Valentine's Day Menu

Some restaurant consultant approved ideas for a romantic Valentine's Day meal

By David Kincheloe - February 12, 2018

It's Valentine's Day this week, and we're watching all of the Denver restaurants prepare with prix fixe menus and full reservation slots. Whether you're a restaurant looking to add some last-minute Valentine's Day specials to your menu offerings, or a food lover determined to put together a perfect romantic dinner for someone special, our restaurant consultants love these ideas:

Sure they're the colors of love, but red and pink add a certain brightness to an otherwise dreary month, and that's why we love Saveur's list of red and pink cocktails, the perfect inspiration for a Valentine's Day happy hour. Of course, wine is often considered the drink for romance, so before you reach for the mixed drinks, consider this VinePair guide as well.

Valentine's Day should be a leisurely evening, enjoying delicacies that are thoughtfully crafted and expertly paired. That's why we like this inventive list of appetizers from Taste of Home, which includes a unique blend of tastes and presentation.

Main Course
For your main meal, consider something decadent. Normally, a Valentine's Day main course would include an expensive cut of meat, and you certainly can't go wrong there. But our restaurant consultants have also tried--and were blown away by--Smitten Kitchen's mushoroom bourguignon, perfect for the special vegetarians in your life, or just for those in search of something new and delicious.

From cute and flirty to unbelievably rich, Delish's list of more than 50 Valentine's Day desserts is bound to inspire your creativity for that final touch on your menu. A Valentine's Day dessert should encourage lingering, maybe with another bottle of wine; and it doesn't hurt to tie-in a romantic nod or two. 

For more ideas for menus and restaurant specials, contact a restaurant consultant today.

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Stoned at Work: Advice Regarding Legal Pot

National Restaurant Consultants President David Kincheloe weighs in on the legal pot issue

By Sarah Ann Noel - January 31, 2018

Being based in Colorado, legalized pot has been our radars for so long, it's almost easy to quit paying attention. And now, some of our clients and other business owners are encountering the consequences of that. With our State and a lot of the west leading the charge for legalized marijuana use, we are also the first to navigate some of the consequences--a major one being stoned employees and how to handle them.

This week, National Restaurant Consultants president David Kincheloe wrote an article for Modern Restaurant Management about what is happening with the relationship between recereational and medical marijuana users and their employers, and best practices for managers and business owners in these situations. Read the full article here.

For direct advice on handling drug-use in your business, or to ask another questions, contact a restaurant consultant today.

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Following Through on Customer Service

Why your good customer service might not be as good as you think

By David Kincheloe - January 25, 2018

I took my wife out to dinner the other night, at one of our favorite spots in Golden. It's nothing too upscale, but certainly the sort of restaurant that allows for high expectations. And it's the sort of spot where those expectations are generally met.

First, I ordered a cocktail. We love to sit in the bar at this establishment, and they have a varied happy hour menu with a lot of unique drink options. When my cocktail arrived, there was a fruit fly in it. I pointed this out to the waitress, who apologized and immediately took the drink away. I was pleased that it was the general manager who brought out my drink replacement--a sign of good training that the waitress reported the incident to the manager, and, in turn, the manager showed face to make good. He also apologized and offered to comp both my cocktail and my wife's drink. As a guest, I was totally satisfied; as a restaurant consultant, I made note of these good practices.

Next, we ordered an appetizer from the bar menu. However, when it arrived to the table, the order was wrong. Working in the restaurant industry, I understand that mistakes happen, so I probably have more grace than the average guest; but at the same time, I know that it's important to bring these things to staff attention. (Plus, this wasn't a working dinner, and we wanted our order corrected.) I followed the same procedure as before; and so did the restaurant staff. The waitress reported to her manager, who came out and comped our appetizer.

Are you expecting that I give their guest services an A+? Let's take a look at what they got right:

1. It's clear that proper training practices were employed in this restaurant, and that there is a clear chain of command. Employees know how to handle mistakes and also to make sure the higher-ups are informed about what's going on.

2. The manager did a great job, coming out to personally apologize and comping the problem dishes. Mistakes are inevitable in a person-led industry; and the right way to handle a mistake is to apologize for it.

But from a consultant perspective, I think this restaurant was missing Step Three. After two major issues with our meal so far, our consultants would advise: don't leave room for a third strike. The manager should not only have comped the drinks and the appetizer, but the whole meal.

Perhaps that seems like a large payout to you; but here is the reasoning: The cost of a meal simply isn't worth the bad publicity. When you have a disgruntled guest, it's not just that guest you have to consider. It's the guests' friends and their friends and so on. Restaurant business is very word of mouth, very reputation-driven. So, in that sense, the cost of a meal is a cheap price to pay for a lot of good publicity. 

The point is to make sure that you implement good customer services practices, and that you see them through, into the zone of above and beyond. These are the small details that can have enormous consequence in terms of future business, things that our restaurant consultants have enough experience with to point out. 

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New Year's Resolutions

Why a restaurant consultant should be part of your 2018 plan

By David Kincheloe - January 19, 2018

We're a couple of weeks into the new year, and people are starting to crawl out of the post-holiday funk and into 2018. January is often a time of planning and renewal, but sometimes it takes awhile to turn plans into action. Unfortunately, in the business world, you can't be too leisurely about your plans. You need to get a jump on things and implement practical steps toward your goals.

The good news? This is what our restaurant consultants do every single day. We listen to our clients' plans and dreams and goals, and then we create easy-to-execute steps to bring them to life. How do we do this? With an Operations Analysis. Our trademarked process is tried-and-true, so much so that we offer it with a money-back guarantee.

We are willing to bet that an Operations Analysis would touch on one or more areas that you've set 2018 goals for:
  • Financial performance
  • Payroll
  • Cost control
  • Vendors
  • Marketing
  • Human resources
  • Lease
  • Operational systems
  • Purchasing
To turn your business new year's resolutions into reality, why not follow-through with action that guarantees success? Contact a restaurant consultant today and schedule your operations analysis!

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Legislative Update: Joint Employer and Tip Pool Rulings

When 2017 ended, so did these two labor practices, which could affect your restaurant.

By Sarah Ann Noel - January 8, 2018

As the 2017 calendar ended, so did a few labor rulings that have the potential to affect your restaurant business and employees. The National Labor Board overturned rules about tip pooling, as well as the joint employer ruling, which will help restaurant owners.

In regards to tip pooling, which the previous ruling limited to the front-of-house employees earning tips, the overturning now means that back-of-house staff can get in on the tip pool. Supporters of the overruling say that it levels the income for all staff members, creating more equality. But those opposed to the change say that it could be mismanaged, making it easy for managers to pocket tips, too, or that it will lead to higher labor costs in light of declining tip earnings for front-of-house staff. For more information, Eater did a quick write-up on the need-to-know information for restaurant owners. This ruling is only in the proposal stage and open to public comment until early February. 

Another ruling recently reversed by the Labor Board was the joint-employer ruling, which initually made it easier for unions and workers to hold larger companies accountable for its franchisees and contractors. This would include large restaurant chains, like McDonald's, for example, that have many independent franchises. The Labor Board overturned the Obama-era joint employer ruling by a vote of 3-2, now saying that a company is a joint employer only if it has direct control over the employees. For more information on the topic, here is a four-minute read on Reuters.

It can be difficult to stay on top of information political and legal information in the midst of day-to-day responsibilty, but clearly these rulings may greatly impact the way your business operates. This is one of many reasons it is important to consult with someone who understands the restaurant industry and business ownership from a broader vantage point, able to funnel large-scale information and current events into a need-to-know business plan format for your specific establishment. Contact a restaurant consultant today to make sure that you've covered your bases and that your operation is as efficient and up-to-date as can be.

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2018 Top Trends for Restaurants

A gift from us to you: Top Trends 2018 and a Christmastime NRC Signature Cocktail

By David Kincheloe - December 21, 2017

The snow is falling today at our Golden, Colorado office, and we can feel the whole city shifting toward the reverant quiet of Christmas. For our restaurant consultants--and we hope for your businesses, too--it certainly has been a year worth celebrating, and we always welcome this final time of reflection before we step foot into a new year.

Many thanks to all of you for your business and for your interest in this space. We enjoy sharing our favorite finds, tips, and expertise, and connecting with you all in different ways. We look forward to your questions and business in 2018 as well.

For now, to say thank you and Merry Christmas, we have a few gifts for you. We've got our Top Trends for 2018 live on our website now, full of helpful data to frame your business plans and goals for next year. As always, we welcome you to contact our restaurant consultants for further advice; but we are happy to share these projections as a means for your business planning.

And, for a special holiday treat, we're sharing a Christmas-inspired cocktail below. We've heard through the grapevine it's Santa's favorite, reiminscent of those Terry's chocolate oranges he's been known to stuff in the toes of many a Christmas stocking. But it's also the perfect warm party drink as your loved ones come together for holiday gatherings. Please enjoy responsibly!

NRC Holiday Glow
  • Brew a mug of fresh coffee and sugar the rim of your glass
  • Add 1.5 shots of Kahlua and 1.5 shots of Bailey's
  • Float Grand Marnier on top
  • Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings
Merry Christmas from National Restaurant Consultants, and we look foward to working with you next year!

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2017 In-Review

National Restaurant Consultants president David Kincheloe reviews how our 2017 trend predictions added up

By David Kincheloe - December 13, 2017

At National Restaurant Consultants, we are proud to provide Top Trends predictions for each year. As we gather all of our data for our 2018 Trends, I realized we'd be remiss to not review the biggest trends of 2017 to see how our predictions added up.

The result? Our restaurant consultants continue to be experts, spot-on with the directions the restaurant business continues to travel each year. We can also assess where our predictions weren't entirely accurate and take into account why we missed. Below I've taken some of these 2017 trends, a year-in-review, knowing that this information will inform our 2018 trends, and, hopefully, drive the way you manage your restaurant business in the coming year as well.
  • To start 2017, we estimated about a 4% growth in overall restaurant sales, topping out around $815billion. Actual current estimates from the end of November: $782billion, meaning the increase was only about 2.2%. The biggest factor affecting sales growth were the number of natural disasters that impacted various areas of businesses through the spring and summer. In October, we saw a strengthening, with increased same-store sales. Food sales outside the home represented nearly 52% of total food sales, which was right in line with our sales predictions.
  • The trend toward fresh and clean foods continues, and it shows no signs of weakening any time soon. Not only does this match-up with our 2017 predictions, expect it to pop up in our 2018 Top Trends as well. Currently, food purveyors are scrambling to get these local, healthy chains established.
  • We began 2017 still carefully following the movements of the Millennials, the young, trend-setting group that is important to keep happy. With the start of 2018, we'll see the older end of that group enter middle-age; but that's not changing their behaviors. They're still holding the standard high, and they're still spending money where those expectations met. What is different? They're tastes are now becoming more refined. They are still and will continue to spend more and more dollars outside of the home, now with an increasingly specific idealogy of what makes a good restaurant experience.
Soon, we will have 2018 Top Trends for your review; it's free information that we are happy to provide, and we're proud to stand behind the expertise of all of our restaurant consultants. With this in mind, and moving into the coming year, consider how our consultants might be of service to you and your business. Contact us any time to tap into a wealth of knowledge that your restaurant can only benefit from.

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Decorate Your Christmas Menu

A few holiday-inspired additions to get your menus in the holiday spirit

By Sarah Ann Noel - December 4, 2017

With December in full swing, and Christmas lights decorating all the trees--from Rockefeller Center in New York City, to the palm trees of Los Angeles, to our very own evergreen here in Golden, Colorado--everyone is in a holiday mood. It's only fitting that your restaurant's menu reflects the season, especially to attract those guests who are out in the hustle and bustle and want to stop in for some festive refreshment.

From cocktails to desserts, and everything in between, here are some ideas our restaurant consultants found from our favorite recipe sources.

1. has the ten best Christmas cocktails out there, and we were especially intersted in the Tom & Jerry for a sweet treat. 
2. Southern Living rounded up amazing appetizer recipes, and we definitely want to try the Roasted Fennel and Prosciutto flatbread--easy to recreate and offer as an appertizer or entree.
3. Everyone loves a Christmas ham, but it can be hard to know how to prepare it. The Spruce has ten different glaze recipes. We love how many of them have a mustard base--make it spicy to warm up your guests.
4. It's best to embrace the sugar craze of the holidays and make sure you've got dessert on the menu. Most unique to the season is Christmas cookies, of course, so we turned to Betty Crocker herself for the best ideas and ingredients. (If you want to get really festive, consider adding a "decorate your own cookie" plate or bar for dessert time.)

If you need help with your menu development, or for more tips on moving your restaurant through the seasons, contact a restaurant consultant today.

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Restaurants in Salida

Our restaurant consultants check out some great eats in this thriving southern CO art town

By Sarah Ann Noel - November 27, 2017

Our restaurant consultants in Colorado love being based near the mountains, not just for the beauty, but for all of the small towns tucked into the hills that have much to offer. As Denver continues to grow, there is migration back out of the city and into the quieter places of the mountains--and down south, it's no exception. There has been recent explosion in the growth of Salida, Colorado, a mid-sized town the rests in the valley along the Arkansas River. The proximity to water has always made it ideal for agriculture; but it has long been an artistic destination as well. Coupled with 360-degree mountain views, more and more Coloradoans are flocking to the area, either to live or visit; and as is inevitable with such growth, we're seeing an increase in the food scene. Of course, you can only fit so much into a weekend; but our consultants made the most of the time and visited several restaurants that are popular among tourists and locals alike.

For breakfast, the destination was, without question, the Patio Pancake Place. It loooked like a wait at first, but they move crowds through quickly with large, homecooked portions and no-nonsense wait staff. Another breakfast spot is Little Red Hen Bakery; and not only are the baked goods incredible, the owner is very invested in locally-sourcing and giving back to the community. 

If it's only a coffee you seek, there is Brown Dog Coffee, which is well-known among the southern Colorado towns. Salida's location is cozy and conveniently located in historic downtown. Just around the corner, a newer shop called HOWL serves up Corvus coffee and lots of Colorado-made wares in the storefront. The baristas there are warm and excited to talk about the local scene.

Our restaurant consultants passed the afternoon hours in many of the local boutiques and antique stores, before stopping into Woods Distillery where Salida's mayor-elect first made his name in whiskeys and gins. There are a few small plates available there; but for the town's best charcuterie boards, everyone agrees, head to The Biker and The Baker. They have a hefty wine list there; for beer instead, you can stop into Soulcraft or Amica's. Amica's makes incredible pizzas and other lunch and dinner plates, with a knowledgeable, easy-going staff. Our consultants enjoyed dinner at The Fritz, which is a little more upscale than other options; to go much more casual, there is 50Burger. Great ethnic food options include Little Cambodia and locally-owned Las Camelinas for Mexican.

What quiet gems lie outside your big city? It goes to show, you don't have to be in a densely populated area to make a name for yourself. Let our consultants help you stand out, no matter your location. Contact a restaurant consultant today.

3 Thanksgiving Tips

NRC's Chef-in-Residence offers up best advice for a smooth, enjoyable Thanksgiving

By Sarah Ann Noel - November 20, 2017

This Thursday, in the United States, it is Thanksgiving, a holiday that will bring families and friends together, and, for many, signals the beginning of the holiday season. Most restaurants scale down on Thanksgiving, if they are open at all; but since the whole day is centered around the meal, we still thought our consultants could have a lot of advice to offer.

Sure enough, our chef-in-residence had three big tips for all of those in charge of cooking this year's Thanksgiving feast for their families. The key? It's planning ahead; so if you're the cook this year, your Thanksgiving starts today!

1. Chop and prep by Wednesday evening. It takes a lot going at once to finish a big Thanksgiving menu in a house-sized kitchen. Whether for your own sanity, or to aid others in playing sous-chef, it will pay off big to have the chopping done ahead of time. Look at your recipes, wash and prep the produce, even sort out the spices; then seal and label it all. When it's go-time on Thursday, you've got ready-made ingredients waiting to bring your recipe together.

2. Thaw your turkey! Sure, it seems like a no-brainer. But if your turkey is even just a little bit frozen in the middle, it'll come out of the oven that way. Play it safe, give it an extra day or two. Take the turkey out of the freezer NOW! And, it's a good idea to have a high-quality meat thermometer on-hand.

3. Serving bowl designation. To avoid chaos in the kitchen, or pots and pans on the table, take a look at your serving inventory now. Consider all of your dishes and designate those items to the serving bowls and platters a day or two beforehand. Using sticky notes, specify what food will go where so that it can be plated and whisked to the table still steaming hot.

How do you prepare for Thanksgiving? Are you the one in charge of the meal this year, or are you kicking up your feet until it's time to eat? We at National Restaurant Consultants wish all of our American clients and friends a very happy Thanksgiving. May it be a wonderful time of reflection, gratitude, and celebration for you and your loved ones.

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