Expert Interview – Take-out Tips to Increase Restaurant Sales

Increased demand for meal delivery means big business for those restaurants that do it right! One often overlooked but critical aspect of a successful restaurant delivery or take-out program is the packaging. For this month’s Expert Interview I teamed up with Dade Paper Marketing Assistant, Kayley Holloway.  We spoke with Lynn Sosnowski, an Inside Sales Consultant with specialization in foodservice packaging. With almost 20 years of experience in helping customers source packaging for their restaurants and grocery stores, Lynn has a passion for finding the perfect solution every time. Lynn joined Dade Paper in early 2015 and currently serves customers in the Tri-State region.

LC: How big is the delivery and take-out market in the US?

LS: It is over $70 billion a year! And that number is expected to grow fueled by our “on-demand” culture. This includes food that is picked up by the customer, delivered by a restaurant employee and those orders that are placed via an online service and delivered by that same service.

KH: Delivery is really popular with Millennials, especially the online ordering services.

LS: That is correct. According to the National Restaurant Association, 80% of Millennials have meals delivered on a regular basis compared to 60% of other adult age groups.

LC: Why is packaging such an important element of a restaurant’s delivery and take-out program?

LS: Customers expect a restaurant-quality experience even if they are eating their meals at home or at their office. Operators will be much more successful in this competitive segment by investing in quality packaging and developing the right assembly process which protects the taste, temperature and appearance of their food. It only takes one bad experience for a customer to take their business elsewhere.

KH: What advice do you have for a restaurant manager that wants to improve their customers’ delivery or take-out experience?

LS:  This is what I recommend to my customers:

  • Separate hot and cold foods into their own containers to keep items at their proper temperature.
  • Choose your packaging based on your specific menu items. Use containers with various compartments to keep sides from mixing with entrées. Make sure your containers have a tight lid-fit to protect against leaking. Vented containers allow for steam to escape and help prevent food from becoming soggy. Microwavable containers are handy for customers who wish to reheat food.
  • Use the correct size container for each application. One size does not fit all! If the container is too large, the food will shift and could break apart. If the container is too small, the food will be crowded and will be prone to leak.
  • Choose the right ancillary items. Bags must allow for containers to stack neatly inside which will prevent tipping. The bags should also be the right weight and have sturdy handles that ensure safe carrying. Wrapped cutlery kits keep the cutlery and napkins sanitary. The correct soufflé cups will keep condiments, dressings and toppings intact.
  • Brand your packaging. By adding your logo to containers, bags, cups and napkins you reinforce your brand. Also include your phone number, website and social media information so customers can connect with you.

LC: Are there any other trends that should be considered?

LS:  Yes, consider environmentally-preferable packaging and supplies. Many customers are interested in sustainability and patronize like-minded establishments. However, there is a lot of confusion about what types of packaging items are truly more sustainable.

LC: Absolutely. One issue I often see is the use of compostable packaging where no composting facilities exist. If the packaging ends up in a landfill that “compostable” attribute is no longer advantageous.  Hopefully there will be more commercial composting facilities available in the future which would allow those items to be diverted from the landfill.

LS:  That is why I recommend choosing containers made from PETE, Resin ID Code 1.  That type of plastic is the most commonly recycled in both residential and commercial recycling programs. There are also containers made from recycled resin or recycled pulp material.

LS: In summary, an experienced supplier partner will be able to design a packaging program around a restaurant’s menu, brand image, budget and any other specific business requirements. That is what we do and why I enjoy my job so much. I have always felt pride and gratification in knowing that a customer’s needs have been satisfied and that they are happy with the end result.  I do not rest until that is accomplished.

Lynn is available to consult with restaurateurs about their take-out packaging program. She can be reached at lsosnowski@dadepaper.com.

 

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Expert Interview – Creating a Safety Culture

Safety matters! No matter the company size or industry, from hotels to office buildings, employers who show they care about the safety of their employees see improved morale, increased productivity, lower costs and, most importantly, fewer injuries. For this month’s Expert Interview I spoke to Ken Morris, Dade Paper’s Corporate Director of Safety. Ken has 30 years’ experience in workplace safety including positions as driver trainer, fleet manager and workplace safety consultant. In 2008 Ken joined Dade Paper and oversees all aspects of the company’s comprehensive safety program.

LC: Why is a formal safety program important for all businesses?

KM: Formal safety programs lay the ground work and set the basic directions for the workplace. Without them, there are no markers for the path. People often say that the OSHA standards or the Federal Motor Carrier regulations are all a company needs…after all they are the laws of the land, but they are only the bare minimum. In today’s workplace, we require more robust frameworks for a continually evolving work environment. Formal safety practices give stability to address changing needs of the workplace.

LC: What has changed over the last few years as far as safety programs?

KM: There has been huge shift in the philosophical view of safety in the workplace. In the past, safety has been perceived as a separate facet of the operation with different goals and agenda. Now safety is viewed as an integral part of the everyday process. Simply put, safety must be incorporated and managed just like any other part of our business.

LC: What changes do you see coming in the next few years?

KM: Technology, technology and more technology is an ongoing trend. Ninety-three percent of all accidents involve human error. The developing safety technologies work with humans to help identify hazards and prevent “mistakes” from happening and help mitigate the effects when an accident cannot be avoided. A good example of this is our current project with the company’s commercial motor vehicles. We are currently installing two high-tech devices in all of our trucks. The first device, called Mobileye, is basically an early-warning system that alerts our drivers to potentially dangerous traffic conditions, giving them time to avoid accidents. The second device, SmartDrive, is a video event recorder that is triggered by actions such as harsh braking, lane departures, following too closely and impacts. It records both the scene in front of the truck and the driver simultaneously. These recorded events are reviewed and used, if needed, to coach the driver much like a pro sport team reviewing game films. These two devices work together to protect our drivers and the public on the roadway. The ultimate goal is using technology to make a safer driver.

LC: What advice can you give a company that is creating a safety program for the first time?

KM: It is easy to put a safety program into writing, but much harder to make it work in the real world. You must have commitment from ALL levels to make it successful. Personal responsibility and accountability is hugely important and you must be consistent in the message you are sending your employees. Many workplace accidents occur when people are trying to get a job done quickly, or feel like there is pressure to produce, and they short-cut safety procedures. If this happens, the message was not understood or taken seriously. Safety is a basic function of all work and an integral part of everyday processes.

LC: What advice can you give a company that wants to improve their existing safety program?

KM: Safety in the workplace is daunting proposition. The risks are always evolving, so the safety program must be vigilant. Never assume that doing the same thing in regard to safety over the last 5, 10, or 15 years is enough. Always access the situations and be open to new ways of controlling risks.

LC: Any other thoughts on workplace safety?

KM: Safety is always a challenge. By definition, accidents are undesirable or unfortunate happenings that occurs unintentionally and usually result in harm, injury, damage, or loss. Our safety programs must try to anticipate the unintentional, control the undesirable and mitigate the unfortunate in a dynamic fast-paced and ever-changing work environment. We must create and nurture a SAFETY CULTURE. To do this, every person must practice safety as a routine function that takes precedence over every other task in the workplace. Every person, at every level, CANNOT accept anything less than safe work practices from every other person. That is what defines a safety culture. A safety culture in the workplace promotes personal responsibility for safety, and fosters, by its very nature a safe environment for everyone.

For helpful safety resources visit the National Safety Council’s website www.nsc.org.

 

Expert Interview – Warewashing for Shining Results

Foodservice and hospitality operators know the importance of warewashing, the process by which dishes, glassware, cutlery, and pots and pans are cleaned and sanitized. Not only is this process crucial to complying with health regulations, it also impacts the establishment’s customer satisfaction and reputation. For this month’s Expert Interview, I spoke to Terry Rogers, Chemical Sales Manager for Dade Paper. Terry has 40 years of experience in assisting foodservice operators with warewashing and other kitchen sanitation processes. He has been part of the Dade Paper team for 15 years.

LC:  Washing dishes seems like a pretty simple task. People do it every day at home. Why is this process more complicated for restaurants and other foodservice establishments?

TR: Warewashing, whether manual or automatic, is crucial to the sanitation of dishes and utensils which helps keep people healthy. Health Departments inspect foodservice operations on a regular basis and the warewashing process is part of those inspections. Three-compartment sinks, four-compartment in some states, are mandatory. Commercial dish washers are not required, but they are beneficial in that they provide labor savings and increase productivity. Both systems have strict guidelines that must be followed. Violations are costly and today they are made public.

LC: What are some of the challenges that operators have with this process?

TR: Space, or the lack of space, is a common challenge as is time during peak hours. Dishwashing staff may be tempted to rush through the process to keep up with the amount of dishes and other items they need to wash. But each step in the process is important and must be completed correctly to ensure everything not only looks clean, but is clean and sanitary.

The wash cycle requires time and detergent. The rinse cycle requires time and hot water, specifically 180 degrees or 160 degrees on the surface of the dish. Then the items must be sanitized in the proper parts-per-million solution to kill germs before drying.

Another common challenge is water spotting during the drying time. This has an impact on the patrons’ perception of cleanliness.

LC: I agree. If I see spots or even worse, lipstick residue, on a glass my opinion of that establishment is negatively affected.

TR: There is a fairly simple way to resolve this issue. A rinse additive can be used that allows the water to “sheet” off of the surfaces leaving spot-free results.

LC: If an operator invests in a commercial dish washer, does this eliminate the challenges you mentioned?

TR: A dish machine can be a good investment, especially for larger or busier establishments. The machine does complete the steps automatically but there are still proper procedures that must be followed. The correct chemicals must be used and the machine racks must be loaded properly. There are also procedures for handling and storage of the clean dishes to ensure they are ready for the next use. And, routine service is required to ensure the machine is operating according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Failure in just one area of operations can result in poor sanitation of the dishes.

LC: What advice can you offer an operator to help them better manage their warewashing program?

TR: Training is the key as well as reinforcement of that training by displaying multi-lingual wall-charts with pictograms. An experienced supplier partner will provide training to kitchen staff on the entire warewashing process, whether it is manual or automatic. The right type of equipment, the right chemicals, and the right steps in process must be explained. The supplier can help the kitchen manager select the best warewashing method and equipment based on volume, space, and other operational considerations. There are many options available today and one size does not fit all. If cost is a concern, there are equipment rental and leasing programs that are budget-friendly.

Also, if a dish machine is in use, having that machine properly maintained by a qualified technician is important as is the availability of emergency service. If the machine has a mechanical issue, the faster it is repaired the better.

If managed correctly, warewashing can become a smooth process allowing the operator to focus more time on their cuisine and delighting their guests.

Terry Rogers is available to consult with customers about warewashing program, equipment options and proper procedures. Terry can be reached at trogers@dadepaper.com.

Expert Interview – Chain Restaurant Challenges and Solutions

Americans love dining out. Sometimes it’s for a quick bite and other times it’s a leisurely meal with friends and family. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Pocket Factbook, restaurant industry sales are expected to grow to $782 billion in 2016. Many of the fastest growing restaurants are part of multi-unit operations, or chains, and they have unique challenges. For the March Expert Interview I spoke with Andrew Paton, Dade Paper’s Director of National Accounts. Andrew has 15 years of experience working with restaurants, including chain headquarters, helping them improve operations.

LC: You have been working closely with multi-location restaurant operators for many years. What is one big change you have seen recently?

AP: There has been a surge in new fast-casual concepts that focus on fresh and natural food served fast with a focus on the lunch crowd. These QSR-Plus concepts often start locally and then, when successful, expand nationally. The elevated “fast food” menus appeal to today’s diners who are looking for a good meal, on the go, at reasonable prices.

LC: What are the current challenges for these QSR-Plus restaurants?

AP: Uniformity across franchised locations can be challenging. It is important that their branding remain consistent regardless if the store is in New York or Miami. For example, it can be difficult to ensure that each location is able to buy the same products at the same prices throughout the franchise concept. This is where a multi-location supply chain program can help. An experienced distribution partner can facilitate the entire process beginning with sourcing and inventory management of branded items and all the way through to store-door delivery and management reporting.

Food safety is another current hot topic. Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster. In the age of the internet one bad health inspection or outbreak could give a franchise concept a black eye system wide. My advice is to create a food safety audit for franchisees to utilize on a weekly basis. Keep it simple. You don’t need fifty cleaning chemicals to get the job done. Again, use the knowledge of an experienced distributor partner. They can help create an inexpensive and effective cleaning protocol for new and existing franchisees to follow.

LC: What are current opportunities for these companies?

AP: Focusing on catering is great strategy for organic growth in sales. A small investment in good quality catering packaging and promotion of a catering menu to current customers can have a positive result on the bottom line. Every type of restaurant, from pizzerias to BBQ restaurants, has the capacity to offer a catering menu. The opportunity is there and at little risk.

LC: What additional advice can you share?

AP: Separate takeout/delivery packaging from your left-over packaging. Customers appreciate the value of good quality takeout packaging that keeps the food looking and tasting great. How many times have you spent $50 or more on takeout or delivered meals for your family only to open it and find wet, soggy food in a leaky container that was delivered in a thin plastic “thank you” bag. It is not very appetizing! Bottom line is that the right packaging can make a huge difference in customer satisfaction resulting in repeat business.

If cost is a concern, find one inexpensive container that is used only for dine-in customers’ leftovers and make the investment in takeout packaging to increase sales.

LC: What trend should restaurant operators consider now?

AP: Environmentally-preferable packaging is becoming more and more prevalent. Years ago, when the green movement was catching on, the products were limited and very costly. Over the years they have become more affordable and there are an increasing number of options. Recycled and recyclable packaging are popular and in some instances compostable packaging is a great fit. Depending on the situation and the type of food there are a variety of solutions.

Andrew and his team of restaurant-segment managers are available to consult with businesses about improving restaurant operations through both packaging and sanitation products and procedures. Andrew can be reached at apaton@dadepaper.com.

 

Expert Interview – Supply Chain Efficiencies

This month I spoke with Bert Jorge, Dade Paper’s Director of Redistribution and Export Sales. Bert has over 30 years of experience in supply chain management and has worked for regional and national redistribution companies that sell foodservice and janitorial supplies. Bert joined Dade Paper in 2006 and has been instrumental in the company’s success and growth as a leading redistribution organization.

LC: Please explain the term “redistribution.”

BJ: Redistribution is a logistics model that takes place when a manufacturer sells large quantities of their products to Distributor A, in this case the “redistributor”, who then sells those products to the smaller Distributor B who in turn sells to an end user.

LC: How does adding an extra step in the supply chain provide value?

BJ: Redistribution provides benefits to everyone in the supply chain including manufacturers, distributors and ultimately the end users.

Manufacturers benefit by being able to penetrate new markets via a redistributor who has extensive geographic coverage. They can ship full truckloads into a given market rather than multiple, small shipments which saves both operational and freight costs.

The smaller distributors benefit by gaining access to a broad range of products from many manufacturers. It is more efficient to consolidate their ordering from one source, the redistributor. This eliminates the need to meet high minimum orders from the manufacturers and helps maximize inventory turns. All of these advantages lead to reduced costs and allow smaller distributors to offer competitively priced goods to the end users.

Here are a couple of illustrations that may help demonstrate the concept:

Without Redi

 

With redi

LC: I see how this model works, especially for distributors that sell thousands of different products which is common in the foodservice and janitorial supply industry.

BJ: Yes, the financial implications based on inventory turns alone make the business model work.

LC: What changes have you seen in this industry over the last few years?

BJ:  Consolidation, mergers and acquisitions have been prevalent in our industry at the manufacturer, redistribution, distribution and end user levels. Another big change has been the increase in online sales from traditional and non-traditional distributors in the supply chain.

LC: How has that impacted the marketplace?

BJ: The small to medium size distributors are experiencing more difficulties in this new era of larger players along with online competition. But this landscape reinforces the value of redistribution. Change is always challenging, but change also creates opportunities for the companies that stay current with trends and are equipped to take advantage of the shifts in the marketplace.

And, as in many industries, margins are squeezed forcing companies to be more efficient and cut costs where possible.

LC: What advice can you offer?

BJ: Some redistributors and distributors have chosen to reduce costs by downsizing their sales force. However, this leaves a void in providing the consultative services needed, especially in the janitorial segment when we’re dealing with chemicals and machinery.

Online purchasing offers convenience and efficiency but without qualified people to answer questions and help customers solve problems, the end users may end up with products that do not work. To take cost out of doing business at the expense of not providing the required level of professional service, I believe, is a mistake. Blending technology and efficient operations along with excellent customer service is the key. It is not easy, but when done correctly everyone benefits.

 Bert and his team of redistribution experts are available to consult with companies on the benefits of this unique supply chain model. He can be reached at bjorge@dadepaper.com.

 

Expert Interview – Increasing Floor Care Productivity

Expert Interview – Increasing Floor Care Productivity 

The New Year often brings new budgets and goals for reducing costs while improving productivity. For January’s Expert Interview I spoke with Jim Lety, Dade Paper’s Regional Director of Janitorial Sales and a champion of productivity initiatives. With over 25 years of experience in the janitorial industry, Jim has held positions with distribution companies, national marketing organizations, chemical manufacturers and a floor equipment manufacturer. For the last 11 years, he has been part of the Dade Paper team progressing through the sales management ranks to a senior leadership role.

LC: What are the major changes that you have seen in recent years that impact facility managers?

JL: Microfiber technology has been a game changer in the cleaning industry. These specialized mop heads and cloths attract and hold soil, absorb seven times their weight in liquid, are not susceptible to quaternary binding, and can be washed hundreds of times.

Another important advancement has been in battery technology. AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) batteries are now used in auto scrubbers. They are safer, lighter, and more reliable compared to standard lead acid batteries. They also charge five times faster. Lithium ion batteries are now used in many vacuums and have eliminated the need for power cords which increases productivity.

LC: Saving time is a big factor.

JL: Yes, facility managers are now required to do more with less. They have additional square footage to maintain yet their budgets have been cut and they have fewer employees. That is their biggest concern today.

LC: What can they do to address that issue?

JL: Understanding proper cleaning procedures, including the use of power equipment, to increase productivity is paramount. I often compare floor care to lawn care. Lawn care companies have a trailer full of equipment and just two people in the truck. They complete each job quickly and move on to the next. Now think about a janitor’s closet. In most you will find a lot of mop buckets and wringers and if you’re lucky a walk-behind scrubber. But cleaning 15,000 square feet of flooring with a mop and bucket takes a very long time. It would be like a groundskeeper using scissors to cut grass. The answer is to increase productivity with proper education on the use of chemicals and the introduction of rider floor care equipment.

LC: That makes sense, but what about the cost?

JL: Rider equipment pays for itself. There is a minimum 20% increase in productivity compared to a walk-behind scrubber and 500% productivity increase over a mop. New models are available in smaller sizes as well. Micro-riders have the same foot print as a 20 inch walk behind. We have productivity calculators that can determine the ROI based on square footage, frequency of cleaning, and the hourly wage of the crew. It is an investment that really pays off.

LC: Sustainability is a hot topic right now. How does floor care fit into a green cleaning program?

JL: Manufacturers of floor care equipment have been tasked with creating equipment that fits into a green cleaning program. The use of orbital technology prevents cleaning solutions from “slinging” out, or spraying into the area being cleaned. This type of equipment also uses 50-70% less water and chemicals compared to conventional scrubbers. Chemical-free stripping is another process that is ideal in education and healthcare facilities where indoor air quality is critical.

LC: What is something a facilities manager can do today to improve their operations?

JL: Consult with a knowledgeable supplier about their challenges. There are many new cleaning technologies on the market today that can save time and money and produce better results. Also, never trade service for price. Expect both and partner with a supplier that provides the overall best value.

Jim Lety and his team are available to consult with customers about floor care and facilities maintenance programs. Jim can be reached at jlety@dadepaper.com.

Expert Interview – Improving Restaurant Operations

Restaurants are a huge part of the U.S. economy and according to the National Restaurant Association represent $700 billion in annual sales and employ 14 million people. They are the last stop in a complex supply chain of food products, supplies, and equipment before the finished product reaches the end consumer. Mitch Irvine has been part of that supply chain for over 25 years. He has held positions with a broadline food distributor, a manufacturer of foodservice disposables, and for the last 8 years Mitch has served as the Regional Sales Director for Dade Paper with a focus on the restaurant segment.

LC: You have been involved in supplying the restaurant market for a long time. What are some major changes that you have seen in recent years that impact restaurants?

MI: There are several major changes that have impacted restaurants in recent years. The economic downturn, corporate chain influence, local restaurateur pushback to that influence and the ever changing desire of the American palette for new and unique concepts and foods.

The economic downturn in 2008 reshaped the restaurant landscape and caused most all underperforming operations to simply shut down, leaving the strong, savvy operators to improve their game to attract the shrinking market share of Americans’ with discretionary income.  As we have seen the rise of higher-quality fast casuals begin to dominate, it began putting the large traditional fast-food operators against the ropes.

And, as we have seen the more popular concept chains grow, their influence in the market resulted in others try to mimic their success.  I personally have seen local operators take their shot and life savings to make their own dream concept a reality, only to be buried by incompetent work staff and low-priced products producing a mediocre experience.  This is a toxic blend of circumstances that yield a quick collapse of their concept.  This goes to the belief that it is imperative to bring your best to market and your customers will know the difference between a penny-pinching operator and one that sees value in growing their business with a quality approach.

As the successful local restaurateur sees their peers fail, they learn from those mistakes and sharpen their skills.  They offer locally-sourced, healthful foods that attract the consumer that is eager to support their local economy, yet demands quality over a cheap meal.

Finally, the consumer does know the difference between quality and those products that are pushed as a price point. The restaurateur that cannot see or understand that distinction is destined for extinction.

LC: What are the major concerns of restaurateurs today and what solutions are available?

MI: Some major concerns of restaurateurs are tighter health regulations and changing consumer behavior.

There was a recent e coli breakout that showed even the strictest of corporate mainstream systems implemented into the restaurant sanitation process are not foolproof and can have disastrous results.  Operators today need to dial in to their systems in a much more focused manner, especially their sanitation program. Their reputation hinges on delivering a quality experience and a deadly pathogen outbreak that reaches the news outlets can permanently destroy their reputation.

Recently, we were asked to assist an operator in the aftermath of an e coli breakout. We were able to provide a medical grade hand wash that was required by the local health department directly after their shutdown. That is an extreme case, so for those operators that have been fortunate enough to avoid a pathogen outbreak, implementing a strong and rigorous hand wash procedure is the best defense against these enemies.

Along with hand washing, cleaning the dining tables and surfaces that are touched by food with quaternary based products provide the pinnacle for success in deterring outbreaks.  And, sanitizing the dishware and glasses with either a chlorine or quaternary based product or high temperature sanitation, is not only a health department regulation, but also the only options to assure the health of the guests.

LC: Having a knowledgeable partner to help select those products is important.

MI: Yes it is. That’s our job.

LC: Tell me more about the changes you have seen from the consumer standpoint.

MI: Americans are becoming busier every day, resulting in an ever-growing take-home meals market.  Restaurateurs need to distinguish themselves not only with the quality of their food, but also the packaging. Destination quality is paramount in today’s “to go” orders. Quality packaging speaks to the pride that the operators put into their food. If the package works well, seals properly, fit into the bag, nests comfortably amongst the other packaging, etc., the customer experience will be positive and operational efficiencies will improve. Customers will return more often and not with a dry cleaner’s bill in hand due to a leaky container.

LC: What are a few things that a restaurateur can do today to improve their operations?

MI: Providing the cleanest possible atmosphere and environment will help edge out the lazy competitor who skimps on the level of quality required to deliver that experience.  By using the most modern tools and equipment such as microfibers and closed-loop chemical management systems, the operator will see improved productivity and higher levels of cleanliness.  And, best practices as a part of their systems will stretch out the returns even further such as a cleaning checklist that is followed closely and managed daily by the operator or someone diligent and trustworthy to follow through with the work.

Another immediate change a restaurateur can implement today is focus on their customer. They need to invest their time in ways to draw more customers into their establishment and repeat those visits as often as possible.  By delivering a top notch experience, quality food, sanitary facilities and pleasant staff, the restaurateur can build on each satisfied customer one at a time.  We often encounter the operator that spends time away from their business looking for low-cost supplies from cash and carry outlets rather than trusting an experienced supplier to help them identify the best product for their situation.  Cost is often a concern so we show them how to get the best value while ensuring that customers are happy and enjoy their experience.

Mitch Irvine and his team of restaurant segment specialists are available to consult with restaurateurs on a variety of topics. He can be reached at mirvine@dadepaper.com .