New research shows that texting is the most economical and successful way to increase the number of local customers coming to restaurants and foodservice establishments. It tops digital coupons, social media and traditional email marketing because it’s inexpensive and quick, and it’s emerged as the preferred way of communicating by almost one-half of respondents in a MarketingSherpa study. In addition, text messages have a 98 percent open rate versus 19.8 percent for email, says marketing firm Epsilon. With the majority of the population using cell phones, and with text message usage increasing from 7.2 billion sent in 2005 to 75 billion in 2008, foodservice professionals would be wise to encourage their customers to give their cell phone numbers to receive last-minute specials and incentives like free desserts or food items. It’s working for restaurants like Scotty P’s Hamburgers, the Dallas-based operator of seven casual-dining restaurants in Texas. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the owner reports redemption rates of 12 percent after only one month.
LEARNING FROM A MASTER
Ever wonder what the secrets are to Danny Meyer’s successful restaurant empire, which includes Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Shake Shack and The Modern? Now you can find out. In March, he launched Hospitality Quotient to offer highly interactive classes and training programs aimed at improving customer service. The classes and programs are tailored to individuals, corporations and organizations in a variety of industries—not just restaurants.Classes offered in New York City include Creating a Great Work Environment and Hospitality and Service, which teaches participants how to create a distinctive edge by making hospitality the centerpiece of their business model. Longer programs can be customized to business objectives. No time for a class right now? Dive into Meyer’s book Setting the Table, which details the importance of customer service and its impact on his success.
SUSTAINABLE SAMPLING SPOONS
Tastings are a powerful way to move product, but the tasting spoons that go along with them are a landfill nightmare. Not anymore. SpoonLidz LLC, in Larkspur, Calif., creator of SpoonLidz, (a sustainable over-lid, which converts to sanitary, sturdy spoons), has introduced a line of U.S.-made EcoTensils to make tastings green. Made from biodegradable paperboard, these spoons have a moisture-barrier coating giving structural strength, but they use less raw material than other bio-based spoons. The EcoTaster Mini spoon, the right size for in-store tastings and other single-use applications, is 100 percent biodegradable and compostable. Standard size EcoTensils are ideal for airlines, vending machines, school snacks and items like soft-serve frozen yogurt or ice cream.
RISING STARS IN MANUFACTURING
To encourage young people to enter the food industry, the Chamber of Commerce in France started the Trophélia Competition in 2000, where university students create innovative food products. Since its inception more than 20 products have been brought to market, like Meringuise, a soft golden meringue in an aerosol spray which can create meringue desserts in ten minutes. In 2008, the competition spread to other European countries, with local winners going to compete in Trophélia Europe, held every two years. The most recent winner was a Spanish team from the University of Murcia, which introduced Curdy Lemon–Goats’ Milk with Lemon. The next lineup will be showcased this fall in Paris at SIAL 2010.
STREET EATING GOES GOURMET
Americans are turning to street food—and not just for a standard hot dog. Today’s food trucks are serving up gourmet fare from artisan cupcakes and vegan lunches to award-winning Korean barbecue. According to a recent study from the Center for Culinary Development and Packaged Facts, in the past two years, street food in the U.S. has been reinvented to reflect the changing ways Americans eat and will influence new consumer eating habits for years to come. The trend shows more small-plate snacking, eco-minded food products and flavorful global food. Food trucks are so popular in metropolitan cities that many are parking to increase their fan bases. In New York City in May, the Gourmet Food Truck Bazaar showcased ten mobile food vehicles for a day, including GoBurger, Calexico, Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, and Hoboken’s Cinnamon Snail Vegan Organic. Some of San Francisco’s favorite mobile food purveyors—from ICHI Lucky Cat Deli to Wholesome Bakery Food—have secured permanent addresses at kiosks in the new marketplace in Bernal Heights. Although they’ll still be trolling the streets, they are taking on permanent homes so they can offer bigger menus and more services.
EASIER WAY TO DETECT MILK FRAUD
Five percent to 7 percent of the U.S. food supply is impacted by food fraud involving the substitution of inferior ingredients, say researchers at Michigan State University. Until now, the only authentication for milk’s origin was a bar code on a container. Now food companies will be able to quickly and scientifically verify the origins of wholesale milk with the world’s first Milk Origin Verification Solution (MOVS). With MOVS, a Wisconsin cheddar cheese company, for example, can independently screen its supply chain for milk that does not come from Wisconsin by quickly comparing isotope “fingerprints” of batches of milk against established databases to verify the point of origin. The manufacturers say that the Picarro analyzer is cost effective and is easy to use on-site.
NYC FOOD NEWS
The city that never sleeps spends a whole lot of time eating. New York is living up to its title of “food capital of the world” with a number of new trends infiltrating the city. Here’s a look at some:
British meat-pies are in fashion on menus across the City, from Breslin in the Ace Hotel to the David Burke Townhouse. Favorites range from sausage rolls to toad-in-the-hole, which is sausages baked in a Yorkshire pudding batter. Interested in taking some home? Stop by Myers of Keswick in the West Village or Down Under Bakery in Brooklyn.
Mario Batali has adopted Meatless Mondays at his 14 renowned restaurants such as Babbo, Del Posto and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse. The chef is featuring at least two vegetarian entrées as part of his Meatless Monday promotion, making it easier for gourmands to start the week right by eating more vegetables.
Sixteen food manufacturers and restaurant chains are cutting the salt in products from ketchup to bacon as part of a city-led national push to trim Americans’ salt consumption by 20 percent over the next five years. Leading the initiative are Kraft, Starbucks and Subway.
Restaurants are making the bread basket as memorable as the meal. The New York Post gave its picks for best selections—including Taboon’s sweet, herby flatbread, Blue Ribbon’s wood fired oven baked challah, Scarpetta’s rye or prosciutto and smoked mozzarella-stuffed stromboli and Jane’s spicy crackers, cranberry-raspberry loaf and ciabatta.
Gowanus, Brooklyn, is home to the recently opened Four and Twenty Blackbirds, home of pies with unique flavors that are made with seasonal ingredients. The three dozen pies on the menu—made with all-butter crusts—include Lavender Blueberry, Fig and Rhubarb Tart, Salted Caramel Apple, and Bittersweet Chocolate with Cranberries, Ruby Port and Roasted Nuts. Pies are sold by the slice or whole pies can be pre-ordered.
Butch Bakery makes cupcakes for men—and gals who like a “manly” treat. Currently delivering in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, cupcakes range from a maple cake topped with crumbled bacon and filled with milk-chocolate ganache to a rum-soaked lime cake with mint white-chocolate ganache. Each one is capped with a chocolate disc decorated with what the owners are calling more masculine patterns, such as Wood Grain, Houndstooth or Checkerboard.