Restaurants with a sustainability plan have an advantage over the competition in several ways. Making an effort to protect the environment and prevent food waste helps restaurants make a connection with customers by showing that they care. Taking steps toward a sustainable operation is also good for the bottom line — energy-saving appliances, composting and on-site gardens can all help restaurants save money. With so many benefits, implementing a sustainability plan might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be a daunting task for busy restaurant owners who don’t know where to start.

To help restaurants get on the path to sustainability, the National Restaurant Association started the Conserve program, which aims to help restaurants become more efficient and engage with customers about the topics they care about. SmartBrief interviewed Conserve Program Director Jeff Clark about how the program has evolved and why restaurants shouldn’t wait to move forward with a sustainable business strategy. (read more…)

Judy Spires has an undeniable passion for food. Getting her start at a young age, initially for college money, Spires quickly rose in the ranks of the food retailing world, acting as president of three different companies before becoming CEO of Angelo Gordon Supermarket Holdings, where she is currently working on enhancing all 25 locations and refreshing its Kings Food Markets brand.

Spires is also spearheading a commitment to enhancing the Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market shopping experience, first with the grand re-opening of the Scarsdale, N.Y., location, its re-entrance into the New York City market with its new concept, Balducci’s Gourmet On the Go Café, and later this year, the opening of Balducci’s first wine store. Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market in Greenwich, Conn., will also be remodeled later this year and a newly renovated Westport market will be unveiled as well.

We talked to Spires about her journey to where she is now, how her upbringing never made her gender an obstacle and three things she’s learned along the way about leading in the food retail industry. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Coca-Cola.

For today’s time-pressed consumers, convenience is king. In fact, 69% of consumers say that when shopping for groceries, they “just want to get in and out fast,” according to a 2013 Coca-Cola iSHOP survey.

Offering bundled product solutions based on sound shopper insights is one of the biggest opportunities for retailers to provide added convenience for shoppers while growing basket size. We talked to Sarah Tabb, brand manager on the Coca-Cola brand team, about how retailers can increase sales and profit by offering strategically bundled pairings of food and beverages.

What role does immediate consumption of food and beverages play in a large store environment?

First, it can serve as a traffic driver. Stores which offer a compelling immediate consumption food and beverage solution can pull more shoppers into the store outside of their typical shopping mission – driving more shopping occasions overall.

Second, the immediate consumption occasion can create impulse purchases; thereby growing overall basket size for shoppers who were coming in on a different trip mission. (read more…)

Look out celebrity chefs: The next food rock stars — supermarket dietitians — have been discovered under the bright lights of the local grocery store.

Remember how as recently as the early 90s, chefs were, for the most part, really great cooks who owned or worked at restaurants, unknown to most of us? Today, people who have never eaten anything cooked by Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali and Ina Garten know them and buy their products.

While chefs will continue to exert influence over food culture in America, supermarket dietitians, more than any other food world personality, are in a special position to make a positive impact not just on what people eat, but on the health and welfare of American consumers.

Here’s why that’s so — and why Oldways believes grocery stores all over the U.S., should follow the lead of Hy-Vee, Wegmans, Giant Eagle, Meijer and ShopRite, in hiring registered dietitians in their stores. (read more…)

As the holiday season approaches, food banks will see a huge uptick in donations of canned goods and other foods. Generous donations at this time of year help needy families put food on their holiday table, but hunger is a daily problem for the 49 million Americans who live in food-insecure households, according to government data. With its nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, Feeding America helps feed residents of all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

With such a large operation — Feeding America provided more than 3 billion meals last year — food safety is paramount. Feeding America partnered with the National Restaurant Association to create a comprehensive food handling training guide for its network of food bank employees, agency staff and volunteers. The NRA’s ServSafe team surveyed Feeding America employees, conducted focus group and toured food banks to create the “ServSafe Food Handler Guide for Food Banking,” which provides training on maintaining good personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitizing food properly as well as receiving, storing, evaluating, repacking and transporting food safely. (read more…)