Meat Picks | 2.26.13

Best Biz Eats

Crain’s 7th business dining survey just came out. Newcomers, Tesoris, Piccolo Sogno Due, Bavette’s, Tortoise Club, Acadia, Tavernita and Maison Brassierie all received the green light for  great business feed and meets. Seventeen established restaurants also received the stamp of approval under “tried and true favorites” from the Pump Room to Shaw’s Crab House. (See the entire list here.) Most of the call outs were made with lunch in mind, but several restaurants were also noted for breakfast meetings; Chicago Cut Steakhouse on LaSalle and Pierrot Gourmet in the Penninsula.


Social Rankings

The top 250 restaurant rankings from the fourth quarter of last year have posted and according to the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), more than one third of consumers in the U.S. now connect to restaurants on social media. (Complete roll call here.)

Big news comes in the Top 10 where long time #1 Starbucks was dethroned to the second slot by McDonalds. All but two of the top ten were fast serve chains: Buffalo Wild Wings and Hard Rock Café.


This ‘n That

Did you hear that tickets for Baconfest sold out in 41 minutes when they went on sale last week for the April 20th event? Baconeers devour more than 4,000 pounds of bacon each year at the event. Talk about sizzle!

Nostalgic L. Woods Tap and PineLodge in Lincolnwood recently introduced online ordering available for pick-up and delivery. 2013 marks L. Woods’ 15th year in business; congratulations!

BTW… Did you know Lincolnwood was originally called Tessville  when it incorporated in 1911? The village was first known as a “saloon infested farm town” until the name was changed in 1936.

In case you missed it, here’s the BK Twitter hack from last week. The hacked headline was up but one hour before it was taken down.

Upside? BK got new followers from the snafu which just proves the old adage – any press is good press.


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

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Martin Mongiello Part II: Former Executive Chef to the President & Master Strategist

Part II of II  Extreme Cost Savings & Profitable Business Strategies

Few hospitality professionals can attribute part of their expertise to having “managed earth’s most exclusive resort… Camp David.” Nor can they claim product creation credits with Fortune 25 brands, globally published business plans or achieve 35% client growth levels during an economic downturn. Chef Martin Mongiello can.

In the last post of our two part interview, Chef Mongiello shares his insights on shaving operating costs and thinking outside the box.

You’ve done a variety of consulting work with major brands. What is working with enterprise accounts like?

Brands may come to us when they want to get into a certain country. ‘How do we get to know the chefs there? Get into certain stores?’ If you’re only selling in the U.S. market you’re not making a ton of money. When you get into 70-80 countries…

Large companies want you to get in and out asap. It’s just the opposite of what Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank says, “everyone wants a royalty” – they don’t want that. We create, and we’re gone. Boca saw me shredding their burgers for chili on TV, and I helped developed crumbles.

What measures do you take to save money for your restaurant these days?

We’re ‘famous’ for cost savings. Lots of people are saving grease for sale. We have huge vats and make a deal with a local company that’ll pick it up. In North Carolina, it’s a criminal offense to steal more than $400 of grease. That’s how important it’s become.

Our food costs are at 12.87%, and we’re upset about that because last year they were 11%.

Wow – good is like 28%!

We don’t throw anything out except meat fat into the trash. We also have a massive 40 foot composting operation. You’d be surprised at what chickens eat – they’re like goats. We started our own pineapple farm too, they’re very easy to grow.

What else do you grow yourself?Inn of the Patriots

One of the simplest things to grow is celery. Cut a celery butt off, place it in a ramekin with a little bit of water and set it by a window. Add a little bit of water in the middle when needed and in about seven days you’ll have stalks. The same principle works with garlic and onions too. We can say the garlic we’re using today is, ‘Generation 49’.

What about city locations? What do you suggest managers do when they don’t have the space for 40 foot composts?

We motivate change. For example, let’s say we challenge a chef to lower food costs from 36 to 30 percent, which translates to $ 800,000 in savings. To do this, they must maintain quality and comment cards at 90%. If they achieve the goal, they get a 90k bonus. When you can save an owner hundreds of thousands of dollars, they aren’t going to be concerned about paying out that kind of incentive. You do this with one chef – it is their mark. It’s a descending scale from there.

Dining Table

Inn of the Patriots Dining Table

Sometimes you also just need someone who can be the bad guy. We [outside consultants] can be the person you can blame who has to say the things that need to be said but can’t be by someone internally.

What are some of the top mistakes being made by resorts and hotels?

We sit on a lot of incubation boards; the marketing managers haven’t figured out how to make money. We are in what I call the ‘coupon economy’ – I’ve seen people drive up in Aston Martins to the Ritz Carlton with coupons for staying there. It’s almost a status symbol now.

They haven’t figured out how to monetize Groupon, etc. There’s no way to make money on these types of dinner deals – $50 dinners for $25. Then there’s a 50/50 split on that cost, so the restaurant makes $12.50 on the sale.

You can’t make a profit on a $50 meal at $12.50 – you have to put limits on the coupon. For example alcohol not included, or no seafood, or dessert, etc. Add ‘reservation required’ and limit it to 20 coupons per night, one coupon per table, etc. Now you can control how many deals you have coming in on any given night.

You also need to talk to the ‘retail manager’ at the promotion source. You need to know how many people your offer will be going out to – is it 35,000 or 356,000? Is your offer about making money or getting people in there? What if your split is only $10 a meal; what else is going on? Is there a gift shop, special attractions or events you want to sell?

What else can restaurants do to trim the fat? 

Look at portion control. If you have an 8 oz. Porterhouse on the menu is half of them 7 oz. and the other half 9 oz.? Why not order pre-cut, so it’s always the same? Use your tools instead – like ChefTec – what do you want your food costs to be?

You should be able to ask the chef what an item cost yesterday, today and tomorrow. If you can’t tell me every day what your item on the menu costs, you have money going out the door.

Over 85% of restaurant chef/owners don’t have the time to track receipts – half the time they’re in a plastic bag. Hire someone to type all this info into your system – don’t make chefs do the inventory – their time is better utilized; have an $ 8/hr worker do it.

Stop using menus that aren’t flexible to change, as plastic coated or heavy velour backed types. You have to be able change those menus even if it’s every seven days.

It’s about embracing the 21st century kitchen; you have to use machinery and ingenuity to your advantage. If you read the commodities futures every day, maybe you’ll find you should/could hold back on certain items a while. For example, how about a hand cut beautiful pitcher of apple juice on a breakfast table? We found that 1 out of 3 people chose the apple juice and our orange juice usage dropped 38% when costs were really high.

You have to have the data available to predict what’s coming in.


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

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Martin Mongiello: Former Executive Chef to the President & Master Strategist

Part I of II: The White House Experience

Martin Mongiello is a former White House Executive Chef, Camp David Resort Manager, Certified Executive Chef, Master Certified Food Executive and Hospitality Industry Expert. A Zagat 27 Rated Inn Owner at his Inn of the Patriots, Mongiello has been featured in numerous local and national broadcast segments and is a highly acclaimed leader in sales, marketing and business strategies. His firm, Mongiello Associates has worked with high profile enterprise accounts such a P&G, Heinz, Metamucil and Wyndham in branding, product creation, planning and more.

The only thing that tops reading about Chef Mongiello is speaking to him – he is as engaging in conversation as his über successful profile. Part one of our two part interview with Chef M. is dedicated to his White House experience.

What was it like to be an Executive Chef to the President?

Very intense – they investigate your entire family and friends for a year beforehand. It’s an elevated position; top secret clearance – safety regarding ingestion and things like that. ‘Who’s the 28 year old that did the shopping for groceries for the meal?’ I was stunned for about half a month; then you get used to the artillery all around you while trying to fit in with everyone.

At Camp David, we’d shop at different stores, never to the same place twice. There are certified providers and sometimes unique ingredients. President Clinton’s pickled watermelon rind threw me for a loop.

‘Pickled watermelon rind’? What is that?

You eat it as a delicacy, usually on the olive tray. I tried it and actually liked it; it’s like pickled corn or okra.

What were some of the challenges you faced from a professional perspective?

Chefs were brought in to work with doctors. You had to learn how to cook all over again, and anyone who didn’t want to do that was asked to leave. For me, it was exciting. I learned how to cook low fat spa cuisine with Dr. Dean Ornish. He worked with me on cooking for preventive medicine. I also got to work with Dr. Connie Mariano. I enjoyed being reprogrammed; some of the chefs did not and left.

Did you have to cook for large events during this time too?

State dinners were challenging. Much of what was involved is still considered ‘classified information’ but the non-threatening info had to do with putting it all together. There were usually 40-50 waiters, a dozen chefs and sometimes military chefs.

The night of the dinner was the big crunch – we’d barely finish 10 minutes before the food was served to avoid “rubber chicken” pitfalls. All the chefs would literally form an assembly line over sheets and sheets of food. One chef would work a pastry bag, the next would sprinkle fresh herbs onto that, and so on, following each other down along the line, so the food was absolutely fresh when it went out.

The “Grip & Grin Circuit” was a challenge in creativity. How do you make a dinner stand out when those in attendance go to so many of these types of events? These were people who’d receive 12…13 invitations to dinners like this every week. Where do you find inspiration to keep that fresh?

Where do you?

This is why chefs watch each other a lot. We also keep an eye on every evolving product, read a number of magazines – it’s a mishmosh blend. Sometimes inspirations come from grocery store items, the gourmet market, specialty markets, institutional products, club stores, you may see specific sized things there – you have to always monitor things.

Next Part II of II: Extreme Cost Savings & Profitable Business Strategies.


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

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Meat Picks | 2.6.13

Creekstone Farms Comes to Chicago

Executive Chefs and Restaurateurs familiar with Creekstone Farms know it stands for superlative quality. Stringent USDA certification, proprietary genetics and humane treatment, are just some of the reasons why Premium Black Angus Beef from Creekstone Farms is a top shelf pick.

Until recently, Creekstone was not available in the Chicago market. The premiere brand is now set to launch here with the help of Buedel Fine Meats.

Nathan Stambaugh, National Director of Foodservice Sales at Creekstone Farms, says the company chose to work with BFM because, “Buedel is steeped in tradition and has built their business the old fashioned way through honesty, integrity and customer service. These qualities were exactly what we were looking for in a Chicago area foodservice distributor.”

We are very – make that super excited to be selected as Creekstone Farm’s partner in the Chicago market. Welcome, to Chi-town!

Want more info? Direct requests here.


3 Tweaks for Restaurant Week

Chicago’s Restaurant Week is in full swing now through the 10th. Here are several quick tweaks you can add to the experience: 1). Vegetarian menus are being offered at several restaurants in the City. 2) Nominations for Chicago Eater’s Hottest Chef 2013 are now being taken by email through February 11th. 3) There are about 30 suburban restaurant locations participating in the celebration this year.


Baggin’ it on the Fly

We found a great little article on cheap marketing ideas for doggie bags. Adding personalized notes, stickers, etc. to plain bags and containers can provide that little something extra to the guest experience. Hand written notes work especially well.


Congrats to the Grads

Congrats to all the grads of Red Meat Market’s first Whole Hog Butcher Breakdown & Cooking Class, which took place at the Centered Chef on January 26th. Buedel’s own Master Butchers taught the class how to break down a fresh hog carcass. Buedel Managing Partner, Tim Vlcek (kneeling left) & Jack Ranaldo (right).


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

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