Le Procope Paris

Our restaurant consultants visit the oldest restaurant in Paris.

By Sarah Ann Noel - October 16, 2017

Recently, National Restaurant Consultants president David Kincheloe took a trip to Paris; and during his time there, he made it a point to visit Le Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris. Founded in 1686, the restaurant has hosted such guests as Napolean Bonaparte, Benjamin Franklin, and Voltaire. It has, at different times in history, been a haunt for the literary elite; a rendevouz point during the French Revolution; and now, almost a museum--encased in glass is Napolean Bonaparte's hat, among other artifacts and treasures.

The menu, though not extensive, covers the bases of classic French cooking. Kincheloe made it a point to ask about the oldest recipe still on the menu and wound up tasting the centuries old calf's head soup. 

Always a treat to check out local fare in cities around the world, especially when there is such a storied history attached to a space. Our restaurant consultants make it a point to know about popular restaurants in all major cities, and can use this knowledge to help you build a lasting brand. Contact us today!

Fall 2017 Menu

The seasons shift, and so do menus. Our restaurant consultants weigh in on the trending menu items this fall.

By Sarah Ann Noel - October 10, 2017

In Denver, the seasons have shifted--the leaves have turned, we've marked that first, shockingly early October snow, and all of the autumnal festivities have begun. Even at our Phoenix office, the temperatures have dipped ever-so-slightly, and the turning of the calendar to the month of October has people ready for fall. Likely your Instagram is filled with pumpkin spice, and maybe your lattés, too.

Our restaurant consultants are big advocates for seasonal menus. A menu change at the season is an easy way to bring freshness to your restaurant, to attract and please guests, and to work with local agriculture for the healthiest and most affordable menu items. But even if it makes sense, sometimes the planning can be a challenge. You want dishes that evoke all the emotions of autumn, but that still stand out in a new and creative way.

Here is what our consultants like for a fresh fall menu this year:
  1. Chicken entrees. Maybe chicken isn't considered a glamorous choice, but it is at the heart of all things comfort, in almost every region of the world. In the States, we think of cozy foods like chicken noodle soup or chicken pot pie. In Great Britain, they love spicy Indian chicken curries, just to warm up. In southern Europe, roast chickens with creamy sauces. In Africa, chicken peanut stew for a pleasant, filling dish.
  2. Non-potato sides. When you think of comfort foods, it's easy to fall into the "meat and potatoes" trap. But you can easily create satisfying, warming side dishes without the starch and with a little flair. This butternut squash Cacio e Pepe screams fall, but it looks surprising and beautiful. You could also try a cauliflower puree, in lieu of mashed potatoes or a spiral zucchini "pasta" to dress up a plate.
  3. Doughnuts for dessert. The doughnut craze isn't over, and now connoisseurs are looking for the best house-made doughnuts. Take a note from your local farmer's market, and try your hand at apple cider doughnuts. Served in a basket, covered in cinnamon and sugar--your guests won't be able to turn down dessert.
Want some more tips for your best fall menus? Our restaurant consultants are menu development experts. Contact National Restaurant Consultants today!

Photo via Bon Appetit.

Managing Heath and Safety Violations

Human error occurs, and the trick is to responding swiftly and correctly.

By David Kincheloe - October 6, 2017

"Of course we all hope it never happens in one of our restaurants, and we're all food service professionals striving for the cleanest well-run kitchens," says National Restaurant Consultants Vice President, Richard Weil. "But we are also businesses of people, and unfortunately, there can and will be human error."

Perhaps it's a topic that you don't want to consider, because it's easier to assume it "won't happen to you." But, as Weil explains, it's better to have a response plan for a health and safety violation already in place than for an accident to unfold without a response.

"Recently, one of our clients had a 'foreign object' issue," Weil recalled. "The object found its way into prepared food, and a guest bit into. Naturally, the guest was upset--thankfully there wasn't any choking or illness, but we still had to salvage some credibility with the guest and for the restaurant's reputation."

Here is a National Restaurant Consultants plan-of-action for a health or safety violation issue with a guest:
  1. Neutralize the guest. If possible, it is best to have a conversation with your upset customer away from other guests and staff members. It will help to bring the emotional levels down, and you'll keep the other guests from panicking. 
  2. Show empathy, but don't apologize yet. You want your guest to feel safe, understood, and like you're listening. Use key phrases to demonstrate this, such as "I understand what you are saying." But you also want to make sure that you gather a full understanding of the situation before you claim responsibility for anything.
  3. Comp the meal, and offer retribution. Beyond paying for the food and drink in question, trying to heal the relationship with the guest by offering a gift certificate to return. Not only will it reiterate that the mistake was an isolated incident, it will show the customer that you value them and want to make things right. 
  4. Gather information. You need contact information from the guest, and you need a detailed report. Try to avoid taking photographs or video (and, if possible, prevent the staff and guests from doing so also), but do retreive the foreign object.
  5. Inform the staff and get to work. The guest must be taken care of first, but you also need to let your staff know what is going on, and that sorting through the issue is the number one priority, no matter how busy you are. Delegate some of the investigative and reporting issues to trustworthy managers so that you're collecting fresh, recent accounts from all staff members.
"Accidents happen," Weil says, "But have this plan in place. Stay logical, keep emotions away from the situation and from the guests. A neutral response can help a positive outcome become realized."

Wondering if your restaurant is ready to handle an unexpected, emergency situation? Our restaurant consultants are experts in developing staff and policies to ensure that you can adequately handle and recover from a health or safety violation. Contact a restaurant consultant for help today. 

Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

NRC Signature Cocktails: Cranberry Sauce Margarita

The fall installment of original cocktails by our restaurant consultants

By David Kincheloe - September 27, 2017

Every quarter or so, our restaurant consultants like to share a signature cocktail recipe to spruce up your happy hour menus and inspire your guests with the flavors of the season. This month, our lead consultant and head of the Phoenix branch, Jared Flowers, whips up a Cranberry Sauce Margarita.

This bright red drink is a more unexpected twist on autumn than the typical pumpkin and spice flavors; and from taste to color, it's bound to be a favorite from fall on through the holiday months. 

Cranberry Sauce Margarita

Brown sugar
1 c. ice
2 oz tequila
1 lime
1 1/2 tbsp chunky cranberry sauce
1 tsp honey
(Optional) cranberry garnish (fresh or frozen)

1. Rim a margarita glass with brown sugar.
2. In a shaker tin, mix ice, tequila, and the juice of one lime with cranberry sauce and honey.
3. Shake vigorously, then strain into glass.
4. Garnish with fresh or frozen cranberries. 

Want more cocktail recipes or menu ideas? Contact our expert restaurant consultants today for intensive menu development and thoughts on curating your seasonal offerings. 

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

The Incredible Shrinking Menu

Our consultants say, the trend is smaller and smaller menus

By Sarah Ann Noel - September 20, 2017

It's not hard to spot a trend across all the major foodie cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Chicago, London--and even our own Denver food scene: The incredible shrinking menu. At first, it was high-end restaurants, offering a select few plates, perhaps switching them out seasonally. But lately, even chain restaurants, like Chili's, have been getting attention for slashing menus. What's the strategy there?

"The menu is the most important piece of real estate in your restaurant," says National Restaurant Consultants president David Kincheloe. "Most people see it as a list of foods you want the guest to purchase, but that's only true to an extent. It's a presentation of culinary options."

Wait. Isn't that the same thing? It's a subtle difference, of course; but the sublety is the trick. "This small difference in framing makes a huge difference in profitability."

For example, studies show that guests will typically pay 12 percent more for the same dish if it has a fancier name--guests don't just want a meal, the want an experience. Experts have also found fault with the trendier, minimalist food descriptions. While chefs value the importance of purity, guests prefer definition. In fact, sales in some restaurants have increased nearly 30 percent after editing food descriptions to better explain dishes.

So when it comes to the size of the menu, it stands to reason that guest satisfaction actually lies in, not trying to please everyone, but in directing them to something available that they'll surely love. "You please your guests in doing a few things exceptionally," Kincheloe says. Don't grow your menu--perfect the presentation. 

And this won't only improve the guest experience. A proper menu organization can direct your guests' eyes to the higher-priced meals increasing your business. Yes, rearranging your menu makes you more money.

"The menu is actually driving the restaurant," explains Kincheloe. It effects guest satisfaction, food costs, and labor efficiency. "Cross-utilize your ingredients to not only save in food costs, but labor costs in food prep time. It requires less labor, but it's also less pressure on your staff, making a healthier work environment too."

Our restaurant consultants are experts in predicting trends and in menu development. To be in touch with a consultant, contact us here

Photo by Kirill Zakharov on Unsplash

On United States Tipping Policies

Around the globe, restaurants' gratutity policies vary; here's what our consultants think works best.

By Sarah Ann Noel - September 15, 2017

As an international consulting firm based in the United States, we often encounter cultural and business practices in the States that don't align with the practices of many other countries around the world. In the restaurant industry, one such practice is that of gratuity. 

Condé Nast Traveler, in their Etiquette 101 Tipping Guide, breaks down how tips around the world vary according to country, region, and scenario. That means, what's appropriate in the Middle East may not ring true in Asia; or, if you're expected to tip for a meal, that doesn't necessarily mean the same is standard for a service. It's best to research a travel destintation ahead of time to understand the culture and expectations--and the same is true of the US, where our gratuity expectations are comparatively high and strict. (This is immihelp guide is useful for breaking down US tipping guidelines.) 

Perhaps the scenario where the discrepancies are most apparent is dining. Currently, we have a consultant in Europe, trying different restaurants in the Mediterranean region. There, tips are not expected, and instead, wait staff is paid a higher wage. In the United States, most servers make below minimum hourly wage, earning most of their income, instead, via gratuity. A server in an average American restaurant can expect to make between 15-20 percent for a job well done. 

However, as cultures seems to globalize, there are many establishments testing out different systems for paying their employees. Starbucks, for example, offers a higher hourly wage, plus benefits, to their employees. And while there is a tip jar (even a digital tip jar), it seems most employees don't see much pay-out from that. In the last few years, we've also seen higher-end restaurants try to implement a higher wage and ban tipping. According to Money magazine, they did so happily

The problem is, banning tipping is difficult in the United States. It's counter-cultural, and our citizens have grown accustomed to paying above the prices they see on the menu. A counter-cultural move doesn't only effect the guests either; it has a severe impact on employees. Our restaurant consultants have found that the switch doesn't typically work in American dining establishments.

"We certainly don't recommend it," says National Restaurant Consultants president, David Kincheloe. "Most servers hate it because, ultimately, it gives them a pay cut."

It is always important to have your employees' best interests in mind because you count on your wait staff to build a great restaurant experience--on the business side for you and your employees, and in the house, for your guests.

If you have more questions about how to best establish tipping policies in your restaurant, contact our consultants for further advice. 

Photo by Taylor Davidson on Unsplash

Somiatruites in Catalonia

A Michelin-star hotspot tucked into the small town of Igualada

By Sarah Ann Noel - September 4, 2017

Our restaurant consultants travel all over the world for business and for pleasure; and recently one of our consultants toured through the northern corner of Spain, called Catalonia. In a small town, Igualada, just north of Barcelona, she stumbled upon a Michelin-star rated restaurant, Somiatruites

The space, designed by Xavier Andrés, is the perfect combination of modern--with exposed brick and clean lines--with rustic touches that nod to the Catalan culture. Head chef, David Andrés, a graduate of the Hoffman School, has won many awards across Spain and Europe for his visionary dishes and expert skill. 

Our consultant's favorite dish was the "False Stracciatella." Upon first glance, it looks like a creamy gelato dessert; but it is actually a house-made burrata topped with mushroom, and filled beneath the surface with cherry tomatoes and rich olive oil. It is a playful presentation with outstanding flavor. Pictured above, the salmon and black rice. The menu changes daily, with a few standing dishes, so you never know what treasure might be in store.

For recommendations of other restaurants we've discovered, or to better understand what makes a restaurant worthy of a Michelin rating, contact one of our restaurant consultants today. We are happy to help!

Restaurants in Nashville

Quick links to Nashville hot spots from locals and our restaurant consultants

By Sarah Ann Noel - August 15, 2017

Nashville is one of the United States' most booming cities at the moment. With a jungle-like climate that lends itself to beautiful vegetation, good old-fashioned Southern hospitality, and a rapidly growing community of young artists and muscians, Nashville is dialed in to what's cool culture, particularly with Millennials. 

Our restaurants are currently working on some projects in Murfreesboro, giving us the chance to explore all that Nashville and Tennessee have to offer. While in Murfreesboro, we particularly liked the farm-to-table mission of The Goat; it was delicious food and beer, and an excellent atmosphere.

Between our restaurant consultants and some local contacts in the area, we were also able to get around to a few Nashville hotspots. Butchertown Hall is a stunning stop, making slow food with a nine-foot open hearth and a custom high-capacity smoker. The Old School was a fun experience, as the restaurant is literally an old school. Chef Kristie Bidwell (who is from Fort Collins, so we feel the Colorado connection!) cooks up excellent farm-to-table eats. And Dose, a coffeehouse and cafe, serves breakfast sandwiches unlike any other--especially if you opt for the rosemary biscuit.

Other favorites for treats or from previous visits: Five Points Pizza; Jeni's Ice Cream; Marche Artisan Foods; Mas Tacos; Burger Up; Frothy Monkey; Las Paletas; Fido; and Edley's BBQ.

Food and Restaurant Publications We Love

Where do you get your food and restaurant news?

By Sarah Ann Noel - August 15, 2017

In Denver, we like to celebrate all the good food and culture that exists in the city, and so it can be relatively easy to access solid, interesting restaurant news. Our restaurant consultants' favorite sources for local information on food, drink, and restaurants are 5280 Magazine and the Denver Post. Less frequent local publications, like Nourish and Fellow, often feature fantastic restaurant guides or interviews as well.

There are also great city-by-city resources, like Dining Out Magazine, Thrillist, and Eater.com, that we like to use in our own town, but also when we travel. When skipping from town-to-town, it can be helpful to look at the featured spots on Yelp and TripAdvisor too. Sometimes, our travels will take us to places we've read about in national publications, like Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, or the Food Network Magazine.

While it's great to read up on all the trending restaurants around the country and the world, we all know that running a restaurant business (and being a restaurant consultant) is much more than the flavor-of-the-month venue. So we stay informed about other news effecting the industry with resources like Nation's Restaurant News, the National Restaurant Association, and Modern Restaurant Management. There are also some great blogs out there--besides this one, of course!--like Uncorkd, Reserve, and Restaurant Den.

If you need to go deeper than what you find in the restaurant news, however, a restaurant consultant can help you with all areas of your restaurant business, from startup to menu development to accounting. Contact a restaurant consultant today!

Photo by Mattias Diesel on Unsplash

Vegan Restaurants in Kansas City

These restaurants focus on a tight niche--and are thriving

By Sarah Ann Noel - August 8, 2017

Throughout the summer, we've sent restaurant consultants to Nashville, Portland, Indianapolis, New York, Kansas City, and beyond. Even when traveling for business, we like to make it a point to visit other restaurants in the areas we're staying. For one, it's a good way to learn about the restaurant culture specific to the cities where we are working with clients. But hey! We're restaurant consultants because we love food, so it's nice to have a little fun too!

One of our consultants was recently in Kansas City, and she visited not one, but two vegan-only restaurants. The food was inventive, themed, and delicious; but we also like seeing restaurant businesses that know how to fine-tune their focuses. Inexperienced business owners may see the vegan market as too niche; but actually learning to trim down your menus so that guests know what they're getting--that's the key. You'll become a go-to spot for loyal groups that way. 

The vegan restaurants in Kansas City were Cafe Gratitude, which stays true to its creed via solar power and community mindedness; and FüD, with lots of raw options and famous jack fruit dishes so that even the vegans can have some Kansas City barbecue. 

If you need assistance with menu development or fine-tuning your business plan, contact our restaurant consultants today! 

Photo via Cafe Gratitude.