Blackout Wednesday: The Night Before Thanksgiving

Blackout Wednesday — the aptly-named night before Thanksgiving — is the biggest drinking day of the entire year. With office workers facing a day off and college students home for the holidays, the crowds that pack bars for the evening often stay full until last call, and even then bouncers have trouble getting them out the door. Preparation is key to keep up with the extreme demand that comes with this pseudo-holiday, and having the proper beverageware, information, and staff is essential to maximizing your profits.

Beverageware

Considering the mass amounts of people that will come to your business, using glassware for your drinks will probably not be a good decision. Glass can become slippery, drop, and break in large crowds, especially when the bar is backed up with customers asking for their next drink. Broken glass becomes an immediate liability that can lead to some pretty hefty consequences if it's not cleaned up. To make matters worse, your staff now has to fight through a crowd of intoxicated customers to remove the glass, and even then they may not be able to clean it all since glass shards can slide every which way.

Plastic Beverageware

To avoid this possibility all-together, one of the best solutions is to simply use plastic cups (or biodegradable plastic cups). They might look a little shabbier and feel a little cheaper than your typical glass, but at least they won't break when someone drops them. The worst that can happen with plastic is a wet floor, which you can quickly mark with the proper sign to reduce liability on your part.

Additionally, make sure you keep a supply of cola or soft drinks behind the bar. This is not only essential for your mixed drinks, but it's also a great way to help your customers come down from a buzz when they're ready to call it a night. Caffeine doesn't actually make someone sober — so they're still not good to drive — but it can at least wake someone up so that they can walk home or call a cab.

Speaking of which…

Information

Taxi Services

Posting the telephone numbers for taxi services around your bar is an excellent idea for drinking holidays. This not only serves as a way to curb the possibilities of drunk driving, but it also lets customers know that you care about them enough to offer them a way home when they need one. It's also a great way to strike up a deal with a local taxi service to advertise their phone number over competitors, which can lead to a healthy business-to-business relationship.

Additional information could include any services in your city or town that offer to safely escort people back to their homes to reduce the chances that they will be hurt or robbed as they travel. This practice has been adopted in several locations around the country, most famously at universities. Most often a safe walk service is incorporated into the local police department, but there are also police-affiliated volunteer services that hold the volunteer accountable for anyone that he or she walks home. If those services aren't available in your area, then you can be the first to bring up the subject with your local police. On such a busy night with so many intoxicated people, this service is invaluable to helping customers feel at ease as they head home.

Staff

Professional Bouncer

Scheduling every bartender, server, and runner you have on staff is a no-brainer when it comes to such a busy night. But it's also important to consider other staffing needs, such as bouncers. Bouncers are an effective way for you to make sure you keep the peace at your bar and also ID every person who walks through the door, preventing underage minors from entering your business.

Hiring a bouncer is fairly easy — especially with bouncer certification programs that vouch for properly-trained personnel. In some areas, these certifications are becoming more and more important as a way for business owners to make sure they're hiring a knowledgeable professional. And even if it's not a requirement by your local or state codes, it's still always good to know that you're hiring someone who has gone through a certification process to know that they can keep a level head in a bad situation.

The Worst

This isn't a pleasant topic, but it's critical to stock up on products that can help you neutralize the awkward or unpleasant situations that could arise throughout the night. Most notably, this includes products that you can use to quickly and easily clean up, including in your restrooms and in case someone vomits. These aren't the most fun purchases to make, but it's far better to have these products and not need them than it is to need these products and not have them. And with any heavy drinking holiday, the mantra for bars everywhere seems to be the same.

"Hope for the best, prepare for the worst."

Posted in: Features | By Christopher Zook

5 Foods We're Most Thankful to Eat this Thanksgiving

Here at WebstaurantStore, we like to eat. A lot. And then eat some more. It's no surprise that one of our favorite holidays is Thanksgiving since it's an entire day dedicated to feasting and relaxing with family and friends. Here are some of the dishes that we are most excited and thankful to eat this coming Thanksgiving...

1. Creamed Corn

creamed corn

This rich and creamy side dish is sure to be requested for special events year after year! Made from whole kernel corn, cream, milk, butter, and sugar, creamed corn is mixed together and baked in a casserole dish until golden brown. Want a crunchy topping? Sprinkle parmesan cheese and bread crumbs on top before placing in the oven. If you can’t find fresh corn in your grocery store this November, use canned or frozen as a substitute.

2. Sweet Potato Casserole

sweet potato casserole

Is it a side dish or is it dessert? This fluffy casserole is made from sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, caramelized brown sugar, chopped pecans, and topped with miniature marshmallows that melt in the oven. Don’t worry about having to store leftovers because this dish is sure to be scraped clean with your guests begging for more!

3. Mashed Potatoes

mashed potatoes

Creamy and smooth, or smashed and chunky? No matter which way you make it, mashed potatoes are one of the Thanksgiving dishes people look forward to most. Whether they’re cheesy, garlicky, or buttery, we love them any way they're prepared! Try drizzling hot gravy over top or garnishing with chives.

4. Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie

Most commonly known as the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie is often a symbol of harvest time during the fall months. It’s no wonder why we’re counting down the days to eat this sweet dessert since it’s filled with rich ingredients like canned pumpkin, brown sugar, doughy pie crust, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with fresh whipped cream.

5. Deep Fried Turkey

fried turkey

What’s more delicious than biting into a crispy, golden brown piece of tender and juicy turkey? One of the most popular ways to cook this popular Thanksgiving bird is to deep fry it since this method preserves the super moist center, while also adding flavor to the turkey’s crunchy skin.

Want to learn how to deep fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Check out this video!

Posted in: Holidays | By Molly

Preparing for a Health Inspector: Keeping Your Business Clean and Compliant in 2015

Believe it or not, health inspections are more than just random nuisances — they've actually been proven to improve sanitation. While an occasional infraction won't shut you down overnight or drive all of your customers away, a poor health grade has the potential to remain in customers' memories long after the issues have been solved, preventing them from coming to your business even after you've received your "A." Poor health inspections can also lead to other penalties based on your municipality and state, some of which are simply financial while others can actually result in full restaurant shut-downs. To avoid that — and to make sure your customers only get the cleanest, safest food possible from your kitchen — it's important to stay on top of your business and keep it as clean as possible.

Where to Start

In general, it's a good idea to keep a checklist on hand to look over when you get a chance, keeping up with items that you've identified as potential health hazards or ones that an inspector has noticed during a walk-through. One of the best ways to learn the safety and cleanliness requirements for restaurants is to check out ServSafe and go through their certification process. This process is designed specifically to teach people about the potential health and sanitation hazards that have the potential to become costly practices if restaurateurs choose to ignore them. ServSafe certification covers hand cleaning, food storage, and a range of other topics that are essential to a business's success.

mobile ordering

To take it a step further, you can also look up the requirements to becoming a certified foodservice professional (CFSP). through the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM). The CFSP process is more rigorous, involved, and intense than ServSafe, though it includes a much more sweeping and detailed view of foodservice as a whole. One of the four tenants of CFSP is to "foster self-assessment," giving you the tools and knowledge you need to make informed and proper decisions for yourself, your staff, and your business.

If these options are for whatever reason not available for you, some insurance companies have preliminary checklists for new restaurateurs who haven't yet had their first inspection. In addition, you can try looking through some credible restaurant-based Internet resources that all have suggestions on how you can better prepare for health inspections or even respond to infractions.

Preparing for the Inspector

mobile ordering

Many of the violations that inspectors look for are fairly obvious — employees properly using gloves, clean food prep equipment, and properly stored perishables, just to name a few. And while it's obviously important to consider major points like those, it's equally important to go over your business with a keen eye and a fine-tooth comb to find possible hazards that aren't obvious. No matter how small they are — even collected dust on a vent over your dining area is considered hazardous — take some time to make sure everything you can see is cleaned to a shine. It takes time, effort, and money, but it's nothing compared to what it can cost you if a health inspector gives you a poor review.

Potential "little things" around your business can include:

  • Dusty fans
  • Fly strips over cooking equipment
  • Full bug traps
  • Uncalibrated thermometers
  • Empty hand soap dispensers
  • No test strips for determining cleaning solution concentration
  • Unwiped table

While this isn't an extensive list, it should hopefully help to get you rolling on different things you need to watch throughout the day. To make sure you can take care of all of this (and more) to stay health code compliant, it's critical to have a HACCP plan in place. Following this plan every day will help make sure you're ready for any surprise health inspection that could come your way.

During the Inspection

mobile ordering

When an inspector begins to walk through your business, it's generally a good idea for you to tag along with them. However, it's important to remember that excuses don't count for much of anything when an inspector is checking for hazards — they want the hazard removed as quickly as possible and as cleanly as possible. With that in mind, the primary purpose of a walk-along inspection is for you to address any concerns that the inspector may have as he or she looks around. For example, if the inspector points out that product is stored on the floor of your cooler, you can immediately pick it up. The inspector will still note the violation, but they will typically also note that you took care of the violation immediately and voluntarily. While that may not make the violation go away, it shows that you're at least dedicated to running a clean business and attentive to the inspector's criticism.

It may take some time (or maybe you're perfect), but a health inspector is there to make sure that your customers are safe from any foodborne illnesses, which means they're actually on your side during the whole process. And if you listen to what they have to say, not only will you ensure your customers are safe when they eat your most popular foods, but you'll automatically be prepared for the next health inspector.

Posted in: Features | By Christopher Zook

Interactive Restaurants: Technology Trends in Foodservice Are All About Convenience, Accessibility, and Novelty

The verdict is in — customer interaction is critical for growing a foodservice business. And while sit-down restaurants may have known that for decades, today's levels of interaction go beyond a server making conversation with a new table of customers.

mobile ordering

With the restaurant industry finally adopting cutting-edge consumer electronics, the doors have blown wide open to a huge range of possibilities for engaging your customers. Everything from mobile ordering to making special requests is dynamite when it comes to attracting new consumers, particularly with the growing numbers of young professionals with Bachelor's degrees.

This group is one of the most profitable demographics in foodservice since they're educated, young, and affluent enough to afford to eat out multiple times per week. Scoring an in with them can lead to a huge boost in profits quickly — especially because they spread the word on social media, meaning that — if you impress them enough — your customers will do your advertising for you. This is especially important with wearable computers like Google Glass incorporating restaurant finders and other apps.

Olo mobile ordering

One of the ways you can meet consumers' increasing demand for convenience and interactivity is to check out companies that take care of mobile ordering for you. Olo, one of the leaders in mobile order placement, makes sure your customers can access your menu from anywhere, allowing them to enter your business, pick up their food, and leave with minimal downtime.

This might reduce the amount of time customers spend in your business — not to mention the opportunity to forge an interpersonal connection — but it also decreases the time they have to spend waiting in line or picking up their order, which is the point of take-out anyway. Even if you're not a quick serve restaurant, mobile ordering companies let you respond to customer demand almost instantly. That's premium service.

Inamo Interactive Menu

Image Credit: Phil Hawksworth

If you run a sit-down business, another option you have is to use digital menus and other gadgets to help make your company memorable. In London, inamo has taken this idea to the next level and merged menus and tables into one stunning, unique experience. (In other words, the tables literally display the menu.)

And it gets better — on top of placing orders through the table, customers can call a cab, buy movie tickets, or watch the chef work. Needless to say, this is one of the first restaurants to take interactivity to such new heights, making any visit to inamo something memorable. And their pricing is a testament to the fact that you don't have to be a multi-million dollar chain to take your business in a new, unique direction — you can be casual about it too.

Last, roughly 65% of customers have come to expect free Wi-Fi service at foodservice businesses, proving that mobile Internet access has become such a ubiquitous part of the restaurant experience that customers could be disappointed at a lack of service. These expectations are true for every sector from cafeterias to quick serve establishments, and they're most prevalent within major cities.

With mobile ordering, interactive menus, and the increasing demand for Wi-Fi, the future is quickly approaching the restaurant industry. Preparing appropriately can not only put your restaurant on the map, but also bring you up to speed for the next wave of tech advancements, which will almost certainly include more connection, greater Internet access, and even faster order response times.

Posted in: Trends | By Christopher Zook
WEBstaurant TVDemonstrations, how-to's & descriptions ARTICLESDemonstrations, how-to's & descriptions BUYING GUIDESDemonstrations, how-to's & descriptions