Taps Fish House and Brewery offers casual dining and beautiful design

Dec 29, 2010

When my partners and I are on call for a project, we always come on site to the restaurant to taste the food and assess the location. Aside from evaluating the food, we take careful attention to the ambiance and décor of the restaurant. In short, the design and décor must be appropriately matched to the theme of the restaurant and provide an inviting, enjoyable and not to mention clean atmosphere.

Every so often, I visit a restaurant that is so beautiful that it leaves a mark in my mind even after I leave. Taps Fish House and Brewery in Brea, California did just that. Upon entering the establishment, I immediately felt a warmness—not just from the cordial service but from the dark brown wood furnishings, exposed brick walls, old-fashioned stools and wall fixtures.


At Taps, you can experience both classy fine dining on one end at the elegant main room, and casual eating and drinking at the bar on the other. Cigar enthusiast? Light one up at Taps cigar-friendly patio. On a chilly night at Taps, try cozying up to one of four fireplaces to some live music. Taps is a wonderful example of great restaurant design. Our very own consultant at Synergy, Bob Kuchinski, actually designed Taps. Synergy Consultants specializes in high-end designs to fit any restaurant theme — this includes exterior design, interior design and decor as well as efficient commercial kitchens.


2011 promises to ring in nutritious changes at restaurants

Dec 10, 2010

As 2011 soon approaches, so too will food-labeling requirements for many restaurants, particularly chains with 20 or more locations. Check out the following foodservice trends as the top 5 that will result from the federal menu labeling mandates.

1. Healthy by association

Although diners surveyed state they want to eat healthier, they also often complain that healthy food doesn’t taste as good. But, Mintel showcases Taco Bell as a great example of lowering sodium (at various test locations) without compromising taste. Even Jason’s Deli is promoting their free of high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and pesticides.

The key point to remember here is that people feel good about eating at restaurants perceived as healthy.

2. Automated menus

Next year, we believe there will be more restaurants using electronic order takers that will allow customers to customize their order. This move will certainly increase the speed of order fulfillment and reduce dependency on front-of-house staff.

3. Locally grown

According to a recent study in restaurant trends, there was 15% increase in the second quarter of 2009 of the use of locally grown ingredients in restaurant dishes and expects the trend to continue in 2011.

4. Transparency

More cities will require restaurants to post letter grades based on health inspection scores in addition to posting calorie counts of menu items.

5. Exceptions to the rule

While there will be a mandate for posting calories, this is not included for foods that are offered on a limited time basis. The result of this may have restaurants offering seasonally indulgent menu items that will allow customers to indulge without knowing the nutritional value.

How will you market “healthy” at your restaurant in 2011?


New advancements coming to your favorite coffee shop

Dec 02, 2010

If you’re like most Americans who enjoy savoring a fresh, hot cup of coffee from your favorite barista, you understand the importance of freshly brewed coffee when it comes to flavor. Do you ever get dissappointed when you don’t get that fresh flavor? Was your coffee really brewed “on demand”? Starbucks has responded to this all-too-familiar issue (common in the afternoon hours) by introducing the pour over brew method to their shops. With the pour over method, a barista can quickly grind enough beans just for a single cup of coffee. With the pour over method, customers don’t have to wait 6 minutes for larger batch to brew – the pour over method takes only 2 minutes.

How does the pour over work? It’s deceptively simple yet creates bold flavor. With just a ceramic cone filled with freshly ground beans, you slowly pour hot water over and it will drip all that fresh goodness into a cup below. The main component to remember is to slowly and continuosly pour the hot water over the ground coffee for a couple of minutes.

Starbucks isn’t the only shop that’s picked up on this cleverly efficient method of brewing coffee. Intelligentsia coffee chain in Venice, California is also phasing out their complicated and very expensive brewing machines for the pour over method.

Is this low-tech apparatus the new trend in coffee shops? We think you’ll be seeing a lot of more the pour over method in months to come.


Make the most out of the hottest trend right now – sea salt

Nov 24, 2010

Move over Morton, iodized table salt is losing its popularity as more chefs and food products are using sea salt instead. In fact, in 2010 alone, sea salt has been introduced to nearly 1,350 food products.

So what’s so special about sea salt, anyways? Actually, sea salt has many differences in comparison to its table salt counterpart. Harvested from evaporated seawater, sea salt has a coarser and crunchier texture and also is bigger in surface area. Many favor sea salt because they say it is more flavorful. Moreover, because of sea salt’s stronger flavor profile, you may find yourself using less of it than regular table salt, which can result in a lower-sodium diet.

Even big names in the fast-food industry are getting in on the trend and marketing their use of sea salt. Take the popular chain, Wendy’s, for example. They’ve just introduced their new Natural-Cut fries with Sea Salt – a bold move in the french fries wars amongst big name rivals like McDonald’s and Burger King. New products guru from Mintel, Lynn Dornblaser believes that sea-salt has the potential to “grow as fast as low-carb did.”

So who else is using sea salt? Campbell’s, Target brand Archer Farms, and Whole Foods are all proudly labeling sea salt on their packages. If you want to offer a new twist with your menu items and appeal to this new trend, there are many things you can do with salts. Did you know you can smoke them or even flavor them with other seasonings such as mushroom powder, smoked paprika or even lemongrass? Smoked salt is a really easy way to add smoked flavor to any food. Its strong aroma is ideal on meats and vegetables.

Will this new trend affect your restaurant menu?


Foursquare helps restaurants bring in more traffic

Nov 16, 2010

What’s the best marketing tool for a new restaurant? Some may say the best option is direct marketing like giving out coupons, while others believe word of mouth is king. In this age, social media has dominated in terms of creating buzz for businesses. Facebook and Twitter are the big names most people think of when it comes to social networking and naturally many operators are turning here to create awareness of their businesses.

But have you ever heard of Foursquare? No, not the childhood game you used to play during recess. Foursquare is a unique social networking tool that can bring eager new traffic to your restaurant. How does it work? “Foursquare is a mobile application that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. It is a friend-finder, a social city guide and a game that challenges users to experience new things, and rewards them for doing so. Foursquare lets users “check in” to a place when they’re there, tell friends where they are and track the history of where they’ve been and who they’ve been there with.” You reward people for checking in at your establishment – the more they check-in, they’ll have higher chances of achieving “Mayor” status and in turn, you reward this frequent guest with special discounts!

So how do you get started? After creating a business profile on, you’ll want to make sure people know you’re registered and offering great deals. On your website, place a badge that says “Find Us on FourSquare.” You can also place a sign in your restaurant (like a window sticker) that says this as well.

What kind of incentives can you offer? You can use Foursquare’s tools to create customized specials:

• Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue. Who’s the Mayor? It’s your single most loyal customer! (the user who has checked in the most in the last 60 days)
(“Foursquare has deemed you the Mayor? Enjoy a free order of french fries!”)
• Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times.
(“Foursquare says you’ve been here 10 times? That’s a free drink for you!”)
• Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins.
(“Foursquare users get 20% off any entree every 5th check-in!”)
• Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special.
(“Show us your foursquare Swarm badge and get a free drink!”)
• And more to come!

Some Foursquare ideas for restaurants:

– Half-off drinks every Thursday when you show that you’ve checked-in.
– Free entree when you become a Mayor!
– Buy one get one free coupon for every 6 check ins!

Essentially with Foursquare, you can build a great new repeat customer base for your restaurant. It’s fun, it’s social, and it’s gaining a lot of attention!


Could pies are the next big thing for 2011?

Nov 14, 2010

And so, 2010 will soon be coming to a close. What indulgent treats will be dominating the restaurant industry landscape in 2011? Well, cupcakes have had a great run in the last few years, with names like Sprinkles and Crumbs driving droves of sweet-tooth foodies forming lines out the door at their locations. A recent article published by Nation’s Restaurant News shows that pies will be making a come-back this coming year.  Upon reading that article I headed to NYC for a food eating mission and guess what I had for dessert?

The all-American dessert and comfort food, though less glamorous than fancy cupcakes or international favorites like tiramisu or flan, may very well be in the forefront in 2011. It’s predicted that even savory and bite-sized pies will gain popularity as well, not to mention the inventive, “pies blended into milkshakes” variety.

In New York City, up-and-coming restaurant Hill Country Chicken, a unique concept, serves casual fried chicken and pie. Owner Marc Glosserman ‘s goal was to create a restaurant that honored his childhood memories unpretentious, Texas home style cooking. Specializing in pies is what caught my eye on my visit – at Hill Country, there’s an impressive selection of pies, from whole pies to mini pies, all handmade fresh, daily. There are actually a dozen, carefully chosen different pie varieties and yes, they serve pie shakes! A piece of pie, a few scoops of ice cream and a splash of milk completes this decadent drink. To leverage this trend think outside the box and be innovative in your thinking!  How is this for an idea: “Pie In The Sky” which could be apple pie and ice cream served in a foot tall margarita glass.  When it comes to menu innovation our team makes it a point to keep its finger on the pause of industry trends.


Deliciously satisfying, pies are the ultimate American comfort food. Keep your eye out for more pie concepts coming out in 2011.


Sexy servers attract a new segment

Nov 10, 2010

The popular franchise Hooters, best known for hot wings and hot servers, has new similar concepts giving them a run for their money. Focusing on more upscale food and better guest service, restaurant chains like Tilted Kilt, Brick House and Twin Peaks are competing for the mid-thirty year-old male target demographic.

Not surprisingly, men respond very well to an all-female wait staff. At Tilted Kilt, a gastropub, service goes beyond just attractive faces and skimpy outfits. Each waitress is required to follow particular customer service rules like introducing themselves by their nicknames, covertly writing down the customers name and using that in the 10 minute conversations they keep going on with each guests. This system is designed to build a special connection between guest and server and ultimately to bring in more regulars. Waitresses here divulge that on busy nights, they can make upwards of $150 just in tips. With just 14 locations in the US, Tilted Kilt hopes to expand very soon to new areas.


It’s not just fast casual eateries and pubs that are targeting this demographic. Sexy baristas are drawing in many regular clientele as well. Coffee establishments as small as a drive-thru stand (Cowgirls Espresso of Arlington, Washington) have exploded in popularity with waitresses making and serving specialty drinks in revealing outfits. And at Baristas Coffee Co. based in Kent Washington, each day there’s a special costume theme like Naughty Nurse or Catholic School Girl. Business is booming at these so-called, “sexpresso” establishments.

It’s clear the growth in these businesses comes from knowing who their target customer is. The point is, define your target customer and build your concept to drive them in if you too want to reap the full potential of your concept!


Sodium-reduction initiatives for restaurants coming to a county near you

Nov 04, 2010

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just granted 5 jurisdictions, Los Angeles County, Broome and Schectedy counties in New York, New York City, Shawnee County in Kansas, and Shasta County in California, $1.9 million for sodium-reducing initiatives in foodservice establishments, including restaurants, school, grocery stores and food suppliers. The goal of this 3 year grant is to raise awareness of the health dangers and effects of foods prepared with large amounts of sodium and to initiate at least one major sodium-reduction policy in each region.


For example, Los Angeles County is planning to launch a program to monitor the compliance of restaurants with federal menu labeling mandates, which requires restaurant chains of 20 or more to post nutritional information, like sodium and calories. The case for regulating our salt intake has been a hot issue in the past decade as many Americans have suffered illnesses and death from heart-related conditions that may derive from high sodium diets. Many diners these days are seeking out restaurants that can cater to a healthy lifestyle. At Synergy, we are experts are reverse-engineering menu items to accommodate specific nutritional guidelines. If you feel your restaurant requires a nutritional menu update, please contact our offices for a complimentary evaluation.


Healthy restaurants? You might want to think again

Oct 30, 2010

We love blogging about healthy trends in restaurants like those that cook and serve locally grown foods and ones who center on vegetarian and organic options. More and more people are getting smart and choosing healthy meals when eating out. What fast-food restaurants come to your mind when you want a nutritious, figure-friendly meal? You’ll be surprised at some menu items at your favorite restaurant that you think are healthy.



Subway’s famous slogan is, “Eat Fresh,” with commercials featuring top athletes endorsing their favorite sandwiches. But did you know, in order to make the best healthy choice at this popular franchise, you have to do your research. A hot seller on the regular menu at Subway, the 6″ Spicy Italian sub actually has almost as much fat and calories (28 grams of fat, 520 calories) than a Big Mac at McDonald’s (30 grams of fat, 560 calories). And when comparing the two in terms of sodium — the sub contains way more sodium (1830 versus 1010 mg) than the latter!

Think a salad is the best option for watching your weight? Think again! Wendy’s BLT Cobb Salad has 47 grams of fat and 670 calories! Needless to say, looks can be deceiving.

If you’re unsure about what’s the best menu option for a healthy meal, consider the basics. Cheese, a common add-on to sandwiches and hamburgers, contains a lot of fat and unnecessary calories. The same goes with mayonnaise and many dressings. Instead of a breaded chicken wrap, which is often fried, go for the grilled option. Skip the salad dressing and request a side of lemon or ask for a low-fat alternative. And if you’re still not sure, ask a server for a nutrition menu or check out the restaurant’s website before ordering.

Need some more help? Here’s a list of the nation’s top 5 healthiest fast food restaurants according to a recent survey conducted.

1) Panera

2) Jason’s Deli

3)Au Bon Pain

4) Noodles and Company

5) Corner Bakery Café

Wouldn’t you like to see your restaurant listed here? If you need assistance developing healthy menu items, please contact Synergy today.


How to apply for a liquor license

Oct 27, 2010


So you’ve passed the hardest part in the game and your restaurant is now in full swing. But you want to give your customers a better dining experience – namely, one that pairs delicious food with equally delicious wine and spirits. And the biggest benefit to you as an owner? Well, it’s statistically proven you can boost profits from serving alcohol! So what exactly are the steps involved in serving alcohol? You need to first acquire a liquor license from your state.

There are a few different licenses to apply for so you need to distinguish which type of food service establishment you are before proceeding further.

For example:

•  Restaurant wine: You are allowed to sell beer and wine but not liquor or distilled spirits.
•  Tavern wine: This applies if more than 50% of your sales are wine and beer.
•  On-premises (full-liquor license): You are allowed to sell beer, wine and liquor.
•  Club: Allows private clubs to serve alcohol to their members.
•  Brewpub: Restaurants or establishments that brew and serve their own beer.
•  Eating place beer: For restaurants where you can drink beer on the premises and can sell carry out beer.

The application process can seem very overwhelming and some choose to hire a specialized attorney and some choose reputable restaurant consultants since there are many detailed and legal aspects to be dealt with. To understand the full requirements, including the cost, you must contact the Alcohol Beverage Control agency in your state. In some states, there are a limited, fixed amount of licenses issued so you must purchase an existing one.

The time it takes to obtain a license from applying to issuance can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. And once you obtain one, you need to monitor your staff and management to ensure your establishment is in compliance with the rules set forth or else your license can be revoked. Synergy has helped many establishments with their liquor license. If you need assistance, please call our offices for a free initial consultation, 888-861-9212.