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The 2015 Buyer's Guide

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FSR’s editors handpick the best products for chefs and operators to be aware of in the coming year.

December 2014 Research

For restaurateurs contemplating capital expenses or stocking the pantry, this curated collection features a variety of the best products for full-service restaurant operations.

Taking into account reader nominations, product announcements, and industry headlines, FSR editors selected a broad spectrum of newly introduced or enhanced products. Restaurant owners and chefs will find ingredients and edibles, cutlery and cutting-edge technology, global cuisines and go-to basics.

The overarching theme: Each and every product presents an opportunity to improve efficiencies or enhance the dining experience. Neither a ranking nor a beauty contest, the selection is quite simply some of the most innovative, useful, or pragmatic purchases restaurant operators might contemplate.

Wish list, shopping list, or simply a list of products to ponder—whatever the budget calls for in 2015, there’s sure to be something in this collection of products introduced over the last 18 months that strikes an operator’s fancy.

Taste the World

Make it flavorful, rich, and decadent, then balance the menu with healthy options that satisfy special diet needs.

1 Spanish Butchering

A must-have for any restaurant interested in Spanish charcuteria, Charcutería: The Soul of Spain, a 464-page book by Jeffrey Weiss, delves into the tradition, techniques, and history that distinguish Spanish charcuterie from its better-known French and Italian counterparts. A compendium of rich meat curing and butchering traditions, the book is further set apart by its lush photography by James Beard photography nominee Nathan Rawlinson. $39.95

agatepublishing.com

2 Mediterranean Movement

As interest grows in diets rich in vegetables, herbs, and fish, Mediterranean and Aegean tastes are gaining traction. Aegean Flavours by Didem Şenol Tiryakioğlu is an immersion in the art of Turkish cooking. Chef Tiryakioğlu, who trained at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, expertly guides readers through 11 different geographies of Turkey and their indigenous dishes. $45

qbookshop.com

3 Queso Sauce

Chef-Mate’s White Queso Sauce blends aged White Cheddar, green chiles, and jalapeño peppers, and is ready to serve on pasta, eggs, tacos and enchiladas, or as a dip. Chefs can add peppers and seasonings, or use it as a base for a sauce. It has no artificial flavors, partially hydrogenated oil or fat, or added MSG, and zero grams of trans fat. Operators can price menu items with queso higher than a basic cheese sauce. Prices vary from $69.44 to $78.40.

nestleprofessional.com

4 Rich Chocolate

The Cacao Essenziale Chocolate Couverture are mini chocolate pieces that can be used as an ingredient or garnish. PreGel’s pastry chef visited a cacao manufacturer in Paris and tasted numerous beans to create the two offerings: Tanzaka 72 percent Fine Dark Couverture, a bittersweet dark chocolate, and Azima 44 percent Fine Milk Chocolate Couverture, which has a creamy, milky texture and rich aftertaste. $20.85 for 2.2 pounds of Azima; $21.10 for 2.2 pounds of Tanzaka.

www.pregelamerica.com

5 Elevated Flatbreads

Artisan bakery La Brea rolled out a new line of fully baked flatbreads to support the growing interest in foreign tastes. Flatbreads take their cue from Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, and are smart substitutes for sandwich or burger bread, pizza crust, and pita. They come in plain round, plain square, plain rectangle, and plain naan. For a case of 120, Plain Naan is $66 to $72; Plain Rectangle is $60 to $64.80; Plain Square is $57.60 to $62.40; Plain Round is $57.60 to $63.60.

labreabakery.com

6 Latin Edge

Gluten-free Latin Flavor Concentrates from Minor’s come in Fire Roasted Jalapeño, Fire Roasted Poblano, and Red Chile Adobo. Use them in soups, marinades, sauces, dips, spreads, and salad dressings. They’re a smart option since only 25 percent of consumers are satisfied with the availability of ethnic foods on menus. Sold in packs of six, the Fire Roasted Jalapeño Flavor Concentrate is $46.46, Fire Roasted Poblano is $44.42, and Red Chile Adobo is $40.40.

flavormeansbusiness.com

Next: Kitchen & Catering

Kitchen & Catering

Impeccable freshness, reliable monitoring, and efficient cleaning are easier to manage with these items.

7 On High Alert

Never lose sight of vital inventory thanks to the NotifEye cloud-based temperature monitoring system that sends immediate alerts via email or text message when a discrepancy has occurred. Multiple recipients may be notified any time the set limits have been exceeded, and access to information is available 24/7 via the Internet. The NotifEye sensor has a wireless range of 250–300 feet with extensive sensor battery life and unlimited data storage. $1,650

cooper-atkins.com

8 A Fresh Perspective

Keep coffee, soups, and other frequently replenished food items at peak freshness with the Curtis-Renau Wireless Freshness Monitoring System (FMS), which features advanced technology that’s reliable, easy to install, and easy to use. The FMS tracks time, volume, and other data from up to 100 sensor points, then relays the information wirelessly to a single interface, eliminating the need for servers to continually check volumes. Priced to order.

wilburcurtis.com

9 Mini Thermometer

Perfect for catering, iDevice’s mini Kitchen Thermometer comes with a meat probe that is easy to attach to a dish or tray. The thermometer syncs with most Apple devices and alerts the user to when the dish reaches the desired temperature. A smart LED light indicates when the thermometer pairs with the Apple device, and what the temperature progression is, flashing red when it hits the target number. $39.99

idevicesinc.com

10 Induction Warmer

Development of a drop-in unit began soon after Vollrath introduced the countertop Mirage Induction Warmer and Rethermalizer. Launched in February of this year, the drop-in unit disperses fast, even heat, making it easy for operators to rethermalize, hold, and serve several types of foods, from soups and chili to mac and cheese. $856 for 7-quart drop-in; $975 for 11-quart.

vollrath.com

11 Table Covers

Key to catering is making any table, even an old one with foldable legs, look presentable and high-class. Table Sleeves make that easy, offering tablecloths in multiple shapes and colors that are water-repellent, made from recycled materials, and have an anti-microbial finish. They can be customized with a restaurant’s color and logos, and create a classic or contemporary finish to the atmosphere. Price customized to order; typically $20 to $45.

tablesleeves.com

12 Primed to Pump

Changing oil flow to restaurant fryers is easier, cleaner, and safer thanks to a re-engineered system, EZ Oil, from Frontline International. With the push of a button, oil flows from the boxes on the rack to the fryers, so hands and floors are kept grease-free. The upside-down storage ensures every drop of oil is drained, increasing oil yields by up to 10 percent. An integral pump simply draws the fresh cooking oil from the storage rack to the fryer. $2,900

frontlineii.com

13 Smokin’ Hot Capacity

It used to be any smoker that fit through a restaurant’s door didn’t have the capacity to smoke enough meat—but Southern Pride BBQ Pits and Smokers solved that problem. The SRG-400 compact—a gas-fired, wood-burning, stationary rack smoker—has a 400-pound capacity and accommodates 27 flat racks measuring 18 inches by 26 inches. Products can be loaded from either side. It can also serve as a holding cabinet for cooked meats. $13,765

southernpride.com

14 Over-the-Top Undercounter Dishwasher

The all-digital, high-temperature, undercounter dishwashing machine from Champion Industries is an Energy Star–qualified unit with three cycle options. Model UH330B washes up to 30 racks per hour with 120-second cycle times. Thermal technology draws cool, dry air up through the rack of sanitized ware, removing moisture and speeding the drying process. $8,195

championindustries.com

15 Enhanced Control for Walk-Ins

Remote monitoring and adjustment of walk-ins are now possible from any device with an Internet connection, thanks to Master Controller’s Web2Walk-In software, which is both Android- and Apple- compatible. A new defrost function reduces the risk of temperature fluctuations caused by the opening and closing of walk-in doors. Master Controller system, $2,824 (list price), plus $545 for Internet router.

master-bilt.com

16 Gas Griddle

Vulcan’s series of heavy-duty gas griddles in the VCCG series offers flexible platforms to fit into pre-existing kitchen operations. They reduce gas usage by 12–20 percent using an energy-efficient infrared burner system. Every 12 inches of the cooking zone is independently controlled, making it the perfect scheme for cooking chicken, vegetables, eggs, crepes, burgers, sausage, fish, and more in high-volume operations. $8,796 to $17,982

vulcanequipment.com

Next: Pour It On

Pour It On

Form follows flavor and function in these accent pieces that add new dimension to food, beverage, and service.

17 Powdered Peach

Peach Tea Super Sprint is an instant powdered product infused with the essence of ripe peaches that mimics the flavor of sweet peach tea. Its uses range from a base flavor in gelato, sorbetto, milkshakes, and frozen yogurt to an accent in a pastry. This is a key ingredient to have on hand for pastry chefs and operators who make desserts scratch in-house, especially in the spring and summer. Priced to order; it retails for $5.64 per pound.

pregelamerica.com

18 Glass Acts

The Optiva collection of glasses comes with a 3D square design that encircles the inside of each glass. For diners, the design heightens the suave factor of the drinking vessel; for operators, the little inside ridges maximize storage space by making the glasses stackable. The design also prevents moisture build-up when the glasses are stacked, while the weight and style suggest a more upscale ambiance. $46.80 to $74.40 per dozen.

foodservice.libbey.com

19 Glacier Bottle

Reminiscent of old-school water carafes, the glacier bottle adds a textured twist to water service. The 1-liter bottle has a rubber gasket on its lid that ensures an airtight seal, and it’s handmade from thick glass for easy portability. Compatible with any beverage, from craft soda to juice, the Glacier bottle adds a sparkle to the dining experience. $85.92 per dozen.

foodservice.libbey.com

20 Tangy Tonic

With a spritz of lemon-lime flavor, Boylan Heritage Tonic Water comes out fully fledged, ready to be the perfect namesake for a gin and tonic. So flavorful it can even be served on its own, the drink’s all-natural ingredients such as citrus and botanicals combine with premium seltzer, cane sugar, and quinine to create a tasty pop that will entice guests to order another round. $8 per four-pack.

boylanheritage.com

Next: Sustainable Living

Sustainable Living

Organic choices, raw elements, healthier processes, reusable materials–so many opportunities to choose green.

21 Organic Coffee Mix

Café Essential’s Organic Coffee Beverage Mix creates a coffeehouse style of beverage that operators can serve hot or blended with ice, milk, and added flavors. It also works as a base for a more complex shake or coffee beverage. It has a velvety texture and comes in five flavors—Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Crème, Madagascar Vanilla Latte, Moka Latte, Café Moka, and Chocolate. $28.91 per bag or $77.43 per case; each case comes with three 3.25-pound bags.

cafeessentials.com

22 Conscionable Carryout

With their designer prints and colorful pops, these carryout containers from Bottlebox are a step up from the traditional doggy bag. Bottlebox packages are sustainable, each made from recycled water bottles. Operators report that packages with color increase to-go sales by 20 percent, and Bottlebox packages are designed for re-use at home, encompassing full-circle sustainability. $0.35 to $0.45 per base-and-lid combo.

thebottlebox.com

23 Kale Sprouts

A perfect pairing: Two of the hottest trending healthy vegetables, kale and Brussels sprouts, have been combined into versatile, flavorful kalettes. Both from the Brassica Oleracea species, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, the two greens create a new vegetable with a sweet and nutty taste. Kalettes may be eaten raw, roasted, grilled, or sautéed. $13.50 for 2.5 pounds.

kalettes.com

24 Natural Sips

Coconut water is on trend, but many brands use a concentrate with natural flavors added or use ultra-high-temperature pasteurization, which kills beneficial nutrients. Suja, on the other hand, uses high-pressure processing, and its Elements line uses cold-pressed organic juices as a base. The Tropicaloe will surprise and delight guests with its blend of coconut water, pineapple, apple, aloe vera, lime, and mint leaf. $4.99 per bottle.

sujajuice.com

25 Raw Juices

Gourmet raw fruit and vegetable juices from Organic Avenue can boost any restaurant’s non-alcoholic beverage program, and they are also used by bartenders. Some add rye whiskey, infused gin, and fruit-flavored rum to create a juicy cocktail. The selection has a longer shelf life because a high-pressure process stabilizes the raw juice, elongating freshness. $7–11 per 14- to 32-ounce bottle, with up to a 25 percent discount for wholesale purchases.

organicavenue.com

26 Hearty Soups Get Healthy

This line of gourmet soups from Blount is certified organic. The vegetable chili, which joined the line in June, is a simple, artisanal offering for any restaurant. The chili comes in four 4-pound, ready-to-heat bags for minimal effort in the back of the house. It also speaks to healthy choices on the menu, as each serving rings in at 120 calories and 2 grams of fat. $34 to $38.55.

blountfinefoods.com

Next: Bar Tabs

Bar Tabs

Versatility, efficiency, performance, and the quest for informed decision-making put these items high on the wish list.

27 Multipurpose Mixology

Designed with the input of bartending professionals, Glastender’s five new mixology units fit compact bar spaces and advance craft cocktail techniques. They handily address all of the modern bartender’s needs, from a sink and drainboard to a rinser for shaker cans and a lift-out wet waste strainer. $900 to $1,600, depending on module.

glastender.com

28 Wine Drawers

Perlick’s wine drawers allow operators to store open bottles upright, protecting wine from exposure to light and inconsistent temperatures, both of which deteriorate the quality. There is space for 46 wine bottles to be stored, and the dual-zone capability means the drawers are suitable for both reds and whites, while the digital display is easy to read, and integrated locks offer increased security. $6,500

perlick.com

29 Tea for Cocktails

This tea concentrate from Owl’s Brew debuted in summer 2013 and is perfect for cocktails. Fresh-brewed from real spices, fruits, and herbs to mimic the essential elements of a tea cocktail, it comes in three flavors: the Classic, which has an English Breakfast taste with a lemon kick; Coco-Lada, which whisks together black tea, chai spices, pineapple, and coconut; and Pink & Black, a fruity concoction with strawberries, lemon peel, and hibiscus. $16.99 for 32 ounces.

theowlsbrew.com

30 Zone Chilling

A sleek and modern 24-inch wine cooler that is suitable as a freestanding unit or a built-in installation, the Dual-Zone Wine Cooler from Fagor impresses with its 46-bottle capacity, LED real-time temperature display, and touchscreen controls. The five beachwood racks add a touch of elegance, and temperatures range from 41°F to 68°F so that operators can set each zone to the proper temperature depending on the varietals stored inside. $1,099

fagoramerica.com

31 Stealthy Quiet

The strong, silent type just got even sexier: Blendtec’s upgraded Stealth 875 blender, with a 15-amp motor and 42 pre-programmed blend cycles, can serve more than 200 customers per day. Its sophisticated, sound-dampening enclosure enables quiet blending without compromising performance. Available in black or stainless steel. $1,499

blendtec.com

32 Touchscreen Inventory

Partender’s inventory control app has a simple interface and conducts a full inventory sweep in minutes. Users build a virtual representation of their bar on a smartphone and tap each bottle’s liquor level on the app, simple as that. It helps calculate a restaurant’s monthly pour cost and stores the info on the cloud. Operators log into their account to view bar economics. $99 one-time fee, plus a $199–$299 monthly charge.

partender.com

33 More Than a Moonshine Moment

Craft distilling is not going away any time soon, and a handy guide to understanding the process lies in this book, Proof: The Science of Booze by Adam Rogers. The writing may be science-based, but this isn’t ninth-grade biology all over again. Rogers approaches booze much as a painter regards a Van Gogh piece: with respect, intelligence, and a sense of humor. $26

hmhco.com

Next: Pantry to Fridge

Pantry to Fridge

Taste, texture, and transitions to healthier lifestyles shine the spotlight on some unexpected ingredients and foods.

34 CHA! Sauce

The word sriracha has moved into mainstream terminology among both chefs and diners in recent years, and it’s not unusual for diners to request that some of this bright, spicy sauce be added to their dishes these days. Cha! By Texas Pete comes in a 28-ounce bottle with a re-sealable lid, perfect for back-of-the-house uses, whether as a garnish or as a key component of a recipe. $43.20 to $46.30 per 12-pack case.

texaspete.com

35 Chicken Sausage

This year, the 125-year-old, family-owned Jones Dairy Farm introduced Four Pepper Chicken Links, its first chicken sausage. With a tender, tear-free bite and vegetable-based casing technology that allows for consistent browning and less splitting—improving eye appeal—these chicken links significantly reduce fat and sodium content. The chicken sausage cuts fat by 64 percent and sodium by 14 percent, is free of preservatives, and is 100 percent all-natural. $4.15 per pound.

jonesdairyfarm.com

36 Say Cheese

Pan-Ready Cheese Pouches from Emmi Roth USA are pre-portioned for a standard foodservice 4-inch 6th pan. They decrease risk of contamination or shrinkage, which can occur when re-sealable bags are improperly stored. The bags have an improved shelf life over bulk buys, and come in four flavors: Grand Cru Original shreds, Buttermilk Blue crumbles, Buttermilk Gorgonzola crumbles, and Goat Cheese crumbles. Approximately $6.50 per pound.

emmirothfoodservice.com

37 Liquid Graham Cracker

The Pino Pinguino Graham Cracker Arabeschi has the texture and consistency of peanut butter but embodies the taste of sweet graham crackers, producing a versatile ingredient for desserts, from milkshakes and ice cream sundaes to gourmet pastries and other sweet dishes. It stays soft even when mixed into a frozen dessert. Priced to order at approximately $8.35 per pound.

pregelamerica.com

38 Home-style Apples

Side dishes are riding the wave of popularity that is carrying small plates and bar bites to new heights. Musselman’s Heat 'N Serve Homestyle Country Apples work well as a side, but can also be the base for a fruity dessert, the topper for waffles in the ever-growing breakfast daypart, or an ingredient in a sweet and savory dish. Fruits are a smart option to tap as consumers look for restaurants to serve healthier options. $43.90 to $48.72 per case, which has 168 portions.

knousefoodservice.com

39 Not-So-Bitter Reads

As Technomic reports consumers are showing more interest in sour and bitter flavors, author Jennifer McLagan—whose book Fat was named the James Beard Cookbook of the Year in 2009—takes a deep dive into the physiology of bitter with her book Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes. McLagan investigates the historical, cultural, and scientific roots of the flavor. $29.99, Random House.

randomhouse.com

40 Bulk Yogurt

Chefs are replacing sour cream, cream cheese, and mayonnaise with plain Greek yogurts, cutting fat by up to 80 percent. Dannon’s options, available in vanilla and strawberry flavors and traditional nonfat, as well as Oikos Pro Greek nonfat yogurt, come in 6-pound bags with an easy-pour, re-sealable cap that helps prevent spillage and minimize cross-contamination. $27.72 for four bags, 6 pounds each, of the traditional flavors. $27.22 for two 6-pound bags of the Greek flavors.

dannonfoodservice.com

41 Natural Eggs

To produce its All-Natural Brown Eggs, Land O’ Lakes feeds its hens simple, all-vegetarian diets that contain no hormones, steroids, antibiotics, or animal by-products. The eggs are packaged in recycled polyethylene terephthalate plastic cartons, and in January, 2014, the American Culinary Federation awarded this line its Seal of Approval. Priced to order.

landolakes.com

42 Classic Clam Chowder

The history of Ivar’s Seafood, Soup & Sauce Company goes back to when its founder, Ivar Haglund, sold his homemade clam chowder on the Seattle waterfront. The recipe still has a wholesome, rich taste that is approachable and satisfying. It is gluten-free and it gains an edge in particular at restaurants that do not have the volume to justify having a hot, gluten-free soup ready to serve. $51.75 for 32 pounds.

ivarschowder.com

43 Pure Dressings

With no artificial ingredients, flavors, or colors, Pure Kraft Dressings dress up any dish, from a salad to a wrap. The five flavors in this line are classic tastes with a twist, such as the Asiago Caesar Dressing or the Country Honey Mustard Dressing. According to a 2014 study by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 52 percent of customers look at ingredient lists when making dining decisions. Priced to order.

kraftfoodservice.com

44 Low in Sodium, High in Protein

Healthy menu items never go out of style, so Bush’s Low-Sodium beans, which include black, pinto, kidney, and garbanzo beans, are a key item to consider. These beans are also low in calories and fat, and cholesterol-free. Beans are extremely versatile and can be used to create dips, sides, salads, appetizers, soups, and entrées. What’s better, they also work well in kids’ menus. Priced to order.

bushbeansfoodservice.com

Next: Gadgets & Gear

Gadgets & Gear

Kitchen ware and chef wear designed with busy restaurants, safe practices, and stylish preferences in mind.

45 Heavy Lifting

DUO tongs have a reinforced, 500° silicone and steel head capable of picking up items weighing 20 pounds. Perfect for use in all cooking surfaces, boiling water, deep-frying, and plating foods, the DUO tongs have an ergonomic non-slip handle. Slots in the head drain liquid for cleaner service and an angled side makes it easier to grasp food. Also available in a 9-inch green version and a 12-inch black option. The 15-inch red DUO sells for $19.99.

ergochef.com

46 End Cross Contamination

Avoiding cross contamination in the kitchen pre-sents challenges. Mercer offers a simplified, color-coded system of knives and utensils that helps everyone in the kitchen adhere to safe practices. Tools and cutlery dedicated to the preparation of allergen-free foods are colored purple for instant recognition. Mercer’s Millennia Cutlery includes multiple knife options and utensils. The 8-inch chef’s knife is priced $27.20.

mercercutlery.com

47 Crowd Pleaser

Meet the coat that chefs built: Tilit Chef Goods sponsored the #ChefCoatProject, a crowd-sourcing initiative to gather input from chefs around the U.S. and Canada, and then design the perfect professional chef’s jacket. The winning design features performance apparel side panels, an apron strap tab, pit vents, a chambray-lined collar, easy-roll sleeves, a split longer back, a hip pocket, and a sharpie arm pocket. Available in both men’s and women’s tailored styles, priced $75.

tilitchefgoods.com

48 House-Made Pasta

Fresh pasta made in-house takes less time to cook—just 1 to 2 minutes—than dry pasta, which typically takes 8 to 10 minutes. Faster cooking time is just one benefit of the IDEA Pasta Extruder from La Monferrina. Fresh-made pasta also has no preservatives, absorbs sauce better, and appeals to diners who prefer house-made ingredients. The power attachment, which fits mixer hubs, is less expensive than a standalone pasta machine. Priced $2,999.99.

alfaco.com

Next: Table Turns

Table Turns

What happens at the table never stays at the table: Leave a positive lasting impression from start to finish.

49 Barn to Table

Handsome reclaimed wood tables, available in hand-sanded or machine-sanded varieties, add pizzazz and a refined edge to the dining space. In its Reclaimed Barn Wood Tables collection, East Coast Chair and Barstool uses eco-friendly wood that is rescued from Pennsylvania and Ohio barns, and ranges in age from 75–125 years old. $139.99 to $349.99 for the tabletop; $384 to $749 for the whole table.

tableschairsbarstools.com

50 Rustic Tableware

As nature and craftsmanship collide not just in the outdoors but on the restaurant table, Tuxton’s Artisan Collection amalgamates the styles in a rustic presentation. The plates have vibrant glazes that dovetail with their hand-thrown appearance. Available in three colors—Mojave, Night Sky, and Red Rock—the collection inspires and enhances the dining level. $151.32 to $541.92 per dozen.

tuxton.com

51 Porcelain Plates

Made in Limoges, France, these sophisticated white plates will draw all eyes at the table. The Esquisse round plates from Degrenne Paris emphasize plating details, from garnishes to color. The high-quality, weighted porcelain walks the line between contemporary and classic elegance. $29.70 to $48 for pack of six plates (5.5-inch bread and butter plate, 9.5-inch dessert plate, or 11-inch dinner collections); $34.50 for pack of three 13-inch presentation plates.

tabledefrance.net

52 Square Bowls

From slanted to square, bowls no longer have to be round to be in style. Tuxton’s Santorini collection has square bowls that come in two different sizes and are perfect for serving dishes as small as appetizers or small plates, or even a salad or soup. The product is lead-free, and safe for use in microwaves, ovens, and dishwashers. $252.48 per dozen for 25-ounce bowls; $351.96 per dozen for 41-ounce bowls.

tuxton.com

53 iPad-Based Guest Management

QSR Automations’ DineTime app takes care of wait lists, reservations, email marketing, and seating. Its analytics provide key insights in real time and as a daily email. It operates on Apple or Windows platforms, and this fall, QSR Automations began testing a consumer-facing extension of the app. Options range from free to $49 per month, $99 per month, or $199 per month, depending on the quantity of wait list and reservation parties seated.

dinetimehost.com

54 Point of Service

Like many point-of-sale systems, Toast allows restaurants to operate payroll, loyalty programs, labor management, menu customization, and reporting in a single intelligent platform. What Toast improves upon, however, is the ability to keep tabs on inventory. With Toast tablets, servers input orders and payments directly at the table, improving table turns up to 15 percent. $50 to $300 for the software; hardware starts at $1,200.

toasttab.com

55 Data-Driven Insights

ZipScene uses actionable data and insights to enhance marketing, wading through the vast pool of data available and focusing on stats that will drive increased visits and sales. It identifies patterns and delves deeper into what encourages away-from-home dining decisions. $10,000 setup fees. Monthly subscriptions range from $50 to $200 per location per month, and are tiered based on the number of locations.

zipscene.com

56 Smart and Secure Payment

This pay-at-the-table device, RAIL, allows guests to easily split bills, swipe cards at the table, insert loyalty and gift cards into the device, and do so safely with point-to-point encryption security. A sleeker, thinner design, a larger screen, and EMV smart card payment capability were recently added. $1 per day, per device. (One device can handle multiple tables, and most full-serves use two to five devices.)

tablesafeinc.com

Next: Lights, Cameras, Action

Lights, Cameras, Action

It’s showtime, each and every meal. Never underestimate the power of a rave review or a shared picture.

57 Pulse Check

Cloud-based marketing software Pulse helps restaurant operators keep an eye—and yes, a pulse—on the conversation surrounding their brands. An early detection and warning system alerts users of potential crisis conversations on social media. It also provides volume analysis, which pinpoints trends, and a user-friendly dashboard that surveys the broad social landscape. $12,000 entry price; actual price varies with service and volume.

newbrandanalytics.com

58 Natural Lighting

Helen lamp bulbs tuck away into recessed fixtures but offer beautiful, natural lighting, perfect for setting the mood at a restaurant. These LED bulbs replace four-pin and two-pin compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), and plug into both vertical and horizontal outlets. They have no need to bypass the ballast, and are compatible with 26-watt, 32-watt, and 42-watt outlets. One Helen bulb has the equivalent life of five CFLs. Priced to order.

lunera.com

59 Loyalty and Marketing

HelloWorld offers rich engagement platforms, synthesizing loyalty programs, marketing, analytics, POS integration, text and email CRM, and social and mobile apps into one, combining all of the tactics restaurants use to engage customers into one technology. This year the company rebranded from its former name of ePrize, reflecting its software growth and its new SaaS capabilities. Priced to order.

helloworld.com

60 Gift it Forward

Gratafy is a smartphone app that lets consumers send each other dining gift cards. It integrates with a restaurant’s POS system, creating a swift and simple redemption process. What’s best for operators, however, is that consumers who come in to redeem a gift typically spend 400–500 percent more than the gift’s value. In six cities and expanding, Gratafy works with more than 250 bars and restaurants. $400 setup fee, plus 10 percent of each gift sold.

gratafy.com

61 Smartphone Camera Lens

The Tele lens from Moment adheres to most any digital device, making it a smart fit for users of Apple, Samsung, or Google phones. It has a 2.0x magnification ratio and absolves the need for a photographer to ever use the built-in digital zoom. Its photos come out sharp and have no distortion, and Moment ships the product with extra adhesive and a cloth sleeve to protect and clean the lens. Better yet, the lens is designed to work whether a user has a phone case or not, so there’s no need to tinker with existing hardware. $99.99

momentlens.co

62 Smartphone Tripod

Made to fit most any smartphone, the GripTight GorillaPod Stand has flexible, bendy legs that allow it to be a tripod not just on flat surfaces, but also on uneven ones, such as an outdoor table or even a wrist. It grips onto smartphones securely so that they don’t slip out, even when the tripod is tilted sideways, and it is easily portable. This is a great option for operators who want blur-free food shots or even want to film a quick video in the kitchen or interview a chef for social media. $29.95

joby.com