Tuesday, December 17, 2013

LRA SIF Members to receive more than $2 million in dividends next year

Amount brings total returned since 1988 to more than $100M

The Board of Trustees for the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Self Insurer’s Fund (LRA SIF) for Workers’ Compensation has approved declaring a dividend to eligible plan participants in the amount of $2.02 million.

The LRA SIF, since 1988, will have cumulatively returned approximately $101.7 million in surplus and safety dividends to eligible members.

For the 26th consecutive year, the Fund has declared a surplus in unused premium and interest income that will be returned to members. This surplus will include eligible participants from the fund years 2008, 2009 and 2010 and be paid in April 2014.

“The LRA SIF was pleased to lower its rates once again this fall, for the third time in four years,” said LRA SIF President & CEO Stan Harris. “Our members have shown a commitment to workplace safety practices and as a result, we see lower accident rates. Our Fund is focused on best-in-class member services, combined with our complimentary loss prevention and safety training.”

For 32 years, the LRA SIF has served as one of the most respected providers of workers’ compensation insurance in Louisiana. The Fund’s management continues to focus on efficiency and timely claims handling to keep its member costs very competitive. 

To be eligible for a dividend, the member must be in good standing with the LRA and the LRA SIF and have a loss ratio that is equal to or less than 70 percent for the years declared as of March 3, 2014.

In October 2013, the LRA SIF announced a rate reduction on premiums for its Fund, which specializes in the hospitality industry.

“Our members’ positive outcomes allow us to lower their rates,” said Harris.

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. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

CHOP program serves as format for ProStart students to hone their presentation skills

In partnership with Ochsner Health System, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF), through two Jefferson Parish ProStart schools—Bonnabel Magnet Academy and Grace King High School—are participating in the Cooking-up Healthy Optionsand Portions (CHOP) program. CHOP is an after-school cooking program designed to teach middle school students to prepare healthy meals and feel more confident in the kitchen. 

"ProStart students meet with middle schoolers for 90-minutes each week and conduct demonstrations designed to explore healthy substitutions and teach them how to prepare meals for themselves and their families," said Alice Glenn, LRAEF Executive Director. "The younger students have the opportunity to learn from our ProStart students knife skills and safety, food safety, proper measuring and calculations, meal planning, boiling, simmering, sautéing and baking."

Ochsner’s Community Outreach staff has revised and created recipes that show students they can still eat their favorite foods and be healthy at the same time, just by making a few small changes. CHOP acts as a compliment to the LSU AgCenter’s Smart Choices nutrition program and is offered to students who have already participated in that program. The program’s goal is to enable students to translate the information they learn into tangible skills that can make healthy eating a habit. 

“ProStart students serve as skilled mentors for these younger students,” said Glenn. “It is our hope that our ProStart students will inspire them to take an interest not only in eating healthy, but in the restaurant industry as a career option in the future.” 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Orleans hospitality industry hosts event to benefit Typhoon Haiyan recovery

A collective of more than 40 New Orleans-area chefs and industry suppliers will come together, December 16 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, for a unique fundraising culinary experience, NOLA Chefs’ Aid for the Philippines. Designed to support the relief efforts in the Philippines following the devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan, the event will feature Philippine-inspired cuisine, dance, music and national dress.

“My grandparents were born in the areas flattened by the typhoon and I still have family and friends in the affected areas,” said Nina Camacho, event organizer. “As a local Filipina, I felt it was my responsibility to help in any way I can. The support from the culinary community, the ACF-New Orleans Chapter and the Hilton New Orleans Riverside has been overwhelmingly and incredibly generous.”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Event attendees will have the chance to rub elbows with Honorary Co-chairs New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Political Commentator James Carville and the Creole Queen of New Orleans Cuisine Leah Chase during the VIP Patron Party, Dec. 16 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. VIP tickets are $100 in advance at www.NOLAChefsAid.com and $125 at the door.

Restaurateur Ralph Brennan, GW Fins Executive Chef Tenney Flynn and Brigtsen’s Executive Chef and Owner Frank Brigtsen are Chef Committee Co-Chairs and have let their support and expertise in developing the event.

Ralph Brennan
“The strength of the New Orleans hospitality industry has always been an asset in times of need, whether for another member of our industry or for an entire community,” said Ralph Brennan. “And while it is our business to serve each person that visits our restaurants, it is out of genuine concern for all people that we choose to put our business aside and serve others in situations such as what has happened in the Philippines.”

In addition, the Philippine American United Council of Louisiana; Filipino American Lions Club of Louisiana; and Robert Romero, Honorary Consul General of the Philippines are supporting this endeavor. Jazz Trumpeter Duke Heitger and Friends will provide entertainment throughout the evening, while guests enjoy cultural dance and costumes by local Filipinos.

“If you are excited by adventurous cuisine like Lapu-Lapu Kinilaw, Oxtail Adobo, Tokwa’t Baboy, Lumpia or Dinuguan with Mini Puto or Lechon Baboy, you won’t want to miss this event,” said Camacho.

The main event will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50 in advance and can be purchased at www.NOLAChefsAid.com. Tickets are $75 at the door.

100 percent of the proceeds benefits the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and its Typhoon Haiyan fund. 

Participating restaurants, chefs and suppliers are: ACME Oyster House, Brigtsen’s, Broussard’s, café B, Café NOMA, Chef CK’s Hot Shoppe, Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop, Charley G’s, Coca-Cola, Commander’s Palace, Community Coffee, Cook Me Somethin’ Mister, Cowbell, Deanie’s/The Red Maple, Drago’s Restaurant, Happy Kajun, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Hyatt Regency, Jubilee Restaurant, JW Marriott, Kid Chef Eliana, Kingfish, LaBella’s Catering, Luke, Milkfish, Mizado, MoPho, Restaurant Cotton, R’evolution, Southern Eagle, The Fairgrounds, The Happy Italian, The Irish House, The Salty Swine, Three Muses, Trey Yuen, Tulane/Loyola Soxedo, Upperline, Vega Tapas, Viva La Waffle/Tsunami Sushi and Ye Olde College Inn.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Serving customers with food allergies good for business, restaurateurs say

For celebrity chef Ming Tsai, the birth of his son David propelled his interest in food allergens and accommodating customers with dietary restrictions.

“David is 13 years old,” Tsai told attendees at last month’s AllergyEats conference in Boston. “When he was born, he had allergies to soy, wheat, dairy, shellfish, tree nuts and eggs. I like to say it was an unfunny joke from upstairs that the first son of a chef had food allergies.”

Tsai, owner-operator of Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon, two upscale casual Asian restaurants in the Boston area, had allergen protocols in place two years before his son was born. But since then, he has become even more involved in the movement, ensuring his establishments can successfully cater to the needs of his customers with food allergies.

“Our goal is for the guest to leave delighted,” he said. “In a competitive market, the more concerned you are, the more likely you’ll get your fair share [of business]. I strongly believe it is smart business practice to know what is in the food you serve, period. Repeat business is key. If you can serve delicious food with great service safely, you’ve got them for life.”

Tsai and fellow panelists Kevin Harron, president and CEO of Burtons Grill Restaurants, and Michael Moomjiam, director of quality assurance and food safety for PF Chang’s China Bistro, parent of the PF Chang’s and Pei Wei Asian chains, addressed the issue of food allergies and restaurants during a session called “Restaurants That Get it Right.” The National Restaurant Association served as one of the conference’s sponsors.

When people head out to a restaurant, Tsai says, “The person with the food allergy is going to make the restaurant decision because it doesn’t matter to the others. To them, it’s just food, but for the one with the food allergy, it’s life or death.”

Tsai added that at Blue Ginger on a Saturday night, it is not uncommon for 20 tables to be dealing with food-allergy issues. He said at least 50 percent of them are gluten-related. To avoid mistakes, he has established a food allergy reference book where all recipes featuring wheat, dairy and eggs have been highlighted and listed out by dish, garnish, sauce, protein and marinade.

“It is so important to have a system in place,” he said. “That will greatly reduce human error. With this manual, you can easily know what is in the dish. With this and training, training, training, you can make your restaurant even safer than it is today.”

At PF Chang’s, creating a loyal customer base starts with ensuring guests with allergies will be taken care of, Moomjiam said.

“It starts with the message, ‘We’re truly glad you’re here,’ and we will do everything to make you want to come back,” he said. “Our goal is to have loyal guests know we will take care of them, and taking care of those who have dietary restrictions is part of that.”

The company started its food allergens program in 2001 and had a dedicated gluten-free menu by 2003. The chain’s restaurants currently have 25 gluten-free choices on the menu.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good PR on how we go above and beyond,” he said. “Being allergen-friendly has definitely increased our business. Right now 5 percent of all checks are food-allergen related and 90 percent of those are gluten-free [requests].”

He added that allergen information collected from guests is entered into a database and cross-checked against menu items and ingredients that are updated every two weeks.

“If a guest tells the manager of his or her sensitivities, the manager can go to the back of the house, type in the information and check off the items the guests cannot have. With this, we can create a custom menu for the guest.”

He also said each restaurant has separate woks set aside for allergen dishes that are cleaned and sanitized between each use. The company also audits ingredients as well as random products for gluten levels.

Harron, who’s had celiac disease for 43 years, said dealing with food allergies can be challenging for restaurants, but it is necessary.

“As the leader of your organization, you need to make the decision to raise your baseline performance,” he said. “I think everyone in our organization recognizes there is value to this and it’s the right thing to do.”

The National Restaurant Association offers restaurateurs a ServSafe Allergens Online Course designed to help front- and back-of-the-house employees better accommodate the growing number of guests with food allergies.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chefs say 'Recipe Challenge' a great platform for healthful kids' meals

Creating great tasting, healthful meals for kids can be challenging, but more chefs are saying the rewards are great.

The National Restaurant Association is collecting entries for its second annual Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge. The competition is open to chefs and restaurateurs committed to providing healthful children’s menu items.

Finalists will be announced this spring and the winners will be feted at an awards ceremony during NRA Show 2014 in Chicago in May. Chefs interested in showcasing their healthful kids’ menu options can apply here. Deadline for submissions is Dec. 15.

"We encourage Louisiana Restaurant Association members to get creative a submit a recipe to the challenge. Eating healthy at Louisiana restaurants, regardless of age, is possible and several members participate in the Eat Fit NOLA program with Ochsner to raise awareness of steps they are taking to offer lower calorie meals for their guests," said Wendy Waren, VP of Communications, LRA. 

Created by the NRA in partnership with McCormick for Chefs, the Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge follows the criteria of the Association’s Kids LiveWell initiative. The program was developed in partnership with nutrition consultant Healthy Dining Inc. To qualify, menu items must consist of 600 or fewer calories and include such ingredients as low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.

The contest involves an “industry-tested, kid-approved” approach. A panel of industry professionals selects finalists in four categories and 30 kid judges choose the winners at a cook-off event at McCormick’s flagship World of Flavors store in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Keith Esbin, corporate executive chef for Orlando, Fla.-based Boston Lobster Feast Restaurants and a winner of the inaugural Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge last year, said the contest showcases the potential for good, healthful kids’ meals at restaurants.

“Kids are being exposed to things that are healthy for them and that they are really excited about it,” he said. For operators, he noted, this is “the socially responsible thing to do. Not only that, kids today tend to dictate what and where their families and parents are going to eat. They are open to more healthful suggestions, which gives parents an opportunity to try different things and dine at different restaurants.”

Esbin, whose chicken Parmesan with spaghetti squash won last year in the category for independent restaurants or companies with fewer than 20 units, said the item was featured as a kids’ menu option at four of the company’s restaurants.

“Some of our adult customers ordered the dish, too,” he said. “We went through about 50 of them a month at each of the units, which is pretty good when you consider that this [concept] is an all-you-can-eat, buffet-style restaurant with 150 different offerings. Most people don’t come here to eat just one item, so to have them [choose] this one thing [represents] a pretty good performance.”

Jennifer Brower, regional executive chef for Compass Group’s Chartwells School Dining Services, said winning last year’s Kids Recipe Challenge in the managed-foodservice category made her feel like a celebrity.

“We got some really great PR out of this, and a lot of my schools have been running the recipe,” said Brower, who represents the Great Lakes region. “The whole experience has really put some new air in the tires. People may not realize this, but school systems hire a lot of chefs, and more than anything they have to learn all the rules and regulations we have to follow. You have to find ways to make it work.”

Brower, who won for her Chix-N-Cheddar Snappy Jalapeño Wrap, said she is most proud that Chartwells submitted the recipe into the company’s national database and more than 180 schools in her area are now using the recipe in their schools.

“I really wanted to make something I knew my grandchildren would like,” she said. “When you create recipes, you have to find ways to make them healthy and great tasting. People think the food [at contract companies] is cookie-cutter-like, but it’s not. We always make sure the food tastes great.”

Brower said that after she won last year’s Challenge, Chartwells sent her to several schools to sign autographs. Those schools used the recipe on their menus for the day.

“I got to talk with the kids, and that was really fun,” she said. “I got to be a celebrity for a few days. With all the cooking shows on TV today, the kids … look at chefs as rock stars and want to be one, too. I say, ride the ride.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to find the right host for your restaurant

Having the right host or hostess is important in every restaurant.

The host is the first person customers meet and the last person they’ll cross paths with before heading off. Hosts play a major role in establishing a friendly atmosphere at your restaurant—one that will entice the customer to return repeatedly.

Here are a few qualities you should look for in potential hosts:
Willingness to go above and beyond for guests. Part of a host’s responsibility is to make life easier for each guest. In addition to meeting standard needs, hosts should consider special requests as opportunities to make lasting impressions.

For example, a guest drove to Villa Christina in Atlanta from St. Petersburg, Fla., to surprise his mom for Mother’s Day. He arrived before the rest of his family, realized that he forgot to purchase a Mother's Day card and asked where the nearest store was. The host asked him to wait a minute, went to the sales office and scanned a drawer full of thank-you, birthday, wedding and anniversary cards before finding a Mother's Day card. The host presented the card to the guest, who was incredibly appreciative,says Terri Harof, vice president of marketing.

Genuinely care about the success of the restaurant. Hosts generally are salaried and unlike servers, they don’t rely heavily on tips. So they must be motivated to act in the best interest of the restaurant, even though their pay won’t necessarily be affected either way.

“I have, unfortunately, encountered hosts in the past who just want a cushy summer job, aware that it doesn't matter how slow or busy the restaurant is -- he or she is still getting paid the same,” says Dennis Friedman, executive chef/owner of Newton's Table and Newton's Noodles in Washington, D.C.

“Choosing not to be aggressive with capturing sales, acting indifferent to their impact on the kitchen, being ignorant to the success or failure of the servers -- all of these qualities are a recipe for failure, flavored with mediocrity.”

Ability to always be polite to guests, no matter what. The guest is always right. Regardless of how a customer treats the host, he or she must resist the urge to return the poor attitude. Instead, they must stay calm and try to please the customer as best he or she can.

When David Bakke was a restaurant general manager, he worked with a hostess who often snapped at guests. “I received numerous complaints about her, and the restaurant lost business as a result,” says Bakke, a restaurant expert at Money Crasher Personal.

Outgoing personality. Naturally shy people usually don’t make good hosts. Hosts must go out of their way to be friendly to customers.

Strong organizational skills. Hosts frequently have several responsibilities, such as taking reservations, maintaining wait lists, assigning seating and scheduling employee duties. So strong organizational and time-management skills are a must.

Team player.  Hosts must have a sense of table progression. To do so, he or she should communicate constantly with wait staff to know which guests are on dessert, which have paid their checks and which are still eating their meals. Everyone on staff plays for the same team.

Professional appearance. Appearance is important when greeting customers, so hosts and hostesses should dress in attire appropriate for the restaurant setting. Any stains or wrinkles on clothes convey a dirty atmosphere.

This content was provided by National Restaurant Association partner CareerBuilder.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NRA urges operators to complete the Energy Star for Restaurants survey

The Louisiana Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) need your help by filling out the 2013 Food Service Energy and Water Survey at www.rfmaonline.com/survey.

We know you are extremely busy, but please submit your data by December 20, 2013.

Along with the potential for an Energy Star certification in the future, you could win a $450 American Express gift card for supplying your data!

The NRA, the Restaurant Facility Management Association, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department Of Energy are trying to establish an Energy Star building energy performance score for restaurants.

Why is this a big deal? Because 92% of consumers recognize the Energy Star brand and energy-efficient restaurants could place an Energy Star plaque on their building.

The survey and instructions are available at: www.rfmaonline.com/survey.

The NRA also developed a set of webinars to help you get started:
        Why and How to Start
        Overview of Utility Bills
        Excel How To + Tips and Tricks

All identifying information will be removed by a third-party from the data prior to submission to EPA for Energy Star analysis. This information includes the establishment name and property address, as well as contact or other information about owners, operators, and tenants.

Questions or comments can be sent to FSEWSurvey@rfmaonline.com.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What's Hot Culinary Forecast predicts locally-sourced food as top restaurant trend of 2014

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) each year prepares its What’s Hot culinary forecast of menu trends for the coming year. The NRA surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – to find which food and beverage items will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2014. 

Top 10 food trends for 2014:
1.         Locally sourced meats and seafood
2.         Locally grown produce
3.         Environmental sustainability
4.         Healthful kids' meals
5.         Gluten-free cuisine
6.         Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
7.         Children's nutrition
8.         Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
9.         Sustainable seafood
10.       Farm/estate branded items

For complete What’s Hot in 2014 results, video and downloadable images, visit Restaurant.org/FoodTrends.

“Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group. “True trends – as opposed to temporary fads – show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time, and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”

“The American Culinary Federation chefs who took part in the survey understand that sourcing locally and environmental sustainability tie in with ongoing efforts to provide more-healthful foods for everyone, especially children,” said Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, HGT, AAC, ACF national president. “Chefs recognize that nutrition is a vital component of the foodservice industry, and constantly revise and update recipes to reflect the concerns and desires of a diverse group of consumers who are looking for good food choices to best meet their nutrition and other needs.”

The What’s Hot in 2014 survey also found that the top five alcohol and cocktail trends will be micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients), and regional signature cocktails.

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, health-nutrition, children’s nutrition and gluten-free cuisine.

The five items with the highest ranking as a waning trend in 2014 were foam/froth/air, bacon-flavored chocolate, fish offal, gazpacho, and fun-shaped children’s items. The five items with the highest points as perennial trends next year were fried chicken, Italian cuisine, frying, barbeque, and Eggs Benedict.

The five items that gained most in trendiness since last year in the annual survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The five items with the largest drop in “hot trend” rating were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, grass-fed beef, and organic coffee.

Compared with five years ago, items that have remained top 20 food trends include locally grown produce, healthful kids’ meals, gluten-free cuisine, sustainable seafood, and health/nutrition. Items that have dropped substantially down the list from the top 20 food trends in 2009 include gelato, micro-greens, flatbreads, tapas/meze/dim sum, and dessert flights.

Also included in the What’s Hot in 2014 survey were questions about other trends. Nearly six out of 10 (59 percent) of the chefs said they always make efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while one-third (33 percent) said they cook with nutrition in mind, but that not all recipes are easily adjusted.

When it comes to technology trends, the chefs ranked menus on tablet computers as the top trend, followed by smartphone apps for consumers (ordering, reservations, daily deals, etc.), smartphone apps for chefs (recipes, table management, POS tracking, etc.), mobile payment and social media marketing.

The NRA surveyed 1,283 American Culinary Federation members October-November 2013, asking them to rate 258 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on menus in 2014.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Kid's LiveWell Recipe Challenge Application

Children’s nutrition is a top trend on restaurant menus. To shine the spotlight on the industry’s commitment to providing healthful menu options for children and inspire others to do more, the National Restaurant Association and McCormick For Chefs created the Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge.

The challenge is a fun and creative way to showcase healthy menu options available when dining out and will build on the spirit of innovation and creativity to encourage others to adopt similar practices.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association encourages you to get creative with your children’s menu in a healthy way. To read about the criteria, who’s eligible to enter and what the winners receive, click here.