Food Presentation Can Lead to Healthier Selections in Cafeterias

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There has been a push in the last several years for cafeterias to offer healthier food options. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, passed new regulations in 2012 requiring more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in school cafeterias.

However, once the food is there, it’s up to patrons to make healthy choices when building a plate. A cafeteria can make a few simple changes to encourage these healthier choices.

How can things like rearranging food options, adding labels and information about options, and offering trays with small dishes make such a difference?

Know Your Patrons

First, it’s important to remember who will be going through the line in your cafeteria. In a hospital, patrons might be of all ages, and children are likely to be accompanied by an adult. In a middle school, children are likely to make decisions about food selection on their own.

Children and adults are drawn to different kinds of food and different displays, so encouraging healthy eating is different, depending on your patrons.

For example, a tactic used by grocery stores to encourage purchasing certain products is to place them at eye level. For children, this means that healthier options should be near the lower shelves, while adults are more likely to notice them on the middle shelves.

Children are also more likely to react to more colorful foods, and those that are well designed. For example, placing a sample dish with healthy, colorful options, and making a face on the plate might encourage children to mimic the display.

Adults, on the other hand, are less likely to be influenced by the way the food is designed, and prefer fewer foods and colors on their plates. However, making healthy food attractive and easy to see will encourage adults to select these items. Fresh, quality fruits and vegetables are bright and colorful on their own, so simply placing them in a visible area can encourage adult patrons to choose them.

Use Small Plates

One of the biggest issues that leads to unhealthy eating choices is portion size. Small plates fill up faster than large ones, which can encourage patrons to eat smaller portions or to choose fewer selections, ultimately, leading to healthier eating choices.

Put Healthy Options in High Traffic Areas

When a hungry patron comes into a cafeteria, they are most likely to fill their plate with the first things they notice. Placing healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, in a high traffic area like the entrance to the cafeteria will encourage more people to eat these foods.

Similarly, placing easy to grab health foods, like apples, bananas, or pears near the checkout counter – another high traffic area – is a great way to encourage patrons to select these items on their way out.

Add Labels and Descriptions

It is important to label all foods in a cafeteria, but the depth of the food descriptions can make a difference in whether or not the food is selected.

The name of the food should, of course, be the first thing on the label to help patrons recognize the food. The more descriptive the name, the more likely an adult patron is to select the food item.

Cafeterias that include health claims on food items may also find that those foods are selected more often, because the description encourages the patron to think about long term effects about what they’re eating now.

Offer Express Checkout

In public cafeterias, offering a healthy express checkout can be an incentive for patrons to fill their plates with healthy options. A checkout line may only serve patrons who are eating both fruits and vegetables, or who fill a certain portion of their plate with greens. Either way, this checkout line is reserved only for healthy eaters.

Food Presentation Can Lead to Healthier Selections in Cafeterias

Getting A Handle On Food Waste

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From cafeterias to homes, there are many ways that we waste food in the United States. According to NPR, Americans throw out about a third of the food available to us, and restaurants throw away as much as ten percent of the what they buy. Wasting food is a problem for cafeterias on many levels. First and foremost, it represents wasted money, and few cafeterias can afford to throw away any of their budget.

On a broader scale, this waste represents environmental damage. Wasted food ends up in landfills, and as it rots, it generates harmful greenhouse gasses which contribute to climate change.

Because of the ongoing damage, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a challenge for the United States to reduce its wasted food by 50 % by 2030.

At this point, the challenge is voluntary, but many restaurants have already begun to work towards reducing their waste in order to promote their restaurant as green and increase profits. For school cafeterias, showing that the kitchen is doing everything possible to reduce waste, manage budgets, and go green can help show that the cafeteria is giving kids healthy opportunities to eat and learn.

Rightsize your recipes

When you use food inventory software in your cafeteria, you can look at how much of a particular dish you’ve sold in the past, and plan the right amount to cook this time so that you don’t have waste to throw out.

Manage your inventory

Every kitchen has experienced the frustration of finding an ingredient pushed to the back of the fridge which has now gone bad. By digitally managing your inventory, you can keep track of what needs to be used up when, and plan ahead.

Rely on data, not opinions

There’s plenty of emotion and instinct involved in cooking, but a successful cafeteria balances this with data driven decisions. If you want to show that kids enjoy a particular recipe, reaching for data about how many servings were sold is more useful than word of mouth from servers.

If your cafeteria’s goal is to reduce waste, reuse ingredients when possible, and rightsize its portions to maximize profits and increase satisfaction, software to give you a clear idea of your kitchen’s inventory is the first, important step towards achieving that goal. For now, the EPA goal is non-mandatory, but given increasing pressure from various groups, that may not be the case in the long term. Act today to choose the best software for your kitchen!

School Lunch Orders – Getting Paid Up Front vs. Getting Paid in the Lunch Line

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According to statistics, nearly one-third of children between 6 and 19 years of age are considered obese. And a contributing factor is their choosing less healthy foods in school lunchrooms.

To encourage children to make healthier food choices, schools need to consider implementing school lunch preorder and pre-payment programs that can preempt hunger-based, spontaneous selections while eliminating sensory cues like smells and sights. At the same time, preordering of lunch can help schools minimize waste, allow for minimal inventory, and optimize freshness of products.

What are the real benefits of school lunch preorder and pre-payment? We’ve listed them below.

Parents Are in Full Control of Students’ Eating Patterns

With meal preordering and payment, parents and children can decide in advance whether they’re packing a lunch or buying one. As such, they will never have to worry about last-minute treks to the grocery store or conversations like “Where’s my lunch?” ten minutes before the bus arrives.

Students Know What They’re Going to Be Served

When students know what they are going to be served, lunch service itself becomes significantly quicker. At the same time, preordering and pre-payment of lunch allows schools to increase revenue by reducing costs and operating more efficiently.

Studies have shown that for every dollar given for lunch money, only 70 cents gets spent at school. Since meal preordering and pre-payment involves online payments, a cashier is no longer needed. The money ends up in the bank without having to count the drawer, fill out the deposit slip, and run to the bank to deposit it. And parents don’t need to worry about how their child’s lunch money is really being spent.

Upfront Costs Are No Longer an Issue

When getting paid up-front, schools and lunch providers don’t need to be concerned about collecting the cash from the students. Also, receivables are no longer at risk of aging, minimizing collection risk considerably. As consumers, we pay for goods upfront when ordering online, and this can be applied to meal preordering as well.

Lunch Becomes More Organized and Takes Less Time

Paying for meals in the lunch line can be difficult to organize and supervise, especially when every student orders something different. This is not the case when school lunch orders are placed ahead of time: students just go to the lunchroom, and the attendant knows what to serve. There are no decisions to be made, and students don’t have to look for lunch money. Kids can simply pick-up their meal and eat it.

Schools Can Get Out of the Lunch Business Altogether

Schools are not in the food service business by choice. Feeding kids is a necessity. However, many schools choose to opt out of the school lunch order and payment process if possible. Most of the time, contracting with a management company or caterer to make and deliver food is the best option.

In most cases, food is provided by School Board selected vendors. While preordering of meals can solve many problems related to unhealthy food choices, organizers & boards fail to see how they can help with other issues. The food service process can become daunting, and easy solutions get lost in the mix of details. This holds especially true with the combination of order forms, lunch tickets, cash collection, and delivery coordination and reconciliation. Since preordering can help schools save money by eliminating waste, & streamline serving, it also helps students eat healthier.

Preordering and prepayment of school lunch orders will grow as educational institutions become more involved in the health of our nation’s children.

Tips on Becoming a Better Buyer for Your School

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Becoming a better buyer for your school lunch program

Acting as a buyer for a school lunch program is a big responsibility. With potentially hundreds of kids to feed, choosing food that is both nutritious, and appealing to a wide variety of kids, can be a challenging task. When you get it right, it can be rewarding and exciting. We’ve compiled a quick list of tips to help you become the best school lunch program buyer your district has ever seen.

Befriend with Your Food Service Distributor

When you’re planning meals that will feed all of the kids in your district, you don’t have time to watch crop forecasts and decide in March whether the dollars that you’re committing to ground beef, for example, will get you the cases that you’re expecting. Your food service distributor, however, absolutely can and does. By talking to them about your needs, you can get a sense, for example, of whether or not you need to transfer dollars to more versatile and less expensive products.

Don’t Forget Storage and Delivery Fees

When you’re comparing commercial bid costs versus USDA costs, it can be easy to forget, and just look at the price of the food. But remember that the USDA billing also includes delivery costs, which can mean that it’s less of a bargain than you think, when compared to your commercial bid.

This is an area where great food service software can help you project your budget cost for different recipes using different suppliers. Plug in all your numbers, and see where your savings really lie.

Keep Costs Down by Avoiding Waste

With many USDA suppliers, you’re looking at monthly delivery, which means that ingredients are often frozen until they’re needed. This is a great way to keep food fresh until you’re ready to use it, as long as it doesn’t get pushed to the back of the freezer and forgotten.

If you can keep track of your inventory, you can better plan recipes that will use up the ingredients in the freezer before their use-by dates, reducing waste and keeping your kitchen costs reasonable. Great food service software should always help you manage your inventory and seamlessly transition ingredients into recipe calculations.

Be Wary of Stale Advice

If you’re browsing industry blogs, and you find someone suggesting that chicken is going to be a great buy this year, or that cheese is the magical ingredient that will stretch all of your meals without bringing up costs, keep a close eye on the dates on the posts. While this advice might have been true last school year, for example, it might not be true today.

As a food service program buyer, it’s important for you to always be ready to change your approach to the program. Of course, to really understand what your recipes cost, and how much is used versus how much is discarded, you need good data to survey. High quality food service software can help you gather that data, so that you’re making the most of your food budget.

School lunch programs in the United States feed almost 32 million children a year, contributing to their overall health, wellness, and education. Kids who are well fed learn better, have fewer disciplinary problems, and in general are healthier. By crafting lunch programs that meet their nutritional needs but are also delicious and enjoyable, school lunch buyers become part of a lifelong relationship with food.

When you and your district choose great software to manage your inventory, your recipe creation, and your billing, you make an incredibly complex job substantially easier.

What tips have made you a better buyer for your school lunch program?

Reduce Loss with Food and Beverage Cost Control Software

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Some amount of loss is unavoidable in the restaurant industry. Dishes get spilled, or contaminated, or something goes off before you expect it to. Those are some of the costs of doing business in food service. But there are many other ways that loss happens in the food service industry that are much more controllable. By utilizing food and beverage cost control software, you can minimize loss in your kitchen, get costs under control, and help to ensure that your business is profitable.

Monitor Margins

The restaurant and food service industry, more than any other type of business, often operates on razor thin margins. Saving just a few cents on a dish can be the difference between profit and loss. For a restaurant to really know if it’s succeeding or not, it’s important to have a very clear idea of the actual cost of each dish, so that you can make sure it’s being prepared, served, and charged appropriately. If you’re consistently losing a small amount of useable ingredients in every preparation of a meal, that will have a dramatic effect on your bottom line.

Internal Loss

It’s an unfortunate truth that the largest source of loss in any business is internal. Very little of it is malicious, but merely, an opportunity taken. By having processes in place that encourage employees to report all losses as they occur, you are able to keep more accurate inventories, which helps you to create the perception of being watched. Many studies have shown that most people will behave more honestly when know they are being observed. Food and beverage cost control software can help create that perception, and reduce internal loss.

Avoid Spoilage

How often have you reached into your kitchen’s pantry and found an item that you’d absolutely forgotten? One of the important features of great food and beverage cost control software is inventory control. By using software that keeps track of what’s where in your kitchen, you’ll be able to keep track of which foods need to move quickly through the kitchen to avoid being spoiled. You can create dishes which will use up overstock, or put them on special to encourage people to choose them.

Reporting Components

With a small food service business, you might be able to track the basics of your sales and inventory, but as your business gets more complex, it’s impossible to keep track of this without some kind of software; there’s just too much data. Instead of opting for a less specialized software, choose one that will work specifically for your restaurant business. If nothing else, cost control software specialized for the food and beverage industry will have great reporting components that will help you to zero in on where your profits are being lost. The right cost control formulas will help you make sure that you have enough profit margin to keep your business running and profitable, and take a weight off your mind.

Excellent Integration

Don’t waste your time with a software that is going to require you to switch over your accounting programs, or duplicate your work in order to help you out. Make sure that the software you choose fully integrates with your existing data and accounting programs for a truly seamless kitchen software experience. Your time is valuable, and you shouldn’t waste it on busy work.

When you’re looking for a high quality food and beverage cost control software, look for one that combines all of these features to make sure that your kitchen is seamlessly efficient, minimizes loss, and has a clear and consistent understanding of how everything is running.

3 ways FoodCo Makes Running Your Kitchen a Thousand Times Easier

Restaurant owners understand the importance of special dishes that draw in customers. They don’t have to be fancy–some restaurants have drawn attention for doing very simple things exquisitely well–but they do have be delicious, and presented in a beautiful way.

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Two things that can seriously harm a restaurant business are running out of the necessary ingredients to make their signature dishes, and not having enough of a regular supply to create signature dishes in the first place. Software like FoodCo can help restaurant owners and managers perfect their ordering and inventory management.

Find out what the customer favorites really are

If you’re relying on the reports of chefs and servers, unfortunately, you won’t have an accurate picture of which dishes and drinks are truly selling out. With the slick and easy to learn FoodCo software, you’ll be able to accurately plan your menu, and track what’s making you money and what isn’t. You’ll be able to determine which of your recipes are the most cost effective with food and beverage cost control reports, and push them with specials and exciting events.

FoodCo also helps you by:

  • Calculating increases as you scale up. The art of creating that single serving; let the software do the hard work of figuring out how much more you need when you’re serving an entire dining room.
  • Engineering your next menu. Make it easier to compile the necessary information that keeps your menu up to date and fresh. You could do it by hand, but why in the world would you if you didn’t have to?

Make sure you never run out of key ingredients

Keeping a clean and well run kitchen is important for many reasons, and not the least of which is knowing exactly which ingredients you need to order, and which ones are in surplus. With the inventory control elements of FoodCo, you’ll always know exactly what is available, and when you need to reorder. You’ll avoid disappointing a diner who came in hoping for their favorite dish, and had to be told to choose something else. You’ll be able to plan for ingredients that are reaching the end of their shelf life with special sales or promotions.

FoodCo includes the ability to:

  • Maintain a comprehensive inventory database, so that you always know exactly what’s in your kitchen and bar.
  • Compare prices, to make sure that you’re always getting the best possible price from your vendors. The restaurant business lives and breathes tiny margins, and every cent counts.
  • Run your kitchen more smoothly because your vision will be complete.

Seamless integration with the software you already use

If FoodCo sounds like a great concept, but the headache of yet another system for your servers and kitchen staff to manage is just too much, keep reading. FoodCo integrates seamlessly with the software you already use, including:

  • Point-of-sale (POS)
  • Vendor and supplier systems
  • Accounts payable and receivable
  • PDA Hand-held devices

FoodCo isn’t here to make running your kitchen harder; it’s here to simplify the experience as much as possible.

When you’re planning out your restaurant, don’t forget the many benefits of FoodCo to keeping your kitchen operational without headaches. From food and beverage cost calculations to inventory reports to menu planning, FoodCo makes everything simple. Contact us today to find out what FoodCo can do for your business.

Four reasons why you shouldn’t be using a spreadsheet to Manage your Restaurant

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There was a time that the humble spreadsheet was the go-to tool for handling the large amounts of data associated with running a restaurant. However, as technology changes, new and more efficient methods of handling that data have emerged, including integrated systems that can deal with this data in a more secure and effective manner.

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But using a spreadsheet is not simply outdated, it can even be dangerous for your business! Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t be using a spreadsheet to manage your restaurant.

They are useless for tracking changeable quantities

Before we get too negative, it is worth pointing out that spreadsheets are actually pretty good at doing what they are designed to do, which is tracking fixed and discrete parcels of data over time.

What they are not good at, however, is tracking changeable quantities, and this is where their service falls apart. If you run a restaurant business, you’re going to have plenty of changeable quantities, such as wholesaler ingredient prices and stock volumes. It takes a lot of manual work to keep track of these quantities and to keep your spreadsheet up to date, and you should count yourself lucky if no errors slip through the net!

An integrated system that tracks your suppliers’ prices and updates your records accordingly will eliminate this risk.

They are prone to data corruption

Data corruption in a spreadsheet is like the Alien in the movie with Sigourney Weaver; it is difficult to track, difficult to identify (until it’s too late) and can cause untold damage. Data corruption occurs when the wrong information is logged into the system. This information is then fed through calculation after calculation until it has spread like a virus and corrupted all of your data.

Corrupted data leads to a reduction in profit, which can do tremendous harm to your business if left unchecked. The key to avoiding such a catastrophe is not to use a spreadsheet at all, instead opting for a system which is less vulnerable and can analyze discrepancies quickly and effectively, rooting out the cause of the corruption automatically.

It can take ages to correct an error

Restaurant businesses need to handle vast amounts of data. Inputting and then maintaining this data in a spreadsheet is a cumbersome and unwieldy process and can make identifying mistakes or discrepancies in the data difficult. It might be hours or even days before you realize something is up with your spreadsheet, by which time a great deal of costly damage has already been done.

Unless you plan to employ a team of people to scour your spreadsheet on a daily basis, checking and re-checking for errors, it is very difficult to root out potentially harmful discrepancies. If the wrong quantity is added or the data is corrupted, this error becomes buried in the spreadsheet when the next set of data is added, and then concealed again by the next set and so on. It is still there, messing up your calculations, but it is difficult to find and put right.

Integrated data handling systems make it far easier to find errors in inputted data, and can correct these errors in no time.

They are inefficient

Maintaining a spreadsheet is labor-intensive and requires direct human input to record data. This in itself is an inefficient process, and ties up a member, or members, of your staff that could be working on other, more useful tasks.

The amount of labor increases when you’re trying to find and rectify a problem with your data. Your team will need to waste valuable working hours scouring the data and trying to salvage as much as possible, and the whole process will become an exercise in damage limitation.

In order to boost efficiency and maximize profits, restaurant businesses need to move away from traditional spreadsheets. Integrated systems analyze and handle data more effectively, updating automatically and freeing up extra working hours that can be spent on other areas of your business.

Additional information: Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

FOOD service software |food-costing software by FoodCo

We help you find Lost Profit | save Money |MAXIMIZe PROFITS

 www.foodcosoftware.com | @FoodcoSoftware

Six Ways to Keep your Restaurant from Eating All Your Profits

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Waste can take a big bite out of any restaurant’s profit. That’s why food and beverage cost control is vital, no matter how well the business is doing in terms of clientele and volume.

Keeping track of everything takes time, especially if you’ve been relying on the old fashioned spreadsheet or a clipboard — and when you’re running a restaurant, time is in short supply. These days, good restaurant management software that can aid in a variety of tracking, including food and beverage cost control formulas, is a necessity.

Restaurant software that delivers food and beverage cost control can help in a variety of ways that a spreadsheet cannot.

Full  Integration

Worried that new software might not be compatible with what you’re using now? A good program will be compatible with many systems.

Programs designed specifically for restaurants can integrate some of those processes and update information across a range of tasks without multiple entries. You’ll be able to spot and fix problem areas more easily, too.

Planning

Food service experts will tell you that planning and documenting plating instructions, ordering and receiving procedures, prep work necessities, and serving standards can help cut your food cost dramatically. Menu planning software helps make it easy to scale recipes, control your inventory, automatically calculate ingredient requirements, and create cost and volume projections.

You’ll find that the reduction in duplicated tasks for menu planning frees you from being bogged down in paperwork.

 Inventory

Food software applications designed specifically for restaurants, catering and hospitality businesses, food service management and institutional feeding businesses can cut costs exponentially. Features such as creating an audit trail for your accounting team, keeping inventory updated, tracking deliveries, are all right at your fingertips.

You’ll also be able to set benchmarks to show progress toward your goals, and best of all, you will be able to reduce costs through better tracking, waste reduction and more efficient ordering.

Costing

Sticking with a prime vendor might help you with food cost control, but not all restaurant owners have that luxury. With the right integrated food service management software, you can compare prices from various vendors to get the best deals while you plan meals or track your inventory. That makes cost and volume projections a snap, especially if you need to scale up a recipe on short notice for a special event.

Just think — no more worrying about whether you’re charging the right amount. With the right software to do the calculations for you quickly and easily, you can order that extra sauce with confidence.

Reports

If your restaurant seems to be attracting the right volume of customers, but swallowing profits whole, food and beverage cost control reports can lead you straight to the source of the loss.

Progress Monitoring

Once you’ve identified a problem area and instituted changes, food costing software keeps track of how well the changes are working. Features like cost-to-profit ratios and customized worksheets that break down your procedures step by step, remove the guesswork.

The right food and beverage cost control formulas will help you minimize unnecessary losses, and it can reduce the time you spend searching for the cause of lost profits.  Look for food and beverage cost control software that offers integration with your existing data & accounting systems, your stockroom devices, and your POS software, and you’ll find your profits — and quite possibly your free time — will move in the right direction.

FOOD service software |food-costing software by FoodCo

We help you find Lost Profit | save Money |MAXIMIZe PROFITS

www.foodcosoftware.com | @FoodcoSoftware