Friday, January 30, 2015

In Memoriam: 3 Baton Rouge LRA members leave legacy of dedication and compassion

Amy Nesbit
The Louisiana Restaurant Association’s thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends, co-workers, employees and customers of the following Baton Rouge Chapter members who recently passed away.

Amy Elizabeth Nesbit of Baton Rouge died at the age of 55 on January 13, 2015. Nesbit, with her husband, renovated the downtown Baton Rouge historic building, De La Ronde Hall and operated it for 20 years.

"I met Amy while planning my wedding reception at De La Ronde Hall years ago," said Beth Altazan. "She was an amazing person and so delightfully attentive." 

Charles "Greg" Giamanco
Charles Gregory “Greg” Giamanco of Baton Rouge died at the age of 66 on January 16, 2015. He was the owner and operator of Giamanco’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge for 46 years, until its closing in 2002.

"I will never forget the kindness Greg showed me during my illness when I worked for him at Giamanco's," said Kathleen Fountain. "I worked for the family for almost 14 years years." 

"Greg was a wonderful man and a great boss," commented another former employee of almost 14 years on the online guestbook. "I will never forget Greg helping me through my cancer and making a place for me to come back to work." 

Christina Bannister
Christina Bannister of Baton Rouge died at the age of 60 on January 26, 2015. She served downtown workers for 20 years with homestyle cooking at her restaurant, Christina’s. 

"She considered all her customers family," her brother Mike said. "That's what she put into her cooking...that love that you have when you cook for people you care about." 

During an interview with WAFB last year, Bannister reflected on opening her restaurant two decades earlier. "I had no prior knowledge about the restaurant business at all," she said. "I didn't know anything about it. It was the local guys that stood behind me and put their feet under the table and supported me." 

"It is rather sad to lose such hardworking and dedicated professionals in our industry and so closely together," said LRA Past Chairwoman Miriam Juban. "I have fond memories of working with all of them to improve our industry." 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

LRA honors 12 Restaurant Legends at Don's Seafood & Steakhouse in Lafayette

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) is pleased to name 12 Restaurant Legends from Don’s Seafood & Steakhouse in Lafayette. The recipients were recognized at the LRA Acadiana Chapter Restaurant Legends Banquet at the Petroleum Club of Lafayette, January 19, 2015.

The Restaurant Legends at Don's Seafood & Steakhouse in Lafayette has a
total of 468 years of experience and service to the restaurant. 
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.

With 468 combined years of experience and service at Don’s Seafood & Steakhouse, these men and women exemplify the satisfaction of making their jobs a lifelong and rewarding career.

They are:
  • Clarence Angelle, busser, employed for 35 years
  • Cynthia Chaisson, kitchen manager and cook, employed for 35 years
  • Deanna Duhon, server, employed for 40 years
  • Nedia George, prep cook and cook, employed for 41 years
  • William “Billy” Melancon, cook, employed for 38 years
  • Sharon Mertz, manager and office assistant, employed for 38 years
  • Kim Peterman, manager, employed for 35 years
  • Joey Quebedeaux, kitchen manager, employed for 38 years
  • Jenny Scott, server, employed for 35 years
  • Tyrone Tine, kitchen manager, employed for 33 years
  • McKinley Trahan, prep cook, employed for 63 years
  • Richard Washington, cook, employed for 37 years
These recipients join 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.

“Don’s has been in business for 80 years and that kind of success would not be possible without employees who make your customers want to return time and time again,” said Rocky Landry, owner of Don’s Seafood & Steakhouse. “These are dedicated people that have given their lives to the success of this restaurant.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

LRA Education Foundation distributes $50k to Louisiana high schools

The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) is pleased to announce that it has distributed $50,000 to ProStart® programs around the state through its ProStart Program Support Fund.

Through annual fundraising efforts of the nine LRA Chapters and support from LRAEF Annual Sponsors, these funds were awarded to eligible ProStart programs in 36 Louisiana high schools. ProStart is a nationwide, two-year program for high school students that develops the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s industry leaders. From culinary techniques to management skills, ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-world educational opportunities and builds practical skills and a foundation that will last a lifetime.

Bonnabel Magnet Academy ProStart Instructor Emile Meydrich, LRAEF
Executive Director Alice Glenn and ProStart students. 
The first check was presented to ProStart instructor Emile Meydrich and his students at Alfred Bonnabel Magnet Academy in Metairie, January 22, 2015.

“We are very appreciative of the LRAEF for these funds,” said Meydrich. “We could not do much of our kitchen lab work and participate in the upcoming ProStart competition without their generosity. It goes a long way in helping the students.”

To be considered, the schools had to indicate needs, with a specific action plan for how the funds would be spent. Schools received an average of $1,400 to help defray the costs of testing materials, perishables, small wares, capital projects, field trips and the upcoming Louisiana Seafood ProStart Student Invitational at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, March 3-4.

“The LRAEF is proud to offer this assistance to our ProStart schools for the second consecutive year,” said Executive Director Alice Glenn. “We were shocked to discover just how little financial support many of our high schools have to support vital programs like ProStart. The money simply isn’t there. To assist in ensuring that instructors are able to offer their students the best possible ProStart training, the LRAEF made the ProStart Program Support Fund a high priority.”

The LRAEF, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, exists to enhance the restaurant community through expanded educational and career opportunities, the formation of strategic partnerships and the elevation of professional standards and practices. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Alice Glenn, or (504) 636-6526.

The LRAEF is grateful to the nine LRA Chapters and its sponsors: 5 Diamond—Acme Oyster House, Auto-Chlor Services, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, Louisiana Restaurant Association, Louisiana Seafood and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation; 4 Diamond—Performance Foodservice-Caro; 3 Diamond—Atmos Energy, Camellia Brand, Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, Louisiana Culinary Institute, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience and Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers; 2 Diamond—Louisiana Gas Association, Whole Foods Market and Chef Paul Prudhomme’s “Sea of Hope.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ATC announces annual Mardi Gras crackdown

Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Commissioner Troy Hebert has ordered ATC agents to hit the streets again this Mardi Gras season to ensure that alcohol, tobacco, and alternative nicotine products are being sold and served responsibly.

ATC agents, under the direction of Commissioner Hebert, have continued to increase the number of compliance checks they conduct during Mardi Gras celebrations statewide in an attempt to keep alcohol, tobacco, and alternative nicotine products out of the hands of underage persons. During Mardi Gras 2014, ATC agents conducted close to 230 compliance checks of businesses along parade routes statewide. Of those businesses checked, ATC issued 69 citations for sales to underage persons.

“I understand that Mardi Gras and alcohol often go hand and hand; however, it’s ATC’s responsibility to make sure that businesses are following the law and are not jeopardizing the safety of our residents and visitors by serving underage persons,” said Commissioner Hebert.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association offers ServSafe Alcohol online server training course at For just $24 for members and $30 for non-members, individuals can spend two-hours completing the course anywhere they have a PC and an internet connection and obtain their state-approved responsible vendor permit. 

In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, business owners with ATC permits will be reminded of important alcohol laws and ATC is encouraging the owners to train their staff, obtain the required permits, and implement policies to ensure their business is fully prepared to handle the increased patronage that they are likely to receive. One of ATC’s main focuses this year is making certain that businesses are educating their employees on the different types of IDs. In Louisiana, driver’s licenses issued to persons under 21 are vertical and show the exact date that the person will turn 21 in red letters, whereas driver’s licenses issued to persons over 21 are horizontal. 

“Businesses deal with huge crowds during Mardi Gras,” said Commissioner Hebert. “Knowing how to identify an underage person by the layout of their driver’s license, without needing to do any math, will enable employees to quickly serve their eligible customers and avoid receiving a citation by refusing service to anyone who’s underage.”

Since taking a more proactive approach in educating businesses ahead of Carnival Season, the number of citations issued to businesses for selling alcohol and tobacco to minors has decreased dramatically. ATC agents will again be out in full force to ensure a fun and safe Mardi Gras for all Louisiana citizens and visitors.

Monday, January 26, 2015

LRA honors Restaurant Legend at Flanagan's Creative Food & Drink in Thibodaux

Honoree Barbara C. Williams with Flanagan's Corporate Chef
& Dir. of Operations and Owner Francis Fremin. 
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) is pleased to name Barbara C. Williams of Flanagan’s Creative Food & Drink in Thibodaux a LRA Restaurant Legend. She was recognized at a special celebration at Flanagan’s recently. 

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.

Williams has been working at Flanagan’s since 1994 and is the restaurant’s pantry line chef, in charge of desserts. She is a shining example of a lifelong and rewarding career in the restaurant industry.

“Barbara is truly a dedicated, hard-working team member,” said Flanagan’s Corporate Chef and Director of Operations Randy Barrios. “She brightens up the kitchen and is a true role model for our entire staff, not to mention her house-made desserts are incredible. Flanagan’s would not be the same without her presence in the kitchen.”

Williams 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.

New tool will help zap food waste

The National Restaurant Association and LeanPath have teamed up to offer Association members a 10 percent discount on Zap, LeanPath’s food-waste prevention program.

The first 25 NRA members who sign up receive a free 60-day subscription.

“Our goal is to make it easier and more affordable for restaurateurs to prevent food waste,” said Jeff Clark, program director for the NRA’s Conserve sustainability program. “Many operators either don’t know how to get started or don’t think they have the money to install expensive tools to do it. This is a manageable way of making this environmentally responsible tool available to them.”

LeanPath says its goal is to help restaurateurs cut food waste before it’s generated, in an easy-to-use way that doesn’t take a lot of time.

“If we can help operators reduce food waste before it happens, that would be best financially and environmentally,” said Janet Haugan, the company’s director of marketing. “We want to make the process understandable and easy to digest. Zap will not only show operators what and how much they’re wasting, but how to prevent it from happening.”

LeanPath research indicates that approximately 4 percent to 10 percent of food purchased by foodservice operations is thrown out before it can be plated. Some of top reasons: overproduction, spoilage and excess trimming of meat and vegetables.

“If we can help capture some of what is being thrown out and put that back on the bottom line, restaurateurs will reduce food costs by 2 percent to 6 percent,” she said. “That is a significant savings.”

Haugan said LeanPath’s typical client ends up reducing kitchen waste by at least 50 percent.

The Zap program is available in three levels: 
  • Zap Basic, which costs $69 per month and is designed for small operator who spend less than $300,000 a year on food
  • Zap Connect, which costs $129 per month and provides the operator with more detail and customization
  • Zap Enterprise, which costs $229 a month and is recommended for chains with 10 or more units
Subscribers get access to:
  • LeanPath Online, a web-based reporting dashboard that records top-wasted foods, food waste by meal or day of week, and the top reasons for food waste.
  • Automatic weekly emails summarizing waste and prevention opportunities from the prior week.
  • A measurement and record of food waste on an ongoing basis. This allows restaurateurs to reduce waste by adjusting what they buy, how they produce it, what’s on the menu, and how they train staff.
Visit Conserve for more information on the program and sustainability solutions for the restaurant industry.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Public vs. private health care exchanges: Understanding the difference

With the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in effect, nearly all Americans are required to purchase health insurance or face a possible tax penalty. More people are turning to “exchanges,” also known as marketplaces, to buy plans.

There’s been a lot of talk about the different type of exchanges available – specifically, “public” vs. “private” exchanges. Here's a quick overview to help you sort it out: Public exchanges enable certain consumers – unemployed individuals, individuals without employer-sponsored plans and some small companies – to purchase health insurance. These government-run marketplaces offer insurance plans from private insurers. Private exchanges, on the other hand, are available only to employees of companies that choose to participate in it.

These four key factors help define the difference between public and private exchanges:

The NRA is working to provide our members with the right health-care solutions for their businesses and employees.  Our Health Care HQ now offers access to a public exchange dedicated to people in the restaurant industry. We’ll bring a private-exchange solution on board soon.

Feel free to reach out to NRA health care expert Randy Spicer for help in finding the right health-care solution for your restaurant company.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

GSI joins Gulf groups to walk Congressional halls for Gulf Seafood

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

High heels and wingtips clicking and clacking through the marble halls of Congress, a constant buzz of voices bouncing off Gulf Senators and Representatives office walls, hands continuously pressing the flesh and passing paper after paper; these are the sights and sounds of the Gulf Seafood Institute’s (GSI) second annual “Walk on the Hill” in the nation’s Capitol.

Members of the Gulf Seafood Institute visit with 
La. Senator David Vitter in his D.C. office. GSI members 
represent seafood interests in all five Gulf States. 
(L-R) Stan Harris of the La. Restaurant Assoc., 

Harlon Pearce of Harlon’s LA Fish, GSI Executive Director 
Margaret Henderson, seafood processor Frank Randol, 
Jim Gossen who is chairman of Sysco Louisiana Seafood, 
Senator David Vitter, David Krebs of Arial Seafoods 
and charter boat Captain Troy Frady. 
GSI joined with the Gulf Oyster Industry Council (GOIC) and other Gulf seafood groups to meet with the entire Gulf Congressional Delegation, resulting in a long schedule comprised of nearly 30 meetings total.

“The Gulf Seafood Institute meets regularly with Congressmen and staff, as well as various executive agencies and non-governmental organizations, to educate them on the needs and concerns of the Gulf’s diverse seafood communities,” said GSI’s executive director Margaret Henderson while walking a hallway of the Longworth building. “This annual event gives us the opportunity to communicate face-to-face issues facing Gulf seafood. It is important to every fisherman, processor, distributor, chef and restaurateur in the five Gulf States to have those representing us in Washington knowledgeable on the effects of legislation they initiate.”

According to Henderson, GSI has led the way in uniting the various Gulf groups and giving them a voice they have never had before. The politics of seafood crosses many boundaries: federal, state, local and private. The organization’s walk on Capitol Hill is one of its many programs to keep legislators and government officials aware of the needs of the Gulf’s various fishing communities.

“We have access to some of the greatest seafood in the world and we want to keep that access open to both commercial and recreational fishermen,” said Harlon Pearce owner of Harlon’s LA Fish and president of GSI’s board. “These meetings are designed to show those creating the politics of seafood how important it is to have proper and effective legislation and programs in place.”

Important Issues
In a prepared packet hand delivered to each office, GSI has outline three important issues immediately important for Gulf of Mexico seafood:

Proposed Gulf of Mexico Oyster Mega-Hatcheries
Extended drought conditions in the Gulf States, along with poor water quality, eroding coastlines, Gulf dead zones and the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon spill on living
marine resources such as oysters, have created a unique opportunity to rethink
how the Gulf of Mexico oyster habitat is created and restored. The aim of two proposed Gulf of Mexico oyster mega hatcheries is to enhance the public stock oyster reefs in all five Gulf States, as well as create new habitat resulting in a cleaner Gulf.

NMFS Implementation of Electronic Data Collection for Charter For Hire Sector
According to NOAA, the Gulf charter-for-hire and private angler components of the recreational sector support 460,000 angler trips targeting and catching red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico annually. The fishery directly supports 759 jobs, generates $113 million in business sales and contributes $64 million to the national economy. It is an extremely important economic driver for the region, but must be managed carefully to ensure longevity of the species, and the communities and businesses that depend on it.

Currently, management of the recreational red snapper sector in the Gulf is in turmoil. Based on the “best available science” and data from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), fishery managers have shortened the recreational red snapper season length drastically in recent years, culminating in a 9-day season in 2014. Real-time data is critical to better understand the status of the fishery and provide fishery managers with adequate tools to make the best decisions for the resource and fishermen.

Congress is urged to communicate with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) directing them to utilize recently appropriated funds to roll out a robust electronic data collection program in Gulf of Mexico charter community in time for the 2015 red snapper season this June. 

H2B Migrant Worker Legislation
Seafood processors along the Gulf coast rely on temporary, seasonal foreign workers admitted to the U.S. under the H-2B Visa program to fill the most labor-intensive positions in the industry. The work done by these skilled laborers is necessary to support thousands of seafood jobs held by U.S. workers. Because of the unique nature of the seafood occupation and the rural location of many processors, the seafood industry has used Private Wage Surveys for more than 15 years to set their wage rate, often relying on State agency-provided wage surveys.

In December of 2014, the Department of Labor announced they would no longer accept PWS in determining wages for H-2B visa workers.

Current Department of Labor rules governing this program threaten the viability of various Gulf seafood communities that rely on temporary, foreign H-2B visa workers. These workers in oyster, crawfish and crab processing fill jobs that American workers refuse to do.

Congress should sign a letter to Labor Secretary Perez and support language in FY 2016 appropriations bills directing the DOL to continue accepting private wage surveys for H-2B visa workers in the seafood industry.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

LRA honors 10 Restaurant Legends at Chris' Poboys in Lafayette

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) is pleased to name 10 Restaurant Legends from Chris’ Poboys in Lafayette. The recipients were recognized at the LRA Acadiana Chapter Restaurant Legends Banquet at the Petroleum Club of Lafayette, January 19, 2015.

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.

With 282 combined years of experience and service at Chris’ Poboys, these men and women exemplify the satisfaction of making their jobs a lifelong and rewarding career.

They are:
  • Shirley Barlow, dine-in manager, employed for 35 years
  • Donna Brantley, general manager (Ambassador location), employed for 32 years
  • Michael Carpenter, general manager (Moss location), employed for 20 years
  • Trula DiSalvo, kitchen manager, employed for 24 years
  • Charlotte Doyle, server, employed for 30 years
  • Cynthia Dronet, fry cook, employed for 29 years
  • Denise Gaudin, server, employed for 29 years
  • Margaret Mouton, salad chef, employed for 20 years
  • Donna Nassans, server, employed for 34 years
  • Garrett O’Conner, general manager (Pinhook location), employed for 29 years
These recipients join 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.

“You will not find employees more dedicated and unselfish than these men and women,” said Richard Rivet, owner of Chris’ Poboys. “I could not run my restaurants without them; they are my family and are so deserving of this award.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hard work, confidence, keys to women's success

Melissa Strait, Arby’s new chief people officer, discusses her experience, advancement opportunities for women, and the characteristics of a successful career. Today she is responsible for leading the strategy, development and execution of key organizational effectiveness and talent management programs for the company’s 71,000 employees at nearly 3,400 stores worldwide.

How did you get involved in the restaurant business?
I started when I was 20 years old, back in 1984, so I’ve spent 30 years in the industry. I started as an hourly employee on the front line when I was in college. I was going to school to be a psychologist and was attending graduate school, but decided I didn’t want to do that. So I ended up back at the restaurant I worked at during the summer. Working the day shift helped teach me this was more of a business than I’d understood previously. I was intrigued. I became a manager and not long after that, part-owner of our small franchise.

What are the lessons you’ve learned being a part of this industry?
I learned how to please the guest and make people happy. It’s about getting things done quickly. No matter what job you do, it’s about making a difference for people and responding quickly to their needs. It’s also about having a team environment. You can’t achieve anything unless you work well with everybody around you.

Have you had many mentors?
A lot of people believed in me and gave me opportunities. Steve Tripp, the owner of the first Arby’s I worked in, in Lansing, Mich., saw something in me. He let me try out ways I thought could improve the restaurant. He had faith in me, inviting me to partner with him as we opened more Arby’s restaurants. He sold me on why I should have a career in this industry, and he has played a huge role in everything I’ve done. Russ Umphenour, the owner of RTM Restaurant Group, an Arby’s franchisee, is another. He convinced me to move into training and move to Atlanta. Every time I thought there was something more I could do, he let me do it and encouraged me all the way through. Last, I’d say Arby’s CEO Paul Brown. We’ve had our ups and downs at Arby’s, but when Paul came in, he put an incredible emphasis on people and culture and was willing to listen to what I thought we needed to do. He encouraged me and allowed me to succeed.

What have you learned as a woman in this industry?
One of the great things about the restaurant industry is that anyone can be successful if he or she is willing to work hard. If you want to succeed, you have to find great people, encourage them, engage them and empower them to do their jobs well. That’s the piece that will get you to rise.

What advice would you give to other women in this industry?
Being able to have a work/life balance is one of the things that concerns women the most. Our business can require long hours, but there’s an ability to raise a family and have a great career if you set your priorities and do your work smartly.

I think back to my earliest days when I started coming up through the ranks. At the time, it was a very male-dominated business, and I often was the only woman. I felt intimidated and wondered whether I should be in the room. But as time passed, I learned that none of these executives were holding me back. What can hold you back is your doubts or concerns. Having confidence in yourself and knowing you have something to offer allows you to contribute. Don’t feel intimidated. And if you are intimidated, pretend you’re not.

Visit America Works Here and learn more about the women and men impacting the restaurant industry.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pork prices down, but chicken flies high

Restaurateurs can expect some relief in the price of pork as producers increase supply, but the cost of poultry should remain high due to increased demand, industry experts say.

“Pork prices are beginning to return to normal, thanks to the stabilization of the pig virus outbreak that plagued producers last year,” said restaurant commodities expert John Barone. “The virus still exists, but two things are happening right now: first, there are two vaccines that seem to be working to a degree. Second, it looks as though the sows that contracted the virus and passed it along to the piglets in their litters have developed antibodies that are fighting off the spread of the disease.”

According to Barone, resistance to the virus is resulting in bigger herds and lower prices.

“The numbers are going in the right direction,” he said. “We’re expecting a good amount of pork supplies by the second half of the year and prices are forecast to be down double digits percentagewise.”

Barone added that U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates indicate pork prices have already decreased nearly 18 percent over 2014 levels.

Hudson Riehle, the National Restaurant Association’s senior vice president of research, said higher wholesale food prices last year put pressure on operators and relief this year would be welcomed.

“The intensity of the pressure related to higher wholesale food prices has been easing for some operators as prices on certain commodities seem to be moderating,” he said. “But, because overall food costs have increased for several years, prices in general remain elevated. The impact on operators can vary depending on what’s on their menus. For example, beef prices are expected to advance, but pork costs are likely to drop. That will give operators something of a break for now.”

Barone noted that poultry production is on the rise and prices are reflecting the increase. That could change, however, if demand grows.

“Chicken could result in a bit of a tug of war this year,” he said. “There will be a lot more supply, but also a lot more demand. Because of the high cost of beef, anybody who can use chicken for every [limited time offer] out there is going to. Operators last year couldn’t get enough given the increased demand resulting from the shortages in beef and pork supplies. They couldn’t even plan LTOs that required additional chicken volume, especially on breasts or wings. This year, there’s going to be extra availability and more demand, but the price ‑ because of that demand ‑ is going to be close to year-ago levels.”

In 2014, poultry prices averaged around $1.12 per pound, according to USDA estimates.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Does it pay to buy used equipment?

ThNational 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.

Buying used commercial foodservice equipment can save you a bundle in the short term. But is it a good investment? Tackle these 10 questions before deciding whether to buy new or used.

1. What are your equipment requirements?
Start by determining your operation’s needs, recommends Joseph Carbonara, editor-in-chief of Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazine.  Ask: Can the equipment help you execute your menu? Can it handle the volume? Is it simple enough for your labor pool to operate? Consider any growth plans, like increased volume or menu expansion. He recommends investing in new equipment for cornerstone items, such as a brick oven for a pizzeria.

Tip: Familiarize yourself with the available equipment options by visiting local dealers or the NRA Show. Then decide what features you need.

2. What does it cost to purchase the item new?
“If a used item costs more than 50 percent of the price of a new one, I would strongly suggest looking at new,” says Carbonara. Expect better bargains at auctions, but buyer beware.

3. What is the total cost of ownership?
To determine whether you’re getting a good deal, consider the total cost of ownership. Factor in the expected lifespan, the cost of service/repairs and operational costs. “The initial purchase price is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the total cost to own and operate an appliance,” says Richard Young, senior engineer and director of education for the PG&E Food Service Technology Center.

The cost of energy and other commodities, such as water or fryer oil, often exceeds the initial purchase price by many thousands of dollars. You might think you’re getting a great deal on a low-cost piece of equipment, but you potentially are throwing away big dollars on the operating side, Young says. FSTC offers an online calculator to help you estimate life-cycle costs.

Tip: To slash your energy and water bills, look for equipment that qualifies for either Energy Star and/or California Energy Wise incentives. See the lifetime cost savings of buying new Energy Star equipment vs. new conventional equipment. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to find used Energy Star equipment, notes Jeff Clark, director of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve program, which focuses on environmental sustainability in the restaurant industry. “Be sure to ask your equipment dealer though; you might get lucky,” says Clark.

4. Has the equipment been reconditioned?
Some dealers recondition used equipment before re-selling it, replacing parts and making repairs as needed. Ask specifically what work was done. Reconditioned equipment comes with a higher price tag but lower risk than equipment bought “as is.” You also could consider buying remanufactured equipment that has been stripped down and rebuilt.

5. What type of warranty is provided?
Used equipment generally sells “as is” from auctions and individual sellers, so don’t expect a warranty. In contrast, dealers often provide a 30-day warranty on parts; some might give 60 or 90 days on parts and labor. If you want the security of a lengthier warranty, consider a remanufactured or new item.

6. Can I get someone to service and replace parts?
Make sure parts are available and that a local technician can service and repair the equipment. Your chances are best with an American brand-name product, says Tim Schrack, vice president of purchasing for Omaha-headquartered Hockenbergs Foodservice Equipment & Supply, which has 10 locations throughout the country.

7. Who was the previous owner?
If you luck into finding equipment owned by a church or a school, it will have less “mileage” than the same piece operated by a high-volume quickservice restaurant. “It’s like buying the car that grandma drove once a week,” Carbonara says. 

8. How well does the equipment operate?
“Ask to see the equipment operate,” says Hockenbergs’ Schrack. “We’ll hook up any piece of equipment on request … It’s tricky to buy anything used online.”

Tip: Ask an authorized service agent to inspect the unit to ensure that it is in good operating condition, Carbonara suggests.

9. Is the seller reliable?
Work with sellers who want to establish a long-term relationship with you, Carbonara advises. “You want someone who is concerned that they’re putting their name and reputation on the line and wants to be good with you for a whole bunch of deals, not just this one.”

10. Does the equipment stand the test of time?
Look for equipment built to last, with brand names know for endurance, says Jameel Burkett, president of Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies in Toledo, Ohio. For example, Hobart mixers and slicers can last for decades, he says, as can items like stainless steel tables and shelving, which have no mechanical parts that break.

Convection ovens and ranges tend to stand the test of time, Schrack says. But be wary of steamers, dishwashers, ice machines and other equipment that use water because they can develop lime buildup. If not maintained properly, aging refrigeration equipment can become energy-guzzlers and lose some performance FSTC’s Young says. “If the refrigerant has leaked, the unit has been overcharged or the coils are damaged, then that unit will probably not perform to spec.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

NRA Public Affairs Conference Registration Open

Dear LRA Members,

The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Public Affairs Conference is set for April 14-15, 2015 in our Nation’s Capital at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. It is with great pride that I have accepted our 2015 LRA Chair Tony Abadie’s request to serve “State Whip” for this important industry event. If you have not visited Washington D.C. before the entire Capitol complex and National Mall are full of historic sites, museums and places of interest.

Advocacy is a vital component to advance the interests of the restaurant industry and now more than ever our industry faces unprecedented attacks on numerous legislative and regulatory fronts. Your attendance at this event has a powerful impact in sharing your business concerns and issues with our Congressional Delegation. The focus of the LRA and NRA is to build our industry’s influence and image by expanding our member’s engagement.

This two-day event begins on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 14 with a keynote address followed by breakout sessions and issue panels to get you up to speed on the key issues facing our industry. That evening, we celebrate our industry’s great philanthropic efforts recognizing the winners of the NRA’s Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity awards. Past Louisiana winners include: Tommy Cvitanovich of Drago’s Restaurants, Greg Reggio of Taste Buds Management and Leah Chase of Dooky Chase Restaurant.

On Wednesday we have a jam packed day that begins with a breakfast speaker and then we board buses to head to Capitol Hill to meet our Congressmen and Senators. After the Hill climb, the NRA and LRA in conjunction with the American Hotel and Lodging Association are hosting a reception. Our Louisiana attendees enjoy a group dinner together to share experiences of the conference.

If you have attended the Conference in the past you are aware of how our Hill visits are organized, but for those of you who will be joining us this year for the first time, I’d like to share it with you.

Due to the time constraints, size of our group and location of the congressional and senate offices, an individual itinerary is created for each LRA attendee to direct you to those meetings we would like you will attend. Our best impact is when we have constituents of each Congressional district join us with their Congressman. We try to accommodate every request and we hope to have good representation at all meetings.

For each meeting, a member spokesperson is selected to represent the group and “make the ask(s).” These member spokespeople attend the breakout sessions and issue panels and also meet with the LRA staff to review the talking points in advance of the visits to ensure they understand the issues that we will discuss with the Congressmen and Senators. And we try to have an LRA senior staff member present for all of the Hill visits.

To register, click here.

I’ll see you in D.C.!


Jim Besselman
2015 State Whip, NRA Public Affairs Conference

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Leasing terms: up for negotiation

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.
If you're ready to sign a lease because you've agreed on a monthly price, think again. The typical restaurant lease is 20 to 40 pages with provision after provision. When negotiating a lease, look beyond your monthly payment to ensure you protect your assets and control your costs.

An experienced retail commercial broker can help negotiate terms, often at no cost to you, because landlords typically pay broker commissions. It’s also wise to have a lawyer review the lease. You might be living with this document for 15 years or more, given renewals.

“It’s worth paying an attorney up front to make sure you have the best protection,” says Richard Muhlebach, a retail broker working in the Seattle and San Francisco areas. This article isn't intended as legal advice; seek legal counsel as needed.

“When negotiating lease terms, you must decide what’s essential, and be prepared and willing to stand your ground. It’s rare that you have to be at a particular site,” says attorney Gregory Apter, president of Hilco Real Estate, where he’s helped hundreds of clients negotiate leases. “Prioritize, weigh the costs and benefits before making concessions and then be willing to stick to your plan,” he advises.

Here are nine negotiable items to consider before signing on the dotted line:

Percentage rent. Some leases require “percentage rent.” Once a tenant’s sales reach a certain level, the tenant must pay the landlord a percentage of the restaurant’s revenue. “I’m not a big believer in percentage rent if it can be avoided,” Apter says. “It’s generally no one’s business but yours as to how you are performing.” Sharing this information can hurt future negotiations. “If the landlord knows the financial performance of a particular retail location, it can materially­—and negatively—impact your future flexibility,” he says. Nonetheless, percentage rent is fairly common. If you ultimately agree to it, negotiate the terms.  

Exclusivity and radius restrictions. Try to preclude direct competition in the same shopping area. It’s unusual to block all restaurants, but you might negotiate exclusivity within a category, such as pizzerias or burger joints. On the other hand, your landlord might want to impose radius restrictions, preventing you from opening another unit close-by. “Try to avoid these restrictions, which impinge on your business’s flexibility, Apter says. 

Assignment and subletting clauses. You’ll want the right to sublet or assign the space to another tenant, should you need to close or sell your restaurant. Avoid restrictions that require the transferee to have the same net worth or experience as you, advises retail broker Muhlebach. 

Option to renew. “Negotiate for as many options as you can get,” says Muhlebach. “An option is an obligation for the landlord and a right for the tenant.” Avoid making renewal contingent on your remaining the tenant, or your resale value will plummet, advises real-estate consultant Lewis Gelmon, president of Gelmon Enterprises based in San Diego.

Tip: You can negotiate renewal terms, rather than automatically taking your option to renew. Gelmon suggests starting negotiations early. “If you don’t like the way negotiations pan out, you still have the right to exercise your option to renew.”

Future rent prices. Negotiate future rent terms. Prices tend to be based on percentage increases or tied to fair market value. Given a choice, opt for percentage increases because they’re easier to budget for, Muhlebach advises. Otherwise, you could be shocked with a large increase.

Kick-out clauses. Consider negotiating for a kick-out clause, giving you a one-time right to cancel a lease after a specified time period if your sales haven’t surpassed a certain amount.

Start date of rent. Many landlords will waive rent payments during the build-out period. Typically they’ll waive payments for 60 to 90 days or more, or until you open for business, whichever comes first, says New York City restaurant real estate broker Frank Glasgall, of Glasgall & Associates. Consider asking to delay the clock from ticking until you get a building permit, Muhlebach advises.

Change of use. Try to maintain flexibility so you can change concepts if needed or can sublease/assign the space to a different business, Apter says.

Operating expenses. Negotiate whether you or the landlord are responsible for operating expenses, including property taxes, insurance and management fees. “Some landlords add in zingers that aren’t industry standard,” Muhlebach says. Watch out for administrative fees and capital improvement costs. “You’ve got to catch those things,” Muhlebach urges. “Once they’re in black-and-white and you’ve signed the lease, you have to hold up your end of the deal.”

Monday, January 12, 2015

NRA calls for applications for 2015 FABI Awards

Exciting and impactful food and beverage products to gain industry-wide visibility at 2015
National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show®.

The National Restaurant Association is now accepting applications for the fifth annual Food and Beverage (FABI) Awards. Whether it be versatile new ingredients, exciting finished products, progressive delivery systems or packaging that creates operational efficiencies, the FABI Awards call out those consumable products that inspire operators to develop new menu items, enhance current offerings or rethink their output. 

This year, the program has evolved to meet changing operator needs, and includes refreshed criteria and an updated panel of expert judges. Recipients of the 2015 FABI Awards will be announced in March and will enjoy significant promotion before, during and following NRA Show® 2015, which will be held May 16-19 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

“Outstanding menu development begins with world-class products,” said John C. Metz, Convention Chair for NRA Show 2015 and CEO, executive chef and co-founder of Marlow’s Tavern, Aqua Blue and Sterling Spoon Culinary Management. “Every year, suppliers in the foodservice space introduce food and beverage concepts that help operators develop processes that improve their operations and menus that attract more consumers. The FABI Awards were designed to recognize and celebrate these creations – and promote them to the operator community.”

Suppliers can apply for a FABI Award at FABI Award recipients enjoy exclusive benefits including publicity though the NRA’s media relations efforts, listings in NRA Show marketing and promotional materials, placement on the NRA Show website, and onsite signage directing thousands of operators, distributors and media professionals to recipients’ booths to demo the products over the course of four days.

The deadline to apply for a 2015 FABI Award is February 18, 2015. To be considered, food and beverage products must be introduced or have been introduced by an NRA Show/BAR 2015 exhibiting company to the marketplace between May 1, 2013 and May 16, 2015. These products must demonstrate considerable benefits to foodservice operators as determined by our independent panel of industry experts, including: 
  • Timothy J. Dietzler, Director of Dining Services, Villanova University
  • Christopher Koetke, CEC CCE HAAC, Vice President, The School of Culinary Arts,
  • Kendall College
  • John Li, Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Bloomin’ Brands
  • Deborah McDaniel, Senior Director, Product Innovation and Development Menu
  • Management, McDonald’s USA, LLC
  • Robin Rosenberg, Vice President, Chef de Cuisine, Levy Restaurants
  • Bret Thorn, Senior Food Editor, Nation’s Restaurant News
  • Jennifer Ziegler, Director of Purchasing Supply Chain Management, Aramark

Visit for more details on the FABI Award program, to apply and to see a list of previous award recipients.