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. Liquor.com 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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National Restaurant Consultants Clients Earn Recognition

Think you don't need a consultant? Three of our clients are receiving attention for their excellence.

By Sarah Ann Noel - November 13, 2017

Sure, you might be skeptical about restaurant consultants. You might read these blog posts and think, "I can implement that." You feel there is no need to follow through with the "Contact Us" prompt we feed you at the end of each of these articles. 

Still, you can't deny black-and-white proof, and we have exactly that: Black-and-white proof that restaurant consulting will work for your restaurant business. Recently, we've had several clients receive both Colorado and national attention for their establishments. 

First, the Denver Post published an article about the best pizza in Denver. Only three pizza joints were chose; and two out of three were National Restaurant Consultants clients. (Big congratulations to Andrew at Denver Pizza Company and Mark at Marco's Coal-Fired for receiving a great write-up of their restaurants. It's much deserved!)

We had another client recently receive some national attention. Aloy Thai in Boulder was spotlighted on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and the show will air on November 17. We're proud to see one of our clients among the list of Boulder spots getting statewide attention!

All of these clients are hardworking operations who have done due diligence to offer guests a quality dining experience. We are proud to have a been a part of those processes for all these clients, and others. We hope that their success speaks to our restaurant consultants' expertise and professionalism. Take a chance and see how much further you can go with the help of a consultant. Contact us today!

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla.

5 Soup Recipes to Warm Up Your Menus

Some classic soups with a twist to inspire your fall to winter offerings

By Sarah Ann Noel - November 3, 2017

It's 36-degrees in Denver today; 50-degrees in London; 44-degrees in Chicago. The point? Winter is coming. The cold is moving in. What's more, with Daylight Savings ending, the days end quicker, and guests are looking for the comforts of warm, familiar food that's quick and easy. 

We think a great way to add the warmth is by amping up your soup offerings, so our restaurant consultants have gathered five more classic recipes with some great twists. Hopefully these will inspire your menus!
  1. Rosemary Chicken Noodle: When the temperatures fall and there's a chill in the air, everyone's mind floats toward a homey, comforting chicken noodle soup. But dress it up so it's not reminiscent of something from a can. We like this rosemary option from Gimme Some Oven.
  2. Cauliflower-Cashew: The best thing about a cauliflower soup is its creamy effect can be dairy-free (it's always good to have a vegan offering). Bon Appetit has a simple recipe with crispy buckwheat that we think you should try.
  3. Sausage and Kale: Leave it to Martha Stewart for a great take on something hearty and nutritious; your guests will love the flavor, and the kale provides necessary winter vitamins. 
  4. Red Lentil, Sweet Potato, Coconut: The English love to eat curries in the winter to battle the chill of a British winter; this Jamie Oliver soup is a nod to that tactic, with the filling inclusion of lentils and sweet potato to make a bowl of soup meal-worthy.
  5. Chicken Posole: If you want something Tex-Mex but want to stray from the common tortilla soup options, we love this slow-cooked chicken posole from Delish.
Our restaurant consultants are experts in menu development and know how to curate seasonal menus for cost effectiveness and customer satisfaction. Contact us today for more suggestions for your menus. 

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4 Congressional Rulings to Watch

Our vice president gives an update on legislation affecting the restaurant industry

By Sarah Ann Noel - October 23, 2017

The restaurant industry is a multi-faceted one, covering business, creative, and regulatory fields. It can be tricky to keep up with all the necessary components to running a successful, up-to-regulation restaurant; but our restaurant consultants have their fingers on each of these pulses and more. Today, our vice president shares a legislative update for this fall, to make sure that you understand how Congress is affecting the way you do business.

"No matter your political viewpoints, there are political agendas that affect the food service and hospitality industries. Keep up, stay aware, and be involved," advises Weil.

One of the biggest topics at the state houses this fall is that of legalized marijuana. "With more states legalizing, there is a push to allow edibles or marijuana use in restaurants," says Weil. "This potential mix of alcohol sales and marijuana presents large opportunities for restaurants and bars. But adding a marijuana component creates many additional challenges to an already difficult area of compliance." Weil explains that the addition of marijuana only adds to problem areas such as under-aged drinking, over-serving, and drinking-and-driving. 

Up next, with regards to tipping, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the restauranteur. "The most recent ruling states there is a 'property right' to tips paid as a result of customer service so long as the employer pays the employees minimum wage or more," explains Weil. He also mentions that this ruling will likely lead to more appeals, however this did overrule prior Department of Labor rulings.

Thirdly, there are laws being pushed toward restrictive scheduling, requiring employers to give at least 7-14 advanced notice of schedule, along with overtime pay components. National Restaurant Association is monitoring this activity, for more information.

"Finally, there continue to be conversations about paid sick leave, higher minimum wages, and menu labeling," says Weil. While there are no new hard and fast rulings on these matters yet, should decisions be made, they will heavily influence the business side of your restaurant. "It's important to stay active with your local restaurant association, as well as the National Restaurant Association," Weil says. "These are great sources of information and support."

If you have questions about these or other laws affecting your restaurant, contact our restaurant consultants today. We are active members of various restaurant associations and can help you find the answers and understanding you need.

Photo by Michael on Unsplash

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. 

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