Archive for May, 2012

What We’re Following: School Lunches, Part 2

May 31, 2012

An ever-present topic for discourse, school lunches are back in our radar with recent federal and state legislation concerning the nature of food that can be served in the school, by official means through the cafeteria, as well as through unofficial means such as teachers handing out snacks as rewards and student organizations raising money with the traditional bake sale and other food-based initiatives. At issue are the rights of parents to decided, and effectively control, what their children eat throughout the day, the ability of school officials and teachers to maintain a constructive educational environment, and of course, the means by which student groups will be able to raise funds for special activities. Some of this legislation has been in the public eye, at least locally, for years, but only now, as the moment of full implementation approaches, does it present the real-life implications of its strictures. Here is an overview of the past month’s dialog over the new rules.

Hands on High School Lunches

Unique High School Food: A look at the most creative combinations of food and high school education — Nina Fomufod, The Daily Meal

Unique High School Food SLIDESHOWThe Daily Meal
This pair of links highlights the innovations going on at high schools nationwide as they make greater strides in connecting students with the source of their food.  Students farm, cook, and study their food in various degrees.  Check it out if you want some good news from the school lunch front!

If You Don’t Sell It, Fewer Will Eat It: The Effectiveness of California’s Curbs on In-School Junk Food — Bettina Elias Seigel, The Lunch Tray
Does not allowing schools to sell junk food mean students will compensate for lost calories at home, or will they just eat less junk food?  This is the question at the heart of Seigel’s post, where she takes into account the findings of a recent study on the topic. 

New State Nutrition Law Bans Bake Sales During School Hours — Janet Hefler, The Martha’s Vineyard Times
 New Massachusetts bill strikes hard and fast at ‘unhealthy’ food in schools, at least during school hours.  Concerns arise, however, when it comes to celebratory events, and treats sent from home, not to mention the widely popular fundraising effort known as the ‘bake sale’.

Educational Accoutrements

School Kitchen or Janitor’s Closet? You Decide — Bettina Elias Seigel, The Lunch Tray
Here we have Seigel’s blog a second time, where she highlights the cramped and ineffective conditions available to many schools for school lunch preparation.  The question is dutifully asked: is this really enough room to make healthy meals for a whole school?

A Tiny Fish Called Tilapia is Bringing Big Rewards to School — Phyllis Coulter, myJournalCourier: Jacksonville, IL
A look at a rural Illinois high school that takes pride in its “Grow Your Own” initiative, as they raise tilapia and several vegetables for its own cafeteria, despite continual budgeting issues. They hope to one day grow enough to sustain not only their own menu, but also others in the neighborhood through donation!

Basic Food Education

Why Burgers Look Amazing in Ads — Jessica Chou, The Daily Meal
A quick slice of insight into what it takes to produce images worthy of fast-food ads. 

An Update on Pink Slime

BPI to Close 3 Plants, Blaming Pink Slime Uproar — Grant Schulte, Detroit Free Press
Fallout continues from the Pink Slime outrage of earlier this year, as we see the damage done to former food giant Beef Products Inc over the controversy, and a glimpse at how that affects the community as a whole.  Wherever you stand on this issue, this is sure to be an interesting read.


Testimonials: Joe

May 26, 2012

“My years of involvement with PEN Pals have been rewarding in several ways. First, I have the satisfaction of knowing that my opinions are being heard by product manufacturers. Surveys include items being used in my facility as well as potential new products. Second, I have had opportunity to test in house some new products and give evaluations to the manufacturers. Finally, the rewards system for PEN Pals is very generous. I have been able to claim many useful, valuable awards for my operation. Thanks to PEN Pals!”


What We’re Following: Mobile Marketing Trends (Updated)

May 24, 2012

What does the phrase “Mobile Marketing” mean to you? If you’re not entirely sure, rest assured that neither is the rest of the world.  Whether referring to ads on smartphone apps or an actual dedicated smartphone app, deals given to customers who “Check-In”, or any other method for getting people to make an on-the-fly decision to walk through your doors, this fairly ambiguous term has generated an entire ecosystem of its own, each new player offering what they think is the perfect ‘killer-app’ solution. Here’s a round-up of the big trends we’ve been seeing.

In House Flair

Mobile: What Your Customers are Using — Alicia Kelso,
A brief look at how some brands are starting to slowly integrate mobile into their flow: i.e., texting instead of paging when reservations are ready, on-table card swiping, etc.

Bringing the Restaurant to the Customer

What percentage of restaurants have mobile websites or standard websites? —
A question featured on query-heavy platform Quora, with some surprising ( and well-researched!) answers from other users — according to the study mentioned, only 50% of restaurants have a dedicated website!  It’ll be interesting to see how, and if(!), the rate of integration of digital platforms changes for restaurants in years to come.

GrubHub is bringing restaurant ordering into the 21st century — Rocky Agrawal, Venture Beat
A review of online start-up GrubHub, a service company that attempts to connect restaurants and customers via its mobile app.  This article focuses on a new service that tries to integrate the start-up’s service more conveniently with the normal operation of the restaurant. involves a complimentary Kindle Fire!

Coupons, QR Codes, and Who’s Using Them

NRA Show 2012, IWSB in the Palm of Your Hand — Derrek J Hull, National Restaurant Association
This short article just introduces the NRA’s use of QR codes for the Big Show this year.  QR codes are square-shaped patterns of smaller black and white squares that can be read on smart-phones like a standard bar code, typically launching an app or webpage when the code is read.

Everything you need to know about QR codes — Sara Petersen, Restaurant Hospitality
A very nice, quick rundown of what QR codes are (HINT: QR stands for “Quick Response”!), and how you can make use of them in your restaurant.  This article details some of the best uses for these codes, and what sort of support infrastructure they require.  All-in-all, a very non-scary look at a relatively ambiguous topic.  Enjoy!

How RetailMeNot Could Revolutionize the Coupon Biz for Restaurants, Retailers — Derrek J Hull, National Restaurant Association
The NRA blog takes a look at how the ‘largest online coupon site’ is trying to take the embarrassment out of using online discounts in-store, tying the coupons directly to the customer’s credit card, so the discount is applied automatically at purchase…without the awkward shuffle of papers and nervous confessions.

Testimonials: Greg

May 19, 2012

“Product Evaluations along with Pen Pals is top of the line when it comes to on line surveys. Very easy to use format, a great selection of awards, and great service. I love asking brokers about new items that I wouldn’t know about if not for Pen Pals.”


What We’re Following: Local Food

May 15, 2012

The trend toward emphasizing local food shows no signs of stopping, if you follow the quantity, and quality, of reportage on it. The success of journalists like Michael Pollen, originator of “Food Rules” and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and countless controversial food industry documentaries, in the past few years has been a sign, as well as source, of the increasing attention being paid to where our food comes from.  No longer limited to the ranks of gourmands and young urban professionals, this interest in food, and the preference for local and organic sources has developed into an ubiquitous trend.  What’s more, urban centers have been taking the lead in the media, as producers and restaurants adapt to changing tastes, increasing awareness, within city limits. We’ve assembled here some of the most interesting articles of the past few months:

Local Flavor

Founding Farmers Cultivate New Ground — Bob Krummert, Restaurant Hospitality

Craft Beers Driving Up Sales — Amanda Baltazar, Restaurant Management Magazine

Taking Local to the Next Level — Sonya Chudgar, Restaurant Management Magazine

In an Old Chicago Meat Plant, Greens and Fish Grow — Martha Irvine, Seattle PI

Food’s Impact on Rebuilding New Orleans — Olga Bonfiglio, Huffington Post

Which State Eats the Most Local Foods — Marcy Franklin, The Daily Meal

Learning the Source

‘Farm To School’ Food Reaches 500K

School Lunches From Scratch May Soon Be a Nationwide

Universities Banning Bottled Water on Campus — Jodi S Cohen, The Kansas City Start

Testimonials: Elsie

May 12, 2012

“I have really enjoyed Pen Pals. The surveys are not long and they give you choices verses you trying to think of all the products that are used in your facility. The surveys are great and when I start seeing some of the items that I have surveyed I can say “Ok remember doing a survey about that product”. Some of the new products that are coming out are going to fit very well at my facility. When I’m doing some of the surveys I look for items that would work here at my facility. I have even gotten calls about sampling new products.

I love the products that I can get for the points that I get. I use them to get items for my employees at Holidays and birthdays. I know it been a long time since I have been doing surveys and I look forward to doing them.”


What We’re Following: Foodservice Tech Trends, Part 2

May 8, 2012

This week we’re taking a closer look at the news surrounding the ever-quickening rate at which tablets are invading the POS environment. The changes enabled by these handy little devices include putting the task of ordering entirely within the hands of the customer, but are surely not limited to that (and it’s still pretty difficult to imagine a world where we don’t expect waiters around every corner!). To help you keep up with the tablet-driven ideas floating around the industry, we’ve collected the most interesting articles here, so you can peruse at your convenience, and see how YOU feel about the future of ordering. Think the iPad will replace the waiter? Let us know in the comments! 🙂

Tech Migrations

PayPal debuts in bars, restaurants with Tabbedout integrationgigaom

New Square device replaces cash register — Jon Swartz, USA TODAY

A Powerful New Ordering Experience

Harbortouch POS Announces iPad Tableside Order SystemTechnorati

Will The iPad And E La Carte’s ‘Presto’ Make Waiters Obsolete? — Bonnie Kavoussi, Huffington Post

At the Restaurant of the Future, This Gadget Takes Your OrderThe Atlantic

Tablets Fight for a Seat at Restaurant Tables — Sarah Kessler, Mashable

Testimonials: Don

May 5, 2012

“I have been participating in PEN Pals for the past 10 years, the reward options have improved over time and I also feel that having an opportunity to give input on potential new products, flavors, pack sizes and seeing what’s coming ahead to us as foodservice operators is well worth the time invested”


May 3, 2012

A little retrospective on when Google first hired their chef in ’99. Never forget, in-house chef == gumption!

Retail Disrupted

I’m headed back to Google to talk about food for the first time in about 13 years. My trip reminded me of this column, which I wrote not long after I first heard of Google. You think Sergey will talk to me today about the company’s food choices?

Me neither.


Subhead:    Web Headline:    Reporter:  MIKE CASSIDY column Day:  Wednesday Print Run Date:  9/8/99 Section:  Front Edition:  Morning Final Page Number:  1 Section Letter:  A Memo:  Silicon Valley Dispatches Corrections:Dateline:    Slug  Text:  IT’S not so crazy this start-up, Google, hiring a corporate chef and offering the cook stock options. (Finally a use for that stockpot.)

The Internet company just moved from a cramped office surrounded by eateries to a…

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What We’re Following: Foodservice Tech Trends, Part 1

May 1, 2012

With the increasing power and availability of highly mobile advanced electronics like tablet computers and smartphones, a trend toward incorporating these devices into the everyday flow of foodservice is rising on the horizon. Their mobile nature allows for unique modes of interaction between customer and server, front-of-house and back. From iPad POS systems to check-ins to mobile ordering, here are some of the stories in the news we’re following. There are so many that we’re going to return for a Part 2 soon to focus on tech in POS exclusively. Add your own in the comments, or let us know what you’ve seen!

For the Staff

POS systems must accommodate new secure payment technology — National Restaurant Association

Three Ways Entrepreneurs Are Using Mobile Commerce to Grow —

For the Customer

Technology Boosts Wine Sales — Amanda Baltazar, Restaurant Management Magazine

Foursquare’s Crowley Aims to Add Recommendations, Discounts — Bloomberg Tech Blog

The Wider Industry

Nanotechnology In Food: FDA Proposes Rules For Monitoring Food Safety — The Huffington Post