From Spirits to Hand Sanitizer

Apr 02, 2020

The coronavirus has taken a huge personal and economic toll on well, everyone. Many businesses have essentially been forced to cease operations or severely cut back their workforce during this crisis to slow the spread of the novel virus. The hospitality industry has especially been hit hard in multiple ways. Restaurants have been mandated to stop allowing dine-in guests and only offer drive-thru, delivery, or carryout, all while the general public has been told to stay at home.

With public fear of viral transmissions continuing to grow, the trustworthiness of eating food from outside the home is dropping. This phenomenon is worrisome to most restaurant owners. However,  some food and beverage businesses are pivoting beyond offering takeout by changing their entire business model and offering. 

No doubt, people are finding several items hard-to-find in stores and online: face masks, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer. High demand and hoarding have made these products a scarcity, and unfortunately, many feel afraid and vulnerable without some of these safety products. Innovative-thinking distilleries have come to the rescue turning their key ingredient—ethanol alcohol– into something we all need now—hand sanitizer.

From Los Angeles to Maine, distilleries are trying to do their part. The recipe is simple: you’ll need at least 80 percent ethanol alcohol plus hydrogen peroxide glycerol and distilled water, according to the WHO. For some distillers, it was a no-brainer solution to the shortage. Several distilleries have donated their hand sanitizers, while others have options for others to purchase.


It’s not just your neighborhood brewery getting into the hand-sanitizing arena. Last weekend, Anheuser-Busch announced that it would redirect its sports and entertainment investments and begin producing hand sanitizer and donating it to the Red Cross. Tito’s vodka has joined in on the effort and said it would donate the hand sanitizers to their community and those most in need.

If you’re seeking a place to get hand sanitizer, Parade did a great job compiling a list of distilleries across the nation who are producing them. You can see the list here.

Synergy applauds the resourcefulness and generosity of these distillers, who are making a positive change through creative ingenuity


Doing Good During COVID-19 Times

Mar 26, 2020

The world, as we know it now, has changed. From business to personal life, everything has been upended—even on a global scale. While everyone on Earth is digesting the news and trying to adjust to a new way of life, it’s challenging to sort through all the chaos and bad news. In these grim times, it’s a breath of fresh air to read uplifting stories about people doing good and giving back.

This new environment we see ourselves in spares no one. Unfortunately, in what seems like overnight, people young and old are finding themselves food insecure. Whether it is due to a sudden layoff or because children can no longer depend on the meals provided at schools to feed them, hunger is hitting home. Thankfully, kind-hearted individuals are trying to do what they can to combat this.

Take, for instance, celebrity chef José Andrés, who has converted his Mercado Little Spain restaurant into a community kitchen providing takeout meals with substantial discounts or, in some cases, free. Big chains are joining in on the giving: Burger King is offering two free kids meals with any purchase when you use their app. Moe’s Southwest Grill is giving a free kid’s entrée with every adult entrée purchased. Over at &pizza, they’re giving away free pizza to all healthcare workers and hospital staff. Local restaurants are also doing their part to feed our health care workers and residents alike. Large institutions like Disney Resorts have reportedly donated their surplus food to help local communities. Excess inventory of vegetables, fruit, dairy, packaged goods, and banquet meals was donated to Second Harvest Food Bank.

What about hospitality workers who’ve suddenly found themselves jobless? At Furlough Kitchen, a Dallas pop-up nonprofit, laid-off hospitality workers can receive a free curbside pick-up meal Monday through Saturday beginning March 25th. In West Palm Beach, Hospitality Helping Hands or H3, is also helping feed hospitality workers who’ve been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On their first day, they provided over 1,200 meals to those in need at no cost. H3, like many nonprofits, relies on donations to keep their operations going. Feel free to check out their respective websites and consider donating.

It’s a great time to help others in need right now, and any good news is a little ray of light while we navigate these uncharted times.


California’s Ban on Latex Gloves

Dec 31, 2019

With all the effort these days to provide eco-friendly packaging and to reduce waste, you would think the upcoming ban in California on latex gloves would relate to that cause. However, that is not the case, although the reason is still very critical—allergies.

The prevention of food-related illnesses consists of proper handling, storage, and cooking of food. Further, this includes ensuring that food allergens are clearly labeled on packaging and menus. You may be familiar with the frequent advisories about shellfish and peanuts; however, allergies to latex are widespread. Approximately 6% of the general population is allergic to latex. Those affected may experience itchiness, hives, wheezing, rashes, swelling, chest tightness, or even anaphylactic shock. Allergic reactions to latex can occur from ingesting or touching a latex product or even inhaling latex particles. Currently, there isn’t a cure for this growing ailment.

The new bill “would prohibit the use of latex gloves in food facilities and retail food establishments and require food employees to use non-latex utensils, including non-latex gloves.” California will join Ohio, Hawaii, Arizona, Connecticut, and Rhode Island with this latex ban. Foodservice operators do have options, however. There are several non-latex gloves alternatives available including nitrile, vinyl, and polyethylene options.

Keep your customers and your staff safe! Please follow us on social media for additional important restaurant news.


Best from Foodservice and Hospitality Expos 2019

Dec 30, 2019

What a year 2019 has been for the foodservice industry! We were fortunate enough to travel the country to check out the latest trends, greatest tools, as well as the movers and shakers in the hospitality space. It was a delight to engage in person with others and to get hands-on experience with restaurant innovation. Our Chef, Anne Haerle and Synergy co-founder Dean Small, were invited to share their knowledge and expertise in workshops, specifically on menu innovation techniques and how to increase sales. We want to take this opportunity to share with you our insights from our trips to food shows and restaurant discoveries.

Anne Haerle: Turning Obligation into Opportunity
Anne Haerle presenting at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York

During our trip to the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in New York and the Healthy Food Expo, we learned about many new products and several tech-driven device demonstrations. Notable robotic devices included the Suzumo automated sushi maker and a very impressive salad-making vending machine called Sally The Robot by Chowbotics. Sally is a robot that vends fresh salads, bowls, and snacks 24/7 in just a 3×3 space.

Salad robot, Sally
Sally the food-making robot

Eco-friendly packaging and plant-based foods made a consistent splash at the restaurant and foodservice conventions we visited. Zero-plastic straws made from brown rice from Edible Ecoware, as well as spoons you can eat made by Planeteer, were a couple of innovative items we came across. In the beverage space, “CBD-infused” certainly abounded, be it in sparkling water or water-soluble CBD powder that can be mixed into your coffee! More in drink trends: plant-based alternative milk like oat milk, collagen, mushrooms/adaptogen powders and draft lattes. Healthy food in the form of microgreens has been something we’ve seen a lot of this year with an emphasis on how to grow your own in-house.

Planeteer eco friendly spoons
Edible spoons by Planeteer LLC

There were some exceptionally memorable gadgets we found to be unique such as Snow Van’s machine that made a snow dessert out of virtually any liquid. Over at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando, we also checked out technology that printed custom selfies on drinks! At the NRA Show, Dean was especially impressed with Peel-A-Ton from Astra Inc., a machine that quickly and efficiently peels veggies and fruits.

Drink your selfie
Selfie on your drink, created by SIPMI

We are excited to see what 2020 has in store for the restaurant industry! Please follow us on social media to keep updated on the latest trends in food and hospitality as we traverse the globe on our culinary discoveries.


Synergy Reinvents a Spokane Landmark’s Cuisine

Feb 05, 2018

Where fire once produced steam power for the city of Spokane, it’s now igniting a restaurant renaissance in the heart of Eastern Washington State.

The Steam Plant, the defining architectural symbol of downtown Spokane, was granted a second life in 1996 when it was transformed into a multi-use space featuring a brewery and restaurant. After several years of profitability struggles with the restaurant, parent company Avista enlisted the services of Synergy Restaurant Consultants to breathe new life into the dining and beverage concept.

After conducting a comprehensive assessment of kitchen operations, food quality, and marketing efforts, Synergy assembled a multidisciplinary team of experts in branding, menu innovation and development, kitchen design, recruitment, and beverage strategies. The open kitchen reflects the industrial history of the Steam Plant space by showcasing a wood-fired pizza oven and grill/rotisserie. Other state-of-the-art cooking platforms incorporated into the new design include a smoker oven, combi-oven, blast chiller, and sous vide.

The flavors of flame and smoke permeate the reimagined menu of unique in-house preparations, such as smoked local salmon, short rib pastrami, and cast-iron baked cornbread. Synergy’s culinary team reimagined perennial favorites into signature menu items designed to reclaim loyal guests and attract new visitors. Menu highlights include a grilled Caesar salad, slow-cooked beef ribs, beer batter fish and chips, and banana cream pie. The new beverage menu features several local wines, as well as cocktails inspired by regional flavors.

In preparation for the restaurant’s relaunch, Synergy mobilized a team of front- and back-of-house trainers to prepare new hires to handle the expected rush of guests fueled by local and social media coverage. The restaurant reopened on January 22 to a flood of expectant locals and visitors who raved about the redesigned space and menu items. Synergy’s platform of high quality, innovative food and warm hospitality propelled the Steam Plant toward a financially successful and operationally smooth opening, and established the restaurant as the best new dining concept in Spokane.

We encourage you to come in and see (and taste) first-hand the incredible changes that have been made. Watch chefs work culinary magic via the open-view kitchen and savor the new menu in an elegant, vintage setting. Please take a look at the photos from this memorable event.

Banana Cream Pie at Steam Plant Spokane

Burger at Steam Plant
Burger at Steam Plant

New chicken menu item
New chicken menu item

Pantry Cook at Steam Plant Spokane

Porchetta Sandwich at Steam Plant Spokane
Porchetta Sandwich at Steam Plant Spokane

Severs in Entrance at Steam Plant

Tim and Dean
Tim and Dean

Steam Plant Kitchen + Brewery
159 S. Lincoln
Spokane, Washington

Monday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.


Sustainable Seafood is a Hot Trend

Oct 15, 2017

October is known for cool weather, autumn leaves, and yes, pumpkin-spiced everything! But did you know that the month of October is National Seafood Month? As restaurant managers, it may be easy to overlook seafood as a star ingredient while beef or chicken take center stage on the menu. However, seafood serves as a great protein choice for a variety of consumers, perhaps due to its taste or ability to meet certain dietary restrictions. Beyond that, sustainable seafood is also a hot restaurant trend for 2017. A recent survey conducted by Cargill found that 88 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for seafood that is certified sustainably and responsibly sourced.


A growing number of chefs and restaurants, even those in the fast-food sector like McDonald’s, recognize the importance of providing sustainable seafood. What exactly is sustainably-raised seafood? Any seafood that is caught or farmed in ways which support the well-being of the species, oceans and coastal communities is considered “sustainable.” For a guide on buying sustainable fish and shellfish, visit


If you’ve decided to take the plunge and begin offering sustainable seafood at your restaurant, you may want to consider how to highlight these ingredients on your menu. Consider the following dishes as menu inspiration:

–    Fish and chips with a unique housemade sauce like the one at Nobu 57 in New York City

–     Crab cakes with a spicy, Southern-style remoulade sauce

–     Manhattan clam chowder served in a bread bowl

–     Grilled or fried shrimp po’boy sandwiches


For more information on sustainable seafood and National Seafood Month, check out NOAA fisheries site here.


Yes, Reduced-Beef Burgers are a Thing

Jun 30, 2017


“Where’s the beef?” You may have remembered this line from the famous 1984 Wendy’s commercial, where a perplexed, older woman exclaims her discontent over her small hamburger patty. Fast forward some 30 plus years later and the same sentiment still rings true for consumers today—no one likes a small patty! But what if I told you a major fast food restaurant is looking to reduce the beef in its burgers?


Actually, Sonic is exploring testing a reduced-beef burger. Why on earth would that be appealing to consumers? Well, this burger will not be downsized but rather be made from a blend or beef and mushrooms, with the goal of providing a healthier choice for customers. More about this at Restaurant Business Online.


In fact, the concept of blending veggies with meat for hamburgers is not a new concept. Restaurants like Bareburger and Burgh’ers already implement this practice. Blended burgers offer a way to produce a lower-fat patty and potentially promote more sustainability when it comes to the amount of cattle being raised in order to support the hamburger industry.



Firehouse Subs Earns Top Recognition Once Again

Jun 05, 2017

We are always excited and pleased to find great news regarding clients we’ve worked with. Restaurant Business, a leading foodservice media brand, has recently dubbed Firehouse Subs as the number one sandwich chain for craveable sandwiches. They are our client and we are very proud to have been chosen as their culinary and operations partner. There is a certain harmony of deliciousness that occurs when you create the perfect sandwich and so, we are honored that Firehouse Subs has gained such recognition. Check out the article here. (Fun fact: Firehouse Subs was also named America’s Favorite Chain for 2017, too.)


Synergy works with a variety of restaurants, from fast-casual chains to independently-operated fine-dining establishments. You can explore how our services have helped restaurants achieve their goals at our case studies page.


Impact of Obama care and Higher Minimum Wage Requirements on Employment

Sep 24, 2016

ObamaCare (PPACA) and the higher minimum wages have had a substantial impact on both our industry (Food Service) and that of many ‘labor-heavy’ organizations across the US.

The Press is trying to tell us differently:

FACT: While we have seen a drop in full-time labor in favor of part-time labor under the Affordable Care Act, as of August 2015 we had also seen 58 consecutive months of net job growth since October of 2010 – According to the Department of Labor

As an effect of the new employer mandate some larger firms who have to provide insurance for employees come 2015/2016 [have been] cutting back employee hours to part-time to avoid paying for their health coverage. Other employers have moved workers from part-time to full-time to embrace the law. Impact of ObamaCare on Jobs


What about the employee?
Statistics show that the actual cost for the employee for full coverage is ‘substantially less’ when the employer in fact does not offer insurance. Under an employer plan the employee may end up paying two to three times as much for the premium than they would have if the employer was not required to offer PPACA Qualified Plans.

In addition, there is less “Job Lock” when the employer does not offer health care coverage allowing employees to make better decisions on the best employers for each of them without having to hang-on just because of benefits.

The CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024. The reduction in the CBO’s projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time equivalent workers (total hours based on all part-time and full-time employees, not actual job loss from full-time workers losing their jobs or not being able to find work) of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. – Obamacare Facts 2016


As Restaurant Consultants, we tend to agree with this statement as our experiences in the field, with small to medium size employers demonstrates, there is a focus by employers on remaining below the 50 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) requirement.


IronStone PizzaWorks Coming Soon to Vestavia Hills

Aug 31, 2016

Gourmet, customizable pizza is coming to Vestavia Hills area of Alabama. Our client, IronStone PizzaWorks is ready to turn hungry stomachs happy with the freshest selections of ingredients available so you can create your own pizza or salad masterpiece.


Dine-in and enjoy your meal with friends and family at their newly renovated 3,600 square-foot space (with indoor and outdoor seating available). You’ll feel at home with the modern, yet warm design.

If you don’t feel like self-designing your own pizza or salad, try any one of these pizzas off their menu: Sausage and Ricotta, Mighty Meat, Garden Lover, Buffalo Chicken and Chicken Bianca. And yes, craft beer and wines are available! See their full menu here


IronStone PizzaWorks is slated to open early September and is located at 632 Montgomery Highway in the Vestavia Hills City Center.