Pros and Cons of Dog-Friendly Restaurants

Dogs are man's best friend, but for years, people had to leave their furry friends at home when they went out to eat. Nowadays, though, this trend is changing and more foodservice operations are allowing dogs in their outdoor spaces. While this trend is growing, it's not accepted everywhere, and not every patron will want to eat at dog-friendly restaurants. So, should your business allow dogs on your patio? We'll break down the pros and cons of allowing dogs in your business as well as provide some helpful tips for making your dog-friendly space profitable if you choose to let Fido come for lunch.

Health Department Guidelines for Dog-Friendly Restaurants

pros and cons of dog-friendly restaurants

When it comes to allowing dogs on restaurant and bar patios, there aren't a lot of federal laws, and most of the laws are on the city and municipal level. Additionally, these laws can vary greatly depending on the location, so before you start making plans to let dogs in your establishment, check with your local health department first and check what your local laws allow.

Pros and Cons of Allowing Dogs in Restaurants

Deciding whether or not to allow dogs in your establishment's outdoor spaces is a big decision, and it can have a large effect on your business and customer base, so you should carefully consider the pros and cons of each option. Here are some of the pros and cons of allowing dogs on your restaurant's patio:

Pros of Dog-Friendly Patios

Allowing dogs in your outdoor space can be an excellent way to bring in new customers and create a fun and energetic vibe in your establishment. Here are some advantages to allowing dogs in your business:

  • Younger generations want to bring their dogs with them. The millennial market is a major influence in the foodservice industry. Studies have also shown that dog ownership is growing among younger generations and that these dog owners want to bring their dogs out with them. By allowing dogs on your patio, you can appeal to this market and help bring in more customers.
  • Patios with dogs are a big draw to customers walking by your establishment. Many foodservice establishments in cities rely on foot traffic to bring in new business, and if your restaurant patio has dogs, it can convince passersby with their own dogs to stop in and make an order.
  • Dog-friendly patios can boost your sales. In addition to foot traffic, you can advertise your dog-friendly space online and on specific apps to bring in more customers and boost sales. Additionally, some dog-friendly establishments offer dog menus, which is a great way to offer food items to hungry pups while also making your outdoor space profitable.

Cons of Dog-Friendly Patios

dog-friendly patios

While there are advantages to allowing dogs in your business, there are also a fair share of disadvantages. Here are some cons to creating a dog-friendly space at your restaurant:

  • Dogs can be disruptive to your business. Some dogs, especially puppies and younger dogs, can be rambunctious by barking or knocking over tables and chairs unintentionally. While most dog owners are forgiving of this behavior, it can be a turn off for non-dog owners visiting or thinking about visiting your business.
  • Inviting dogs to your business can turn away customers who are allergic or don't like dogs. While many patrons like dogs, not everyone likes them when they're eating, especially if they're allergic to them.
  • Your employees will need to police the dogs and owners. Some barking and messes are to be expected when allowing dogs in your outdoor space, but there is a limit. Your wait staff should be prepared to ask customers with misbehaving dogs to leave, which can possibly lead to some awkward situations and bad reviews on Yelp.
  • Messes are bound to happen. While dog owners should be aware of their dogs and their needs, if you allow dogs on your patio, accidents are bound to happen. So, if your patio is made of expensive flooring or furniture that is prone to stains, allowing dogs is probably not a good idea.

How to Make the Most of Your Dog-Friendly Space

should you let dogs on your restaurant patio

If you've decided to allow dogs into your business, there are a few things that you can do to boost sales and ensure that your decision makes your business money. Here is a list of four tactics that your business can implement to make your dog-friendly space profitable.

  1. List your restaurant on dog-friendly apps like BringFido. There are a number of apps that dog owners use to search for dog-friendly restaurants, cafes, and hotels, so you should make sure that your business is listed so customers can find you.
  2. Create a food menu for the dogs. After watching their owners eat, the dogs are sure to be hungry. By creating a dog menu, you can feed the dogs and also boost your sales. Some popular dog menu items might be hamburger patties, meatballs, or bacon.
  3. Hold regular dog-themed events and advertise them on your social media accounts. If you're on the fence about allowing dogs in your establishment, dog-themed events may be the perfect middle ground. For example, you could have Doggie Thursdays, and allow customers to bring in their dogs only on Thursdays. This is a great way to bring in customers on a traditionally slow business day and boost your sales.

While we can all agree that every dog is a good boy or girl in their own special way, whether or not our furry friends should be allowed on restaurant patios is another discussion entirely. There are pros and cons to allowing dogs in your outdoor space, and while it can bring in customers and boost your sales, it can also drive some customers away. So, make sure to carefully consider all the options before making a decision.

Posted in: Advertising & Marketing | Management & Operation | By Richard Traylor

Surge Protectors vs. Power Strips: Which Option is Right for You?

If you are in the market for additional electrical sockets, there is a chance that you’ll see both surge protectors and power strips available online or in the store. Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a power strip and a surge protector? Have you ever questioned how to tell the difference? Below, we explain the difference between power strips and surge protectors, and we provide a quick guide to help you figure out what you need.

What Is the Difference Between a Surge Protector and a Power Strip?

The difference between a power strip and a surge protector is that a power strip adds extra outlet space while a surge protector defends against possible voltage spikes that could damage your electronics, appliances, or equipment.

Although they look similar, you may be able to see the variance in the power strip and the surge protector when you come across a joules rating on the packaging. Only surge protectors will have this rating. Joules are a unit of measurement for energy (like watts or calories). They measure how long your appliances will be protected. Sometimes, it may only take one massive surge in power to exceed the number of joules that your equipment is protected against, but sometimes, it could take ten or fifteen little surges to do this.

Keep in mind that the number of joules your power strip protects against works somewhat like a reservoir. When you initially purchase your surge protector, you may see a label of 2,000 joules, but this will deplete over time. As your surge protector takes hits from the power spikes, the level of protection will diminish, either in one massive strike or over time.

So, how can you tell a surge protector and a power strip apart? The simple answer is you can’t always tell. Some surge protectors have a light that comes on to tell you when its reservoir is low; other surge protectors have a simple alarm system to make you aware that it's time to purchase a new unit.

Why Choose a Power Strip?

Power Strip

Power strips are great if you have multiple electronics within a close proximity to one another. Most outlets in residential and commercial areas only include two sockets, which is not always sufficient, so having the extra strip is really convenient. Power strips usually have several outlets, a circuit breaker, and some sort of on/off switch, which is great for businesses or restaurants looking to conserve power.

While some power strips have a built-in surge protector, not all of them do, leaving your electronics vulnerable to a surge in electrical power.

Power strips are relatively affordable price-wise. You can usually acquire one for less than $20, and some are even available for under $10. So if you’re looking for just a few extra electrical sockets, this is probably the option for you.

Why Choose a Surge Protector?

Surge Protector

Like power strips, surge protectors are ideal for when you have numerous electronics within the vicinity. With multiple electrical outlets, a surge protector can house the cords for your phone, computer, or TV, allowing them all to charge while simultaneously protecting them from a voltage surge. This protection is measured in joules.

Surge protectors are also modest in price, so if you are looking for a way to protect your television, computer, and home entertainment system, these are great options. You can usually find these for under $20, but more expensive options offer protection up to a higher amount of joules.

If you are a large operation that has major appliances like refrigerators and AC units or computers and servers, you may need to look into commercial surge protectors, unless you are connected to a UPS (uninterrupted power supply). Commercial power surge protectors can be a little pricier, but keep in mind that the surge protector is less expensive than replacing the items that would be damaged in a power spike. Some surge protectors are even available with a warranty.

What is an Electrical Power Surge?

An electrical power surge is a spike in your building’s electrical current that usually lasts less than a second. Although a voltage surge is brief, it can cause damage to both your electronics and your appliances. In extreme cases, a power surge can even cause a fire.

These spikes in power can occur for a few reasons.

    Faulty Wiring

  • When you have faulty wiring that cannot withstand the electrical power of a voltage surge, you are more susceptible to them.
  • High-Powered Devices Turning On or Off

  • When the motor of a high-powered device like an AC unit or a refrigerator turns on or off, you may be subjected to a fluctuation in power.
  • Lightning Strike

  • A lightning strike can cause a severe voltage surge, which can burn out TVs, computers, etc.

As a result of being well-versed on the difference between a surge protector and a power strip, you can make a more informed decision, while also taking the best care of all of your electrical devices. Whether you are in the market for just a few more electrical outlets or you’re searching for protection for your bigger ticket items, you now know what to look for to make sure that you are getting the most for your money.

Posted in: Product Spotlights | By WebstaurantStore

How to Offer Private Cooking Classes in Your Restaurant

With so many restaurant options available to diners these days, it’s important to think of ways you can set your business apart from all the rest. Private cooking lessons are one way to increase interest in your cuisine and encourage people to eat at your restaurant. If you think cooking lessons might be a good idea for your restaurant, but don’t know where to begin, we’ll help you figure out some things to consider as you get started.

Benefits of Private Cooking Lessons

Cooking classes are great for brand exposure because providing guests with a fun experience will get them talking about your business, which can go a long way for word-of-mouth advertising. Similarly, you can take this opportunity to market the benefits of taking private cooking lessons to potential customers.

With people becoming more and more health conscious when choosing what to eat, private cooking classes can be a way to show customers the fresh ingredients that are being used in your kitchen every day. Opening your kitchen up to curious customers may help you gain trust and peace of mind, which can make you their first choice when dining out.

Decide on a Cooking Class Style

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When you offer cooking classes at your restaurant, you can decide how much you want your customers to be involved. Two popular cooking class styles are:

  1. Lecture-style demonstrations where your customers sit back and relax (perhaps with a glass of wine) and watch you explain step-by-step how to put together a dish that they all get to taste at the end.
  2. Hands-on learning where customers roll up their sleeves, put on some aprons, and actually make dishes themselves, under your guidance.

Both lesson styles can be effective in giving your guests a great experience, so you just need to decide what you feel most comfortable with and which style best suits the setup of your kitchen.

How Frequently Should You Offer Cooking Classes at Your Restaurant?

How often you choose to host lessons depends on your availability as a chef or restaurateur. You could offer a lesson once to see how popular it is, and then continue with them on a regular basis if you received positive feedback. Some chefs offer classes that are meant to be a one-time experience, while others are designed as a series of classes for patrons who want to hear more.

Another option to consider is hosting classes either on or right after major holidays. Create a romantic couples cooking class as an alternative to going out to eat on Valentine’s Day. Or, offer special Father’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, or Mother's Day classes for customers to enjoy with family members. If you want to partake in the holiday hype without opening your doors on special days, schedule a healthy eating class in January and market tickets as a great Christmas present customers can buy for their loved ones.

How Much Should You Charge For a Private Cooking Lesson?

There are a few factors to consider when selecting a price for your cooking class. Along with your location and types of cuisine, here are a few things to consider when coming up with a price:

  • What you plan to serve
  • If drinks are included with the price of admission
  • The quality of ingredients being used in each course
  • How many students you allow per class: Smaller, more intimate settings typically mean guests can receive more one-on-one instruction with the chef, which you can charge a premium for.
  • Your chef's or your guest chef's level of notoriety: If your cooking lessons involve a well-known chef, such as a cookbook author or television personality, customers will be willing to pay more for their tickets.

How Many People Should You Host at a Private Cooking Class?

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Make cooking lessons open to a designated amount of people, depending on the size of your kitchen. If you have the space, 20 people in your kitchen may be perfect for learning basic techniques or doing small prep tasks. If you’re looking to host a more exclusive, intimate event, narrow it down to five or six people.

Advertising your space limitations can create a sense of urgency in patrons. Knowing they may not get a spot can entice patrons to buy tickets sooner and encourage friends to do to the same. And if people call your restaurant asking for a lesson but you don’t have room, simply thank them for their interest and let them know when registration begins for your next event.

Stock Up on Separate Supplies for Students to Use

For groups that will be helping you cook, consider buying supplies that are separate from what you typically use in your kitchen. This way, you don't need to worry about a customer ruining your favorite chef's knife or piano whip. When the event is over, you can wash everything and store it in an area for cooking lesson supplies only. Aprons, mixing bowls, extra chef knives, and cutting boards are some food prep basics that can help with cooking classes in your restaurant. You can also provide recipe print-outs, so customers can take notes and remember what they helped you prepare.

Make Safety a Priority

Of course you want your guests to have the best experience possible at your cooking class, so take some steps to keep everyone safe and happy. Safety considerations are especially important if you choose to do a hands-on lesson. This is because your customers will actually be touching and interacting with ingredients and equipment that they may not be familiar with. Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you consider safety precautions:

  • Write up a liability agreement for your guests to sign. Accidents happen, so make sure your business is not put at risk. Having a written agreement ensures that everyone’s on the same page and your guests understand that there is always a risk of injury when working in a kitchen.
  • Learn if your guests have food allergies. Before class begins, take the time to ask students if they have any allergies. If so, take extra precautions to avoid cross-contamination when preparing their food.
  • Discuss basic guidelines. Explain all the basic rules of kitchen safety and sanitation at the beginning of class. Hopefully, everyone will be familiar with these already, but it never hurts to review.
  • Opt for demonstrations. If your recipe requires the use of large cooking equipment, consider keeping that step as a demonstration, rather than having guests work with your commercial appliances.

At the end of your cooking lesson, share the meal you've prepared with all of your guests. Customers will love telling their friends they helped make dinner at a restaurant, and they'll encourage more people to join your cooking classes. Also be sure to advertise your private cooking lessons in your restaurant, on flyers, on social media, and on your website. It's unique to find a restaurant that will open its kitchen doors to amateurs, so you could become the trendsetter on your block.

Posted in: Management & Operation | By Jessica Wieser

Top 5 Grilling Mistakes You're Probably Making

With grilling season upon us, many restaurateurs and caterers are firing up their commercial grill and dishing out delicious steaks, ribs, sausages, and chicken thighs. If you own a steakhouse, barbecue restaurant, or smokehouse, expertly preparing a variety of meats is essential to the success of your business. Whether you’re a grill master or novice, small mistakes can lead to big changes in the flavor, texture, and quality of your meats. If you’re looking for grilling tips that will take your skills to the next level, check out our list of the top five grilling mistakes and how to fix them.

Gas Grills vs. Charcoal Grills

Before you begin to grill, it’s important to understand the difference between a gas grill and a charcoal grill. In general, gas grills are considered easier to work with because of their temperature controls and steady heat source. Charcoal grills tend to reach higher temperatures, but the temperature is less regulated and there is always the possibility of flare ups.

Selecting the right type of grill depends entirely on your intended use, experience level, and flavor preferences. If you’re up for the challenge of a charcoal grill, you may be rewarded with rich, smoky flavors. Alternatively, the liquid propane used in gas grills creates more steam inside the grill than charcoal, which can keep meat more moist. This may, however, prevent chicken or fish skin from becoming as crispy as it might when cooked over charcoal.

No matter what type of grill you choose to cook with, it’s important to always keep it clean in between uses. Use a grill brush to remove charred food particles left behind after grilling. By neglecting to clean your grill after every use, your food can easily become contaminated with remnants of last night’s dinner. Plus, keeping your charcoal grill clean can drastically reduce the chance of flare ups.

Grilling Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The following represent some of the most common mistakes made before, during, and after grilling. Determine whether or not you’re prepping and cooking your meat properly, and learn how to fix a few common mistakes when grilling.

1.) Salting Meat at the Incorrect Time

It is recommended that you salt your meat either an hour in advance or right before it’s placed on the grill. Cook, writer, and TV personality Jess Pryles, also known as the “Professional Hardcore Carnivore,” explains why:

"Salt is a very powerful seasoning. Not only does it make things infinitely more delicious, it's full of natural alchemy. Salt can draw out moisture from your meat, which is a bad thing for those who like steaks juicy. To avoid this, you either want to salt an hour or so in advance to allow the briny liquid time to reabsorb into the meat, or salt just before the meat hits the grill. Any time in between - particularly that 15-20 minutes prior zone - will not do your steaks justice."

Stick to a classic combination of salt and pepper when preparing your steaks or chicken thighs. If you want to add a hint of heat, create a dry rub with a mix of other spices including paprika, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, onion powder, and garlic powder.

2.) Forgetting to Prep Meat Ahead of Time

It is recommended you allow your steaks and other meat to reach room temperature by removing them from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before grilling. By ensuring you don’t have meat that’s warm on the outside and cold on the inside, you can allow your items to cook quicker and more evenly. While this amount of time out of the fridge is perfectly safe, letting your raw food sit for too long can become become dangerous. It is also recommended that you never throw frozen steaks directly on the grill. This will most likely result in meat that’s raw in the center and overcooked around the edges.

Once meat has reached room temperature, pat it dry with a paper towel. Lightly brush olive oil onto your meat and season generously.

3.) Preparing the Grill Improperly

Give your grill the same level of care and attention as you do the meat you’re about to put on it. When preparing your grill, it is important to create various zones for direct and indirect heat. When using a charcoal grill, don’t cover the entire grill with charcoal briquettes. Instead, create a hot zone in one area of the grill while leaving a separate area off to the side for indirect heat cooking. Creating these hot and warm zones allows you to cook different items at once while providing a safe space for food to cook further away from the flames.

How Hot Does a Grill Need to Be?

Gas grills take 10 to 15 minutes to heat, while charcoal grills will take closer to 20 or 30 minutes. Once your grill has reached the desired temperature, give it a few more minutes to ensure the rack is hot enough to keep food from sticking when cooking.

There are typically three levels of heat when cooking on a grill: high, medium high, and medium. To gauge how hot your grill is, hold your hand about six inches above the grate. If you can withstand the heat for six to seven seconds, you’ve reached medium heat. Four to five seconds indicates medium-high heat, while one to two seconds means you’re working with a high heat grill.

Here’s a breakdown of each heat level on a grill and what meats can be cooked at that temperature:

  • High Heat: 450 to 650 degrees Fahrenheit
  • High heat is recommended when preparing steaks, pork chops, kabobs, or tuna steak. Getting your grill around 500 degrees will create a sizzle when the meat hits the grates and produces attractive sear marks your guests will love.

  • Medium-High Heat: 375 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Medium-high heat is ideal for cooking hamburgers, vegetables, and fish. This temperature will still create a searing effect on the outside of the meat, but will cook proteins slower to ensure the insides reach a proper internal temperature.

  • Medium Heat: 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Medium heat provides enough heat to create a satisfying browning effect on the outside of your proteins while still bringing the insides to a proper internal temperature. This makes it ideal for grilling chicken, turkey, roasts, and sausages.

4.) Adding Sauce to Meat at the Wrong Time

If you cover proteins with sauce containing sugar before throwing it on the grill, you’re likely to produce charred and burned meat. This is because when sugar is exposed to high heat, it burns and caramelizes. Common culprits include barbecue sauce, fruit glazes, and teriyaki-based sauces.

To avoid this mistake, apply your glazes and sauces during the last few minutes of cooking. You won’t gain any added flavor by trying to include sauces beforehand. Alternatively, marinate your meats prior to grilling for deep flavor that will permeate the entire cut of meat.

5.) Cutting the Meat Too Soon

The more you slice, pierce, or puncture meat, the drier it becomes. Every time you cut into meat, juices escape and the result can be a disappointing dish. When cooking on the grill, never puncture the meat with a fork. Instead, use tongs or turners to flip meat, and use a high-quality food thermometer to check the internal temperature.

Once it's cooked through, let your meat rest five to ten minutes before serving. During this time, the juices in your steak, pork chop, chicken thigh, or lamb kabob become evenly distributed throughout the protein for optimal tenderness.

Learning to grill the perfect meat and seafood for your hungry patrons can impress guests and drive up sales. Regardless of your grilling experience, it’s important to avoid making any of these simple mistakes. With our grilling tips and a little practice, you’re bound to produce juicy, succulent meat guests can’t get enough of.

Posted in: Seasonal | Kitchen & Cooking Tips | By Rachel Jenkins
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