2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast & Trends

The operating environment (for many businesses) will remain challenging in the coming year, however “record sales are expected in the restaurant industry” according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

Earlier this month the NRA published its annual Restaurant Industry Forecast for the coming year. Overall, the outlook is good for, “America’s 980,000 restaurants which will continue to be a leading job creator in 2013.”

Here are some of the news highlights from the NRA report:


Total restaurant industry sales are expected to exceed $660 billion in 2013 – a 3.8 percent increase over 2012, marking the fourth consecutive year of real sales growth for the industry.

2013 will be the 14th straight year in which restaurant industry employment will outpace overall employment.

Restaurants will employ 13.1 million individuals next year as the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer, representing 10 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

The NRA expects restaurants to add 1.3 million new positions in the next decade, pushing industry employment to 14.4 million by 2023.

Every $1 spent in Illinois restaurants generates an additional $1.25 in sales for the state economy. More Illinois stats here.


Despite expected growth projections for 2013, operators will continue to face a range of challenges. The top challenges cited by restaurateurs vary by industry segment, and include food costs, the economy and health care reform.

Wholesale food costs will continue on an upward trajectory through 2013, putting significant pressure on restaurants’ bottom lines; about one-third of sales in a restaurant goes to food and beverage purchases.

Sluggish economic and employment recovery impacts consumers’ cash-on-hand situation, which in turn impacts restaurants.

There is a strong correlation between consumers’ disposable income and restaurant sales; 2 out of 5 consumers say they are not using restaurants as often as they would like.

The implementation of health care reform will put additional cost pressure on some restaurant operators in the near future.

One-third of a typical restaurant’s sales go toward labor costs. Significant increases in these costs will result in additional cost management measures to preserve the already slim pre-tax profit margins of 3-5 percent on which most restaurants operate.


Consumers’ interest in technology continues unabated. Restaurant operators recognize that technology can enhance customer service and appeal to consumers, but have yet to fully meet consumer demand yet.

Among the strongest consumer trends for 2013 are local sourcing and nutrition. More than 7 out of 10 consumers say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers locally produced menu items.

More than 7 out of 10 consumers also say they are trying to eat healthier at restaurants now, than they did two years ago.

For more facts and figures go to http://www.restaurant.org/.

We wish you a very,                                                                                                                Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!


From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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Meat Picks | 12.20.12

Holiday Wrap Up

The holiday hustle and bustle is quickly coming to a close. Last minute shoppers can take in Macy’s, Toys R Us and other retailers who are staying open 24/7 in the days leading up to Christmas Eve. The last day Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza will be open is Christmas Eve until 4 p.m.

Gift foods are always a holiday hit and Chicago Magazine has some unique ideas for foodies and “imbibers”. Harry & David is also offering special sales online with guaranteed delivery by Christmas, as is Williams-Sonoma for orders placed by 12 pm Pacific time today. For those who make their own, here are 10 tips for packaging cookies and candies.

If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas dinner recipe, check out Chef Andrew Hunter’s recipe for Holiday Ham from Niman Ranch. Or, try Red Meat Market’s Dinner for Four.

Linkalicious Resource List

Party planners say New Year’s Eve reservations should be made before Christmas. If you still don’t know where you’re going to be or what you’re going to do on New Year’s Eve (not a clue), here’s a quick resource list to help make plans:


Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic  Open 12/31 to 9 p.m.

204 Restaurants with NYE offers at Open Table                                                 http://www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?pid=4&m=3

Chicago Parent’s Family Fun List                                                                http://www.chicagoparent.com/picks/new-years-eve-for-kids

TOC’s Annual Guide                                                                                   http://timeoutchicago.com/search/apachesolr_search/New%20Years%20Eve

Concerts                                                                                                        http://blogs.suntimes.com/music/2012/12/new_years_eve_2012_chicago_concerts.html

Grub Street NYE Ideas Parts 2 & 3                                                                  http://chicago.grubstreet.com/2012/12/more_new_years_eve_ideas_for_y.html http://chicago.grubstreet.com/2012/12/new-year-eve-2012-pt3.html

LEYE Year End Calendar  http://leye.com/events

Huff’s Top Party Picks                                                                                                            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/08/new-years-eve-events-chic_n_2264070.html#slide=more268592

Eventbrite’s Top Picks                                                                                        http://www.eventbrite.com/chicago-new-years-eve-2013                                                (Sort by price, zip and more: 10 Pages of “606”)                                         http://www.eventbrite.com/directory?q=New+Years+Eve+2012&loc=Chicago%2C+IL

Metromix Pix                                                                                               http://chicago.metromix.com/stories/1087-chicago-new-year-s-eve-parties

Concierge Preferred                                                                        http://www.conciergepreferred.com/tours/4950-2013-new-years-eve-celebrations-in-chicago.html

Chicagoland Events                                                                      http://chicagolandnewyearseve.com/?gclid=CLe6zfSCp7QCFelDMgodCyIABA

We Wish You a Very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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Meat Picks | 12.14.12

New Kids on the Block

Chef/Owner, Curtis Duffy and GM/Partner, Michael Muser, formerly of the Peninsula Chicago, have teamed up to launch Chicago’s newest fine dining experience, Grace, located at  652 W. Randolph in the West Loop.

Grace offers Chef’s Tasting Menus of eight-twelve courses, wine pairings and a full wine list. Non-alcoholic pairings are also available and cocktails in the lounge. Jackets are required and reservations can be made up to two months in advance. Call 312-234-9494.

Much luck on your new endeavor!

Give the Gift a Cut Above the Rest!

If you’re looking for unique gifts this season, look no more, we have a great idea. How about tickets to a “hands-on meat experience” from Red Meat Market?

This special Cut, Cook & Carry event slated for January 26th, offers foodies the opportunity to learn the art of butchery from Buedel Master Butchers beginning with how to break down a hog carcass, to the art of cooking local fresh meats with Chef Ryan Hutmacher. Participants will also have the opportunity to take home the meat they cut in a cold storage safe Red Meat Market cooler.

Details on how to reserve tickets here.

Special Treatment at the Chains

Did you know you can order grilled cheese at McDonald’s? Or, that if you order a Vente water at Starbucks, it’s free vs. ordering a $2 bottle of water? If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth the read at Business Insider: Ordering Tricks That Will Get You VIP Treatment at Restaurant Chains.

Eduardo’s Gift Basket

Eduardo’s Enoteca Restaurant & Wine Bar on Dearborn offers a smart gift basket for the holidays: three bottles of Small Vineyards Italian Wines and a $20 gift certificate to the restaurant. They also have a great winter specials menu out now. Order gift baskets on site or via phone at: 312-266-5421.


The Buedel team got a pleasant surprise at the ACF Chicago Chef’s of Cuisine holiday dinner held at the Renaissance Chicago last week. Our own John Cecala was named Associate of the Year in recognition for devoted effort and support to the local Chapter membership, events and community outreach programs.

Congrats John!                                 Buedel Corp. Chef, Russ Kramer 


From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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UMAMI | The Fifth Primary Taste

Have you heard about Umami? I just did at an educational meeting of the ACF Windy City Professional Culinarians. The Vice President of Culinary Arts at Kendall College, Christopher Koetke CEC, CCE, HAAC, gave an eye opening lesson on the subject.

What is Umami?

We interpret our experience with food through sight, sound, smell, texture and taste: The sight of a beautiful plate presentation, the sound of a sizzling steak served on a hot plate, the aroma of fresh baked bread, the texture of bite you get from eating apples and the taste sensation that comes from a combination of flavors in your mouth.

Growing up, we were taught there were four primary tastes: Sour, Bitter, Sweet and Salty. However, there is a fifth primary taste called, Umami which is the way our body interprets and senses protein or savory taste.

Umami was first discovered in 1907 by Professor Kikuane Ikeda at the Imperial University in Japan. Dr. Ikeda observed there was a taste sensation common in many foods that didn’t fall into the four primary taste categories. He called this taste umami which describes savory or deliciousness in Japanese.  A year later, he identified glutamic acid (glutamate) as the source of this unique taste.

Glutamate 101

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and glutamate is an essential amino acid found in proteins. There are two forms of glutamate: Bound Glutamate and Free Glutamate.

Our body produces bound glutamate naturally in large amounts as part of protein essential for metabolism and brain function. Manufacturing about 50 grams of glutamate daily, the human body also stores about 2 kilos of glutamate in the major organs and muscles.

Free glutamate occurs openly in the foods we eat that are high in protein such as, cheese, milk, mushrooms, meat, fish, chicken, tomatoes and more. Glutamate is metabolized rapidly by the body as an energy source. The average person consumes between 10-20 grams of glutamate from their diet daily.

A Taste Sensation

Nature Magazine reported that a team of scientists from the University of Miami identified the taste receptor on our tongue for umami in 2000. The discovery in effect validated what Professor Ikeda had revealed 93 years earlier that umami is a distinguishable taste sensation.

It is free glutamate, which can be detected by our umami taste receptors. Foods rich in umami are desirous because they taste so good whether recognized as umami or not. The more free glutamate present in foods, the more most of us enjoy their taste.

Increased levels of free glutamate are brought about in a number of ways we can all relate to:

Ripening  When vegetables are ripe, their taste and flavor are heightened. Consequently, as they ripen there is a major increase in the levels of free glutamate. For example, a red ripe tomato has a much preferred taste and flavor compared to a unripened green tomato.

Maturing  During the maturation process proteins break down which increase the levels of free glutamate. Cheddar cheese, when aged for 8 months, has a much stronger taste and flavor than younger aged fresh cheddar.

Curing  The breakdown of protein during the processes used for curing meats or fish, increase the levels of free glutamate.  A dry cured Prosciutto di Parma has a deep rich taste and flavor compared to that of a fresh ham.

Drying  Cell walls break down during the drying process releasing taste and flavor enhancing proteins. Foods like sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms have a strong umami taste.

Cooking  The slow cooking of meat, braising, for example, is a way of increasing umami taste.

Seasoning  Adding chicken bullion or Kombu Dashi to stock and other dishes raises the level of free glutamate and umami taste.

Umami in a Bottle

Glutamate seasoning is the simplest, purest way to add the umami taste to food.  Ancient Romans used Garum, a fermented fish sauce as a condiment to add flavor to food.  Modern day seasonings such as, Worcester Sauce, Soy Sauce, and Tomato Ketchup are all means of enhancing umami taste because they carry high levels of glutamate.

Professor Ikeda also set out to make a seasoning which could be used to increase umami in foods.  He found that the sodium salt of glutamate was ideal because it was soluble in water, resistant to humidity and had no flavor. Ikeda developed Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), the cleanest, purist way to increase umami in food.

Originally extracted from Kombu seaweed, today’s glutamate seasoning is made by fermentation of carbohydrate sources such as sugar cane and sugar beets. (Much like the way beer, wine and vinegar are made.) MSG is a free glutamic acid bound to a sodium molecule = monosodium glutamate.

MSG is the pure form of umami; it creates a more fully rounded flavor profile in food. Society has been tainted to believe that MSG is bad when, in fact, it is one of the most analyzed and safe ingredients of all.

Here are some MSG facts:

  • MSG has 70% less sodium than table salt.  Replacing table salt with MSG in recipes reduces sodium content. Unlike over-salting, more MSG, will not overpower the foods.
  • Useful in diets to reduce fat MSG adds umami in lieu of fat to make food more flavorful with less fat.
  • The body treats glutamate exactly the same way whether it comes from the food we eat or is added as a seasoning.
  • Glutamate is important for a healthy metabolism.
  • MSG is not an allergen, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
  • The USDA first designated MSG as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) in 1958.
  • The FDA reaffirmed MSG safety in 1995 based on a report from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The “Wow Factor”

Professional Chefs understand meat or fish rich in umami combined with vegetables rich with free glutamates produces highly delicious tasting meals.

This balanced umami taste occurs from the synergy between glutamate, and naturally occurring nucleotides, called inosinate (meat based), and guanylate (plant based). Sparing the scientific details, in laymen’s terms, this is what creates the “Wow Factor” in the many of the meals we eat.

Favorite combinations such as, glutamate-rich onions, carrots and celery cooked with inosinate rich beef, deliver great tasting meals. Likewise, glutamate-rich tomatoes combined with ground beef makes  outstanding Bolognese sauce and aged cheddar on a burger intensify the favorite combo taste.

Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Salty and Savory. Umami is the fifth taste that creates a more fully rounded flavor profile in many of the foods we eat and love.

Additional Reading: Glutamate.org, Vegetable Flavor Enhancers, MSG Facts


From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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The Difference Between Kobe and Wagyu Beef

Wagyu beef is intensely marbled with softer fat, has higher percentages of monounsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is lower in cholesterol than commodity beef. The combinations of these fats deliver a distinctive rich and tender flavor compared to other beef.

The most exclusive Wagyu in the world comes from Kobe, Japan.  People use the terms Kobe and Wagyu beef interchangeably in the U.S. thinking it refers to the same premium imported Japanese beef, when it does not.

All Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe

Many restaurant menus feature “Kobe Burgers” or “Kobe Steaks”.  The internet is flooded with on-line companies offering Kobe Beef, Kobe Burgers, Kobe-Style Beef, and Wagyu beef.  The truth is authentic Kobe beef is very rarely seen on restaurant menus in the USA.

Legitimate Kobe beef is priced around $200 per portion for a steak, and $50 for a burger. If you see something on a menu referred to as Kobe priced less than that, it is most likely domestic or imported Wagyu.

How can you tell the difference?

Key Terms & Definitions

Kobe  A city in Japan and the capital city of the Hyōgo Prefecture. Kobe is also considered a region of Japan like Champaign is a region in France, and Parma is a region in Italy.

Wa  Japanese or Japanese Style

Gyu The Japanese word for a Cow or Cattle

Wagyu  Japanese or Japanese Style Cattle.  Japanese cattle consist of four breeds: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Poll, and Japanese Shorthorn. Ox-like in structure, these breeds are bred for field work.

Tajima-Gyu  The cow that Kobe beef comes from which is classified as a Japanese Black breed.

Kokusan-Gyu  Refers to cattle which are raised domestically in Japan.  Regardless of the country or breed, cattle are classified as “Kokusan-Gyu” if they have spent more than half of their life in Japan.

Japanese Meat Quality Score  Japanese quality meat scores are qualified by four factors:  marbling, color and brightness, firmness and texture, and fat color, luster and quality. Each factor is graded from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

BMS  Beef Marbling Standard.  BMS is a score rating given to red beef for the amount of intramuscular flecks of fat which give the meat a marble like pattern.

Facts & Criteria

Under Japanese law, Kobe beef can only came from Hyōgo prefecture (of which Kobe is the capital city) of Japan.

Kobe cows are fed a special diet of dried pasture forage and grasses such as rice straw with nutrition-rich feed supplements made by blending soybean, corn, barley, wheat bran, and various other ingredients. They are not fed pasture grass.

To be authentic certified Japanese Kobe Beef the following criteria need to be met:

  • Breed of cattle is pure lineage Tajima (Tajima-Gyu), between 28-60 months of age, born, raised and slaughtered in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan.
  • Certified as having a yield score of A or B.
  • Japanese Meat Grading Association quality score of 4 or 5.
  • BMS score of 6 or higher on the Tajima-Gyu marble grading scale of 1-12.
  • Has the “Japanese Chrysanthemum” seal officially certifying it as Kobe Beef.

This certification process is so strict that when the beef is sold in stores and restaurants, it must carry a 10-digit number to identify the origination of the Tajima-Gyu cow.

Kobe Beef, Kobe Meat and Kobe Cattle, are also all trademarks in Japan. The United States does not recognize these trademarks thus promoting free use of the term “Kobe” in the US without regard to Japan’s strict standards. Consequently restaurants and retailers market various types of American or Australian Wagyu beef as “Kobe beef”.

Japanese beef was actually banned from being imported into the United States from 2009 until August of 2012.  (The “first-ever” Kobe shipment is now on its way to the US according to Meating Place.) What we see most of domestically, is American Wagyu or Australian Wagyu (Kobe Style) beef.

American Wagyu (Kobe Style)

Four Wagyu bulls were brought to the USA in 1976 from Japan’s Tottori Prefecture for cross breeding with Angus cattle creating the American Wagyu Kobe Style Beef.  The crossbred Wagyu cattle were fed a mixture of corn, alfalfa, barley and wheat straw mimicking the Japanese cattle diet. In the mid 1990’s, about 40 more full blooded Wagyu male and females were imported to the US for breeding.

There a few domestic ranches raising pure blood American Wagyu beef today, however, most of what we see domestically are a Wagyu/Angus mixed breed. The Wagyu influence contributes to the intense marbling and the Angus influence contributes to the animal’s size.

USDA Marble Scoring

The USDA scale for upper grade meat quality has 3 levels: Select, Choice, and Prime. Prime is the highest USDA grade. Roughly, 3% of traditional US cattle harvested are graded as Prime – equivalent to a Wagyu BMS score of 5.

Over 90% of domestic Wagyu cattle grade out as at least Prime, with most reaching a BMS score of 7-8.  Wagyu’s intense marbling occurs from genetics and from the cattle spending more time on special feed, about 30 months as compared to commodity beef cattle which are fed about 24 months. The Strube Ranch in Pittsburg, Texas is a notable American producer of quality domestic Wagyu beef.

Australian Wagyu (Kobe Style)

Australia first imported Wagyu in 1990 and began a breeding program using artificial insemination. In the mid 1990’s Australia imported full blooded Wagyu bulls and cows from the United States to enhance their Wagyu breeding program.  Over the years, the Australian Wagyu breed has gained in strength and popularity for intense marbling and taste.

Different from the USDA and Japanese grading systems, the Ausie marble scoring range is 1 to 9 +. One of the most notable brands of Australian Wagyu beef is marketed under famed professional golfer and entrepreneur Greg Norman.  Greg Norman Signature Wagyu beef is sold under BMS 5-11.

There are Canadian and European Wagyu producers, but most of the US market is supplied through Australian imports and domestic purveyors.

Uber expensive and delicious, Wagyu’s American popularity is growing. Remember, true authentic Japanese Kobe Wagyu is still a rarity in the US. When you see it on it a menu, judge it by price. Ask your server if they can attest to the Kobe quality. If their response is at least somewhat knowledgeable to facts in this article, odds are it is authentic.


From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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