Take Advantage and Give Back Through DFW Restaurant Week

Original Image by iluvgadgets via Flickr


By: Nikki Nies

If you’re residing in the DFW metroplex, listen up! I know how much everyone loves to enjoy a relaxing meal, so why not take advantage of Restaurant Week, which is 8/15-8/21 and be benevolent as well? For every meal purchased, 20% of proceeds will be donated to North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) in the Dallas area and Lena Pope in Tarrant County.

More than 125 restaurants are participating in:

  • Preview Weekend – Aug. 12-14 – select restaurants
  • DFW Restaurant Week – Aug. 15-21 – many will extend through Aug. 28 or Sept. 4
  • Central Market Fourth Course Certificates – Spend $25 at local Central Markets and request a certificate for a FREE additional dinner course at participating restaurants!

 Check out the list of restaurants and start making reservations! I personally can’t wait to try Al Biernat’s, Abacus, and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood. With over $740,000 raised last year for NTFB and Lena Pope, let’s make every effort to reach 1 million! It’s very doable!

Even if you’re not in DFW, keep an eye out for your local restaurant week and/or suggest proceeds going to a worthy cause too!

Sources: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2016/07/18/dfw-restaurant-week-2016-list-of-participating-restaurants/


Ideas for Hostess Gifts at Holiday Parties

Branch & Twig Cocktail Picks from Anthropologie

By: Nikki Nies

While you can’t necessarily go wrong with bringing a bottle of wine as a hostess gift to your next holiday party, it won’t take more than a few extra seconds to peruse your local store or online catalog to deviate from that normal gift.  Also, as we know, not all gifts fit all ‘hosts.’ So, whether you’re attending a party of an acquaintance, boss or dear friend, let’s add some more holiday cheer by mixing up the host and/or hostess gift a bit!

  • hostess-metal-fruit-bowl
    Metal Fruit Bowl via Zara Home http://www.zarahome.com/us/en-us/c0p5947259.html

    The Acquaintance: bring a sampler box of treats (e.g. World Gourmet Sea Salt Sampler or Lindt Chocolate Swiss Luxury Selection Box) or a fun, simply kitchen tool, like a Bird Lemon Squeezer

  • The Boss:  posh slate cheese board or stylish coasters, I’m talking copper!
  • Gardener: build own bonsai tree!
  • Work Colleague or commuter: tea gift set or coffee sampler; coffee pour over coffeemaker; heated travel mug 
  • In-Laws: his & her gifts can be  a great addition to any one’s holiday; it’s better to spend a few extra dollars on them
  • Cocktail party: bring a gift that can be used a future party (e.g. tasting games, eclectic drink stirrers or a themed cocktail book). Ideally, take something that can be used at the party right then! It’s best to avoid bringing gourmet gifts that need to be consumed within the next 24 hours as the host will feel the need of serving the gift even though it wasn’t part of their initial party plans
  • Dinner party: every host will be grateful for additional ‘serving’ equipment. If it’s not your first time at the host’s house, take a mental inventory of what kind of dishes they already have, why not add an additional serving tray or platter to add to their arsenal? They’ll be grateful for the sentimental gift that can be used repeatedly.

Keep an eye out for great ideas at the following places as well: Williams Sonoma, Etsy, West Elm, Pottery Barn, Rejuvenation, Canvas Home Store, Amazon, Luminaire, Sur La Table, World Market, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, The Container Store, This statement comes from Real Simple.

Of course, we all want to give useful, thoughtful gifts, but hopefully the above tips tap your inner creative side and helps you give the perfect host and/or hostess gift! Personally, I’m grateful for the above list as I can have a hard time navigating the different types of wines.  However, I’ve also found that giving a heartfelt homemade gift doesn’t hurt! Throughout the year, I’ll often try to learn what my friend, acquaintance(s), colleagues and/or boss’ ‘favorite’ something is, whether it’s dessert, drink, snack or go to place. I’ll then try my hand at making said favorite from scratch and it works like charm! For example, my friend loves gingerbread lattes from Starbucks, but can’t get over the price, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to make from scratch gingerbread lattes! Not only did she say it was delicious, but she had more than just one cupful! I realize there isn’t always the time or interest in making homemade anything and everything, but the same concept of observing what your host has mentioned in passing what they like, can do no harm! When in doubt, bring a dessert!

Sources: http://www.realsimple.com/holidays-entertaining/gifts/hostess-gifts/hostess-gift-ideas










Summer Travels: Staying Trim on a Beach Vacation

Image by Drifting Like a Feather via Flickr
Image by Drifting Like a Feather via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

There used to be a time when dining out was limited to only special occasions. Fast forward to present day and families eat out because it’s Tuesday or because it is easier to grab a meal on the run. Yet, with the rise of dining out, in 1999, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a study reporting that the more frequently women dined out, the higher the intake of total calories, fat and sodium. With restaurants serving large portions, finishing all that is served and justifying frequent splurges of higher fat, calorie menu selections, moderation of such meals is needed to stay trim while enjoying vacation.

Still, making arrangements and reservations for vacation can be anything, but relaxing. Sometimes we need a vacation from a vacation as all the planning is exhausting. Rather than eliminating vacation from schedule entirely, a relaxing beach vacation where lounging and recharging are the scheduled activities can be sometimes what is most needed. Yet, before jetting off to the beach resort, make sure to use some of the below tips to stay trim while on vacation, returning much happier and relaxed!


    • Instead of equating dining out as an opportunity for carte blanche, remove the concept of obtaining ‘indulgences’ solely from food and instead focus on indulging in a mystery book, massage or quality time with the family. When redirecting indulgences to other great experiences in life, it will become easier not to overindulge in calories!
    • Order half sized portions, appetizers, share entrees or opt to take leftovers home for tomorrow’s meal.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask to ‘have it your way.” Restaurants are moreaccustomed to guests requesting (easy) modifications to dishes. For example, it’s not unheard of to ask for dressings, sauces and/or gravies on the side or for part of the meal to be “doggy bagged.”

      Original Image by Daniella Segura via Flickr
      Original Image by Daniella Segura via Flickr
    • Aim to “eat in” once a day! Staying in for breakfast or eating last night’s doggy bagged meal can save calories and dollars. Bringing along some low sugar oatmeal, cereal and/or breakfast bars can do the trick too or head to the local market to keep fresh fruit on hand for breakfast and snacks.
    • Sample delectable foods in “moderation” instead of feasting. Keeping treats to once a day allows one to enjoy the “local” food while maintaining desired weight.
    • Take advantage of surroundings and go for a morning run on the beach or afternoon hike. Take every opportunity to sightsee via walking.   The friction from the sand can increase intensity if desired.
    • The mini bar in room is the start of many guilty extra snacks and drinks! Hide the key or keep the fridge closed to limit temptation and overindulgence.
    • Traveling can be dehydrating. Add a few days in the sun and water requirements increase exorbitantly. When possible, keep ice cold bottles of water stocked in r fridge and have some water on hand when out. Also, keep the triple digit calorie drinks at bay with unsweetened hot or cold tea, coffee, sparkling water, club soda or by adding some lemon or lime to ice water. Enjoying a drink or two is expected, but keep in mind each alcoholic drink can add an extra 150-450 calories and added sugar.
    • Take on the challenge of ‘5 a Day.’ Daily, make every effort to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. These efforts will aid in meeting daily fruits and vegetables quota and make one more satisfied with the added fiber.
    • Go easy on the condiments. For example, half of the fat in Arby’s Southwest Chicken Wrap or Ultimate BLT Wrap comes from the ranch sauce or mayo. Limit intake of creamy sauces or soups, opting for ketchup, marinara, mustard or BBQ sauce, which tend to be less than 25 calories per serving.
    • Take advantage of the abundant amounts of seafood from the nearby ocean! Seafood is a delectable way to get your weekly dose of fish that are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Make sure to order grilled or non buttered fishes as they are lower in fat and calories than the fried or battered dishes.

For your next beach trip, keep these tips in mind so you can have your cake and eat some fruits and vegetables too.

Sources: http://www.webmd.com/women/features/vacation-eating



Health Tips When Traveling To China

China_table_settingBy: Nikki Nies

To truly immerse yourself in a culture, especially one that is far removed from your own is the true definition of traveling. Whether you travel to the exhilarating Machu Pichu or soak up the rays in Turks & Caicos, there’s one factor in vacation destinations that can be not be ignored, the food. Depending on one’s taste buds and food preferences, that can dictate travel excursions. No matter how much you   factor in food, China should be at the top of your list of travel destinations!

You should head to China with at few ideas of where you want to go and how to best enjoy the food. I have provided first hand tips of how to best eat in China.

With many carbohydrate sources, such as rice, noodles, steamed buns as entrées themselves or accompanying the entrees, it can be easy to carb overload. However,

  • Eat with chopsticks. Not only will it slow down intake, but locals will be more likely to give you menu and meal suggestions when they see you immersing in the culture
  • Try a bit of everything, but don’t eat everything. Having a couple bites can help limit overindulging while getting the exposure to different flavors
  • Cold beverages are deemed harmful to digestion of hot foods, so hot tea or hot water are served with meals. Tea is believed to help with the digestion of greasy foods
  • Food is often prepared and served on small plate, “family style”, be ready for direct pick up and communal eating

    Image by rayand goo.gl/5mSWbf
    Image by rayand goo.gl/5mSWbf
  • While China can be divided into 57 cuisine regions, below are some of the more popular regions:
    • Szechuan (Sichuan): known for spicy, hot flavor; uses a great mixture of poultry, pork, beef, fish, vegetables, tofu in combination with pepper and chili; fast frying is most commonly used method
    • Cantonese: characterized by tender, slightly sweet taste; sauces are often light and mellow, including hoisin, oyster, plum and sweet and sour sauce; often see spring onions, sugar, salt, rice wine, corn starch, vinegar and sesame oil used; garlic can be heavily used; prefer stewing, sautéing or braising food, which helps to preserve the flavor
    • Hunan: “land of fish and rice”; fresh vegetables cooked “al dente”; favors steaming, stir frying, smoking and sautéing; special seasonings include soy sauce, tea seed oil, Chinese red pepper, fennel and cassia bark and spicy oil
    • Jiangsu: moderate saltiness and sweetness; places emphasis on the making of soups; abundant in freshwater fish and seafood from the Yangtze River and Yellow Sea
  • Desserts less common, with sweet foods introduced during meal. For example, basifruit, sizzling sugar syrup coated fruits are eaten with other savory foods
    • Beware, there are fried desserts that incorporate red bean paste
    • If dessert is served at the end of the meal, often times it is fresh fruit
  • Soup is often served at the end of the meal to satiate appetite

For any of you that have traveled to China, what other tips can you share? It’s hard to give specific “restaurant recommendations” as a lot of the great food is on the street kiosks and depending on what flavors you’re looking to try! Remember, when traveling, go in with an open mind and have fun! What regional cuisines are must eats for you

Sources: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/healthy-living/use-your-noodle-the-real-chinese-diet-is-so-healthy-it-could-solve-the-wests-obesity-crisis-873651.html

The Forgotten Health Benefits of Chinese Food



Factoring in Fasting

By: Nikki Nies

Religious fasting does not discriminate amongst religions. Off the top of my head, I know several denominations that fast regularly, while the religious premise differs. The term fasting can take on many meanings, but when someone says they’re fasting, it equates to abstaining from a something. Fasting can be in the form of complete abstinence of food and drink until sundown, TV, screen time, added sugar, sleep, sex or coffee to obtain and maintain spiritual growth.

I’m not here to pass judgement on anyone’s customs or beliefs, but to point out some aspects of fasting that should be considered. For example, someone with diabetes should probably consult a physician prior to a food fast. Perhaps, there’s another type of fast that can help with spiritual growth.

Other considerations that should be included are: ReligiousFasting

  • Fasting is not meant to punish our flesh, but to focus on those things above
  • Schedule a physical exam to confirm you’re “fit” to fast
  • If you’re on medications, make sure to notify physician about fasting to limit potential counter indications
  • Should be done during a set time and have an end date
  • Should not be used as a means of dieting, but for religious purposes
  • It can be easier to fast by thinking of this practice as a sacrificial time
  • Similar to starting a new exercise regime, you want to ease into fasting. Perhaps, you fast from one meal or fast for one day, no need to stretch yourself too thin the first time by fasting from food for an entire week!
  • Prior to abstaining from whatever you choose, may be easier to ease into the fast by decreasing intake or use of fasted items the days prior to the fast. This may mean eating smaller meals or decreasing TV time days before so the fast is easier to acclimate to.
  • May be helpful to wean off caffeine and sugar before the fast to ease initial hunger or discomfort in the initial stages of fast

During a period of fasting, one’s safety has to remain at the forefront of every decision. In addition to diabetics, those that are physically too thin or emaciated; suffering from weakness or anemia; prone to anorexia or bulimia; with tumors, bleeding ulcers, blood or heart diseases and/or cancer; have chronic issues with kidneys, lungs, heart or liver and/or pregnant women or those that are nursing may consider opting out of a fast.

The Bible refers to two types of fasts, the “absolute” and the “supernatural absolute.” These are total fasts-no food (solid or liquid) and no water

I tried to keep this post general as to not offend or pigeon hole any one’s practices, but to give some food for thought. Fasting encourages humility, greater fellowship and connection to one’s religious group, acquiring patience, can help restore one’s religious beliefs, frees oppression and encourages a lifestyle of reflection and honor.

Photo Credit:Vocation Network
Sources: http://www.webmd.com/diet/is_fasting_healthy




Georgia ACE 2015

IMG_9321By: Nikki Nies

I’ve been in the Greater Atlanta area for less than two weeks, but I’ve attended my first Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics state conference this week! I didn’t plan the move to coincide with this conference, but not bad timing, if I do say myself!  The Georgia Annual Conference & Exhibition (ACE) was on Wednesday March 18th and Thursday March 19th in Augusta, Georgia and was not only a great wealth of information, but had a bountiful of opportunities to connect with fellow colleagues and nutrition leaders.

During the conference, I scribbled pages of notes, as I wanted to retain what I learned and I knew I wanted to share with you some of the emerging trends.  The conference was refreshing, with me returning home recharged with ideas and information! Some of the information I learned:

  • ~25% of those with eczema develop food allergies, as eczema’s known as the “Allergic March”;
  • Registered Dietitians are equipped with the necessary food science lingo and  but are not taught as much about representing themselves well.  For those considering entering private practice, hiring a(n) (entertainment) lawyer to review contracts between two parties can help protect a brand and make sure both parties are on the same page;
  • While ongoing and continued research is a must, a lot of digestive and nutrition issues are being found to be related, exacerbated and/or due to altered microbiome. I have a lot of reading to do to catch up on the latest science, but it’s not a coincidence that the gut keeps popping up in conversations!
  •  Office Ally is an user friendly free online billing system that provides interactive internet based solutions, allowing for patient care from the point of contact in the physicians office to receiving payment from the insurance companies and providing overall care management from the IPAs and Health Plans; IMG_9318
  • While my time in Georgia has been short, I’m appreciative of the great network of RDs! In particular, Ms. Sherry Coleman Collins, MS,RDN,LD, the founder of Southern Fried Nutrition, has embraced me, introducing me to fellow RDs, sitting down with me to give suggestions on how to start my career and sharing how she juggles her business and passions in nutrition! My point is, I met Sherry via Twitter while I was still residing in Illinois, but felt more at ease coming to GA knowing there was at least one friendly face in the area! She’s a great advocate of the nutrient field and I’m proud to call her a colleague!
  • Emory Healthcare has been an advocate of sustainable food practices, enlisting a chef that has a flare for sustainability, creating their own garden and educating their staff on the importance and the how to of composting.
  • Many complain about the average salary of RDs, but there may be more harm than good that comes with RDs providing services, such as presentations, reviews and/or counseling at a lower rate than deserved. By knowing one’s value, what unique qualities they bring to the table can help RDs identify what ratio of services to charges they should be providing. Also, by talking to fellow colleagues about fee standards can give one the confidence needed to charge the appropriate price.

Where ever you may be residing, I hope you have the opportunity to attend a local, state and/or national conference, like FNCE, to connect with others in the industry and to learn what the latest news and trends are. These conferences allow you to use your networking skills to the fullest and potentially ignite new projects and ideas! I’m excited to get back to the drawing board and put into action all that I’ve learned in the past two days! Happy learning!

Sources: http://www.eatrightgeorgia.org/events-calendar/annual-meeting.html


Adopt Private Mind Tricks

portion-chartBy: Nikki Nies

While the words portion control, calorie counting and “mindfulness” are regularly thrown around as necessarily components of weight loss.  Unfortunately, there’s often times a discrepancy in the information provided to the public and what information the public retains and understands when temptation confronts them. In addition, when environmental bias cues bias one’s feeling of satiation, the task can become even more challenging.

Rule of thumb strategies, technically known as “heuristics,” create for ourselves — such as not spending more than $15 on an item of baby clothing, or more than $50 on a pair of shoes — can help simplify the daily choices we make. Behavioral economists believe that adopting good heuristics can help one develop sound habits.  In terms of nutrition, these habits can be healthier.

For instance, most people know that eating an apple is better than eating a slice of cake and that eating a slice of cake is better than eating two slices of cake.  With many restaurants, movie theatres and grocery stores now providing nutrition fact labels to consumers, it does not appear that consumers need more nutrition information, but perhaps, better heuristics to help develop bias towards eating less unhealthy foods.

Such rules could offset irrational tendencies, as found by studies led by Brian Wansink.  In a pilot study consisting of 1000 participants from a weight loss website were randomly assigned three small behavior changes over a three month period.  The results found the weight loss ranged from a 1.93-pound monthly weight loss (e.g., use ten-inch plates for dinner) to a 0.83-pound monthly weight gain (eat oatmeal for breakfast), the average heuristic resulted in an average weight loss—1.16 pounds per month per person.  The most effective heuristic was found to entail little decision making, such as the use of smaller plates and/or eating in the kitchen versus in front of the TV.

Less restrictive interventions are also found to be more effective to implement long term, such as the consumption of hot breakfasts instead of more restrictive heuristics, such as specifying one eats oatmeal for breakfast.  Additionally, by weighing the effectiveness of an intervention by compliance and estimated weight loss may increase compliance and make overall healthier food choices.

The use of heuristics can be a great way to integrate small, modifiable changes to one’s lifestyle, while increasing likelihood of long term implementation that gives clients the autonomy to adapt changes to preferences and lifestyle. What heuristic strategies have you found to be most successful? What do you hope to incorporate into your life?

Photo Credit: Diabeter

Sources:  http://www.learnvest.com/2014/05/money-habits/#ixzz3NL95JtVm







Sensory Science Applications in Food Service

By: Nikki Nies

Top Shelf: Beef Short Rib Enchiladas—Chili’s

Napa Almond Chicken Sandwich—Panera Brad

New England Fish & Chips—Friendly’s

Wisconsin Mac ‘n Cheese—Noodles & Co.

Firecracker Salmon—Outback Steakhouse

Premium Grilled Chicken Clubhouse Sandwich—McDonald’s

Rodeo Burger—Burger King

Hand Breaded Shrimp—Red Lobster

Giddy Up BBQ Chicken—Pizza Hut

What similarities do you find in the foods listed above? Stumped? Alright, we’ll give you the answer! These menu items have been elevated with descriptive, sensory words in front of the regular menu item, which provides more interest in the food. Learn more about the science and thought process behind the creation of these menu names! While sensory science definitely has a place in the lab, there is room and a need for sensory and consumer research in food service.

“Food quality can be considered both the most well-defined and the least well-defined concept in the food industry today” –Armand Cardello, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Army Natick RD & E

SensoryScienceLike the quote implies, while researchers and health professionals would like to think they know what consumers want while dining out, biased personal opinions can impair one’s ability to know what the CONSUMER thinks is high quality. For example, perceived quality for foodservice workers may be perceived as price of entry. Yet, that may not what will enhance the quality of service and food in the consumer’s eyes. Consumers need more tangible qualities—level of freshness, nutritional composition, microbial quality, grades (i.e. meat), adequate serving temperature, and proper preparation. In other words, food quality=consumer acceptability. With increased acceptability, sales increased, which is an aspect of business all want to see.

Since every consumer has their own food preferences and opinion of what “quality” is, it’s imperative to implement consumer testing (i.e. online surveys, focus groups) to better understand and cater to consumer wants and needs. Consumers who are frequent users of the foodservice establishment comprise the target market and help define food quality.

FoodService ImplicationsFood quality is influenced by context and expectations. In regards to context, the environment and place of consumption needs be taken into consideration when evaluating the quality of food. The judged quality of a fast food meal eaten while out during a day of shopping with children will be different than the judged quality of the same meal if served at a luxury hotel. Secondly, expectations of food quality range, with the highest expectations equated with home cooked meals and are lowest for airline meals. Sit down restaurants, public school cafeterias and hospitals’ food quality expectation can be found in between these two extremes.

With such a variety of sensory science applications, Dr. Brian Wansink, has provided four suggestive ways to label food: 1) brand, sensory, geographic and nostalgia 7

Label Description Examples Fun Fact
Brand Involves a cross promotion with a related brand that has important associations that can make menu item more attractive; implies “if you love the brand, you’ll love the item”; be mindful of brand halos and/or have negative associations Jack Daniels, BBQ Ribs, Butterfinger, Blizzard; spokesperson Descriptive menu item labels increase food sales and improve consumer’s attitudes of the food served and the restaurant
Sensory If labels accurately describe the taste, smell or mouth feel of menu item, customers will be more able to picture themselves with it Snappy Seasonal Carrots, Buttery Plump Pasta, Hearty Wholesome Steaks Ice cream shops accomplish this—i.e. French Silk Chocolate
Geographic Labels claim to reproduce same flavors that are specifically found in geographic areas; “Real” Carolina BBQ; Country Peach Tart; Iowa Pork Chop; Southwestern Tex-Mex Salad 12.4% of all U.S. foodservice operation have at least 1 menu item mentioning CA in menu item, 2011 study from MenuMine Foodservice Research Institute
Nostalgia Alludes to past time periods can trigger happy memories of family, tradition and nationalism Ye Old Potato Bread, Nana’s FavoriteChicken Soup, Classic Old World Italian, Legendary Chocolate Mouse Pie Customers sometimes like the feeling of tasting something wholesome/traditional because “they sure don’t make’em like they used to”

To better answer the introductory question of “What similarities does one find in the foods listed,” a study led by Koert et al., 2005 showed the positive impact of changing foods from regular names to descriptive label.1 It was found more descriptive menu items were more appealing to the eye, with consumers agreeing that foods tasted better than the regularly described food items, describing restaurant as a “finer” establishment, more likely to eat again, willing to spend more for food items with descriptive labels, reported satisfaction and comfort increase. Remember, the same exact food is served with or without the descriptive menu options. Crazy, right?

Let’s move on to more applicable uses of sensory science in foodservice:

I: School Food Service

Children are a lot more food savvy than given credit for in the past.   By the age of six years, they will more likely than not be able to decide what they will and won’t eat. However, there is limited info on what children specifically want in school food service. Therefore, child nutrition professionals must continue to better understand children’s food preferences. Future studies should include follow up questions to learn how these wants and needs can be best met from the customer’s perspective. By doing this, child nutrition professionals will ensure best possible environment will be provided to make most effective use of resources.3

II: Hospital Food Service

The hospital food service paradox states :”…what we need is basic care, the food that we want, it should be hot, it should be well presented and well cooked. If we don’t eat we will be in the hospital for longer and all we want to do is go home…” With 200/500 patients were undernourished upon admission; 75% lost weight while in hospital.4

The central issue is that hospital food often has a poor image, with consumers having a preconceived negative notion of what kind of food they’ll receive even before admission. Specifically, patients anticipate poor quality and low acceptance. In addition, peripheral issues include unwilling customers; customers’ anxious, frightened and removed from security of home; surrounded by strangers; loss of privacy surrounded by ‘superior’ knowledgeable staff; eating needs have to fit in with medical needs; unnatural eating position; meal times imposed; menu choices required to be made early in day.2

III: “Sommelier” Skills in Food ServiceFood Recommendations

A lot of the services of wine sommeliers can be transferred to food service as well. For example, food and wine pairing, wine tasting paring and wine recommendation by taste and style can be easily be translated into providing food recommendation based on personal tastes, making produce and main dish pairings, providing food recommendations based on health benefits and/or offering food and produce tasting classes. To drive the point home, one can recommend to consumers “If you like X, you’ll love –> you love eggplant, you’ll love mizuna!”

Feeling invigorated to use these tools in your food service establishment, keep on reading for some of Annette Hottenstein’s Insider Secrets!

IV: Insider Secrets from the Restaurant Industry Pancakes Flight

  • Test out new menu items and ideas with consumers
    1. Serve potential new food items in focus groups
    2. Promote healthy entrees
  • Utilize Customer satisfaction surveys
    1. on your receipt include a link to an internet based customer satisfaction survey or physical customer comment card
    2. entice customers by entering in raffle/coupon for a low cost item as a completion incentive
    3. Check out FREE surveys forms on Sensational Sustenance’s website
  • Ethnography
    1. study of cultures through close observation, reading and interpretation
    2. What people say they believe and say don’t always coincide with their behavior
    3. OBSERVE customers: Where and with whom do they sit with? Who is ordering what? What is their mood? Do they appear to have difficulty eating anything? What is their body language and facial expressions while they eat? Etc?
  • Check out the competition
    1. Travel and eat out at the competition
      1. Sample a wide variety
    2. Assemble a list of “best in class” for a variety of operational areas, including best menus, counter service, décor, etc.
  • Menu and Trend Research
    1. Can help answer which ingredients and flavors are gaining popularity and appearance on more menus. Are there gaps in our menu that are hurting sales? What are some of the best options to fill those gaps and improve competitive position? How do menu trends vary by region?

V: “Tasty” Resources

1) FREE National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot Culinary Forecast 2) Technomic’s MenuMonitor 3) Mintel’s Menu Insight 4) Cornell Food and Brand Lab 5) NPD Group

Every one is a customer in the food industry, craving the best quality of food. That includes the restaurant manager, waitresses and consumers. A lot of thought, creativity and development are put into the design and quality of food served. Next time you’re dining out, take an extra second and review the menu’s descriptions at hand. You won’t be able to deny the sensory science application being used in the cafeteria, airplanes, fast casual dining restaurants, hotels and more!

Photo Credit: Sensational Sustenance and Ift 


  1. Brian, Koert van Ittersum and James E. Painter (2005), “How descriptive food names bias sensory perceptions in restaurants”, Food Quality and Preference, 16:5, 393–400
  2. Hartwell, Heather J., John SA Edwards, and John Beavis. “Plate versus bulk trolley food service in a hospital: comparison of patients’ satisfaction.” Nutrition23.3 (2007): 211-218.
  3. KAY MEYER, MARY. Top Predictors of Middle/Junior High School Students’ Satisfaction with School Food Service and Nutrition Programs. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 100, Issue 1, 100 – 103.
  4. McWhirter J.P. and Pennington C.R. (1994) Incidence and Recognition of Malnutrition in Hospitals. British Medical Journal, 308, 945-948
  1. Tuorila, H. M., Meiselman, H. L., Cardello, A. V., and Lesher, L.L. (1998), “Effect of expectation and the definition of product category on the acceptance of unfamiliar foods”, Food Quality and Preference, Vol. 9, No. 6., pp. 421-430.
  2. Wansink, Brian, David Just and Collin Payne (2012). “Can branding improve school lunches?” Preventive Medicine 166(10): 967-968, doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.999
  1. Wansink, Brian, James Painter, and Koert van Ittersum (2001), “Descriptive Menu. Labels’ Effect on Sales,” Cornell hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, December 42:4,68-72.

USDA Food Hubs

SE-Food-Hub-InfographicBy: Nikki Nies

As the name implies, Food Hubs, work to bring together food collections.  Food hubs help identify and profile food collections across the country.  They  help one understand the role and impact of the U.S. food system as well as the potential challenges and/or barriers that may occur.

A regional food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the
aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily
from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail,
and institutional demand.

Foods hubs can focus on the supply side, including the support and training of sustainable production practices, production planning, packaging, certification, food safety, etc. All of these initiatives enable producers to access wholesale consumers (i.e. for retail stores or foodservice institutions). On the other end of the spectrum, the demand side of food hubs focus on coordinating efforts with wholesale buyers, processors, distributors and consumers to make sure they can meet the market’s demand for source identified, locally, regionally or location specific grown products. While food hubs can have a primary focus, either supply or demand, the business management’s primary focus is to coordinate supply chain logistics. map

Classification of food hubs is based on either structure or function.  Structural classification includes nonprofit organizations, privately held food hubs, cooperatives and/or publically held food hubs.  The legal structure of the food hub often times affects its operation and function.  Functional food hubs can be classified into three categories: farm to business/institution model, farm to consumer model or hybrid model, depending on the primary market they serve.

1) Farm to business/Institution model: Food hubs sell to wholesale market buyers (i.e. grocery stores, institutional foodservice companies, restaurants, food cooperatives, etc.); provide new wholesale market outlets for local growers that would be harder for them to access individually

2) Farm to consumer model: food hub’s responsible for marketing, aggregating, packaging and distributing to consumers directly; i.e. food delivery companies, mobile markets, community supported agriculture, online buying cubs

3) Hybrid model: food hubs sell to wholesale market buyers and to consumers directly

If you’re still with me, first of all, thanks! I also want to make sure why it’s important you recognize the different food hubs and why it’s worth learning more about.  Since many farmers are limited due to the lack of distribution and processing of products which would give them greater access to retail, institutional and commercial foodservice markets, food hubs has bridged that gap! Food hubs are a great way to combine production, distribution and marketing services that allows farmers and producers to “get in the mix.”  Furthermore, food hubs are filling a market niche and demonstrating innovative business models that be make a difference in local and regional communities.

No matter where you live, your food hub impacts your access to food.  Whereever you work, the distribution of food is affected by your business’ needs.  What personal stories do you have regarding the access and/or supply of foods in your area?

Photo Credit:Australian Food Hubs Network and World Food Day USA 

Sources: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/foodhubs





Low Cholesterol Diet

By: Nikki Niesshutterstock_57921664

While it’s been pounded into our heads the notion of “good” vs. “bad” fats, we shouldn’t overlook such labels as they’re for valid measure.  Yes, fats can be used as a type of energy source for the body, but it’s the primary source of the energy and like any subject matter, too much is harmful.  In regards to our bodies, too much fat has a direct correlation with one’s risk for heart disease and/or stroke. Old news, right?

Fat intake’s contribution to cardiovascular disease(s) may be old news, but why does our society struggle with that news? peppers-betaPerhaps, you need a fresh thought on the concepts.  Not keen on the guidelines for a low cholesterol diet? Limit cholesterol, duh! Yet, there’s more to it than that.  Actually, there’s two tiers of the cholesterol diet, which was created by the National Cholesterol education Program (NCeP).  The two low cholesterol guidelines continue to emphasize: low sodium, decreased total fat and saturated fat, decreased dietary cholesterol, increased fiber and complex carbs and decreased energy intake to obtain and/or maintain a healthy body weight.

I’m not a fan of the word “diet”, but that’s how dietary guidelines are phrased.  Therefore, Step 1 is composed of dietary changes to reduce cholesterol levels for those over the age of 2.  Step 2 of the cholesterol diet consists of more stringent limitations and is more appropriate for those with a current and/or past heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol or evidence of atherosclerosis–clog in arteries.

Photo Credit:Disease Proof and Women’s Fitness UK

Sources: http://www.gatewayhealth.com/images/uploads/general/36_-_Low_Cholesterol_Diet.pdf