Expert Interview – Sustainable Style

 On a recent trip to New York, I visited PacknWood’s loft showroom in midtown Manhattan. Over coffee, the company’s Founder and CEO Adam Merran explained the company’s product line and commitment to sustainability. 

LC: What makes PacknWood different from the many other manufacturers of foodservice packaging and catering supplies?

AM: We create innovative, high-quality and eco-friendly packaging solutions using many unique materials for all kinds of food applications. We currently have the largest eco-friendly line in the market, launching 80-100 new products a year. That really keeps things exciting for all our customers.

LC: Looking around, I see you do have many product lines which are made from a variety of raw materials.

AM: The natural look of the material is very important. The features, being sustainable and practical, are also important. For example, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet. Our bamboo leaf plates are beautiful with a two-sided design. They have an exotic look. Each plate looks different. The material can hold many types of food for long periods​ of time without losing strength.

Bamboo leaf plate

AM: We also make products from other renewable and compostable materials such as sugarcane pulp, palm leaves, starch, wood, and paperboard. Other items are made with recycled and recyclable plastics.

LC: How do you stay ahead of the marketplace in terms of innovations?

AM: We stay on top of the trends and we anticipate them. PacknWood launched paper straws 8 years ago. We now see the market is ready for them. We happen to have 50 different designs ​available. We also just launched a hard bamboo straw.

AM: I am a foodie and pay attention to foodservice concepts. One of the big trends I noticed 4 or 5 years ago was the popularity of food trucks. So, we developed a product line called Street Eats which is perfect for all kinds of portable food items.

Grab and go

AM: We also import trends from Europe such as our VIP sets. Catering companies often cater in bulk with large catering trays, we decided to offer an alternative with upscale, single-​serving containers.

VIP set.jpeg

LC: How do you make sure your products continue to meet the needs of your customers?

AM: We try to create excitement by continuously launching new products and applications. PacknWood exhibits in at least 10 national trade shows every year and we keep ​in close contact with our end-users to understand what they need. ​This is what drives the product launches and, to be honest, that is what I am passionate about personally. For example, we noticed catering companies were drilling holes in wood planks to hold our skewers. We decided to create a solid ready-to-use skewer stand using beautiful bamboo. Our stadium customers were using plain picks to serve food so we developed a line of sports-themed bamboo picks, which enhanced their guests’ experience.

Sport skewer

LC: Sustainability is obviously a big part of your business model. Tell me about why that is important to you.

AM: It is key to me as I believe we need to be more sustainable every day. I attempt to certify as many of our items as possible. We select renewable or recyclable materials throughout all our new product launches. Two years ago we took the initiative to neutralize our company’s carbon emissions. We are sponsoring projects around the world that offset our emissions. We are looking at going further by becoming a B Corporation.

LC: Tell me more about the B Corporation program.

AM: It is a third-party standard requiring companies to meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards. The certification applies to the whole company across all product lines and issue areas.

LC: What are some challenges that foodservice operators have today and how do your products address those challenges?

AM: Very often, the challenge for an operator is to become a more sustainable business. It can be difficult to fit that goal into their budget. We offer many green alternatives at different prices. What we do is offer a solution that will enhance their food presentation and enhance their brand. That investment makes​ it possible for them to obtain a higher selling price for their menu items, a triple win.

LC: Thank you for inviting me to visit you today and learn more about PacknWood!

AM: It was my pleasure!

For more information about PacknWood’s product offering visit www.packnwood.com or ask your Imperial Dade representative.

 

Expert Interview – Helping Restaurants Become Sustainable

GRA

This month I had the opportunity to interview Michael Oshman, Founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association. Michael is passionate about creating a more sustainable business environment, especially in the restaurant industry.

LC: When did you get started in the restaurant business?

MO: I founded the Green Restaurant Association in 1990 when I was 19 years old. So I’ve been doing this for 27 years. We were one of the first green business organizations and helped start the green business movement. Thankfully today, sustainable business practices are much more mainstream.

LC: Tell me about the Green Restaurant Association and the inspiration for starting the organization.

MO: If the restaurant industry was a country it would be in the top 15 countries as far as GDP. It is a trillion dollar industry. We got started to help restaurants become more environmentally sustainable which has a significant impact. We wanted to make this process of change easy and profitable for restaurants. We break down the industry into seven environmental components of energy, water, waste, disposables, chemicals, food, and building. We have hundreds of environmental standards ranging from napkins to paper towels, cleaning chemicals to equipment, etc. Restaurants earn points for each of the steps where they meet our standards. Depending on the number of points earned, they can become level 1 star, 2 star, 3 star, or 4 star Certified Green Restaurant®.

LC: How does the process work and what guidance do you provide the restaurateurs?

MO: Our organization provides environmental consulting. We walk the restaurant through the process starting with an environmental assessment to find a baseline of how the restaurant is operating in relationship to our environmental standards. We discover where there is room for improvement and then set up a strategy of steps. We don’t just give them the prescription, we help them do it. We also work with their distributors, vendors, waste haulers and property managers to make it happen. Once the restaurant has become certified we assist with public relations and marketing. We are really proud of the support we provide and that we have become the trusted resource for the industry.

LC: You mentioned working with distributors. Please share how that program works.

MO: Our Green Restaurant Distributor™ Program, which Imperial Dade is part of, is a great way for distributors to have an external source of validation that their products meet our standards. We take the hundreds or thousands of products that a distributor carries and match them up with our standards. Then we publicize those distributors on our website. If you go to www.dinegreen.com  you will see all of the products from Imperial Dade that meet the GRA’s environmental standards. The website provides a transparent source of information to the restaurateur.

LC: What is the biggest trend or change you have seen with regards to green restaurants?

MO: More restaurants are realizing the importance of sustainability and calling upon our organization for assistance. We now have universities, corporations, transportation hubs, etc. that are all doing this. Some want to create cleaner air, cleaner water, sustainable food sources and some just realize that consumers prefer dining at Certified Green Restaurants®.  The movement continues to gain steam!

LC: What are some simple things a restaurant can do to get started in becoming more sustainable?

MO: A couple of examples include getting the most efficient spray valve. If they are using a 1.4 gal/min valve they can go down to one that is a gallon or less. Switching out old CFL or incandescent lighting to LED bulbs is an easy option.  Go to www.dinegreen.com to see a bunch of products that we have already vetted. Using our website is more efficient than general internet searches. Sometimes a restaurateur may come across a product online that interests them. The marketing pitch makes it sound great, but then it ends up not meeting expectations which is disappointing. That is called greenwashing.  We have 27 years of experience greening restaurants. My advice is put us to work for you!

Contact the Green Restaurant Association at outreach@dinegreen.com or 617-737-4422 for more information about becoming a Certified Green Restaurant® or Green Restaurant Distributor™.

 

 

 

 

 

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 – 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 .