Foodservice Equipment Reports Fortnightly

Welcome to FER Fortnightly Online Newsletter
April 6, 2010

Economic Report:
Sponsored by:
Henny Penny
Restaurateurs' Expectations Rise Sharply As Current Capital Expenditure Marker Hits Record Low
Consumer Spending At Restaurants Fell In 2009, Says NPD, As Overall Traffic Fell 4%
Even Big Chains Struggled Last Year, Technomic Reports In Its Annual Top 500
Wholesale Food Prices Rise Again, While Menu-Price Increases Are At 50-Year Low
Confidence Measures Show Consumers Remain Wary

Industry Report:
Sponsored by:
Server Products
ITW Marks Third Year As Energy Star Honoree
Brinker Selling On The Border
Beijing, Dubai Add Fatburger Stores
Darden Designing Eight LEED-Based Units
Moe's Southwest Will Add 50 Stores, Expand To Turkey
Red Mango Prepares For Airport Landings
AHF Debuts First Regional Chapters
L.A. Food-Truck Chain Plans Franchising

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In This Section:
Iowa Decides Against 82-Year Old Cooking Practice
Scottsdale Ponders Disposer Ban
Healthcare Bill Makes Menu Labeling Mandatory
Senate Committee Proposes Equipment Assistance
Feds Shutter Whale Meat Sushi Store

This issue's Economic ReportSponsor: Henny Penny 
Industry Report Sponsor: Server Products 
Regulatory Report Manitowoc Foodservice

Iowa Decides Against 82-Year Old Cooking Practice
For those of you who missed an update to the March 29 FER Fortnightly story about Iowa and its ruling about cooking loose-meat sandwiches:

Food safety triumphed in late March when the Iowa House of Representatives decided to reject a Senate-approved waiver amendment that would have allowed a local Maid-Rite franchisee to continue operating out of compliance with the food-safe standards stipulated by franchisor Maid-Rite Corp. and practiced by its other franchisees in 10 states.

Taylor's Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, Iowa, had lobbied lawmakers to continue its 82-year practice of co-mingling raw and cooked ground beef together in a single-unit griddle cooker. The store's cooker has only a single divider that separates the raw ground beef from cooked ready-to-serve product, and health officials said that wasn't enough.

To comply with various food codes and the franchisor's own stipulated cooking practices, officials said, Taylor's Maid-Rite would need to segregate the cooked ground beef by transferring it from the griddle cooker to a separate steam table with warming pans for making the chain's signature loose-meat sandwiches.

And that's what the Iowa House decision upholds.

Since buying the 80-unit Des Moines, Iowa, chain in 2001, Maid-Rite president and CEO Bradley Burt has been updating franchisees' operations, equipment, cooking processes and quality standards, including implementing food-safety procedures. The Marshalltown store is one of only two franchise units in Iowa that do not comply with the company's specified food-safe cooking practices.

Taylor's Maid-Rite is a popular local restaurant, according to Burt, but its cooking practices violate the Federal Food Code Sec. 3 302.11, Iowa Code Ch. 137F, and Maid-Rite's foodservice specified standards. "My job in the interest of food safety is to protect the health and well-being of our customers and our brand."

Upon learning about the Iowa Senate's pending vote on the waiver earlier this month, Burt contacted the Food and Drug Administration; the Iowa Dept. of Inspections and Appeals; the National Environmental Health Association; and the Iowa Restaurant Association to rally support against the waiver amendment.

Letters were sent to state senators and representatives to acquaint them with food safety standards which guard against potential cross-contamination. Alerted by Burt, Maid-Rite's 39 other Iowa franchisees contacted their state reps to register their opposition to the waiver and concern that passing it could potentially harm their own restaurants, which are in compliance with company standards.

Burt has offered to pay for the necessary upgraded steam-table equipment and design services for the Taylor Maid-Rite to bring it into compliance with Maid-Rite standards and all food safety codes. "The tradition of using an old-fashioned griddle cooker for the aesthetic look in a restaurant should not be most important; food safety for customers must always come first," said Burt.


Section sponsored by Manitowoc Foodservice

Scottsdale Ponders Disposer Ban
Something smells in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the city claims the guilty culprit is the oversized grease interceptors that are not being pumped out completely or with the necessary frequency.

Now, the city council is taking on hydrogen sulfide, the foul-smelling air emanating from food and grease buildup, and is considering a ban on the use of disposers in commercial kitchens.

Marshall Brown, Scottsdale's division director of water resources, told FER Fortnightly existing rules require solid separators between disposers and grease interceptors, but he said those rules need to be clarified and enforced.

According to Brown, Scottsdale's odor problem is compounded by its hot climate; heat promotes the bacterial growth that creates the stench, and the condensate from the hydrogen sulfide has damaged infrastructure. A decades-long tendency to install oversized interceptors to accept a kitchen's entire waste stream only exacerbates the problem, he said.

Three proposals to beef up the city's Fats, Oils and Grease program are under consideration: Banning the installation of disposers in restaurants and requiring existing restaurants to get rid of them; assessing a fee for operators who do not meet FOG-code requirements and require re-inspection; and assessing a monthly commercial fee to finance the FOG program and pay for additional inspectors.

Disposer manufacturers are advising the city and deem some of its proposals unfeasible. They point to the 2009 Universal Plumbing Code, which states disposers should not be plumbed through grease interceptors but "permitted to discharge directly into the building's drainage system." They also urge the city to come up with "best handling practices" for grease, including monitoring and policing, rather than "encouraging," pumping every month or two.

At press time, a second public meeting was scheduled for early April. The council will take up the issue later this year.

Section sponsored by Manitowoc Foodservice

Healthcare Bill Makes Menu Labeling Mandatory
The landmark healthcare reform bill just signed in Washington brings change for the restaurant industry: Menu labeling is now the law of the land for all chains with 20 or more locations.

Panera Bread got a jump last month when it announced all of its stores would post calorie information by April 1. Now every other chain that does not already post those details will be making room on its menu boards, drive-through boards and menus to comply by early next year. The law takes effect immediately, although mandatory requirements are not expected to take effect until after the Food and Drug Administration finalizes its regulations later this year. The FDA will create a standard within the next 120 days and will enforce its implementation beginning in 2011.

Officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the bill creates a national, uniform standard for chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, requiring them to provide a broad range of nutrition information at the point of purchase, similar to that found on packaged foods. It supersedes previous state and local regulations. Regular menu items must include calorie counts, but menu specials offered for fewer than 60 days and custom orders do not have to be posted.

The National Restaurant Association, which had been tracking a patchwork of local and state regulations, said it welcomed one consistent national standard. According to Dawn Sweeney, the association's president and CEO, the provision for uniform menu labeling is a win for consumers and restaurateurs.

Section sponsored by Manitowoc Foodservice

Senate Committee Proposes Equipment Assistance
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, unanimously passed March 25 by the Senate's Agriculture Committee, if it becomes law would commit an additional $4.5 billion to child-nutrition programs over the next 10 years and include equipment funding to meet the new requirements.

The bill will go to the full Senate for a vote later this year; the House has yet to act on its version of the legislation.

Among other things, the bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set new nutrition standards for all food served in schools, from lunchrooms to vending machines. Most pertinent to the E&S industry, the Act provides financial assistance to schools for purchasing foodservice equipment needed to produce the proscribed healthy meals.

The bill also expands the current requirements of the food-safety program to all facilities where food is stored, prepared and served. The bipartisan legislation not only boosts nutrition standards and meal access over the next ten years, but funds training for foodservice workers. Specific dollar amounts have not yet been detailed.

The legislation takes a critical step to address the epidemic of childhood obesity with a provision to create national school-nutrition standards, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for all foods sold on school campuses throughout the school day.

Section sponsored by Manitowoc Foodservice

Feds Shutter Whale Meat Sushi Store
It took some Oscar winners to crack the case of the mystery meat being served at Hump, a Santa Monica, Calif., sushi restaurant.

The restaurant is facing federal charges for serving endangered whale meat; the chef and owner have been charged by prosecutors with violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000. The 12-year-old restaurant immediately took responsibility for its actions, and closed its doors. Hump's Web site posted a mea culpa for its actions and claimed its owners will take additional action to save endangered species, including "a substantial contribution to one or more responsible organizations dedicated to the preservation of whales and other endangered species."

The sei whale meat was discovered through an undercover sting operation orchestrated by animal-rights activists, including a producer of the Oscar-winning documentary, "The Cove." The film looks at the hunting and harvesting of dolphins in Japan.

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