“Flat what?” That’s what everyone was asking when Starbucks introduced the flat white to its menu in January. “Starbucks is introducing a new drink to its menu that you’ve probably never heard of,” said ABC News. “Starbucks to serve a coffee Americans know little about,” announced CNN. “The first time I order a flat white, I have no idea what I’ve just asked for,” wrote Fast Company.

To many observers, the flat white seemingly came out of nowhere. But, like most trends (and fads), from kale to sriracha, the flat white wasn’t an overnight sensation — in fact, it has been appearing on international coffeehouse menus for years. At Datassential, we saw it pop up over and over again in International Concepts, our monthly trendspotting report that tracks international chain trends and menus. You’ll find it on the menu at U.K.-based Costa Coffee, the second largest coffeehouse chain in the world (after Starbucks); at South Korean Caffebene, which today has more than 1,800 cafes in a dozen countries (including 120 in the U.S.); even at McDonald’s restaurants in Australia (which is often cited as the home country of the flat white, though this is much disputed). (read more…)

You can’t run your restaurant without water. You use it to cook meals; clean dishes, floors and equipment. You serve it to thirsty customers and wash hands — many times over.

But the cost of water is rising quickly, and that’s taking a bite out of restaurants’ operating budgets.

By taking a few minutes to implement three simple water-saving steps, you can save $300 a year. You’d need to sell $6,000 of product to make $300 — assuming you operate on a 5% profit margin — so saving yourself some time and money through water efficiency is a big win. Here are the three tips to follow:

  • Serve water upon request: It takes three glasses of water to serve a guest just one glass. This, of course, includes figuring in the ice and washing of the glassware. Keep in mind that guests often don’t want water, so stop wasting it with this simple step.
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What comes to mind when you think of an appetizer? Is it a passed platter of mini deviled eggs, a hefty plate of loaded nachos, or perhaps something more akin to a pre-dinner snack? However defined, appetizers offer operators a check-boosting opportunity for business growth. Appetizers can be less costly to produce and can allow chefs to be more trendy and experimental in offerings. They’re also often the first items shown on a restaurant menu — which means appetizers give operators the perfect opportunity to create a resounding first impression with diners. And if there’s any doubt about how appetizers could affect a company’s bottom line, look at TGI Friday’s, whose “Endless Appetizers” deal was so popular that sales during the time the promotion was offered jumped double digits. In Datassential’s upcoming MenuTrends Keynote report, we take a look at meal starters and provide insight on how you can capitalize on and enhance appetizer offerings. (read more…)

Today’s food business landscape is constantly evolving. Packaged goods manufacturers are taking inspiration from high-end culinary trends (and vice versa), and increasingly savvy consumers are demanding food that is healthy, sustainable and craveable. To help the next generation of food entrepreneurs respond to these new challenges, the Culinary Institute of America is expanding its focus with The Food Business School, a new center for executive and graduate education that will prepare students for the next era of food business.

The school’s Spring semester will begin in March, and registration for classes opened on Wednesday. Food industry entrepreneurs, designers, big name chefs and business professors from Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Davis will make up the school’s faculty. Some CIA graduates will also teach classes at FBS, including Michael Chiarello, Neil Grimmer and Emilie Baltz.

SmartBrief interviewed Dean and Executive Director William Rosenzweig about what makes FBS stand out and the kind of businesses that might be launched there. (read more…)

Many restaurant owners want to recycle, but don’t know how or where to begin.

Starting with a big, complex recycling program can be difficult for a number of reasons: Different cities and counties take different materials; training staff can be time consuming; and establishing a front-of-house recycling bin system can take up considerable space.

Instead of tackling everything at once, you can start by recycling the material that takes up about 25% of your dumpster — cardboard.

If you haven’t already started your recycling program, focus on cardboard first. It will help you get a big bang for your buck in dumpster savings and potential revenues from recycling the material. Here are seven steps to successful cardboard recycling:

  • Find out if you can place a recycling bin on premise. If you are renting your space, check your lease before doing anything else to make sure additional bins can be placed out back.
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