Friday, August 29, 2014

Steamy weather has fruit flies swarming in Louisiana restaurants and bars

By Wendy Waren, VP of Communications, Louisiana Restaurant Association

We live in a tropical environment here in Louisiana and with that fact comes many creepy crawlers and pesky flies. This time of year, it’s hot with temperatures raging into the 90s and even 100s some weeks. Fruit flies in particular are an aggravation and an embarrassment that many operators struggle with and some can’t seem to ever overcome.

At the recent Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO, we witnessed a demonstration by Fruit Fly BarPro, a new product on the market approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use inside of food service establishments, the first of its kind and patent pending. While we were standing there speaking to Jeff McCoy about the product, he released hundreds of fruit flies into a clear box, then opened the Fruit Fly BarPro strip and hung it in the box. Within minutes, the entire lot of fruit flies had met their demise.

Fruit flies are attracted to yeast and a restaurant or bar is heaven for them with its bottles of liquor, beer taps, soda dispensers, used linens, mop rooms and trash areas. The Fruit Fly BarPro not only kills the ones flying around these areas, it also kills the larvae and eggs that may enter your establishment in the skins of fruits like bananas especially.

The strips are easy to use. Simply place the strip in an enclosed, non-food area. Once Fruit Fly BarPro is removed from the foil package, the air immediately activates the pest control ingredient. The product works similar to an air freshener, as the time-released vapor moves into the crevices. It’s not a fly trap. Rather than attracting bugs, as a fly trap would, the vapor reaches nesting areas for total elimination.

Extensive research revealed Fruit Fly BarPro was found to be effective for fruit fly control and prevention of fruit flies and as an added bonus, studies have shown excellent results for eliminating pests like flies, cockroaches, spiders, moth, silverfish and gnats.

During the month of September when you attend a LRA Chapter meeting, you’ll have the chance to win an entire case of the product to see for yourself how well it defeats the problem. If you don’t win a case, this affordable product is available from several food distributors and sanitation providers for just $100 for a case of 10.

From what we’ve witnessed, the Fruit Fly BarPro is a solution you can’t afford to overlook.  

SURVEY: What credentials do you value most when hiring young adults for entry-level positions

Did you know only 28 percent of Louisiana’s high school students earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in college, according to the Louisiana Department of Education?  As a result of this information, Jump Start was created, the state’s new program for school districts, colleges and businesses to collaborate to provide career courses and workplace experiences to high school students, certifying them for the career fields most likely to lead to high-paying jobs—without college.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s staff has been diligently involved in marrying the ProStart and Jump Start programs together to meet the needs of Louisiana restaurants. By 2020, at the current rate of growth, Louisiana’s restaurant industry will add an additional 17,400 new positions. There are currently 52 ProStart programs statewide with more than 1,500 students enrolled for the 2014-2015 school year.

ProStart, the LRAEF’s two-year high school, culinary arts and restaurant management curriculum is designed to serve a dual purpose--deliver to post-secondary hospitality management and culinary programs and to deliver students directly to positions in Louisiana restaurants. The latter directly addresses the needs of industry, the 72 percent of students that do not go on to post-secondary studies and thus, the reason the Jump Start program was created.


The Jump Start team is enlisting the support of industry leaders across the state to complete a survey on Jump Start Credentials. The objective of this online survey is to get input from business leaders across Louisiana about the credentials they value the most when hiring young adult for entry-level positions. 

This survey will take no more than 10 minutes (we've tested it!), and will provide Jump Start Regional Teams around the state with the information they need to help students graduate with both a solid academic foundation and the credentials they need to attain employment. 

We encourage Louisiana restaurateurs of all sizes to click on the link here to take this survey.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

National study shows majority of restaurant workforce sees industry as one of long-term career potential & upward mobility

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation unveils most comprehensive restaurant industry workforce study in decades

Nine out of 10 restaurant employees say they are proud to work in the restaurant industry, while three-quarters believe the industry offers them a strong career path and upward mobility, according to a new workforce study released today by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF).  

As the most extensive research of the restaurant sector workforce in decades, “Who Works in the U.S. Restaurant Industry,” details the opinions of nearly 5,100 Americans who currently work or formerly worked in the industry, as well as those who own or operate restaurants.

“This landmark research finds that employees and owners/operators have a decidedly positive perception of our industry and believe extensive career choices and opportunities for advancement are readily available,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and chief executive officer, National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “This study offers fresh and compelling insight into why so many Americans choose to chart their careers in the restaurant industry, how they advance and why so many plan to stay until they retire.”
 
Gateway to Employment and Advancement
The restaurant industry has historically served as the first job for Americans, with nearly one in three getting their first work experience in a restaurant. More than nine out of 10 restaurant employees said the restaurant sector is a good place to get a first job, and more than eight out of 10 current workers agreed that restaurants provide an opportunity for people who want to succeed based on their hard work. 

Eight out of 10 employees and nine out of 10 owners say that people of all backgrounds can open their own restaurant.

Career Opportunities and Tenure Abound
A majority of employees said the industry provides good long-term career opportunities. Also, individuals in almost every occupation and age group surveyed felt the restaurant industry affords them career advancement potential. Of those not in their first restaurant job, a solid majority said they have advanced to higher-paying jobs.

Seven out of 10 restaurant employees said they would likely continue working in the industry until they retire. In fact, the median industry tenure of employees in restaurant manager and business operations positions was 20 years, and for those over 55, the median was more than 30 years.

As the nation’s second largest private-sector employer and a leading job creator, the restaurant industry must attract, develop and retain employees to fuel projected growth within the sector. We are highly encouraged by the findings of this study and hope it will propel more people to consider and choose fulfilling restaurant careers,” said Rob Gifford, executive vice president, strategic operations and philanthropy, National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

Compensation
The study also examined compensation for both hourly and salaried restaurant employees. While wage ranges varied by occupation, restaurant managers earned a reported median annual base salary of $47,000. Salaried chefs and cooks received a median base of $50,000, with the upper quartile at $65,000 and the lower quartile at $40,000. Among salaried employees, a majority across all age groups said they received a raise in the last year.

When analyzing the findings of particular hourly workers such as waiters and waitresses, the study indicates they earned a median of $16.13 per hour when employer-paid wages and tips were combined, while bartenders earned a median of $19.35 per hour. Among all hourly employees, roughly seven out of 10 restaurant managers and shift or crew supervisors said they received a pay raise within the past 12 months. A majority of chefs or cooks, as well as individuals in business operations positions, also received a raise within the last year.

Restaurant Owners/Operators
The research also profiles perceptions of current restaurant owners related to their career experiences within the industry. A vast majority – 77 percent – said they started in the industry at an entry-level position. During their tenure within the industry, these owners held a variety of restaurant jobs with 84 percent being managers, 61 percent shift or crew supervisors and 59 percent chefs or cooks. 

And in an indication of the entrepreneurial spirit within the industry, when asked how they became a restaurant owner, 42 percent said they started their restaurant from “scratch,” while 20 percent said they purchased the business and 13 percent became a franchisee. 

Despite how they began as operators, the vast majority of all restaurant owners said they likely will continue working in their industry until they retire. In fact, 84 percent of the youngest owners, those under 35, said they see the restaurant sector as a life-long career pursuit.  

Methodology
“Who Works in the U.S. Restaurant Industry” was commissioned by the NRAEF and executed during October and November 2013. The study was implemented through an online survey fielded among a wide range of individuals in the restaurant industry workforce and mall intercepts in 20 shopping malls across the U.S.

In total, completed surveys were received from 4,465 individuals who currently work in the restaurant industry. These respondents comprised 3,309 individuals currently in restaurant and foodservice positions, 442 individuals in business operation positions for restaurants, and 714 restaurant owner/operators.

The survey also contained a section for individuals who currently do not work in the restaurant industry. Out of the 861 individuals who completed this section, 628 are former restaurant employees and 233 never worked in the restaurant industry. Out of the 628 former restaurant employees, 393 said their first paid job was in the restaurant industry.   

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation:

As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF exists to enhance the restaurant industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement and promotion of career opportunities. The NRAEF works to attract, develop and retain a career-oriented professional workforce for the restaurant industry. The restaurant and foodservice industry comprises 980,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 13 million employees, making it one of the nation's largest employers. For more information on the NRAEF, visit NRAEF.org.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Restaurant industry annually devotes September to food safety

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) joins with the National Restaurant Association (NRA) in raising awareness about food safety during September’s National Food Safety Month. This year’s focus is on the campaign’s 20th anniversary, with the theme: “National Food Safety Month 20-Year Anniversary: Top 20 Tips.”
 
Throughout the month of September, the LRA will focus on providing restaurant personnel with 20 years of evidence-based education, training and resources needed to make restaurant dining safer for customers.
 
Each week in September, restaurant owners and their employees will receive guidance and techniques from the LRA in its blog: http://lrablogs.blogspot.com, social media channels and its publications on these different topics:
 
  • Week 1- Cleaning and Sanitizing
  • Week 2- Cross-Contamination
  • Week 3- Time-Temperature Control
  • Week 4-  Personal Hygiene
  • Week 5- Allergens
 
“In its 20th year, the LRA recognizes now, more than ever, the importance of National Food Safety Month. We are happy to partner with the National Restaurant Association to share valuable tips with our members and the public at large, so that all kitchens are a place where food is prepared and served safely.” said LRA President & CEO Stan Harris.
 
Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter with #FoodSafetyMonth. For more information and to view videos and activities, visit www.foodsafetymonth.com.
 
National Food Safety Month is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch InBev and SCA, makers of the Tork® brand of away-from-home paper products.

20 years of food safety tips

Do you know the five steps to correctly clean and sanitize surfaces? Find out with tips, activities and resources during National Food Safety Month.

The National Restaurant Association recently released 20 food safety tips to mark National Food Safety Month, which takes place each September. The campaign aims to heighten awareness about the importance of food safety education.

NRA offers weekly educational activities to help restaurateurs reinforce food safety training on cleaning and sanitizing, cross-contamination, time-temperature control, personal hygiene and allergens. Operators can download free posters, quizzes and customizable promotional material.

The first week’s theme offers tips to safely clean and sanitize equipment and surfaces, including knives, stockpots, cutting boards and prep tables. It also discusses how often they should be cleaned, such as after use, before a food handler begins working with another food, or any time he or she is interrupted during a task.

National Food Safety Month's sponsors are Anheuser-Busch and SCA, parent company of Tork professional hygiene products.

“We work diligently to … help our customers understand the essential role hygiene plays in food safety and [ensuring] healthful environments for our industry’s employees and patrons,” said Suzanne Cohen, marketing director, foodservice, SCA Americas.

“We are proud to be a sponsor of the 20-year anniversary of National Food Safety Month,” said Josh Halpern, vice president, on-premise sales, Anheuser-Busch. “For more than three decades, Anheuser-Busch has been committed to promoting alcohol responsibility and this partnership is an example of our ongoing efforts.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sandwich menu type 5th most popular

Who doesn't love a great sandwich? Not many people according to a recent July 2014 report. “Sandwiches” is the fifth most popular menu type in the United States and chains represent the majority of sandwich restaurants, making up approximately 90 percent of the market, according to the report released by CHD Expert, a Chicago-based foodservice database and analytics firm.

Restaurants with the menu type categorized as “Sandwiches” produce an average unit volume of over $549,000. This illustrates this segment’s high-level market potential. Across America, Sandwich menu type restaurants have approximately 14 establishments for every 100,000 citizens.

CHD Expert finds that the “Sandwich” represents 6.7 percent of the U.S. restaurant market and fall behind Varied Menu, Pizzeria, Mexican, and Hamburgers, respectively. Within the Limited Service Restaurant segments approximately 82 percent of sandwich restaurants are classified as Quick Service, and approximately 16 percent are considered Fast Casual. Quick Service is defined as no wait staff with an average check of less than $8, where Fast Casual has no wait staff, but has a higher average check of $8 to $12 and usually has a more trendy/upscale atmosphere and perceived healthier menu options.

There is a dramatic divide between the numbers of Independent Restaurants compared to Chain Restaurants within the sandwich menu type landscape. Independent Sandwich restaurants account for just 9.6 percent of the market landscape whereas Chains represent the majority at 90.4 percent.

Subway is the largest chain restaurant in the United States in terms of number of locations with over 26,000 units. Other notable sandwich chains in the U.S. include Arby’s, Jimmy John’s, Quiznos, Firehouse Subs and Jersey Mike’s Subs.

Sandwich restaurants are demonstrably popular in the Midwest. Out of the 50 states, Nebraska has the largest percentage of restaurants with a Menu Type categorized as Sandwiches with 11.32 percent in this category, whereas the state only represents 0.64 percent of the nation’s total restaurants. California for comparison represents the largest total number of restaurants by state, at 12.3 percent, but only 5.17 percent of its restaurants are categorized within Sandwiches Menu Type.

The top four states with the largest percentage of Sandwich restaurants out of total restaurants are Nebraska, Michigan, Kentucky and Iowa.


Figure breaks down the sandwich menu type by
years in business. 
Based on CHD Expert’s data, owning a sandwich restaurant could be a strong investment for long-term revenue potential. A majority of Sandwiches restaurants have been in business for five years or more, representing over 76 percent of all Sandwich restaurants. However getting over that five-year hump could prove challenging, particularly as new competitors enter the landscape.

With so many of today's consumers short on time, speed of service is paramount. As such, convenience stores have risen as competitors to more traditional Sandwich establishments. Unlike Sandwich restaurants, the majority of convenience stores are Independent, with 61 percent of C-stores having fewer than 10 units. Texas is the state with the most C-stores with over 11,000 units.

Despite this emerging competition, as the data demonstrates sandwich restaurants enjoy a stable position in the U.S. restaurant landscape. The success of this menu type also presents new opportunities for foodservice operators and professionals, particularly within the franchise and chain segments.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fishbowl's Top 10 Email Tips for Restaurants

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.

Email is one of the most effective ways restaurants can build relationships with customers, increase sales and get the most bang for their marketing bucks. Here are 10 pointers to ensure you make the most of your messages:
  1. Be relevant. Personalize your message and make your email’s content relevant to your customers. Give them what they want: Create a “VIP” experience by offering promotions you don’t provide through other channels.
  2. Be creative. Announce exciting offers, news and events with messages that will grab your customers’ attention. As the quantity of commercial emails increases, make sure your email stands out in guests’ inboxes. Encourage customers to come to your restaurant for special events, holidays and unique promotions such as “Mother’s Day” or “Father’s Day.”
  3. Select your vendor wisely. Find a vendor that follows responsible email practices, is easy to use, and has quality customer service. Deliverability is a key component of your email program: Don’t overlook its importance to your response rate. Make sure your vendor is white-listed, so your email isn’t caught in spam filters.
  4. Integrate on- and off-line channels. Let your customers know about your email program in your store, through community events, in print and online. Provide incentives for your staff and customers to help spread the word about your program. When all these channels work together, you increase the effectiveness of your online marketing program.
  5. Authenticate your email. Support email authentication initiatives and make certain that your service provider complies. That ensures your messages get in the inbox and not in the spam folder.
  6. Identify yourself. In every message, include your restaurant’s contact information and familiar branding. Your guests will feel more comfortable when they recognize you. If they have questions about your offer or need directions, your contact information helps them easily reach you.
  7. Be open and responsible. Let your customers know about your email privacy policy. Tell them about new practices and technologies you implemented to safeguard them from spam. Being open about your email operations helps build customer trust.
  8. Manage message frequency. If you over- or under-email your customers, you run the risk of them unsubscribing. Send one or two messages per month to keep them interested but not overwhelmed.
  9. Shape customer experience. What you say and when you say it does more than informing a customer about your product: it helps create a customer experience. Remember that for each email you send.
  10. Integrate with social media. Don’t miss the opportunity to extend your relationship with guests. Add links to your social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter and other networks. Collect “likes” and followers’ information from social sites, and funnel new guests into your email program. Use social media publishing tools to post from a single platform and streamline your online marketing activities.


This content was provided by National Restaurant Association partner Fishbowl.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

NRA, merchants take swipe-fee fight to Supreme Court

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) continues to battle for fair debit-card swipe fees for restaurateurs and other merchants.

Along with a coalition of merchant groups and businesses, the NRA has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a January U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the Federal Reserve’s rule allowing card issuers to charge some merchants inflated debit-card swipe fees.

The coalition filed its petition with the Supreme Court on Monday, August 18. The court isn't expected to announce whether it will hear the case until January.

The NRA has been fighting exorbitant swipe fees for years. The coalition argued in its brief that the 21-cents-per-transaction limit the Fed imposed on debit-card swipe fees violates the 2010 Durbin Amendment passed by Congress that called for fees that are “reasonable and proportional” to the cost of the transaction.

The Fed initially proposed a 12-cent cap, but raised that to 21 cents in its final rule.

The Fed’s own research has shown that 90 percent of debit-card transactions cost less than two cents to process. The coalition estimates that the Fed’s final rule is costing U.S. merchants an extra $4 billion in swipe fees each year, compared to the cap the Fed initially proposed.

The coalition won the first round of the legal battle in July 2013, when U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled that the Fed’s swipe-fee regulations violated congressional intent by allowing inflated transaction fees, especially for merchants with low-ticket transactions. However, in January, a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned Leon’s ruling and upheld the Fed’s final rule.


The Food Marketing Institute, National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Retail Federation, Boscov’s Department Store and Miller Oil Company are the other members of the coalition.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Restaurant indicators a mixed bag in 2014

The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Chief Economist Bruce Grindy looks back at trends in key indicators during the first half of 2014. Although overall sales are trending in a positive direction, rising food costs continue to pose challenges for restaurant operators.

Below is a breakdown of the trends in key indicators during the first half of the year, and what it all means for the restaurant industry in the months ahead.

Sales and Traffic
The NRA’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) stood above 100 during each of the first six months of the year, which represents expansion in the composite index of industry indicators.  Looking inside the RPI, the Current Situation indicators had a sluggish start to the year, which was due in large part to challenging weather conditions. 

As a result of soft same-store sales and customer traffic levels, the Current Situation component of the RPI fell below 100 in January and February, which signifies contraction.  However, sales and traffic results improved during the March – June period, and the Current Situation Index rose above 100 and into the expansion zone. 

Overall, restaurant industry sales trended in a generally positive direction during the first half of 2014.  Total eating and drinking place sales – which takes into account same-store sales as well as unit growth – reached a record high of $47.3 billion in July on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.  Eating and drinking place sales were up 4.5 percent on a year-to-date basis through July, which is more than double the 2.2 percent increase in grocery store sales during the same period. 

Jobs
Along with an improving sales environment, the restaurant industry continued to add jobs at a steady pace in recent months.  Eating and drinking places added more than 187,000 jobs during the first seven months of 2014, which brings their post-recession growth to a total of nearly 1.4 million jobs. 

Overall, eating and drinking places added jobs at a 3.1 percent rate on a year-to-date basis through July, which is more than a full percentage-point above the 1.8 percent gain in total U.S. employment during the same period.  In addition, it puts the restaurant industry on pace to post job growth above three percent for the third consecutive year, which would represent the first such occurrence since the 1993 – 1995 period.

Food Costs
Meanwhile, the restaurant industry continues to be challenged by soaring food costs.  Average wholesale food prices registered sharp gains in six of the first seven months of 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  As a result, wholesale food prices were up 7.1 percent in the 12 months ending July 2014, which represented the strongest 12-month gain in nearly three years.  Overall, wholesale food prices are on pace to post their strongest annual increase in three years, and fifth consecutive annual gain overall. 

Menu Prices
While food costs have trended sharply higher, menu price gains have remained relatively tame.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, menu prices rose 2.4 percent in the 12 months ending July 2014.  This was slightly below the 2.7 percent increase in grocery store prices during the same 12-month period, but above the 2.0 percent gain in overall consumer prices. 

If the trend holds, 2014 will mark the continuation of an extended period of relatively modest growth in menu prices.  Between 2009 and 2014, menu prices increased at an average annual rate of just 2.2 percent, well below the 3.6 percent average annual gain registered during the previous five-year period (2004 – 2009).  Moreover, average wholesale food prices increased at a 4.4 percent average annual rate between 2009 and 2014, which put considerable pressure on bottom lines during a challenging economic environment. 

Outlook
Despite the challenges, the underlying fundamentals point toward an improving business environment in the months ahead.  The national economy added more than 200,000 jobs in each of the last six months, which is a streak that last happened in 1997. 

In addition, real disposable personal income grew at annualized rates above 3 percent during the first two quarters of 2014.  We have to go back more than eight years to find consecutive quarters with income growth above the 3 percent level. 

An improving economy will help consumers become more confident in their personal financial situation, and put them in a better position to burn off their elevated pent-up demand for restaurants. 

For their part, restaurant operators are generally on board with an improving economic environment.  The RPI’s Expectations component, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood above 100 during each of the first six months of 2014.  This signifies that restaurant operators are generally optimistic about business conditions in the months ahead.

Read more from the Economist’s Notebook and get additional analysis of restaurant industry trends on the newly revamped Restaurant TrendMapper (subscription required)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Floor plans set the stage for success

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.

A good floor plan not only takes into account seating efficiency but also enhances the customers’ dining experience. Set the stage with a winning floor plan, and you’ll encourage customers to return for a repeat performance.

Whether you’re opening a new operation or redesigning your current space, here are some tips on how to arrange your dining room.

One size doesn’t fit all
  •  Be true to your concept. “Each concept is unique and has its own needs. There’s no rubber stamp when it comes to floor plans,” says Lee Simon, principal of Innovative Foodservice Design Team in Tampa, Fl. For example, a restaurant that specializes in romantic dinners has different needs than a casual, family-oriented eatery.
  • Get a better feel for your mix. Analyze your reservations or POS (point-of-sale) reports to get a sense of the mix of parties you typically attract. This will help you configure your tables for maximum use.

Space constraints
  • Be flexible. Moveable tables can help you accommodate parties of different sizes and reduce wait times. For example, place a table-for-two next to a four-top so that they can be easily moved together to seat up to eight.
  • Booths maximize space. “With real estate at a premium,” says Frank Stocco, owner of National Restaurant Design in Forest Lake, Minn., “booths give you the best bang for the buck.” Another alternative is to place dividers between freestanding tables that back up to each other, suggests Simon. He recommends dividers that are 4 to 5 feet tall and semitransparent near the top.
  • Reduce the schlep. A rule of thumb is to have no table more than 60 feet from the food pickup area. In general, having your servers travel farther than this is an invitation to slow service, cold food and poor online reviews.

Comfort considerations
  • Anchor your tables. Guests prefer to sit with at least one side of their tables “anchored” by walls or other structures. “Patrons like to look out at the dining room, rather than sit at a table feeling as though they’re on display,” says Simon.
  • Give guests elbow room. In a national survey by researchers at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, customers overwhelmingly responded that spacing banquette tables as close as 12 inches or less was unsettling. In fact, the research shows that guests generally dislike banquette seating—where tables are placed along a bench attached to the wall—and spend less money per minute there. In another study, at a New York City fine-dining restaurant, the same researchers found that parties at closely spaced tables spent less per minute than those at widely spaced tables. Patrons seemed uncomfortable when freestanding tables were set as close as 17 inches apart and were more comfortable when the distance was closer to a yard apart.
  • Create some cozy spots. Consider dividing your restaurant into several small dining areas. “People want to feel like they’re in a place that is busy,” notes Simon. “There’s nothing worse than being a party of two sitting alone in a big dining room.”
  • Don’t blow them away. If you are starting from scratch with your restaurant’s build-out, work with your mechanical engineer to make sure that supply air is not being dumped directly over guest tables or waiting areas.
  • Maintain visibility. People feel more comfortable when they have some idea of what is happening in the space around them, so don’t make booth backs too high to be seen over from a sitting position. A good maximum height for most booth backs is about 52 inches.

RestaurantOwner.com contributed information for this piece. Receive free business plans, restaurant server training manual, and restaurant “Profit Tip” of the week at www.RestaurantOwner.com.

Monday, August 18, 2014

LRA Northwest Chapter to Host Clay Shoot

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Northwest Chapter will host its annual clay shoot Saturday, August 23, 2014 at Los Paloma Sporting Range in Benton, La. Competition begins at 9 a.m.
Participants can choose from two different shooter packages: the .12 Gauge includes a five-man team, lunch and t-shirts and is $400; the .20 Gauge includes a single-shooter entry, lunch and t-shirt and is $100. Prizes will be awarded to the top team and raffle tickets, mulligans and a wobble station shoot will be available for purchase.
Ammunition is limited to field loads only (3 ¼ drams powder max and shot size no larger than 7 ½) and no gun larger than a .12 Gauge. Participants must bring their own ammo. None will be available at the event.
This annual fundraiser will support the LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) and the LRA’s political advocacy efforts. The LRAEF is governed by a board of directors made up of restaurants, industry experts and educators in the hospitality industry. As the philanthropic foundation of the LRA, the LRAEF exists to enhance our community through expanded educational and career opportunities, the formation of strategic partnerships and the elevation of our professional standards and practices.
The LRA Northwest Chapter would like to thank the clay shoot’s sponsors: Landers Dodge Chrysler Jeep RAM, Eagle Distributing Shreveport, Republic National Distributing Company, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Foodservice, Fire Tech Systems, Chili’s, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and Southern Outdoors.

For more information, please contact Angela Chisholm at achisholm@lra.org, (318) 366-1326.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

2014 Louisiana Tax Amnesty Program to run Oct. 15-Nov. 14

Louisiana Tax Amnesty 2014 will be held from Oct. 15 through Nov. 14, 2014, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) recently announced. The 30-day tax amnesty program offers noncompliant taxpayers the opportunity to settle their accounts with the state by paying 100 percent of delinquent taxes, with a waiver of all penalties and 50 percent of the interest owed.

New to the amnesty program this year is the option for individual and business taxpayers to pay their overdue tax liabilities through installment payments over a six-month period of time.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 15 through 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 14, eligible taxpayers can apply online at www.ldrtaxamnesty.com. Or for more information, they can call 866-782-9241.

“Delinquent taxpayers have more options than ever to satisfy their obligations,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “Hopefully, this will encourage everybody who has fallen behind to take this opportunity to make a fresh start.”

The Louisiana State Legislature has set a goal of collecting $100 million for the 2014 Tax Amnesty program.

Taxpayers identified as noncompliant in LDR’s records should expect to receive a letter and/or a recorded telephone message before the start of the amnesty program with instructions for submitting applications and payments online. Contact information is drawn from data taxpayers have submitted to LDR with their tax filings and other communications.

Delinquent taxpayers have a limited amount of time to take advantage of amnesty. According to Act 822 of the 2014 Legislative Session, after the conclusion of the amnesty period in 2015, there shall be no new amnesty program implemented by the Dept. of Revenue before Jan. 1, 2015. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

FDA says restaurants should ensure gluten-free claims are consistent with federal definition

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicated recently that a new federal standard for “gluten-free” labeling is not technically binding on restaurants (except for items that restaurants sell in pre-packaged form), but that restaurants should ensure any gluten-free claims they make are consistent with the new federal definition.

The FDA’s final rule on gluten-free labeling took effect Aug. 5, and largely applies to manufacturers that make “gluten-free” claims about packaged food and beverage items. The FDA published the final rule a year ago, and gave companies a year to comply.

In an Aug. 5 Constituent Update, the FDA said for the first time that the rule applies only to “packaged foods,” meaning that restaurant foods not sold in pre-packaged form are not bound by the new “gluten-free” definition. 

However, the agency notes in the update that “given the public health significance of ‘gluten-free’ labeling, the FDA says that restaurants and other establishments making a gluten-free claim on their menus should be consistent with FDA’s definition.”  


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Infographic: Who is a typical restaurant worker?

Question: Who is today’s typical restaurant employee?

Answer: It really depends on the job.

The restaurant industry - the nation's second-largest private sector employer - offers a wide range of jobs. As one of the most diverse industries in America, it provides opportunities for individuals at all career levels and life stages. However, while some common traits exist across the industry, the industry’s workforce demographics can vary quite a bit by job position.

The National Restaurant Association’s analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data offers a snapshot of our industry’s make-up: who holds what job, from supervisors to managers to chefs to cooks and bartenders.

For example, today’s typical chef is between 30 and 49 years old and lives in a household without children; 56 percent are minorities, and 44 percent are born outside of the United States. In contrast, a typical bartender is under 30 and not head of his or her household; 20 percent are minorities and 19 percent speak a language other than English at home.


See our infographic to learn more about whom the typical restaurant employee is and the different job or position he or she holds (click to enlarge).


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

LRA Bayou Chapter to Host 2nd Annual Culinary Showcase

The LRA Bayou Chapter will host its second annual Culinary Showcase Thursday, August 14, 2014
at The Cypress Columns in Gray, La., 6:30-9:30 p.m.

The event will feature food from 20 area restaurants, music, cooking demonstrations, silent and live auction and People’s Choice Award for favorite dish.

The following top area chefs will be doing demos:

Cuisine and beverages will be provided by the following:

  • Big Al’s
  • Dave’s Cajun Kitchen
  • Spahr’s Seafood Restaurant
  • Nicholas Catering
  • Spuddy’s Cajun
  • Community Coffee
  • Flanagan’s/Fremin’s
  • Wing Stop
  • Firehouse Subs
  • Oak Alley Plantation
  • Griffin’s Poboy & Grille
  • Cypress Columns
  • Cristiano Ristorante
  • Cashio’s Catering
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Foundry
  • Rouses
  • Alumni Grill
  • Grady V’s American Bistro
  • Zen Japanese Grill and Sushi Bar
This fundraiser will support the LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) and the LRA’s political advocacy efforts. The LRAEF is governed by a board of directors made up of restaurants, industry experts and educators in the hospitality industry. As the philanthropic foundation of the LRA, the LRAEF exists to enhance our community through expanded educational and career opportunities, the formation of strategic partnerships and the elevation of our professional standards and practices.

The LRA Bayou Chapter would like to thank the Culinary Showcase’s Chef’s Table sponsors: State Representative and Candidate for Lafourche Parish Assessor Jerome “Dee” Richard and Cyrus J. Guidry & Associates and table sponsors: Spahr’s Seafood Restaurant, La Casa Del Sol, Doerle Food Service, Delta Coin, LRA Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation, Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, Ground Pat’i, Stein’s Trucking, Sysco, Crescent Crown Distributing, Thibodaux Racing, Republic National Distributing Company, Yerzwyvelt & Friends, Performance Foodservice Group- Caro, Community Coffee, Griffin’s Poboy & Grille, Heartland Payment Systems, Uncle T & Friends, Sealand Mechanical and Capitol City Produce.

For more information, please contact Courtney Waguespack at cwaguespack@lra.org, call (225) 328-2163, or visit www.LRA.org.

Monday, August 11, 2014

NRA releases Sustainability Report offering expert advice and money-saving tips

The National Restaurant Association has issued a new report focused on sustainability best practices for the foodservice industry.

Created by the NRA’s Conserve sustainability program, the report, “Spotlight on Sustainability: Expert Tips from NRA Show 2014, features tips, trends and real-world advice from industry experts who appeared at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago.

“As restaurateurs grapple with implementing sustainable best practices at their operations, we want to ensure they have the best possible information that will help them save money and resources,” said Scott DeFife, NRA’s Executive Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs. “Practicing sustainability is more popular than ever before so it is important to us that we provide tools and education on how to do it in as cost effective a manner as possible. This report is one more way we can help make sustainability accessible to everyone.”

This year’s report features information culled from eight environmentally-focused education sessions at the 2014 NRA Show and features input from such renowned restaurant brands as Starbucks and White Castle, as well as restaurateur Dan Simons of the Farmers Restaurant Group in Washington, D.C., Christi Cook of contract foodservice provider Sodexo Inc., environmentalist and Ted’s Montana Grill co-owner Laura Turner Seydel, and Tim Trefzer of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority in Atlanta.

“Operators who are planning to incorporate sustainable practices into their businesses will find true value in the information contained in this report,” said Laura Abshire, the NRA’s Director of Sustainability Policy. “The advice and tips offered by our sustainability experts will give restaurateurs more access to information that will help improve profitability while protecting the communities in which they serve.”

The report is available for free download here.

“We hope everyone, especially those operators who couldn’t attend this year’s show, will take the information in this report and apply it to their respective business strategies,” said Jeff Clark, Conserve’s Program Director. “We are certain it will help save money, improve the environment and satisfy your employees and customers alike.”

The Conserve program has also released its free subscription-only “Bright Ideas,” sustainability newsletter, which offers tips and tools to restaurant and foodservice operators on eco-friendly practices that save money, resources and help protect the environment. Sign up today!


For more information about the report and Conserve, visit the website here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Here’s how overtime changes could hurt restaurant employees

The National Restaurant Association and other business groups aren’t waiting for the Department of Labor to release its proposed changes to overtime regulations to make sure the regulators who are rewriting the rules fully understand the impact changes could have on opportunities for career advancement within restaurants and other industries.

The NRA is co-leading the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity to educate policymakers about how changes to overtime regulations will affect businesses at the ground level.

More than a dozen leading business organizations have joined so far, including the Society for Human Resource Management and organizations representing retailers and manufacturers. Together, coalition members employ millions of Americans.

“The types of changes that are being discussed have the potential to radically change standards that have been in place for decades,” said Angelo Amador, NRA vice president of labor and workforce policy. “Any change in overtime regulations will affect all industries, but the restaurant and retail sectors may be hit particularly hard.”

The background: President Obama in March issued a memo asking the DOL to update overtime regulations, which were last revised a decade ago. Since then, the DOL has held a roundtable session with business leaders to hear their concerns about possible changes, but hasn’t released its proposal.

Three criteria are now used to determine whether an employee is exempt from overtime. All three are expected to be targeted for revision:
  • Salary threshold: Employees must earn a minimum of $455 a week, or $23,600 a year.
  • Manner of pay: Employees must be paid on a salary basis, meaning employers can’t reduce their pay for working a partial day. 
  • Managerial/executive: The employee’s “primary duty” must qualify them as an executive, professional or administrative employee.


The challenge for restaurants: Supporters say they want to increase Americans’ take-home pay, but far-reaching changes to the rules could have the opposite effect. That’s what restaurant operators told DOL officials in the recent roundtable session. Specifically, they said:

  • Managers could lose pay. If the DOL’s criteria no longer align with the duties restaurant managers typically perform, many will likely be paid on an hourly rather than salaried basis. That could mean lower pay, even with overtime.
  • Incentives could disappear. Many restaurant managers and executives start their careers in non-managerial positions and move up to managerial jobs with new, performance-based incentives. A shift back to hourly pay for managers will remove an incentive for other employees to become managers, and make it harder for restaurants to move people up.
  • Flexibility will be lost. Under current rules, as long as an employee’s primary duty is management, a manager has the flexibility to occasionally pitch in on duties traditionally performed by non-managerial employees, like preparing food or operating a cash register, depending on the restaurant’s needs at the time. Bureaucratic, inflexible rules on managerial duties could mean managers lose that ability.

An increase in the salary threshold and change in the duties requirements could all but ensure that restaurant managers would no longer qualify as “exempt” employees, Amador said.  “We won’t get a sense of the precise impact until the proposal is released, but we are very concerned that the DOL will take an entire class of restaurant managers and re-define them as hourly employees.”

The DOL has said it intends to propose its overtime-rule changes by November.