LYFE Kitchen Gourmet Frozen Meals are a Game-Changer

May 30, 2013

Frozen meals tend to carry a stigma – mushy, bland, unhealthy and a “last-resort” type of meal if you’ve no time to cook. But LYFE Kitchen has changed all of that with their new line of prepared gourmet meals. How does Chicken Chile Verde with Polenta and Black Beans or Nine Grain Pilaf with Sweet Chile Beef and Steamed Vegetables sound for dinner? How about some Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Quinoa and Mixed Fruits to start your day?


What’s so different about LYFE Kitchen’s frozen prepared meals? One of the most noticeable differences you may find when comparing other frozen meals is that LYFE’s come in paper pouches that steam in your microwave – you meal is cooked perfect each time.


LYFE Kitchen meals are good for you


• No high-fructose corn syrup

• No artificial preservatives

• No artificial flavors or colorings

• No hydrogenated fats

• No more than 450 calories per meal

• Less than 500mg sodium per meal


LYFE Kitchen utilizes green packaging


• 100% recycled paperboard with 75% post-consumer waste

• Pouch constaints uncleached paper made from % pre-consumer waste

• Printed with soy or waterless inks

Where you can you buy LYFE Kitchen prepared meals? Use this handy map or order from Amazon.


LYFE Kitchen is truly revolutionizing how we eat food; Synergy Restaurant Consultants is proud to have worked with LYFE Kitchen and seeing their continued success is gratifying as well as exciting!


Stay tuned because LYFE Kitchen is rapidly expanding. Keep an out for more restaurant locations and prepared meals in your local grocery store!


Organic vs. Non: What Does It Really Mean?

May 28, 2013

organicvsnonOrganic food is the highest growth sector of the grocery market today, climbing 9.5% to reach $31.5B in 20121. No longer confined to the walls of Whole Foods, organic products (food and otherwise) are cropping up in aisles from your local corner bodega to mass-market giants like Wal-Mart. More and more, the organic option has become synonymous with the better and healthier choice. But the truth is rarely that simple. So here are some top facts that unveil what that price premium really gets you.


  1. Organic foods are defined as foods produced without synthetic or chemical fertilizers & pesticides and are exposed to genetic modification, industrial solvents, chemical food additives, sewage sludge, or radiation. However, it does not mean pesticide-free or chemical-free. Instead, any of the treatments for organic food must be derived from natural sources or “occur naturally”. USDA has an official list of approved substances; it includes spinosad (from certain soil bacteria), pyrethrin (from chrysanthemums) and azadirachtin (from the neem tree) – all of which have been classified as toxic by the EPA (environmental protection agency)2.


  1. Organic foods need to be certified by one of USDA’s third party certifiers to ensure it complies with all of the organic standards. This involves detailed planning processes, a hefty annual fee, and day-to-day record keeping. However, certifiers have different levels of strictness and within the industry, those with weaker products know there are certain organizations to flock to for that prized USDA Organic stamp (i.e. OCIA)3.


  1. Certified Organic is not the same as 100% Organic. The former means 95% to 99% of the food falls into the definition of organically produced food but not completely. These two types of products can use the USDA Organic seal. For products with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients can be labeled “made with organic ingredients” and those that are made with specific organic ingredients can also boast the word “organic” on its packaging but neither of the last two can use the official seal4.


  1. Only 100% Organic means the product is non-GMO (genetically modified organisms). In the U.S. there is currently no law requiring the labeling of GM products; seeing that 91% of soybeans planted in the U.S. are GM5 it is very likely you are not getting a pure product.


Organic is a good concept but truly informed buyers understand for the amount of loopholes in the system, many times it is just as much a marketing gimmick as it is a true insight into the quality of the product. Compared to the alternatives however, organic does generally imply a better product. But then, anything is tastier than the cardboard meat that Tyson passes off as chicken!



In the end, if quality is truly your top concern I recommend the age-old adage, shop seasonally and locally when possible. No matter how “organic” your strawberries may be, if you bought them in the middle of February they have traversed most of the globe to get to you. They’ve also probably suffered exposure to some compromising substance in order to keep them so nice and red and juicy upon delivery. Most produce tastes best when eaten as close to harvest date as possible, so go to the farmer’s market (GrowNYC has one along Broadway on Thursdays!) and pick up fresh veggies for your meal. This way you can also get a better grasp of what is in season when, access to a great array of new varietals, and assurance of a much more detailed screening process than grocery stores (NYC Greenmarkets have a very rigorous system of background checks for all vendors). So while organic is a good fallback plan, for true quality get closer to the source. Happy healthy eating!







1 Organic Trade Association 2012 Organic Industry Survey

2 NPR. Organic Pesticides: Not An Oxymoron

3 Interview with Joe Holtz, Founder of Park Slope Food Co-op

4 Oregon Tilth: Consumer & Labeling FAQ’s

5 USDA ERS – Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.


You eat first with your eyes: Learn best plating practices

May 27, 2013

For many, a beautiful plate of food is akin to a work of art. As a restaurant operator, it is important to note that a dish is appealing not only to the taste buds but also to the eyes. Paying attention to food presentation can be the factor that elevates your customer’s dining experience to the next level. Did you know several studies have found that the visual presentation of food may actually affect the perceived taste of that food? A recent study researching the affects food presentation found that “The colour of the container where food and drink are served can enhance some attributes like taste and aroma,” as explained to SINC by Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, researcher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain).”

There are various methods of food presentation that are simple yet effective means to deliver that “wow” element to a dish. Read our best practices below to make sure you’re covering all your food plating bases.

Combine various textures: an experienced chef understands that humans engage all five senses when they eat. Therefore, ensuring a dish contains a texture aspect is considered best plating practices. For example, if you are serving a soup, consider topping it off with a fried tasty crunchy garnish like fried shallots, garlic, or tortilla strips.

Play with color: This one is no-brainer! Different colors can delight the eyes, so always make sure that you don’t produce a boring, muted, monochromatic dish.



Try different dishes and containers: It’s not just what’s on the plate that matters, but also the plate itself. Experiment with using different plates and bowls for your food. Don’t be afraid to try something out-of-the-ordinary. Serve different food elements in bowls of varying colors, shapes and depth. You can even go plate-less! Try using food as a dish; think endive leaves, hollowed out pineapple, banana blossom petals – the possibilities are endless!

plating techniques

Paint with sauce: You’re a chef and an artist in the kitchen, so feel free to paint your canvas (plate) with some sauce! The beauty of this technique is that you can get really creative here. Serving up a plate of New York Cheesecake? Spoon-drizzle a combination of berry and chocolate sauce in swirls and drops.

sauce art

Be an architect: Consider plating your food as a similar process to building a house. You need to construct your base and then continue to build layers. Try creating a mini-tower of food to create some awe at the table!

As you can see, there are so many ways so elevate your food by simply paying attention to food plating and presentation. If you need assistance with learning how to plate like a culinary professional, contact Synergy Restaurant Consultants.


May 2013 Newsletter

May 22, 2013


A lot’s been going on at Synergy lately. We’re working on two projects slated to open in the next several months in the charming, newly revitalized center city area of Rapid City, S.D., about 20 miles from Mount Rushmore.
Eight months in the making ¿Que Pasa? Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar is a hip, urban cantina with an outstanding collection of tequilas and a menu that’s contemporary yet approachable. The selection features fun twists on classics like sizzling fajitas, burritos, carnitas and shareables such as ceviche, comal-grilled quesadillas and chile-rubbed chicken wings.
Ciao! will open later this year, a family-friendly fast-casual restaurant featuring grilled panini sandwiches, salads, tossed-to-order pastas, and oven-baked specialties like lasagna and spaghetti pie.
Both concepts will be operated by local restaurateur Bob Fuchs, who also owns the Firehouse Brewing Co and Wobbly Bobby British Pub. We’ll be filling you in on the details as the opening dates move closer.


To your success,

Dean Small and Danny Bendas

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Thoroughly Modern Menus

By Joan Lang

Dining out, traveling, and talking trends as much as we do, we see a lot of interesting menus. As a group, restaurant menus have been moving away from the traditional appetizer-entrée-dessert progression for a number of years now, but lately we’ve been noticing that some menus have become absolute shapeshifters—modular to the point of being practically without course structure. And that means that customers can have their say as never before in how their own meals are constructed.

Take Range, Bryan Voltaggio’s new mega-restaurant in Washington, DC. Not only are the facilities enormous (14,000-sq.ft., with nine kitchens including a bakeshop, 300 seats, a private dining room and an adjoining cigar bar) but the menu is the very definition of wide-ranging. With well over a dozen sections, items are grouped by technique (“Roasted”), equipment (“Wood Oven”), station (“Cold Kitchen”) and category (“Pasta”). Price is the only relative indication of size. Diners can have raw-bar specialties and pizza, they can order any of seven a la carte breads and among 18 kinds of salumi and charcuterie. They can easily eat vegetarian. And while it remains to be seen if the menu stays this way past its opening frenzy, there’s no doubt that adventurous food lovers can have a field day here.

There’s also the Little Goat, Stephanie Izard’s “diner” in Chicago that serves breakfast all day (heralded by the category Cereal Killers), a “Snack Corner” merchandising the likes of upscale chicken fingers and nachos, and an a la carte Bread Menu that runs the gamut from bagels to broccoli cheese bread and also includes daily soups and a build-your-own house sandwich. You can’t help but get the feeling that you’ve stepped right into Izard’s appetite.

Here are a few other attention-getting menu formats:

• Animal, a trendsetting restaurant in Los Angeles, lists a variety of different items, one after another, that begin with a $3 toast and end with a $29 rabbit entrée, with lots of offal (oxtail, crispy pig tail, veal brains) in between. Order this, two of thats, and one of those to share, and you have a fabulous and adventurous meal. Chef-owners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo also own a restaurant called Son of a Gun, with categories like “raw,” “seasonal” and “meat” that almost seem quaint by comparison

• Sable, Heather Terhune’s new restaurant in Chicago, touts all-day dining on “social plates”— various kinds of shareables like flatbreads, hors d’oeuvres, Farm & Garden (vegetables, salads and vegetarian items), and mix-and-match fish and meat entrees like fried chicken and tuna tartare tostadas. There’s also breakfast, and a weekend brunch (where cocktails are listed under “Thirsty”)

• The Kitchen, with locations in Denver and Boulder, celebrates the “community” of food in bistro and bar format, respectively, with cozy banquette seating, late-afternoon community hours, dining at the bar and a seriously casual attitude toward well-crafted food. The menu in Denver, for instance, features raw bar, oysters, caviar, starters, and mains, while there are two different venues in Boulder: Next Door, a family-friendly community pub; and Upstairs, a slightly more traditional “community bar.” The commitment is to food quality and fun—for the staff as well as customers

Need help making your menu more amazing? Contact Synergy Restaurant Consultants.

Wake Up and Smell the Breakfast

By Joan Lang

The recent news that McDonald’s may start serving breakfast all night is just one hint at how much the eggs-and-bacon daypart is heating up. There are lots of other players on the front, indicating the industry’s ongoing search for new sources of revenue.

Breakfast really perked up during the recession, when consumers sought all kinds of ways to eat out more affordably—
from morning meetings and catering to brunch with friends—and it has stuck around even as the economy improves.

The NPD Group reveals that breakfast and brunch sales have boomed post-recession, accounting for an estimated $59 billion in total industry revenues. Morning meal sales skew toward older, more affluent diners, but brunch has become an important social outing for younger diners in major cities.

And the segment is set to grow still more: Mintel predicts breakfast sales to increase 2.8% in 2013, and a whopping 22.1% between now and 2017.

Quick-serve operators now represent 83% of all breakfast availability, according to Datassential’s “Egg Menuing – Breakfast and Beyond” report for the American Egg Board, stealing share primarily from the midscale segment. In part, this is based on the convenience (read: egg sandwiches) and price point of QSR breakfast. But there are a lot of individual winners.

One is The Egg & I, a 70-unit breakfast-and-lunch chain based in Centennial, OH, which has been on a serious growth trend in the past few years, and counts some 90% of its sales from the breakfast/brunch daypart.

For customers, the appeal is a wide-ranging menu of under-$10 items, ranging from prosaic pancakes to specialties like frittatas, Benedicts and Southwestern-style egg dishes. There are also numerous healthy options emphasizing ingredients like egg whites, turkey sausage and steel-cut oatmeal.

For franchisees, the appeal is equally economical: Operating just seven hours a day (7 ½ on weekends), The Egg & I can be staffed by a single shift, and units tend to be in such secondary markets as South Portland, ME, and Panama City, FL. The advantageous food costs of eggs and pancake batter go without saying.

Which is not to say that the quality and creativity of menu offerings isn’t totally stepped up. Among other things, with more boutique hotels opening and partnering with big-name local chefs for their restaurants (and often room service), more of those chefs are lending those names to the morning meal.

Ace Hotels, for instance, with high-profile properties in such cities as Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Portland, OR, have become favored local breakfast destinations—for both business and pleasure—in their respective cities. In New York, the morning crowd can choose between The Breslin, with an Englishey menu designed by April Bloomfield (who also operates the popular seafood restaurant John Dory on-property) and cult-favorite Stumptown Coffee Roasters, where they can order coffee and a pastry and take it to the hip lobby for something a little less elaborate. So you can just forget about the old trope of the locals only going to a hotel for the Sunday breakfast buffet.

Meanwhile, it seems like brunch has never been hotter. At 2 Sparrows in Chicago, Charlie Trotter alums Gregory Ellis and Steven Fladung have made their names with an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. morning meal that includes the seasonally driven likes of duck confit hash and a “belly sandwich” consisting of blackened pork belly, sunny egg, and spicy aioli on a biscuit. And at Brenda’s French Soul Food in San Francisco, late Sunday risers can partake of such eye-opening fare as beignets, Hangtown Fry, and Grillades & Grits.

Can you say “second Bloody Mary”?

Secret Weapon

By Karen A. Brennan, Marketing & Branding Strategy

A while ago I was in Los Angeles on a Discovery Tour and visited an haute hot dog concept called The Slaw Dogs. The line-up of builds was impressive. They had dozens of variations, from the Soy Bomb veggie dog to a Rueben Dog with spicy sausage and pastrami, but most impressive was when they brought out their “Secret Menu” of off-menu choices for two women who were undecided about what they wanted. How fun is that?

Weeks later I went to P.F. Chang’s with my sister and brother-in-law, who ordered an off-menu item—Chang’s Shrimp, which had been taken off the menu years before. Since being deleted, it is now a “secret” that those in the know can order. As my brother-in-law told me, “They make it for me.” He loves having the “inside scoop.” It has made him a huge P.F. Chang’s fan, and the fact that he could tell me about it absolutely made his day. And that’s the point: Secret menus make guests feel good because they get what they want and feel like they’re getting special treatment too.

But secret menus are also good for restaurants. Having headed up marketing for several restaurant chains, I know how challenging menu development can be—especially when staying on-trend with new items means that you have to let go of old established items in order to keep the total size of the menu down to an executable level.

I read some research a long time ago that said the single biggest reason people stop going to their favorite restaurant is because the restaurant stopped serving their favorite item. I’ve been convinced of that over the years, as focus groups have repeatedly told me the same story of abandoning a restaurant because their favorite item had been 86’ed.

That’s why some restaurant chains, like the Bravo Brio Restaurant Group where I was chief marketing officer, keep POS keys, recipes and server training materials for deleted items. If a guest requests a discontinued item, like Bravo’s Shrimp Fra Diavolo, and they have the ingredients, they can still make it. It’s really a win-win. The guest gets what he wants because the restaurant has the infrastructure in place to do it, without taking up valuable menu real estate.

And it’s not just deleted menu items that find their way onto a secret menu. Often, secret menus include items that solve a guest problem—nutritional or otherwise. Someone told me if I was too late for breakfast at McDonald’s I could ask for a Mc10:35, a hybrid of an Egg McMuffin and a McDouble . (To test the theory, the other day I asked my local McDonald’s if they had heard of the Mc10:35 and the cashier said to me, “I wish!,” implying that even though their location didn’t serve it, it would be a great idea and would make her and a lot of her customers very happy.)

Secret Menus cater to the undecided, to the health-conscious, to picky eaters and to the splurge market:

• The Undecided—Build-your-own concepts like Neapolitan pizzeria 800 Degrees offer suggestions for great combinations. This can really help expedite the ordering process and lower the anxiety level for indecisive patrons

• The Health Conscious—Panera Bread, in deference to their low carb customers, has recently launched a Hidden Menu with power protein bowls for breakfast and protein options at lunch; Popyeyes offers its sandwiches “Naked” (without the batter); and In-N-Out Burger offers its burger “Protein Style,” wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun

• The Just Plain Picky Eaters—A picky eater friend of mine is executive vice president of a chain of restaurants in New Orleans. To accommodate her preference for no sauces, the chain instituted a special register key just for her that is now commonly used for anyone who prefers “no sauce” presentations. I happen to hate burritos, but I just found out that Chipotle will make my chosen ingredients into a quesadilla instead of a burrito if I just ask—that’s all the incentive I need to go back

• The Splurge Market— McDonald’s Pie McFlurry is what you get when you buy a Baked Apple Pie and a McFlurry and have them blended together for you. Wendy’s offers a Grand Slam with four burgers, and In-N-Out’s cult-favorite 4×4 includes four burgers and four slices of cheese, but legend has it that they once served a 100×100! (NOTE: A side benefit of keeping these items off-menu is that their calorie counts stay off-menu, too—some things are better left a secret!)

What all of these Hidden Menus, Secret Menus and Not-So-Secret menus suggest is that great operators are finding inventive ways to give customers exactly what they want while ensuring the consistency and execution their customers demand. For chains that can’t devote valuable menu space to items that only have limited appeal, but want customers seeking esoteric items to know that they are available, secret menus are a great option.

Secret menus allow operators to simplify the complicated ordering process of picky customers and to maintain consistency on even quirky orders. They also build deeper relationships and an insider feeling among customers that can spur them to share via social media. Shhhhhh….

In fact, in today’s intensely competitive battle for market share, secret menus really are a great Secret Weapon.

Tip of the Month

Foodable Network bills itself as the “premier WebTV network for restaurant and hospitality,” with videos on such topics as server body language, how to make a Pumpkin King cocktail and fast-casual French cafes (via FastCasual Trends TV). It’s led by Paul Barron, founder and author of “The Chipotle Effect”; stay on top of new postings with the Foodable twitter feed.


Restaurant Professionals: Landng the Perfect Job

May 22, 2013

You love food. No, you have a passion for food and penchant for business. You love managing a group of people and putting your directive skills to the test. You are organized, efficient, and possess impeccable communication qualities. You thrive in a fast-paced environment.


If this sounds like you, then a position as a restaurant manager may be the role best suited for you. Restaurants across the country are constantly seeking effective restaurant managers to oversee their staff and day-to-day operations. If you believe your skill-set can be of great contribution to a restaurant, it may be wise to begin applying for restaurant management positions through a restaurant recruiting agency.


Synergy Restaurant Consultants, the leading restaurant advisory consulting firm with over 25 years of experience, specializes in recruiting the best-of-the-best of restaurant professionals, from general managers to top-tiered executive chefs.


Finding the right restaurant to work for—one that matches your work-st

yle, experience, values and requirements – is not always an easy task. Synergy makes finding your dream restaurant job a reality. We assess your experience and requirements to help you find the perfect job match. Because of Synergy’s access to an extensive network of restaurant hiring managers and other industry professionals who are looking to hire, Synergy has a high rate of success to helping restaurant professionals land a great career.


For more information on Synergy’s restaurant recruiting services or to submit your application for restaurant general manager or executive chef, please visit our employment page.


New Drunk-Driving Rules Potentially Devastating to Beverage Sales

May 21, 2013
Martini | Image credit: Flickr by Dave Morrison Photography
Martini | Image credit: Flickr by Dave Morrison Photography

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has put forth a new recommendation that states lower the legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels for drivers from 0.08% to 0.05%. Currently, all states have a 0.08% permissible BAC level for adult drivers 21 and over. This reduction would mean the average male can only have two drinks over the course of dinner and a female, just one. Compare this to 3-4 drinks for males and 1-2 drinks for females at the 0.08% level and it is understandable why restaurants have responded immediately in opposition.


Alcoholic beverages are among the most profitable items on restaurant menus and comprise an important part of restaurant revenue. In recent years, chains and standalone operators alike have refocused efforts on bar offerings by expanding the bar areas and hiring expert mixologists to concoct new beverages. As of last year, alcohol represented 7.3% of total sales at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and 14.5% at Applebee’s.



Sales figures aside, alcoholic beverages are also a traditional part of the dining culture in the United States. In addition to helping relax the diners, complementary beverages genuinely enhance the flavors of the dishes. Because of the last push from the NTSB to bring the acceptable BAC to 0.08%, alcohol consumption during meals have declined in the past 10 years and are now just seeing a comeback. The new regulation will take a long time to implement (the last took 20 years) but is still a notable event to keep an eye on.


Concerned about what this may mean for your restaurant and beverage menu? Want help in concocting a beverage list will be just as delicious but less alcoholic? Contact Synergy Consultants for our variety of services from menu development to restaurant operations.




Lean Clean Menu Series: 5 Superfoods You’re Already Serving At Your Restaurant

May 18, 2013

Interest in so-called “superfoods” has gained major traction in the last decade. Superfoods are defined as foods that are nutrient dense despite being relatively calorie sparse. Outlets for this family of foods have reached beyond specialty health food stores and into mass-market grocers. As consumers become more health-conscious and also more willing to explore the arena of new foods with “super” benefits, the demand for menus that include superfoods is also growing.

Despite the stigma, superfoods are actually much more approachable than they are generally regarded. In fact, there’s a high chance you’re already serving some (or all) of the superfoods below!


  • Berries: blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are all packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Expand their utility beyond dessert by adding them to salads, turning them into a glaze for lean meats, and making berry-based smoothies.
  • Oats: whole oats are a rich source of soluble fiber, B vitamins, and important minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus. Make them your go-to as toppings for desserts or grind them into flour to layer with regular all-purpose.
  • Oily fish: fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are filled with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium. Keep fish interesting with a variety of different marinades that can incorporate this great protein into any cuisine.
  • Legumes: peas, beans, and lentils pack a punch of protein, soluble fiber, B vitamins, and iron. These can serve as an easy way to provide vegetarian options in addition to adding nutrients to any side or main dish.
  • Leafy green vegetables: the darker greens, such as kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, command higher levels of important nutrients such as vitamin C, folate, and sulforaphane. Mellow the intense flavors of these vegetables by incorporating them with other fruits and vegetables or blanching them lightly before using them in the final preparation for a dish.

The next step is to make it be known that you’re serving these ingredients that are both delicious and nutritious! Highlight popular dishes that include these superfoods on your menu, offer new varieties as specials, and have your waitstaff suggest them as options. Keep track of how these new changes are received at your restaurant and you’ll most likely be surprised at how positive the feedback will be! If you need want additional guidance on best practices to a healthier menu, please contact Synergy Restaurant Consultants.


Did your city rank as a Mom-friendly dining city?

May 12, 2013

Did you know that next to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days for restaurants? The National Restaurant Association (NRN) estimates that 80 million adults will treat out their loved one at a restaurant this upcoming holiday. In fact, NRN projects that Mother’s Day 2013 will produce stronger restaurant sales versus last year.


Across the nation, restaurants are aggressively attracting consumers by offering Mother’s Day brunch and dinners specials. In such a competitive environment, how does a restaurant stand out among an ocean of others?


OpenTable, the popular online reservations system company, recently produced a guide that reveals top 25 Mom-friendly dining cities in the U.S.


Rounding out the top 10 cities are:

Long Beach, California

Tampa, Florida

Boulder, Colorado

Dallas, Texas

Austin, Texas

Columbus, Ohio

Raleigh, North Carolina

Houston, Texas

Charlotte, North Carolina

Las Vegas, Nevada

So what exactly are the criteria that makes these locations so great for a Mother’s Day celebration?


OpenTable explains:

The results are spread across 16 states and point to the places where it’s terrific to be both a mom and a foodie. In order to provide this ranking, the OpenTable Mom-friendly Dining Index was calculated using four variables based on OpenTable reservation and diner reviews data from 2012: the percentage of people who dined out for Mother’s Day; the percentage of restaurants rated “kid-friendly;” the percentage of restaurants rated “romantic;” and the percentage of restaurants rated “hot spots.”

To view the rest of the top ranked cities, read the entire OpenTable release here.


New Restaurant Start Ups: Be Careful with Your Trademark

May 09, 2013

Starting a new restaurant is truly an exciting experience. Finally, you can combine use your passion for food to form a business for everyone to see and experience! While you may be busy with menu planning, operations, interior design, or staff training, you cannot afford to forget to make sure you’re legally compliant.


One important aspect some restaurant operators fail to consider is their trademark. As you begin branding initiatives, the first step is logo creation. It may be a design you created, inspired by a piece of pop culture or perhaps another logo.  Unfortunately, while the design may be unique in your eyes, it very well may be “confusingly similar” to another trademark. Without performing due diligence and properly researching existing patents and trademarks in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you could potentially be infringing on another business’s trademarked design.


TMFeatures describes a “confusingly similar” trademark case where a restaurant owner’s trademark performed an inadequate USPTO which ended in a lawsuit from the Rolling Stones I.P.


“…USPTO contacted him letting him know his new trademark was published. Soon after receiving the USPTO publish notice Zoest Legal contacted Mr. Wright claiming infringement of the Rolling Stones’ tongue trademark.

Mr. Wright was surprised and upset. After comparing the two trademarks (“Taste of Soul”, his restaurant, also has a tongue as part of its design), Mr. Wright decided it would be better to change his trademark then fight with Zoest Legal. He removed the tongue and re-branded his business “Freddie’s Famous Wraps.” This entire episode could have been avoided had Mr. Wright known about the “confusingly similar” part of the USPTO code. Read the entire narrative here:


The moral of the story? If you are starting a new restaurant, save yourself time, trouble, and money by doing your homework on existing trademarks and patents to do it right the first time around!


Synergy Hired To Optimize Culiacan-Based Chain Operations

May 07, 2013

When Cantonese/Mexican fusion chain Tai-Pak decided to revamp their operations, they contacted a firm with impressive multi-unit credentials, Synergy Restaurant Consultants. “We were delighted that Jaime Alejandro Pun Fok reached out to us for this assignment because Synergy is uniquely qualified to deliver the kinds of results they were seeking,” stated Danny Bendas, Co-Founder and Partner.

SRC’s assignment addressed most aspects of Tai-Pak’s business model from its purchasing practices, to kitchen efficiencies, from the guest experience to staff uniforms all the way through taste-testing menu items. Additionally, a brand positioning session directed by Warren Ellish, a Synergy associate and attended by Tai-Pak’s executive team will inform the future development of the brand.

The Synergy team further identified and developed marketing programs to create additional brand recognition and increased sales as a result of their comprehensive analysis.

Synergy Restaurant Consultants is a 20-year old firm specializing in the creation, assessment and improvement of multi-unit food service providers, both consumer-driven and commissary-centric.