La Bottega

National Restaurant Consultants enjoy great Italian food in the heart of Vail Village

By Sarah Ann Noel - June 13, 2018

Our restauarnt consultants love working with Vail Resorts, and are proud to have had a longstanding relationship with the organization. But it's also nice to escape to the mountains simply for pleasure, and earlier this week, some of our consultants spent the day in Vail Village. It's hard to go wrong with food in Vail--try lunch at Up the Creek, and definitely make the short trek to Lionshead for a hearty breakfast at The Little Diner.

For dinner, our consultants chose traditional Italian at La Bottega. With ample dining space, including a beautiful patio right in the heart of Vail Village, La Bottega has been serving up a broad range of warm, Italian dishes for several decades now.

We loved seeing a sign out front for a drink special--it was a quick way to draw in all the passersby yet to make their dining decisions, and it convinced our consultants, too: a glass of the housemade sangria each. For an appetizer, try the baked goat cheese with garlic crostini. The consultants selected pasta dinners as entrees, and offer a big recommendation for the truffle gnocchi especially. And you can't order an Italian dinner and skip dessert--the famous tiramisu lives up to its reputation.

While we know delicious food is key, what made the La Bottega experience so exceptional was the service. The wait staff was quick, knowledgeable, and didn't deliver a single word without a smile. Sitting in the the back dining room, surrounded by dark wooden tables, opulent red curtains, and a view of the village outside, one might imagine that they were dining out in Tuscany.

If you get the chance to visit, we highly recommend La Bottega. For more ideas about what makes a restaurant space great, contact a restaurant consultant today.

Photo by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash

Anthony Bourdain's Passing

Honoring one of the most celebrated chefs of our time

By Sarah Ann Noel - June 8, 2018

It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of the restaurant industry treasure, Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain passed away in his hotel room in France, as it was reported by CNN earlier this morning; and now fellow chefs, restaurant owners, travelers, writers, and food-lovers all mourn the loss of this revered man.

Known for his food and travel writing and programming, like the book Kitchen Confidential and his CNN program "Parts Unknown," Bourdain brought all of the best and most daring parts of dining around the world to the masses. He was known to inspire wanderlust and an adventurous spirit, encouraging everyone to see the world around them, and to experience it. For Bourdain, that was through food and the culture that is created through food.

"Move," Bourdain was quoted. "As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move."

Bourdain's legacy will largely include how accessible he made the world to others, and the importance the role of food and dining plays in understanding cultures that are different from our own.


Simple Menus for Summer Crowds

3 reasons to pare down your summer menu offerings

By Sarah Ann Noel - May 30, 2018

With the Memorial Day holiday behind us now, we see all the markers of summer--school is out in Golden, where our main office is located; and the splash pads are turned on in Denver. In New York, our friends have made their escapes to the eastern beaches, leaving the city practically empty. Soon our consultants will travel to Chicago and Nashville where the Midwestern humidity is starting to creep into the air--but it won't keep the crowds away from all the al fresco dining and events.

National Restaurant Consultants aren't the only ones hitting the road--we're about to begin June and professionals will ramp up travel for food festivals and openings; families will embark on great vacations across the country. While summer may mean a decline in your regulars or in a steady flow of locals, chances are, you'll see increases in new guest traffic that matches travel trends.

Our restaurant consultants are menu development experts, and at this time of year, this is our best menu advice: keep it simple. 
  1. It makes for happier guests. When diners are trying out a new spot or just passing through, they'd rather it be an easy, pleasant experience. Trimming down a menu to simple offerings of your specialties make the choice clear--and especially for someone visiting you for the first time.
  2. It drives the price point. When you only have a few dishes of the same caliber, it is easier for you to set your price points. There's no need to "please everyone" with your menu. Simply decide where to be and what to specialize in, and do exactly that. Summer is an especially easy time to do this because of the abundance of produce and seasonal offerings.
  3. It sets a seasonal tone. In the summer, appetites are lighter and taste buds are nostalgic. You're already keeping your costs down buying up seasonal produce, so find a way to arrange your menu around a few of those ingredients offered in abundance. Diners-in-the-know prefer seasonal menus, and so the expectation is that it will be smaller and specialized.
Because our consultants are experts in menu development, we can take a look at what you've got and tailor it with small adjustments so that your guests are happier and you're making the most money possible from your restaurant business. Contact a restaurant consultant today and get your summer menus into shape.

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

8 Important Items for Your Restaurant

National Restaurant Consultants partners with Webstaurant to review the major ticket items that are worth investing in for your restaurant.

By David Kincheloe - May 21, 2018

One way that our restaurant consultants like to expand our knowledge-base and help clients is by getting to know other businesses and publications through partnership. Our consultants have used WebstaurantStore on some of our client projects; and we have also linked to their site from time-to-time because of their relevant content. This week, Webstaurant shares with National Restaurant Consultants readers directly with their list of the top eight needs for outfitting your restaurant.

Opening a new restaurant requires juggling a huge number of tasks: designing your kitchen, decorating your dining area, training staff, and more. Of course, you’ll need to make sure that you cover the basics—the essential restaurant equipment every new operation needs to be successful. It’s critical to spend time weighing and exploring your options to ensure you’re purchasing the best-fit equipment for your restaurant’s needs. Here are the top eight pieces you’ll need before opening your doors to the public.
  1. Restaurant Furniture. Your restaurant’s décor not only makes a statement about the type of business you want to run, it can also have an effect on the spending and consumption of your patrons! The furniture you choose affects the overall ambience of your restaurant. Choosing the right furniture will allow you to seat guests comfortably and stylishly. Make sure that the choices you make are on-brand and that they speak to the type of establishment you want to create.
  2. Restaurant Signage. What kind of image do you want to present to the public? The signage in your restaurant will enhance your visibility and  differentiate your brand from your competitors. Your signage is more than just a billboard advertising your restaurant—you can post outdoor menus, specials, carry-out or dine-in options, and more. Think strategically about color and placement to ensure maximum impact.
  3. Kitchen Supplies. A well-stocked kitchen is the restaurateur’s best friend. You’ll want to make sure you are stocking the most useful kitchen supplies to maximize your space and profitability. This umbrella category covers all of your tools for prep work, maintenance, dispensing, and serving. Buy your products from a reputable manufacturer, and invest in high-quality tools so that you’ll be able to prep, create, and serve food in perpetuity. The durability of your tools can make a huge difference!
  4. Commercial Grills. When looking for a commercial grill, pay close attention to the specs—you’ll want one that can meet the demands of your restaurant’s capacity. Grills are versatile and come with a wide range of options in numerous sizes and styles to accommodate your restaurant’s unique needs, from commercial induction griddles to small charbroilers suitable for food trucks and concession stands.
  5. Restaurant Dinnerware. Something as simple as dinnerware can make quite a statement. Are you an upscale establishment seeking to cement your place as the go-to restaurant for a Friday night date, or an eco-conscious food truck service looking for a biodegradable or compostable option? Either way, the type of dinnerware you choose for your dining space can speak volumes about the type of brand you’re creating. It’s often a good idea to get inspiration from restaurants within your niche, but be sure that you settle on an aesthetic that speaks to the unique experience you plan to create for your diners.
  6. Refrigeration Equipment. Commercial refrigeration equipment and commercial freezers are critical to a restaurant’s operations, with every pub, deli, and grocery store having particular needs to service their clientele. Blast chillers allow you to prepare large amounts of food well in advance and thaw it when you’re ready to use it. Ice machines and storage bins offer functionality and convenience for your operation. Needs for commercial refrigeration vary greatly between types of businesses and should be specified and installed with care.
  7. Commercial Shelving. For storage and organization, your establishment’s shelving will see a lot of use. Ensure that you’re getting high-quality equipment so that your shelves stand the test of time, and that they’re rated for the amount of weight you’ll need to store without buckling or bending. Rust-resistant shelves often feature an epoxy coating that will stand up to the conditions of your back-of-house, with many rated to withstand the temperatures of walk-in coolers and freezers.
  8. Grease Traps. Although grease traps aren’t the most glamorous appointment in outfitting your restaurant, they are critically important. They protect your pipes and drainage systems from becoming clogged and unusable due to the accumulation of waste solids any food operation is likely to produce. Remember when choosing a grease trap system that you’re safeguarding your business from costly repairs down the road and invest in something that will stand up to your business’s use.
Thanks to WebstaurantStore for their contribution and partnership. If you have questions about outfitting your restaurant, contact a National Restaurant Consultant today.

Photo by 
Ali Yahya on Unsplash

5 Herbal Cocktails for Summer 2018 Menus

Our restaurant consultants look for the best on-trend cocktails for your summer menus

By Sarah Ann Noel - May 17, 2018

The temperatures continue to rise in Denver; our contacts in New York City are making preparations to head east to Montauk to the beaches; in Nashville, the kids are celebrating the final days of school. Though spring seemed to come and go in a blink, summer is here. 

Hopefull you've dusted off that patio furniture and you've opened up your restaurant's outdoor spaces. Likely, you're switching over your food menus to accommodate all of that delightful summer produce that's starting to roll in. And while we were very pleased with all the floral notes of spring's cocktails, our restaurant consultants are really excited about what's happening to happy hour menus for summer.

To spruce up your summer drinks, think herbs, bitters, and if you're willing, straying from the typical sugary, fruity drink. Popular drinks are going to have savory notes and draw on herbal components and natural flavors. Here are five spice options and a few recipes to include them.

1. Thyme. Thyme isn't a typical drink herb, but it certainly is easy to grow and use. Thyme can be smooth and subtle and great for pairing with citruses or other sour fruits, like in this Thyme + Key Lime cocktail from Sweet Paul or Bon Appétit's Rasberry-Thyme Smash.

2. Rosemary. A warmer spice, we see rosemary in a lot of winter dishes, but it's exactly what mixologists are looking for to drive cocktail flavors into more savory categories. A Lemon + Rosemary Sour would be an easy, but unique undertaking; and a Rosemary Cucumber Gimlet screams "summer" as much as a single drink can.

3. Ginger. Our restaurant consultants are finding a ton of ginger options on drink menus these days. There are health benefits affiliated with the root, and it's a biting flavor that's becoming more and more popular. It could be as simple as amping up classic drinks with fresh ginger instead of ginger ale--like this Dark 'n Stormy. Or, trying your hand at this True Food-inspired Ginger Margarita.

4. Basil. Basil is probably the perfect herb for summer--it's fresh and reminiscient of warm, Mediterranean climates. So why not bring it into your summer drinks. Take refreshing options and make them even fresher, like a Cranberry Basil Spritzer, Basil Limeade, or Thai Basil Sangria.

5. Cilantro. Did you think we'd say mint last? Well, anyone can make a traditional mojito. Surprise your guests with a cilantro mojito instead! Or for something exceptionally bold, how about a Spicy Cilantro Moscow Mule from Fork + Knife Love!

What are you doing to turn up the heat on your cocktail menus this summer? For assistance in menu development, or other restaurant business questions, contact a restaurant consultant today. 

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

The Mexico Experience

How restaurants in Puerto Vallarta measure up to those in the United States

By Sarah Ann Noel - May 9, 2018

National Restaurant Consultants president David Kincheloe often visits Vidanta in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, and we enjoy living vicariously through his experience. One of the things that sets the Vidanta resort experience apart is the dining. Vidanta employs world-class chefs and sets high standards for their guest service. 

"In both the casual dining and fine dining concepts in Mexico, you generally find a much higher level of service," says Kincheloe, explaining that this isn't exclusively to just the Vidanta resort. In most Mexican restaurants, managers institute a tiered service model that ups the guest experience. "The service focus is provided by both a head waiter and an assitant waiter to ensure your every need is taken care of."

Another element of the dining experience in Mexico is likely true in other locations outside of the United States. Kincheloe says, "There are a lot of liberties taken in Mexico that cannot be achieved in the United States due to the liability issues." Of course, this has nothing to do with the safety of the food, rather the presentation. At Vidanta, the restaurants recognize how presentation is a part of the whole experience for the guest.

"At Sonora Prime, [a local steakhouse] they serve charred artichokes to your table in a small charcoal grill," Kincheloe points out, as pictured above. "Or at Epazote, they serve Mexican coffee that is set on fire and the poured between one cup and another, the flames crawling between the mugs." According to U.S. regulations, these productions would be considered a fire hazard; but because they are allowed in Mexico, it adds an exotic flare that makes the dining experience even more exciting.  

While our restaurant consultants can't help you throw coffee set ablaze between two mugs, there is something to be said for considering the whole dining experience--not only the food and menu organization, but the level of service and the presentation. Our consultants have traveled the world and gather notes at every place we visit, and we can help you implement something special to set your establishment apart. Contact a restaurant consultant today!

Top Fast Food Restaurants in the United States

These quick-serve spots are growing their reputations and locations

By Sarah Ann Noel - May 3, 2018

Our restaurant consultants work with all varieties of restaurants, from formal, high-concept projects to quick-service franchises. We prefer to keep our fingers on the pulses of both ends of the spectrum, and from one end of the country to the other as well.

Market Force Information recently released a study on the top quick-service restaruants in the United States, based on popular opinion. They lined up the top-rated locations in pizza, burgers, chicken, Mexican, and sandwiches, and the winners, respectively, were Pizza Ranch, In-and-Out, Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, and Wawa. Thrillist added some notes on the locations and news surrounding the winners, with some perspective on who they beat out and why.

Big-name-brands Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle have made a splash, not only in brand recognition but also in the food quality and high-level of service. This demonstrates that there are increased expectations even for quick-serve restaurants as diners become more health-conscious and food-savvy. This likely explains the selection of In-and-Out, Wawa, and Pizza Ranch, also, all of which have cult followings in their regional areas--and word is spreading.

National Restaurant Consultants like to use QSR Magazine to keep up on the latest in fast-casual dining. If you have questions about your fast-food establishment or if you're interested in franchising, contact our restaurant consultants today and get on board with the new direction of quick-service dining.

Photo by Kristina Bratko on Unsplash

Copperhouse Eatery + Lounge in Yellowknife

National Restaurant Consultants announce their latest grand opening

By Sarah Ann Noel - April 19, 2018

National Restaurant Consultants celebrated the grand opening of Copperhouse Eatery + Lounge with clients and friends in Yellowknife, Canada. The capitol city of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife can feel wild and remote. Our clients at Copperhouse wanted to create an urban environment that felt like a transformative experience for Yellowknife residents and tourists alike. 

Peek inside the restaurant and listen to Cabin Radio's interview with the owners during the grand opening event here. 

Below, pictures of the final product, everything looking polished and reading for opening! If you are thinking about opening a restaurant, contact a restaurant consultant today!


The Importance of Portion Control

Our restaurant consultants are advocates for portion control--and it's not just for your health.

By Sarah Ann Noel - April 16, 2018

There is always a lot of discussion about portion control in restaurants across America. With good reason: In New York City, you can get a pizza slice as big as your face. Los Angeles has destination burger joints with sandwiches a foot high. And in Nashville and Kansas City, you don't have to look far to find an all-you-can-eat BBQ special. Americans are obsessed with more, more, more, and it's a craze that is causing the more health-concious of diners to pay attention.

But our restaurant consultants say it's not just the diners that need to watch out. If you're a restaurant owner, portion control can mean a big deal for your costs and profits. 

Restaurant consultant Jared Flowers says, "When we go onsite for an Operations Analysis, we often can see a consistency issues with food and bar costs." In menu development, prices for dishes should be set based on the costs to make a certain portion size. "We'll see that at some point, proper plate costs were figured," Flowers explains; but slight, seemingly insignificant alterations can throw those numbers out of whack.

It's all in the details, Flowers says. "It's the specific portions that are on the plates. But then you also have to watch the operations. Are bartenders making drinks without jiggers? Are cooks building food without the proper tools? It's impossible to remain consistent if you have multiple people making plates and drinks without proper tools."

In a recent Pizza Today article called "Portion Theory", there is a convincing case made for a cup system or the weight system--and it's for exactly this concern. The article specifically addresses portion controlling cheese, a high-budget item that can quickly drain money if not measured properly. 

"Measuring is why large chain restaurants are so successful," Flowers mentions. "They have a system and tool for every task." Yep, that even includes cheese.

Often when addressing the operations of a restaurant, these details--like weighing cheese by the gram or scooping guacamole with a specifically-sized spoon--can seem unimportant or even comical. (Oh yes, we've seen the guacamole memes.) But in business, the money is in the details.

"While it is often inconvenient, a portioning system is one of the most important to adopt if you want to grow and be profitable," says Flowers.

Our restaurant consultants are experts at stopping the money drain, and it's thanks to the little details like portioning. If you have a question about our Operations Analysis or if you want to find out how to hang on to more of your money, contact a restaurant consultant today.

Photo by Edward Guk on Unsplash

Taxes for Restaurants

National Restaurant Consultants shares advice on tax management for restaurants

By Sarah Ann Noel - April 9, 2018

While our restaurant consultants wouldn't suggest waiting until this week to get your taxes in order, Tax Day is next week in the United States, and so it's certainly on the forefront of business owners' minds. Whether or not you've already filed, each year's tax deadline brings to light some questions or concerns you may have about how you're managing your restaurant's taxes.

The best piece of advice our restaurant consultants have? Don't consider it a separate issue. "Taxes are a part of your business and should be thought of as an expense--just like food or labor," explains National Restaurant Consultant president David Kincheloe. "That means it should be included as part of your overhead calculations, a pass-through expense." 

Considering your taxes as an expense means you are factoring them into your budget ahead of time. You eliminate the scramble to pay back last year's tax expense from this year's revenue. 

It can be a tough mental switch, but it's worth it to make. "Remember," says Kincheloe, "If you're paying income taxes, then you're making money! It is painful, but think of it as a good thing."

Our restaurant consultants are experts in business management, and that includes budgets and financial plans. If you have concerns about how you are managing your restaurant's taxes, take a look at these great tax tips for restaurants from the Rewards Network. Then, contact a restaurant consultant today and we can begin formulating an expert plan for your business expenses that will grant you peace of mind and set you up for success.

Photo by Bethany Legg on Unsplash