnet School's team takes
top place in the Louisiana Seafood
ProStart Culinary Competition, March 5.
For the sixth year in a row, the winner of the Culinary Arts Competition was Hammond High Magnet School, led by instructor Patti Johnson and students Jacquita Jolley, Julia LaSalle, Edna Phares and Chantal Quillen. The second place team was Salmen High School in Slidell, led by instructor Allison Armand and students Sean Coats, Courtney Mobley, Lauren Pedeaux, Ta’Ron Rayford and alternate, Shilon Callahan. The third place team was first-time competitor West Feliciana High School in St. Francisville, led by instructor Amy Dreher and students Warneiseya Davis, Chaselan Lee Eames, Amanda Mangham, Elizabeth Ritchie-Fudge and alternate, Deneshia Walker.

Hammond’s winning menu was: appetizer-pumpkin seed and curry crusted jumbo Anna Maria Gulf Shrimp, Mardi Gras slaw, pepper bacon and Creole cane sauce with jumbo lump Louisiana crab; entrée-braised pork “Osso Bucco,” bacon jam, cornmeal dusted, goat cheese grits and lardon field greens; and dessert-Red Velvet pan “cakes,” with cream cheese icing, whipped cream, white chocolate shavings, and garnished with a Ponchatoula strawberry.

Teams participating in the Restaurant Management Competition demonstrated their knowledge of the restaurant and foodservice industry by developing a restaurant proposal, delivering a verbal presentation, creating a visual display and applying critical thinking skills to challenges managers face in day-to-day operations.

Rayne High School's team takes first place in the
Louisiana Seafood ProStart Management Competition.
For the fourth year in a row, the winner of the Restaurant Management Competition was Rayne High School, led by instructor Kandice Dequeant and students Kelsey Burleigh, Sebastian Hebert and Beth Thibodeaux. The second place team was Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville, led by instructor Angie Drago and students Dylan Bernard, Mark Gravois and Graham Roth. The third place team was Lakeshore High School in Mandeville, led by instructor Judy Achary and students Brandi Francis, Rachel Howard, Ricardo Najorro, Elizabeth Salazar and alternate, Katie Taylor.

Rayne’s winning restaurant concept was a food truck called Rock & Wrap, with the tagline, “Healthy Without the Hassle.”

Hammond High Magnet Academy and Rayne High School will represent Louisiana in the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore, Maryland April 19-21, 2013.

The 2013 Louisiana Seafood 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, Mestizo Restaurant, Notini’s Restaurant, Capitol City Produce, Centerplate, Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, Freeman Decorating, Pontchartrain Convention & Civic Center, Reinhart Foodservice and Sysco New Orleans.

“We are proud to sponsor the Louisiana Seafood ProStart Student Competition,” said Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board Executive Director Ewell Smith. “It is a great way for us to introduce the students to cooking with Louisiana seafood and demonstrate how it can be used to create award winning dishes like the ones we saw in the competition. I am glad to know that these talented students will be the future spokespeople for our restaurant and seafood communities.”

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.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Louisiana Seafood center plate at the 12th Annual ProStart Competition

Nearly 20 ProStart teams from across Louisiana demonstrated their culinary prowess during yesterday’s competition held at the Pontchratrain Center in Kenner. This year, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board was the title sponsor and teams used delicious Louisiana seafood in either their appetizer or entrees, and some teams opted for both.

"People visit Louisiana to enjoy our delicious cuisine and our seafood," said Stan Harris, President/CEO, LRA. "Having Louisiana Seafood as the title sponsor re-enforces its important culinary role to a captive audience --the future chefs and restaurateurs in our industry."

Students exhibited their impressive preparation skills with shrimp, crab, crawfish and finfish from our bounty rich waters before fellow teams, family members and members of the LRA Board of Directors.

"These students work so hard on their three-courses in hopes of wowing the chef judges like Chris Lusk, Haley Bitterman, Tariq Hannah and others," Harris added.
Each member of the top three teams in the Culinary Competition and the Management Competition will receive $870,000 in scholarships to notable schools in Louisiana and nationwide. The winning team of each competition will represent Louisiana at the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore in late April.
Winners will be announced later today at the Closing Ceremony.
ProStart is a two year culinary arts and restaurant management curriculum offered in 45 high schools across Louisiana. The program is designed to attract students to meaningful and rewarding careers in our world renowned culinary and hospitality industries.