Food companies and retailers that market to traditional concepts of mealtime behaviors are missing out on new opportunities emerging from the dynamic changes taking place in American culture (in general) and our eating culture (specifically).

Consumers’ eating isn’t as random as it seems. It is shaped by an emerging system of contexts and beliefs. Shifts in the culture and demographics of the U.S. are impacting the what, when, where, who, and why of consumers’ eating habits.

In the process, consumers are redefining the parameters of meals, snacks and the planning process.

Consumers are eating closer to the time of purchase, meaning that the emblematic “what’s for dinner?” meal question is often now answered by shopping and consuming within an hour or so of purchase.

We are witnessing a blurring of dayparts. Busy lives mean traditional mealtimes are less relevant and social rules about what’s appropriate to eat (and when) are lost. (read more…)

Cutting food waste is a team effort that can get much more complicated when the team is growing fast. Houston-based Salata has grown to 42 restaurants, with 11 more in the works this year. Each corporate and franchise store employs between 15 and 20 people, and the fast-casual design-your-own salad chain has developed practices for cutting food waste that are a key part of the company’s training program.

Recently, I spoke with David LaBorde, director of product development and vendor relations, about Salata’s waste-reduction strategies.

On developing the training program

Training has been a huge project, a huge focus for us. We’ve been working on it intensely for about 15 months or so. We hired a consulting firm that’s helping us rewrite the manuals. We invested a lot in our training team, in developing corporate trainers to train managers and directors of training, all to make sure we’re setting stores up for success. (read more…)

Did you know you could save real money by composting waste at your restaurant?

In some cases, businesses can save up to 75% on trash removal services just by reducing the amount of waste that is hauled away.

With International Compost Awareness Week beginning May 3, the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve program is encouraging more restaurants and other small businesses to start composting their food waste. Yes, it can be challenging, but also rewarding. While it requires additional effort and planning, once a program is in place, operators will reduce their trash hauling and tipping fees by limiting the amount of food waste they send to landfills.

For anyone wondering what compost actually is, it’s the natural process of breaking down organic waste into a nutrient-rich soil mixture to feed plants. Compost is added to gardens, crops and landscaping to help fertilize plants and enrich the soil they’re grown in. (read more…)

Later this month, tens of thousands of restaurant professionals will gather in Chicago for the National Restaurant Association‘s annual show. The foodservice industry’s largest trade show consists of four days filled with education sessions, demonstrations and an expansive show floor packed with exhibitors showing off the latest restaurant trends and technology.

This year’s show kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 16 with education sessions including “Recruiting, Hiring and Training in Non-Traditional Settings,” and “The Art and Science of Site Selection.” Over the course of the show, sessions will cover a range of topics, from nutrition and sustainability to franchising and workforce engagement.

The daylong Restaurant Finance Summit will return to the show this year, with a keynote address by Russ Bendel, chief executive of The Habit Burger Grill.

The popular beer, wine and spirits portion of the show will operate under a new name starting this year. (read more…)

On Sunday, May 17, professionals from the foodservice and hospitality industry will gather at Chicago’s Navy Pier for the 18th annual Championship BBQ to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the fundraiser, where they will sample tasty bites and beverages and watch chefs in action during the BBQ competition. This year’s chef lineup includes Missy Corey from Publican Quality Meats in Chicago, Stephen “Smokey” Schwartz from Burnt End BBQ in Kansas City, Mo., and judge Stepahanie Izard from Girl and the Goat.

SmartBrief interviewed Share Our Strength co-founder Debbie Shore and Championship BBQ creator and former publisher of Food Arts magazine Barbara Mathias about how the event helps combat child hunger and what attendees can expect this year.

How did you come up with the idea for the Championship BBQ fundraiser?

Mathias: I wanted to host an event during the NRA Show that would be fun and different from what everyone else did. (read more…)