Friday, October 31, 2014

Begin at the beginning: Identifying gluten-free ingredients

Ensuring that a menu-item is gluten-free starts with getting the right ingredients. 

“There has to be an emphasis on gluten-free ingredients as a foundation,” says dietician Lauren Rezende, a quality assurance manager for Healthy Dining. The San Diego-based company helps restaurants with nutrition-related services, including gluten identification.

Here are some tips for identifying and sourcing gluten-free items.    

Check the label. All packaged foods labeled gluten-free must meet the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration’s gluten-free labeling final rule as of Aug. 5, 2014. The final rule establishes a standard definition of gluten-free to help consumers with celiac disease avoid gluten.

“The FDA has finally drawn a line about what it means to say an item is gluten-free,” says Betsy Craig, CEO of MenuTrinfo, a Fort Collins, Co.-based consultancy that provides gluten-free training and certification to restaurants. “This definition will take away some of the guesswork of selecting safe products.”

The rule also requires packaged foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.” (Note that products labeled prior to Aug. 5, 2014, weren’t required to comply with the rule.)

Some manufacturers also certify their products as gluten-free through organizations such as the Gluten-Free Certification Program, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization or Quality Assurance International/NSF International. All require certified products to have less than 10 parts per million of gluten, and the Celiac Support Association requires less than 5 ppm. The FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule sets the threshold at 20 ppm.

“Third-party verification shows that the manufacturer went the extra mile to provide a truly gluten-free product,” Craig says.

Request gluten-free verification. Checking labels is a great first step, but you’ll often need to look beyond that. Just because the label doesn’t specify the item is gluten-free doesn’t mean it isn’t. In fact, many items are inherently gluten-free, like produce and meat, but aren’t labeled so. Gluten-free labeling is voluntary, according to the FDA’s gluten-free labeling final rule.

Manufacturers also don’t have to indicate whether an item contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The Food Allergy Labeling Consumer Protection Act requires only wheat be identified because it’s a common allergen.

“If you’re just looking for wheat in an allergen statement or as an ingredient on a label, you’re potentially missing hidden sources of gluten, most likely derived from barley,” says Beckee Moreland, director of the Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training Kitchens program of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

The safest approach is to ask your supplier to verify an item is gluten-free because many gluten sources aren’t readily identified in the ingredient list. Beware of vague ingredient descriptions like “flavorings.”

“When in doubt, it’s always best to contact the manufacturer or vendor to get more information,” dietitian Rezende says. Request a written statement that verifies ingredients are gluten-free, or ask for a certificate of analysis, she recommends. Restaurants that need help tracking and monitoring this information can contract with companies like Healthy Dining or MenuTrinfo.

Partner with your suppliers. Make sure your distributors understand your commitment to offering gluten-free dishes, so they can help identify appropriate products. “There are so many gluten-free options available today that vendors can help you swap out items easily,” Rezende says. She cites gluten-free salad dressings and marinades as examples.

Ask to be informed whenever a product is modified, and request written reconfirmation at least quarterly, Rezende recommends. Those updates are essential not just for gluten identification but also for nutrition information and allergen concerns. “For the safety of your customers, you need to make sure that all the information you’re providing on site and on your website is up to date,” she says.

Limit substitutions. Although one brand of soy sauce might be gluten-free, that doesn’t mean another is. Problems can occur when a distributor temporarily runs out of the carefully selected gluten-free sauce and makes a last-minute substitution to a non-gluten-free brand. “We recommend that operators request that no substitutions be made without notice,” says the NFCA’s Moreland.

Institute proper receiving protocols. Empower your receiving employees to take their work seriously. If they mistakenly accept an incorrect product, it could potentially endanger your guests’ health. “Those who receive shipments should be educated to recognize gluten-free products and ingredients,” says Moreland.

Establish and adhere to receiving procedures that prevent gluten-containing ingredients and allergens from making their way into dishes. “Closely monitor what you order versus what you receive,” recommends David Crownover, product manager for the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Allergens training course. “Checking your products and packing slips closely is not only a good safety measure, but it’s also a good business practice.”

The National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Seven ways to connect with media

We are all crunched for time and resources, especially news organizations with shrinking newsrooms. Check out these tips to make it easier for reporters to learn about your business and potentially cover a news announcement.

Build a press kit. Create an electronic press kit with basic facts about your restaurant. Include a fact sheet: who you are, how long you've been open, your number of employees, your biography and your contact information with directions to your restaurant. If you utilize social media, include those accounts.

Compile a press list. Create a list of local reporters and editors, particularly those who cover business and/or restaurants, from area newspapers, radio stations, television stations and food or business bloggers. When deciding which media to target, don't neglect small weekly papers that might be hungrier for stories than larger outlets or television stations. Update your press mailing list periodically.

Pitch to reporters. When pitching a news story, be friendly and to the point. Focus on why your story idea would be of interest to their readers/viewers/listeners (and don't mention that your business advertises with their news organization).

Write a press release. A press release can be a good way to gain media attention for a new initiative. Keep the release short and to the point, with the most important information at the beginning so editors can quickly access the critical points. Top the release with a headline that summarizes the story. Include applicable photos. Be objective and give the “who, what, when, where, why and how." Read the LRA's guide to writing a press release here

Follow up. Follow up press releases with a phone call or email to journalists to see if they have further questions. Share the announcement with your social media network.

Spread the news. If you were successful in securing media coverage, share the news article or video with your customers over email, Facebook and Twitter. Order a reprint of a newspaper article to place in your restaurant.

Write letters to the editor. Write a letter to the editor regarding an issue that impacts your business or industry. You could write about an economic, legislative or social trend or issue.

The National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Education's role in the restaurant industry

Why training is as important as hands-on experience

Hands-on experience is undeniably important to developing an employee’s skills. But formal training is equally important. In fact, more than half of restaurant operators plan to devote more resources to employee training this year, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast. Why the increased emphasis?

Profitability. Most hospitality operations run as a business. For-profit operations and foodservice operations within hospitals and schools must be concerned with nutrition, cost-control, budgeting and human resources management. Having people on staff who are well-versed in such areas provides a competitive advantage.

Performance. In a similar vein, employers want to maximize productivity. Specific training in marketing, bar management and other areas creates an atmosphere of professionalism that can boost output and morale and decrease owners’ stress levels.

Education also can ensure cooks and other food handlers meet desired standards. Training ensures staff  follow proven safety guidelines and managers use consistent supervision practices on all shifts. Taking time to learn base knowledge gets everyone “on the same page” and can reduce errors, promote positive interactions, and provide guests with consistent quality.

Commitment. The hospitality industry offers opportunities to people from a variety of professional backgrounds. While many career-switchers have transferable skills useful to restaurant work, employers sometimes have difficulty seeing beyond a candidate’s former position. Employers might question an applicant’s true interest and wonder whether the job candidate might jump ship when a different opportunity arises. Look for résumés that include a relevant degree, certification or coursework to ease concerns about inexperienced candidates.

Employers show a commitment to employees’ long-term success by investing time and money in education. In a field with high turnover rates, training can be an important retention tool. It promotes staff stability and encourages workers to view their employment as a dynamic career path.

Monday, October 27, 2014

LRA honors Restaurant Legend at Mulate's Cajun Restaurant in New Orleans

Chantelle Washington of Mulate's in New Orleans
receives her LRA Restaurant Legends award.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) is pleased to name Chantelle Washington of Mulate’s Cajun Restaurant in New Orleans a LRA Restaurant Legend. She was recognized at a special celebration at Mulate’s on October 23, 2014.

The Restaurant Legends Award recognizes the long-term dedication of employees of the restaurant industry, with 20 or more years of service at one establishment.

Washington began her career at Mulate’s as a server in 1992 and over the past 22 years, has worked her way up to Assistant to the President and Director of Operations. She is a shining example of a lifelong and rewarding career in the restaurant industry.

“Chantelle is our rock,” said Mulate’s President Monique Boutté Christina. “She is an amazing person and a loyal employee who we would be lost without.”

Washington joins more than 130 individuals in our state recognized by the LRA through its Restaurant Legends program. Collectively, these industry professionals have more than 4,000 years of service to Louisiana restaurants and suppliers.

To nominate a Restaurant Legend, contact Erica Burns at 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lt. Gov. hosts final Tourism Town Hall meeting, Oct. 28 in Monroe

Louisiana Restaurant Association members in the Northwest Chapter area of the state are invited to the third in a series of Tourism Town Hall Meetings hosted by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Chennault Aviation Museum in Monroe.

Restaurateurs will have the opportunity to provide input about the area’s tourism industry and its growth potential, opportunities for economic development and infrastructure improvement. Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas and vision for the area’s tourism industry.

Information gathered at the meeting will be used to compile a report to guide Louisiana’s tourism industry in continuing its recent record-breaking impact on the state and to identify how the Louisiana Office of Tourism can provide a partnership for success.

Lt. Gov. Dardenne previously hosted Tourism Town Hall meetings in Shreveport and Lafayette.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

NOWFE honors New Orleans Oyster Legends

Drago and Klara Cvitanovich of Drago's Seafood Restaurant
will receive the Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award
Nov. 13, 2014 at the National WWII Museum. 
The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) is proud to announce that is it honoring Drago & Klara Cvitanovich, founders of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, with the 2014 Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award. The gala celebration will take place on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at the National World War II Museum, U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Mr. & Mrs. Cvitanovich have owned and operated Drago’s Seafood Restaurant in Metairie since 1969. 

“As the newest member of the NOWFE Board of Directors, I am extremely proud to be presenting this award in honor of my aunt, Ella Brennan,” states Lauren Brennan Brower, Owner & Managing Partner of Dickie Brennan & Co. “The Cvitanovich’s are perfect examples of what this award represents: hard work and a lifelong passion for our industry.”

The Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award recognizes someone each year that has made a lifetime commitment to the hospitality industry through extraordinary leadership, personal and professional accomplishments and philanthropic contributions to the community. The Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award is named for restaurateur legend Ella Brennan. Her deep passion and commitment has made a significant and longstanding impact on the New Orleans hospitality industry. The award’s past recipients include Chef Paul Prudhomme, philanthropist Bill Goldring and Chef Leah Chase.

The Cvitanovich’s were born in Yugoslavia, now Croatia, before immigrating to the United States, where they ultimately met in the mid-1950’s during Mardi Gras. They married three weeks later and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia and had two sons Tommy and Jerry. They later returned to New Orleans and opened Drago’s restaurant, where they have been an integral part of the hospitality industry ever since, serving the greater New Orleans community through service and philanthropy.

"Klara and Drago Cvitanovich embody the spirit of the American Dream," said Stan Harris, Louisiana Restaurant Association President & CEO. "They have spent their lives serving their community and are deserving of this honor and so much more."

Tickets to the event are available here for $150 per person, and proceeds benefit the many local non-profit organizations that NOWFE supports throughout the year.

For more than 22 years the NOWFE has showcased the culinary excellence in our community alongside national and international wines while raising more than $1 million for local non-profit organizations. The LRA Education Foundation's ProStart Program, a culinary arts and restaurant management curriculum in 52 high schools throughout the state is among the NOWFE beneficiaries.  

For additional press information, including downloadable images, contact Liz Bodet 504.583.5550, or visit the media center at

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Take the worry out of weekly food inventories

The National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.

Most independent restaurants calculate their food cost only once a month, but virtually all of the major chains calculate theirs each week.

According to industry averages, chain restaurants ‑ before corporate expenses ‑ are two to three times as profitable as independent restaurants. While weekly food costing isn't the entire reason for that profitability, it's part of it.

To accurately calculate your cost weekly, you'll need to take inventory weekly as well. The only method for computing accurate cost of sales is to take physical inventories and then calculate the value of inventory on hand. Many operators erroneously believe that what they spend on food and beverage purchases is their cost of sales. While this may be true in the long run, for specific-period analysis it is inaccurate.

The correct formula for calculating cost of sales for each category is this: Beginning Inventory plus Purchases minus Ending Inventory equals Cost of Sales.

Taking weekly inventories doesn't mean you have to spend half the night to do it. Here are a few tips to help you take inventory quickly. Properly applied, these principals will help you to be more accurate and should reduce the time spent counting your food inventory to under two hours.

Get organized. It is virtually impossible to take an accurate inventory when the stock room or walk-in is in disarray. Be sure all store rooms, shelves and refrigeration units are organized and clean. Product should be easy to see and count. Labels should be used for hard to identify product. Don't put items in incorrectly marked boxes or containers.

Count it on Sunday. Most restaurants are open seven days a week. A natural tracking period is from Monday to Sunday. Also, inventory levels will be at their lowest on Sunday evening. If you are closed Sunday, then count it on Saturday evening or early Monday morning.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to set expectations with your employees

The National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.

To help employees reach their full potential, leaders should clearly let workers know what they expect. If your employees don't understand what you expect of them, they won't have realistic goals or a path to grow in their positions. You can't trust and have faith in your team if they're not progressing over time. Setting clear expectations ensures everyone is on the same page and working toward the same mission. 

Improve communication and raise the performance level in your restaurant by trying these strategies:

Establish good behaviors from the beginning. Take time with each new hire to discuss exactly how you want things done; you'll reduce problems and frustration down the line.

“It is important to be upfront from the get-go when setting expectations with employees,” says Marilyn Schlossbach, executive chef and owner of five dining locales along the Jersey Shore. “We always review the core values and mission of the company with interviewees and new hires so that they truly understand who we are and what we expect from our team members.”

Put things in writing. Eliminate doubt by putting information into writing, and encourage employees to thoroughly read manuals and handbooks. Documents serve as a point of reference for everyone and offer quick guidance as well as black and white “proof” of what you expect. Similarly, posting written notes from staff meetings can reduce confusion over what was or wasn't said.

Make sure you’re as attentive to the rules as you expect your team to be. All the talk of requiring people to be on time or dress appropriately is useless if employees witness co-workers “getting away” with improper behavior. Workers look at your actions as a guide, so respond and model appropriately.

“Wavering instills a lack of confidence in those being led,” says Dave Weir, CEO of the Los Angeles-based firm Leadership Optimized. “It gives employees a perception that the leader does not know what needs to be accomplished and where to take the organization.”

Offer feedback. Don't assume your employees know what they're doing is right or wrong. Positive feedback encourages behaviors you want continued and lets employees know they’re meeting your expectations. Constructive criticism pinpoints areas that need improvement. Most employees want to do a good job, and your feedback is an essential tool for making that happen. Don't put it off.

Monday, October 20, 2014

5 mistakes new managers make

The National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.

Moving up the professional ranks is a common goal for employees in most industries. Receiving the trust and endorsement of your boss to lead a team is no small feat. That’s why new managers are often so eager to please their supervisors, get along with their employees, and solidify their reputations as true leaders. Unfortunately, this excitement can often lead to a few missteps. Be on guard against these common errors first-time managers make, and you’ll be well on your way:

Thinking relationships can remain the same. Moving from your current role to a managerial position is going to change dynamics in and out of the workplace. As a manager, you need to focus on respect and top performance from your team – not friendship.

“The vast majority of restaurant managers are promoted from the ranks of line employees,” says restaurant consultant David Scott Peters of “They are usually one of the best at their position – someone who shows leadership skills and demonstrates a desire to do more in the business. The challenge is when they first make that move into management; they still want their peers to see them as their buddy.”

While scaling back on outside socializing and being “one of the gang” can be difficult, doing so is critical to getting others to follow your directions and take you seriously as the one in charge.

Holding friends to different standards. Similarly, a manager must treat all employees the same to gain trust as a fair leader. Matt Heller of Performance Optimist Consulting, who specializes in developing leaders in the hospitality industry, says new managers can have trouble with this issue on either side of the coin – favoring their friends by not holding them to the same standards as other staff members or expecting more from their pals to show  they aren’t playing favorites.

New managers need to make expectations clear to all staff members and then follow through. Friends pressuring for special treatment or leniency may need to be reminded privately of a manager’s obligation to be impartial.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Restaurants are benefiting from falling gas prices

The restaurant industry appears to be reaping the benefits of falling gas prices, as sales continued to trend higher in September. This boost in cash on hand, along with consumers’ elevated pent-up demand for restaurants, suggests that the business environment for restaurants should continue to improve in the months ahead, according to the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy. His Economist’s Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on and Restaurant TrendMapper.

Gas prices continue to trend steadily lower, and the restaurant industry appears to be among the sectors reaping the benefits. According to preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, eating and drinking place sales totaled $48.1 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in September, up 0.6 percent from August and the strongest monthly volume on record.  

The September performance represented the seventh increase the last eight months, and each of the monthly gains were at least 0.4 percent. The most recent growth mirrored a downward trend in gas prices, which fell $0.50 since the end of June. This boost in consumers’ disposable income typically benefits discretionary sectors like restaurants, in which a large proportion of the growth is driven by cash on hand.  

Despite the recent upward trajectory in sales, consumers’ unfulfilled demand for restaurants still remains elevated in historical terms, according to new National Restaurant Association research.  

In a national survey of 1,000 adults conducted October 2-5 for the NRA by ORC International, consumers were asked if they are using restaurants as often as they would like. The answer was an emphatic no, with 42 percent of adults reporting they are not eating on the premises of restaurants or using takeout or delivery as frequently as they would like.  

Putting these results in a recent historical context, consumers’ pent-up demand has eased somewhat from a year ago at this time. In an identical survey fielded in September 2013, 47 percent of adults said they are not eating on the premises of restaurants as frequently as they would like, while 49 percent said they would like to utilize take-out and delivery more often.

However, unfulfilled demand still remains well above pre-recession levels. On a consistent basis during the stronger economic environment of the mid-2000s, typically only one-quarter of adults said they were not patronizing restaurants as often as they would like.

Consumers’ elevated pent-up demand for restaurants, combined with the economic boost that they will get from a stronger job market and falling gas prices, suggests that the business environment for restaurants should continue to improve in the months ahead.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Go, fish! Eating seafood is good for you

Did you know that October is National Seafood Month? It’s a fact that eating seafood can enhance your health. As recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, eating a 4-ounce serving of seafood twice a week supports your overall health and moderate evidence shows that consumption of seafood can assist with the prevention of heart disease. Currently, only one in five Americans eat the recommended servings ‑ possibly because they are unfamiliar with how to select, buy or order and cook seafood.

The Seafood Nutrition Partnership, a national nonprofit whose mission is to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of eating seafood, has found that women ages 35 to 50 like seafood and see it as special. Not only are they curious about it, they also would like to find ways to include it in their diets more often. However, they say they often don’t know where to find it and do not have the cues to remember to eat it.

In celebration of National Seafood Month, restaurateurs can feature familiar items on their menus with a focus on seafood. According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2014 chef survey, locally-sourced meat and seafood was the No. 1 menu trend. In addition to sustainable seafood items, fish tacos, sushi, nontraditional fish, including Arctic char, barramundi and branzino, as well as paella and ceviche, are gaining in popularity. Encourage your customers to do something good for themselves and their families: eat more seafood. You will help guide them toward increased healthfulness and better nutrition.

For more nutrition information about seafood and recipe ideas, visit

Guest blogger Linda Cornish is executive director for the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, an organization focused on inspiring a healthier America through partnerships that raise awareness about the essential nutritional benefits of eating seafood. For more information, visit

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What to do when a food safety inspector visits

The National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.

Don't panic when a food safety inspector arrives. Think of the visit as a learning opportunity that will benefit your operation by making it as safe as possible.

To make the inspection a positive experience, follow these guidelines:
  •  Ask to see the inspector's credentials if the inspector doesn’t volunteer his/her credentials first. In some cases, people have tried to pass themselves off as health officials. If you're unsure of the person's credentials, call the local health department or the inspector's supervisor for verification. Ask whether the purpose of the visit is a regular inspection or due to a customer complaint. Train your employees to check identification before allowing anyone to enter the back of your operation.
  • Don’t refuse an inspection. In doing so, the food safety inspector likely will obtain an inspection warrant, which allows him/her to inspect your establishment without your consent.
  • Tag along with the inspector and take notes of any violations he or she finds. This gives you the chance to correct simple problems on the spot, and the food safety inspector will note your willingness to fix problems. Be prepared to provide any information or records that the inspector needs and answer the inspector’s questions truthfully.
  • Refrain from offering any food or any other item that can be misconstrued as an attempt to influence the inspector's findings.
  • Sign the inspector's report after the inspection. Signing it doesn't mean that you agree to the findings; it only means that you received a copy of the report.
  • Ask the inspector to explain his findings to your staff, or share the inspection results with your employees and offer suggestions on areas that need improvement.
Now that you have had the inspection, consider appropriate follow-up and be prepared for your next inspection.

Lt. Gov. Tourism Town Hall series continues with Oct. 15 meeting in Lafayette

Louisiana Restaurant Association members in the Acadiana Chapter area of the state are invited to the second in a series of Tourism Town Hall Meetings hosted by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 from 9-11 a.m. at Vermilionville Historic Village in Lafayette, 300 Fisher Road.

Restaurateurs will have the opportunity to provide input about the area’s tourism industry and its growth potential, opportunities for economic development and infrastructure improvement. Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas and vision for the area’s tourism industry.

Information gathered at the meeting will be used to compile a report to guide Louisiana’s tourism industry in continuing its recent record-breaking impact on the state and to identify how the Louisiana Office of Tourism can provide a partnership for success.

Lt. Gov. Dardenne will host the third in the series on Tuesday, Oct. 28 at the Chennault Aviation Museum in Monroe from 1:30-3:30 p.m. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Infographic: This way to the American dream

The restaurant industry offers many paths to career success, no matter a person's age or position. New research from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation shows how a solid majority of restaurant industry employees have advanced to higher paying jobs, and they believe there is opportunity to advance further. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Restaurateurs 'turn up the heat' at LA Women Business Leaders Conference

As part of the annual programming for the Louisiana Women Business Leaders Conference and hosted by the Nicholls State University Center for Women in Government (LCWG), three Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) members participated in the panel “Culinary: Turn Up the Heat,” on Sept. 19, 2014.

Anna Tusa, co-owner of The Crazy Lobster and member of the LCWG, invited LRA VP of Communications Wendy Waren to moderate the panel. She recruited panelists Ti Adelaide Martin of Commander’s Palace to join her along with Restaurant Specialist Dianne Sclafani of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center. The four decided to focus the panel on the important role women play in the restaurant industry and professional development as it relates to women.

“There is no glass ceiling in our industry,” said Waren. “Fifty percent of all restaurant owners are women and from 1997 to 2007, the number of women-owned restaurants jumped by 50 percent. That’s remarkable evidence to the ever-growing opportunities that women can create for themselves.”
Other indicators, specifically as it relates to women are 70 percent of wait staff are women and these positions are among the highest-paying occupations in the industry. Forty-five percent of foodservice managers are women and 58 percent of foodservice supervisors are women, compared to 38 percent in other industries and 43 percent in retail.

“One of the things I do to develop the women coming up in my company is bring them to conferences just like this one,” said Tusa. “The majority of the managers I employ are women. Having them attend sessions like this one helps them expand their thinking to consider what it takes to be better business leaders and better people in their personal lives, too.”

Questions to the panelists ranged from their professional affiliations and how they have benefited professionally to the best of advice they receive from a mentor.

“My mother Ella Brennan is my mentor and she is a great example of one,” said Martin. “She has always encouraged me to be the best woman, in personal and business relations, that I can be. She’s also been a mentor to legendary New Orleans chefs who began in the kitchen at Commander’s Palace before taking that next step in their careers.”

A mentor can be a parent, co-worker, teacher or a boss, and in an ideal world, everyone would have a mentor and be a mentor. Some of the most successful business leaders often attribute their position to having a mentor’s support, coaching and encouragement.

“I try to be accessible to my staff,” added Martin. “Many times, just listening to someone while they are working through a challenge or situation can make all the difference in their development. Then bringing to their attention something they might not have considered or sharing a similar experience may be just the inspiration they need to move through to a higher level of engagement and thinking.”

According to The 2014 State of Women-Owned Business Report, Louisiana ranks 12 (70.9%) in the U.S. by growth in number of women-owned firms between 1997-2014. Louisiana ranks fifth in the nation of growth in women-owned firm revenues with 143.8%. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

11 questions about music licensing

Music is one of the most important elements in establishing the mood in your restaurant, but under law, you must make sure you have the necessary licensing to comply with copyright statutes before playing it. Performing rights organizations (“PROs”), such as BMI, ASCAP and SESAC, act as intermediaries between restaurants and songwriters to protect intellectual property and make licensing more cost-effective and convenient. Restaurants pay a fee to the PROs for a blanket license that grants permission to use all of the music each organization represents, and they, in turn, distribute the fees, less operating expenses, to their affiliated songwriters, publishers and composers as royalties.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing:

Q. If I pay a licensing fee to BMI, do I have to pay one to ASCAP as well?
A. It depends. If you know that all of the music you’re playing in your restaurant is under the copyright licensing of BMI, then the answer is “no.” However, if that music is licensed by either of the other two major licensing entities, ASCAP or SESAC, the answer is “yes.” If you aren’t certain about what music may be played, it’s safest to have licensing agreements with all three PROs – BMI, ASCAP and SESAC.

Q. What are the exemptions for radio and TV?
A. Federal copyright law, Section 110 (5)(B), exempts restaurants that play music transmitted via radio, TV and cable and satellite sources if they don’t charge to hear the music. Music played by other means, such as live bands, CDs, etc., aren’t covered by the exemption.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Burn prevention: Putting safety first

Splattering grease...vats of hot oil…open flames…steaming food. With the demands of high-volume cooking, it’s no wonder the foodservice industry has the highest incidence rate of heat burns of any employment sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These injuries can be costly for employees and your business, leading to absenteeism, higher workers’ compensation costs, lower morale and increased employee turnover.

To keep employees safe and contain your costs, perform periodic safety audits. Step through your restaurant, and identify burn risks and ways to mitigate them.

Front of the house
Heat lamps and heat strips. Be careful when removing plates or containers from these heated areas to avoid contact with hot surfaces.

Hot dishes. Use trays, hot pads, oven mitts or dry waiter’s cloths to help carry and serve.

Candlelit tables. Walk around the table if necessary to pick up a plate, rather than reaching over the flame.

Coffee pots, hot water dispensers. Take caution when preparing and serving hot drinks; don’t remove a coffee pot until all the liquid is dispensed.

Back of the house

Fryers. Deep-fat fryers are the top cause of burns in restaurant kitchens, according to federal government’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
  • Use the correct grease level to help prevent splatters; never pour past the “fill line.”
  • Cook at the manufacturer’s recommended temperatures. Don’t overheat the oil.
  • Gently raise or lower fryer basket while cooking to avoid splashing.
  • Handle only one fryer basket at a time.
  • Don’t overfill fryer baskets, which can cause the hot oil to splash or bubble over.
  • Remember: oil and water don’t mix. Dry fryer and fryer baskets after washing with water to avoid splatters. Don’t allow excess ice crystals from frozen foods to get into the cooking oil.
  • Don’t stand too close or lean over hot oil.
  • Let oil cool before moving or straining it.
  • Before cleaning the overhead vents, wait for the fryers to cool and cover fryer bins. Do not allow workers to stand on a fryer; use a ladder or stepstool.
  • Place nonslip floor mats around fryers to reduce the chance of slipping and falling onto the frying equipment.
  • Provide protective mitts and gloves here and elsewhere in the kitchen as needed. Never use wet materials as potholders.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Don't trip up: Preventing slips and falls

It just takes one quick slip. A greasy floor, a buckling mat or uneven flooring could send an employee or guest to the hospital and land your business with an expensive lawsuit and rising insurance premiums. Here are some ways to keep your restaurant out of slippery situations:

Track your traction
Know your numbers. “The first step in preventing accidents is to test how safe your floors are,” says Russell Kendzior, founder of the nonprofit National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), based in Southlake, Texas. Monitor the coefficient of friction (COF) the measure of slip resistance, at various spots throughout your restaurant.

As a general manager for Duffy’s Sports Grill, Benjamin Longanacre had never heard of the COF. But after the South Florida 24-unit chain experienced a series of costly slip-and-fall incidents, the restaurant appointed Longanacre as its first safety coordinator in 2011 and charged him with taking a preventive approach. He quickly learned the importance of the COF, which has two components: static and dynamic.

The static COF measures the “slip potential,” or how much traction it takes to induce a slip, while the dynamic COF quantifies a person’s stopping ability once he or she begins to slip. Walkways with a wet static COF of .60 or greater and a wet dynamic COF of .42 or greater are defined as “High Traction” under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B101.1 and B101.3 standards.

Get audited. Consider hiring a “certified walkway auditor” or other qualified professional to test your floor safety. Look for a professional versed in safety standards, experienced at identifying hazards and skilled at using a tribometer, or slip meter, to measure the COF. The Louisiana Restaurant Association Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation provides this service to its plan participants at no charge.