Archive for April, 2012


Dessert Trends

Written by Ashley Almodovar
April 17th, 2012

Looking for an exciting and clever way to boost sales? Try putting first what usually comes last: dessert.

Often overlooked, even the tiniest of treats can enhance the dining experience. Whether showcasing large or small confections, foodservice operators can add subtle elegance or upscale sophistication to any dessert with the right glass dessert dish. From dessert tables to buffet spreads, here’s a glimpse into some of the dessert trends happening now, and discover the greater San Diego area haunts that are already on board.

Health(ier) Bites

No matter the dish, guests are opting for healthier choices. We’re all familiar with traditional carrot cake, but many varieties of produce are making their debut in modern desserts. Create lighter versions of brownies and compotes with beet puree and baked rhubarb.


Another tasty idea—give your desserts a lower-calorie makeover with Greek yogurt. While often used as a substitute for many appetizer and main course recipes, Greek yogurt can be mixed with fresh berries or honey for a simple, standalone treat. Add a bit of glamour by creating a creamy yogurt mousse with frozen berries and a sweet-flavored topping.


Local Dessert Menu

Flavor Del Mar – Frozen Greek Yogurt Mousse


Classic Comebacks – with a Twist

Chefs are giving traditional desserts a contemporary twist. Cream puffs are two-bite pastries filled with custard. Update them by incorporating fruit, ice cream, and flavored whip toppings, or give the classic puff a chocolaty glaze or drizzle.


Whether stacked up high or mini size, when it comes to layer cakes, it’s all about the element of surprise. Reinvent this retro dessert with creative interiors, such as rainbow-colored layers, fruit mousse filling, or with ingredients like ricotta cheese and extra-virgin olive oil.


Local Dessert Menu

Mille FleursCreampuff Swan “Profiteroles”

Whisk N LadleMeyer Lemon & Olive Oil Layer Cake


Childhood Throwbacks

Nostalgic treats will certainly tickle any sweet tooth and stir childhood memories. While ice cream sandwiches were once a summertime staple for kids, the frozen treat has grown up and joined the ranks of posh desserts. Go gourmet by using house-made cookies and ice cream, or use the sandwiches to create frozen layer cakes.


Doughnuts and doughnut holes are continuing to undergo a revival. Experiment with flavored glazes, brightly-hued toppings, and creamy fillings. Plus, old-school floats and boats are making a comeback with jazzed up versions aimed at tantilizing adults.


Local Dessert Menu

Croce’s – Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

Union Kitchen & Tap – Ricotta Scented Doughnuts with Meyer Lemon Jelly

Sbicca – “Adult” Rootbeer Float

Table 926 – Caramelized Banana Split


Children’s Dining Tips for Foodservice Establishments

Written by Elizabeth Engelman
April 16th, 2012


Children’s nutrition is a hot topic that doesn’t seem to be losing steam. With the current emphasis on healthy eating, foodservice establishments are re-examining kid’s menus. Restaurant operators know that family dining goes beyond basic menu items. It is about the entire experience of eating out- keeping the kids happy and the parents coming back. Here are ideas to promote a successful family dining experience.


Toys & Themes
Giving out toys with kid’s meals is not a new concept. The fast food industry has been thriving off it for quite some time. Some restaurants give children a small toy with a meal purchase. Another approach is to have toys that are kept at the restaurant (sanitized daily) which are offered as an option to parents for entertaining children during the course of the meal. Fun, child-related themes are also a small change you can make to your menu. Denny’s opted for a space-themed kid’s meal selection, but any overall theme, possibly related to your business or location, will make familiar foods seem new and exciting.


Just as toys can keep kids occupied, allowing kids to feel like part of the cooking process can engage them in the meal. Easy build-your-own options for kids include pizza, hamburgers, and quesadillas. Bring all the ingredients tableside, allow the children to put it together and then bring it back out with the rest of the meal.


Age-Based Options
Taste preferences, willingness to try new types of food, and appropriate portion sizes differ among the age groups. While many restaurants have only one kid’s menu, it is important to distinguish between toddlers, school-aged kids, and tweens. Tweens are more likely to have opinions about where they eat. Because tweens can greatly influence the entire family’s restaurant choices, it is important to make them feel special and market meals specifically to them. Similarly, most toddlers cannot eat the amount of food offered in a standard kid’s meal. Some foodservice establishments offer free small plates to children under two-years-old or bring a free kids appetizer to the table to keep the little ones satisfied while the adults peruse the menu.


Grown-Up Palates for Little Mouths
One of the newest trends for children is what Phil Lempert coined in 2009: Koodies, or kid foodies. With all the cooking shows and chef competitions now broadcast on television, children are learning more about different foods, tasty ingredients and local sourcing, which help them to define their palates early. Many cities have jumped on this trend with Kid’s Restaurant Weeks showing up in areas such as Orange County, CA and Chicago, IL. Restaurants that have previously participated include Anaheim White House , Savannah Chop House, and The Melting Pot. Spotlighting children allows them to try restaurants that may have never seemed accessible before and order items that are more adventurous.


Upcoming Event
Healthier Kids Fare at NRA Show
MAY 5–8, 2012
Chicago, IL


Tasty Tidbits featuring Dave Turner

Written by Ashley Almodovar
April 16th, 2012

In our latest industry profile, we interview Dave Turner, editor at Foodservice TabletopJournal. Uncover the challenges of attracting new customers and learn which trends Dave feels will have the longest-lasting impact on the foodservice industry.


R.W. Smith: People in the foodservice industry are often passionate about what they do. What is it about the business that inspires such stirring emotion?

Dave Turner: Foodservice inspires passion, I believe, because the dining experience remains such a tactile pleasure in a world that has increasing become filled with detached engagement, 140-character messages, and overall less fulfillment for people in many areas of their lives. Often, the most memorable moments of a person’s life involve a meal with family or friends, and to be able to contribute in some way to that type of basic tactile pleasure is inspiring and infectious. Whether you are supplying the food, the wine, or the tabletop, there is a great deal of satisfaction derived from contributing to such human pleasures. Sometimes I wonder why people are not even more passionate about foodservice.


RWS: In your leadership role at F/S TabletopJournal, what aspect of your job is your favorite?

DT: The idea of helping to give a voice to some of the great products and companies in the hospitality tabletop business—along with acknowledging some of the very creative people in our business—these have  certainly been goals since our startup and it has been incredibly enjoyable since the outset. There are so many creative products, people, and places in hospitality tabletop and too often they struggle to receive the recognition they deserve. When we are able to help in that process, that’s probably where the greatest satisfaction comes from. You might say that one of our passions is helping others share theirs…especially in tabletop.


RWS: What are some of the greatest challenges facing foodservice operators as they try to attract new customers and achieve repeat business from existing patrons?

DT: In these days and times, with high economic stress on household incomes, with gas prices hovering around $4/gal and rising, there are many, many operational issues that foodservice operators continue to struggle with to make their businesses successful. To help them in that journey to success, our focus is on tabletop and how it relates to the overall branding of a particular foodservice operation. We’ve also spent a fair amount of time speaking how tabletop can assist operators with differentiation and why we think that idea is so critical. And, finally, we believe strongly in the overall guest experience and we try to show the large role that tabletop plays in that guest experience.


There’s no question that today’s operators face enormous challenges as they try to attract new customers and continue to satisfy existing customers. We believe that tabletop provides a unique way to help make any operator’s dining experience—from fine dining to healthcare—unique and special.


Truly, if dining out is theater, great food is certainly the protagonist. However, right alongside is tabletop—an incredibly strong co-star.


RWS: Of today’s industry trends, which are most likely to have a lasting impact?

DT: The word “trends” implies a relatively short-lived phenomena and I would rather say the ideas of authenticity and differentiation have returned to their rightful place of importance in hospitality. By being “authentic,” I mean true to your mission in all aspects. If you are a ramen noodle restaurant, keep it simple and make it uncomplicated and easy for your guest. If you are high-end steak house, don’t skimp on napkins or cutlery…be true to the guest experience.


People want authenticity. I recently visited one of Mexican Chef Richard Sandoval’s restaurants and the guest experience was exceptional from the service and décor to the food—and they had over 200 tequilas! And, yes, the tabletop was well done with a combination of porcelain, cast iron, and stainless steel serving pieces. So, being authentic and true to “the mission” I think will continue to be important to foodservice success. Dining guests are simply too smart to be fooled these days, whether it is in a Mexican concept, steakhouse concept, or something simple as a hamburger and fries place.


Secondly, I think the idea of providing a different or unique customer experience will continue to gain strength as people continue to be discriminating with their money. Differentiation is important to all successful businesses and foodservice is no different. TabletopJournal has preached that whether you are an operator, a dealer/distributor, or a manufacturer, you need to differentiate your customer experience.


Whether you sell tequila or tabletop, we’re all in the customer experience business.


RWS: What advice would you give to foodservice operators looking to creatively set themselves apart from the competition?

DT: We’ve said differentiation is critical to any business’s success. This is especially true in the foodservice industry as dining-out customers have a wider array of choices than ever and are more discriminating with their dining-out money. In many ways, today’s dining guests are much more knowledgeable about food and true dining experiences, in part due to the many restaurant and food television shows out there. So, operators can’t fake it…today’s dining guest is too smart. So, whatever operators do, it must be authentic to the brand experience they are offering.


Within that brand experience, operators need to be thoughtful and make sure that they truly differentiate that dining experience from their competitors. We recently did a story on Haven Pizzeria, a Maryland pizza restaurant that offers New Haven, CT style pizza. While Haven Pizzeria is in Bethesda, they make sure they carry the authenticity through with metal trays (from American Metalcraft) and serving pieces, just as you would expect to get in a pizzeria in New Haven. Of course, the pizza has to be New Haven-like, as well.


Also, not try to do too much. Five Guys, the hamburger and fries chain, stays focused and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Don’t go there looking for a salad. But, if you go, you will get a great hamburger and some phenomenal fries!


RWS: The very best dining experience that you’ve ever had—where were you and what made it so memorable?

DT: Tough question to answer. Mainly because I believe that so much goes into making a dining experience memorable. Certainly basic things like food, service—and the tabletop—play a large role in the overall dining experience. But, in addition, less tangible influences, such as the type of day you may have had, who you are sharing your meal with, and much, much more, have heavy influence into whether a meal is memorable.


That said, I’ve been fortunate to have had some pretty incredible meals with good friends at some incredible restaurants—Jean Banchet’s Le Francais, Paul Bocuse in Lyon, and Le Cirque in New York. And while I haven’t been there in a while, I have told friends that if I was “forced” to eat at one restaurant everyday for the rest of my life, it would be Chinois On Main in Santa Monica, or maybe the lobsters out of a simple pot from my family home in Maine, where I am originally from. Not sure.


If I could only pick one meal, it would be a wonderful evening with family at Sea Grill in New York when Chef Ed Brown was there. Not only is Ed Brown a terrific chef, he also knows that this is the hospitality/guest experience business. It was my son’s fifth birthday, and Chef Brown and his staff made my entire family feel incredibly welcome. I can tell you that it was an evening that is still talked about, even though my son is nearly out of college now.


By the way…all of my mentions have incredible tabletops. Even our lobsters out of the old metal pot in Maine find their way to some family-favorite Villeroy & Boch bone china platters.