Operators Look for Suppliers and Distributors to Deliver More than Products

{mosimage}While food safety has always been the number one priority for restaurant operators, produce safety became high profile after several cases of contamination last year.

Operators have always worked hand-in-hand with suppliers and distributors to ensure that only the best quality products enter their kitchens, but restaurateurs are now taking an even closer look at the products they order. They are particularly interested in making sure that proper food safety practices have been applied by every link in the food supply chain; that ingredients comply with any newly imposed federal, state and local regulations; and that all operate with the same set of business principles.

PRODUCE SAFETY Following last fall’s E.coli outbreak, the National Restaurant Association created a produce safety working group to develop guidelines for operators on how to work with their suppliers and distributors to procure safe, high-quality product for their operations and to prevent contaminated product from reaching the marketplace. Distributors today must be educated and prepared to answer questions from their restaurant clients not only about where their fresh produce comes from, but also about details on how it was grown and how it was handled after it left the field.

TRANS FAT Few have not heard about New York City’s misguided attempts to promote public health by banning trans fats in restaurant food. This leaves many restaurateurs, especially small businesses, to adjust their recipes without altering the taste and texture their customers enjoy. To eliminate trans fats, operators have to learn about alternative oils and shortenings, which they often will rely on their distributors and suppliers to provide. But that's not all.

Operators also have to be mindful of not replacing trans fats with saturated fats, potentially taking a step backward for public health. So, today’s restaurateur has to consider which composition of oil will produce the best results and request the new product from their dealers and distributors. The National Restaurant Association continues to actively engage with our state restaurant associations and monitor trans fat ban proposals so we can educate operators about what those proposals mean for restaurants. Operators can work with their distributors to find alternative products to ensure the safety, quality and taste that restaurant customers have come to expect and enjoy. BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING Another challenge that the industry is facing is being prepared in the event of a virus outbreak, whether it’s norovirus or pandemic flu. Preparedness is key to the continued success of a restaurant in the midst of a crisis situation.

During the next several months, the National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will partner with EcoLab – the leading provider of food safety and health protection products and services for hospitality and foodservice markets – to hold a series of regional workshops to help restaurants prepare for outbreaks that may impact their businesses.

“Distributors today must be educated and prepared to answer questions from their restaurant clients about where their fresh produce comes from.”
Restaurant operators are educating themselves on these issues in a variety of ways, and will also have several opportunities to learn more at the 2007 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show®, which runs May 19-22 at McCormick Place in Chicago. Among the 2,100 exhibiting companies are those that offer new products and services to facilitate restaurants transitioning to trans-fat free menus and growers with proven safety records for their fruit and vegetables (do we want to say this about the growers? Are there any who have had problems?)

In addition, among the 60-plus educational sessions offered at the 2007 show are sessions on produce safety, trans fat replacement and other health and safety-related issues, where leading experts share their knowledge and insight into these issues.

Every link in the food supply chain shares responsibility in the health and safety of restaurant guests, making education, awareness and open dialogue more important that ever. Restaurant operators are acutely aware that consumer confidence in the U.S. food supply has a direct impact on their businesses, and subsequently, the businesses of growers, manufacturers, suppliers and distributors. No matter what the origin of the product, or the distribution channel that gets it into the kitchens of our nation's restaurants, we must all work together to make the chain stronger.

Ed Tinsley is the elected chairman of the National Restaurant Association for the administrative year, 2006-2007. Tinsley is the president and ceo of Tinsley Hospitality Group, LLC, Santa Fe, NM, a restaurant intellectual property company and master franchisor of K-BOB'S Steakhouses. K-BOB'S franchises operations of 22 stores located in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

The NRA is located at Booth 6300, at the entrance of the North Hall Level 3.


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