Who is Howard Graham Buffett and Why Does he Care about Food Security?

If you had the resources to accomplish something great in the world, what would you do?

Legendary investor Warren Buffett posed this challenge to his son in 2006, when he announced he was leaving the bulk of his fortune to philanthropy. Howard G. Buffett set out to help the most vulnerable people on earth – nearly a billion individuals who lack basic food security. And Howard has given himself a deadline: 40 years to put more than $3 billion to work on this challenge.

Each of us has about 40 chances to accomplish our goals in life. This is a lesson Howard learned through his passion for farming. All farmers can expect to have about 40 growing seasons, giving them just 40 chances to improve on every harvest. This applies to all of us, however, because we all have about 40 productive years to do the best job we can, whatever our passions or goals may be.

40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World is a new book that captures Howard’s journey. Beginning with his love for farming, we join him around the world as he seeks out new approaches to ease the suffering of so many. It is told in a unique format: 40 stories that will provide readers a compelling look at Howard’s lessons learned, ranging from his own backyard to some of the most difficult and dangerous places on Earth.

Who are the authors of this book?

Howard G. Buffett is the founder and President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation which strengthens food security for vulnerable populations throughout the world. A farmer, businessman, politician, photographer, and philanthropist, Howard has dedicated his life to wildlife conservation and finding solutions to world hunger. He has traveled to over 120 countries documenting the challenges of preserving our biodiversity while providing adequate resources to meet the needs of a growing global population. Howard is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Against Hunger, and serves on the corporate boards of Berkshire Hathaway, Coca-Cola Company, and Lindsay Corporation. He operates a 1,500-acre family farm in central Illinois and oversees three foundation-operated research farms, including 1,400 acres in Arizona, 3,200 acres in Illinois, and 9,200 acres in South Africa.

Howard W. Buffett is the Executive Director of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. He previously served in the U.S. Department of Defense overseeing agriculture-based economic stabilization and redevelopment programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. For his work, he received the Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award – the highest ranking civilian honor presented by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Prior to that, Howard was a Policy Advisor for the White House Domestic Policy Council, where he co-authored and directed the President’s cross-sector partnerships strategy. He earned a BA from Northwestern University and an MPA in Advanced Management and Finance from Columbia University. He is from Omaha, Nebraska, where he and his wife operate a 400 acre no-till farm.

What are the Principles of 40 Chances?

1.)   Roots: Dig in. Am I acting with purpose and urgency in my life?

2.)   Bravery: Grow tall. Am I taking smart risks?

3.)   Lessons: Don’t fear mistakes. Am I learning the right lessons from my mistakes?

4.)   Challenges: Be adaptable. Am I improving upon every chance I have?

5.)   Hope: Prepare for tomorrow. Am I making the most of my chances in life?

Planting the seeds for long lasting impact.

40 Chances Programs advocate for the best ideas that seed sustainable, transformational change in accomplishing global food security. These programs will empower our next generation of leaders to develop market-based solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges in the areas of poverty and hunger.

40 Chances Programs

1.)   For High School Students: High school students across the country can compete for awards based on solutions they design to combat local food insecurity.

2.)   For College Students: 40 Chances Program will focus on seeding innovative ideas and plans from college students across the country,

3.)   For Post Graduates: 40 Chances Program will focus on seeding innovative ideas from recent post graduates.

4.)   For Start-Ups: The program will focus on seeding innovative ideas from start-up nonprofit organizations.

Authors of the book

Authors of the book

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Food Costs: Actual vs. Ideal

One of the factors that play a substantial role in the success of a foodservice operation is food costs. Food cost is what a menu item costs to prepare. The cost of a chicken entrée with meat, sauce, vegetables and starch is your food cost. Most restaurants run between a 30-40% food cost, this does not include the cost of overhead that needs to get added in before you start making a profit. A major influence on a restaurant’s food costs are the portions that the kitchen staff are creating each recipe and dish with.

One of reasons that franchise chain restaurants are so successful is because they have menu portions under control and regulated. It doesn’t matter if you go to Applebee’s in West Virginia or California, you will probably be served the same food in the same portion sizes. Customers like this consistency. By having a restaurant maintaining predictability, regardless of the location, chain restaurants guarantee strong profit margins.

Poor portion control is one of the leading causes of food cost variances. Consider that your ideal food cost is based on the premise of exact portioning for each menu item, including the portioning of each ingredient within a menu item. If your prep and line cooks have gotten in the habit of “eyeballing” measurements rather than sticking to the exact recipes, chances are your food cost variance could be as much as 5% or more. Proven portion control strategies include the use of portioning scoops, scales and measuring spoons and cups. Pre-portioning can be effective in controlling costs by using portion baggies and a scale to pre-weigh product before stocking the cook line.

Ideal food cost is the standard by which you can compare your actual food cost. If your actual food cost varies to your ideal food cost, then you set about to determine why and where the problem(s) lie. After completing your inventory, you should do a food cost analysis. You should do this at least once a week. The actual food cost is the cost of the food consumed by your customers.  When your actual food cost is higher than your ideal food cost, then you have not optimized your bottom-line profits. You have thrown money out with the window- I guess you could say. However, you won’t know this unless you know what your ideal food cost is.

So, a few things that a restaurant can do to maintain this consistency and reliability, in regards to portion control and essentially saving in food costs are:

          Providing pictures of each plated item. This illustrates the correct portion sizes and proper plating.

          Provide pictures of what each raw material/ingredient should look like after they are prepped. So for example, have pictures of actual sizes of what diced chicken looks like compared to the restaurant’s sliced chicken. This will give employees a visual of how to prep and what to look out for when assembling menu items.

          Pre-portion condiments, sides, and sauces. Every restaurant that I have ever worked in has done this. This is why when you go out to eat a restaurant and you order a salad, the dressing usually comes in small ramekins that have plastic lids. This way you can serve the dressing in-house or for to-go.

          Always have an adequate amount of correct sized storage containers, ladles, and scoops for each menu item as well as a variety of measuring cups, spoons, and scales.

These four prevention measures not only assist in less waste, but they also speed up food preparation and service time – especially at peak times like the lunch-rush or dinner-rush. It also makes certain that your customer gets exactly what they order and what they want, every single time they come to dine at your foodservice establishment.

So, with all of this information being said… How does this apply to my ISPP rotations right now?  Well, at my Institutional Food Service, Production and Management rotation, the entire class was assigned a task. This was to choose a raw material (ingredient) and analyze the actual vs. ideal food costs of that item. And by doing this, see what the restaurant needs to do to improve the usage of this product- whether or not if it was being overused or underused. So, the raw material I chose was chicken breast. This is the most profitable, and popular, raw material that this particular restaurant location utilizes throughout the summer. So, by going through the company’s database with the assistance from management, each student/dietetic intern were able to see what problems existed. And by doing this, new techniques or methods can be adopted to improve the use of these raw materials within the foodservice operation. Fundamentally- creating an even happier customer base.

Manage My Restaurant

What is Ideal Food Cost?

ideal

Market Segmentation

Separating customers into market groups provides the basis for successful strategy development in marketing a restaurant. Market segmentation is the process of dividing a total market into groups of people with similar needs, wants, values, and purchasing behaviors. A market is not a place, but rather a group of people, as individuals or organizations. The group needs products and possesses the ability, willingness, and authority to purchase them. A market segmentation is a mixture of individuals, groups, or organizations that share one or more characteristics, which causes them to have similar product needs.

In a homogenous market, a marketing mix is easier to design than one in a heterogeneous group with dissimilar needs. Choosing the correct variable for segmenting market is important in developing a successful strategy. Variables are often broken down into 4 categories for the segmentation process: geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioristic.

Variable: Geographic

          Region:

o   Pacific, Mountain, West North Central, West South Central, East North Central, East

          City/metro population:

o   Under 5,000; 5,000-20,000; 20,000-50,000; 50,000-100,000; 100,000-250,000; 250,000-500,000; 500,000-1,000,000; 1,000,000-400,000; 4,000,000 or over

          Density

o   Urban, suburban, rural

          Family life cycle

o   Northern, southern

Variable: Demographic

          Age:

o   Under 6, 6-11, 12-19, 20-34, 35-49, 50-64, 65+

          Gender:

o   Male, female

          Family size:

o   1-2, 3-4, 5+

          Family life cycle:

o   Young, single; young, married, no children; young, married, youngest child under 6; young, married, youngest child 6 or over; older, married, with children; older, married, no children under 18; older, single; other

          Income:

o   Under $10,000; $10,000-$15,000; $15,000-$20,000; $20,000-$30,000; $30,000-$50,000; $50,000-$100,000, $100,000 and over

          Occupation:

o   Professional and technician; managers, officials, and proprietors; clerical, sales; craftspeople, foreman; operatives; farmers; retired; students; housewives; unemployed

          Education:

o   Grade school or less; some high school; high school graduate; some college; college, graduate

          Religion:

o   Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, other

          Race:

o   White, Black, Asian, Hispanic

          Nationality:

o   American, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese

Variable: Psychographic

          Social class:

o   Lower lowers; upper lowers; working class, middle class, upper middles, lower uppers, upper uppers

          Lifestyle:

o   Straights, swingers, longhairs

          Personality:

o   Compulsive, gregarious, authoritarian, ambitious

Variable: Behavioristic

          Occasions:

o   Regular occasion, special occasion

          Benefits:

o   Quality, service, economy, speed

          User status:

o   Nonuser, ex-user, potential user, regular user

          Usage rate:

o   Light user, medium user, heavy user

          Loyalty status:

o   None, medium, strong, absolute

          Readiness stage:

o   Unaware, aware, informed, interested, eager, intending to buy

          Attitude toward product:

o   Enthusiastic, positive, indifferent, negative, hostile

Geographic variables include climate, terrain, natural resources, population density, and subculture values that influence customers’ product needs. Demographic variables consist of population characteristics that might influence product selection like age, gender, race, ethnicity, income, education, occupation, family size, family life cycle, religion, social class, and price sensitivity. Psychographic variables include many factors that can be used for segmenting the market, but the most common are motives and lifestyle. Lifestyle segmentation categorizes people according to what is important to them and their mode of living. A classification system for segmenting customers in terms of lifestyle factors is the VALS: Values and Life-Styles research program. The VALS model is broken down into 3 parts:

          Ideals:

o   Consumers make choices based on their knowledge and principles.

          Achievement:

o   Consumers make choices based on what they perceive will show their success to their peers.

          Self-expression:

o   Consumers make choices based on a desire for social or physical activity, variety, or risk.

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The Marketing Mix

As a part of my business class/Institutional Foodservice, Production, and Management dietetic internship rotation, we are required to develop a breakfast marketing campaign. The reason for this project is to incorporate the marketing mix and to essentially improve breakfast sales at the Taziki’s Mediterranean café in the WVU Mountainlair. We are required to speak with the management for advice on what’s working and what’s not working within their breakfast menu and customer foundation. As an ISPP dietetic intern and graduate student, I am also required to apply this information to my Management Quality and Process/Performance Improvement Project, as well.

So, to manage marketing activities, managers must deal with variables relating to the marketing mix and the marketing environment. The marketing mix is defined as the specific combination of marketing elements used to achieve an organization’s objectives and to satisfy the target market. The marketing mix decision variables are product, price, place, and promotion. The marketing environment variables are political, legal, regulatory, societal, economic, competitive, and technological forces.

Product

A product can be a good, service, or an idea. Even though the manufacturing of products is not a marketing activity, research on customer needs and product design is. Product decisions focus on which products to develop, which current products to promote, and which products to discontinue. The term new product means it is a genuine innovation because it has not been served commercially yet. The term new to the chain, like McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, are really an imitation of a successful product offered by another chain restaurant, like KFC’s chicken nuggets.

Price

Price is the amount of money charged for a product. Price competition has become very common in foodservice operations. Marketing managers usually are involved in establishing pricing policies for different products because consumers are concerned about the value obtained in the exchange. Price is a critical component of the marketing mix and often is used as a competitive tool. Price also helps establish a product’s image. The goal is to set the price at a point that customers perceive value, yet the company achieves the volume and profit it desires.

Promotion

Promotion is used to facilitate exchanges by informing prospective customers about an organization and its products. Promotion is used to increase public awareness about a new product, or to renew an interest in a product that is declining in popularity. The level of advertising in fast-casual dining, like Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, has become quite large.

Place

In marketing, place refers to the location, the place where food or services are offered. Increasingly, food is prepared somewhere else. Food manufacturers are preparing, packaging, and distributing menu items to restaurants and contract companies. Customers are noticing an increase in mobile carts and food trucks. This is giving the public more options when they are away from home- and at an affordable price as well.

mark mix

Microsoft Word - The Marketing Mix

Quantity Demand: Historical Roots

The desire for an efficient foodservice operation requires that the production manager to know the estimated number of customers or the number of servings of each menu item in time to order prom the procurement unit. Good forecasts are essential for managers in planning smooth transitions from current to future output, regardless of the size or type of the foodservice (i.e., schools, hospitals, or restaurants). Forecasts vary in sophistication from those based on historical records and intuition to complex models requiring large amounts of data and computer time. Choosing a forecasting model that is suitable for a particular situation is essential.

Historical Records

Adequate historical records constitute the basis for most forecasting processes. Often, past customer counts, number of menu items prepared, or sales records re used to determine the number of each menu item to prepare. These records must be accurate and complete, or they cannot be extended into the future with any reliability.

Effective production records should include:

          Date and day of the week

          Meal or hour of service

          Notation of special event , holiday, and weather conditions, if applicable

          Food items prepared

          Quantity of each item prepared

          Quantity of each item served

Although production unite records reveal the vital information on menu items served to customers, production is by no means the only organizational unit that should keep records. Only by cross-referencing records of sales with those of production can a reliable historical basis for forecasting be formalized. Records of sales will yield customer count patterns that can be useful for forecasting. These data can be related to the number of times customers select a given menu item or the daily variations induced by weather or special events.

Historical records in the production unit provide the fundamental base for forecasting quantities when the same meal or menu item is repeated. These records should be correlated with those kept by the purchasing department, which include the name and performance of the supplier and price of the food items.

historical forec

Teamwork

Since my summer in the WVU Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) dietetic internship is primarily focusing on the Institutional Food Service, Production, and Management rotation, I thought it would be fitting that I talk about the importance of teamwork. The importance of teamwork has been proven to be effective in today’s fast-pace foodservice organizations. The use of teams has become an unavoidable solution at tackling some of the pressing challenges that managers face in the food industry. Whether it be from finding ways to reduce costs or to increasing overall sales, all of these issues usually impact more than one department and can benefit from a multi-perspective approach.

The companies or organizations that use teamwork and team-based activities will be better prepared to make necessary decisions to adjust to supply and to meet customer’s demands. Yes, individual employees can make a difference to an organization, but no single person has enough knowledge, creativity, or experience to tackle some of today’s complex problems. Remember, two heads are always greater than one.

Several foodservice systems look to managers to influence teams whenever and wherever possible. Essentially, a team is a group of individuals who operate as a unit for an assigned goal. Teams differ from other work groups because they typically have performance goals to achieve. Team members usually feel some type of accountability for working together to achieve these goals. So, teamwork is the actual state of acting in a collaborative and cooperative effort to create positive results for the achievement of one common goal. For example, my group at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café had one of our group members drop the Business class. So, instead of panicking or blaming each other for common mistakes that we might have made that next day, we worked as a group and everyone helped each other at their designated stations. And it even brought us closer together as a team because we know that all 3 of us rely on each other, as well as the management of course too. And to be honest, I think that we’re performing even better as a team now because we were somewhat forced with a fight or flight situation.

Part of a manager’s responsibilities is selecting team members who skills complement each other. Now, this particular situation the management did not have the choice to choose their teams. But the College of Business and Economics did have the choice to choose the students taking this class. Here is a list of complementary skills needed for teams:

          Technical expertise

          Problem-solving skills

          Interpersonal skills

Technical expertise is a core competency that every team needs. The type of problem that will be assigned to a team dictates to a certain extent what expertise you will need to bring together. Skill in several areas may be needed, depending on the problem at-hand. For example, if Taziki’s Mediterranean Café was researching a new menu item to offer to customers, a team of dietitians, food prep specialists, servers, operations personnel, and marketing specialists would supply the necessary blend of experience to ensure a thorough analysis of what customers want, rather than just a team made of one of these groups listed. Using the knowledge and skills of a cross section of an organization will strengthen the likelihood of a team reaching its goal.

Problem-solving skills are needed by teams to identify the root or underlying cause of a situation or challenge. These skills are also needed to identify potential solutions and trade-offs. Initially, a team needs to have at least one member with this capability. As the team progresses, more team members should develop these important skills.

Interpersonal skills is the third and final category of team skills. Members who communicate effectively and facilitate a group process are critical to the success of a team. Team members who possess these skills help produce an environment of directness and confidence that allows the team to flourish and make progress towards their goal.

Balancing all 3 of these skills is essential f or a manager to consider when working with a team.

Teamwork

TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork

The Summer of Institutional Food Service, Production, and Management Rotation Begins!

Well this week marked the kick off to my summer of my Institutional Food Service, Production, and Management rotation within WVU’s ISPP dietetic internship. Within this rotation, I am required to have a minimum of 240 hours of experience in a food service production system. Along with these hours, I have a set of objectives to complete as well.

Since Taziki’s Mediterranean Café has partnered with our Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), I will be doing my rotation at WVU’s downtown campus’s Mountainlair location. The rotation is also attached to a class affiliated with the College of Business and Economics at WVU as well. So, not only are there other nutrition students working alongside me this summer, but there are business students registered for this class as well.

As a part of my rotation objectives, I will complete 2 major projects:

          The Theme Meal Project

          The Management Quality and Process/Performance Improvement Project

This rotation is broken down into 4 sections:

          Section 1: Storeroom, Safety, and Catering

          Section 2: Retail/Dining Room

          Section 3: Menu and Theme Meal Project

          Section 4: Culminating Experience: The Management Quality and Process/Performance Improvement Project

As outlined in my syllabus for the business class attached to the rotation through Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, Graduate students are required to:

          Hold a cumulative ServSafe review session for the undergraduates enrolled in the class on July 30th.

          Develop a marketing campaign to improve breakfast sales with the undergraduates in my group. (I’m the only Graduate student in my group). This will require me speaking to the General Managers about breakfast sales in the restaurant and apply this information to my Management Quality and Process/Performance Improvement Project.

          Develop a FOG BMP Report. This specific report is focusing on sustainability. The report will identify fats, oils, and grease best management practices for Taziki’s AND Martin’s BBQ Joint.

          Then, our last project will be split into 2 parts: the Food Systems Project: I’ll work to raise consumer awareness on the need to support local farmers and food.

o   Farmers’ Market Theme Meal

§  This will utilize the Morgantown Farmers’ Market

o   Management Quality and Process/Performance Improvement Project

§  This will focus on the proposal to use local animal proteins that can be used at Taziki’s and Martin’s BBQ Joint

Only time will tell how my rotation progresses!

Taziki’s Named Best On-Campus Food at WVU

Here is a picture of someone standing in front of my assigned station for the week!

Here is a picture of someone standing in front of my assigned station for the week!

Food Allergens and Restaurants

Restaurant Owners and Food Allergies

Chef Ming Tsai remembers ordering a sandwich without bread for his then-3-year-old son David because the toddler was allergic to seven of the eight most common food allergens. Tsai approached the restaurant manager, a man in a suit and tie standing off to the side.

“He just looked at me and said, ‘We’d rather not serve him,'” Tsai said, adding that waiters and restaurant managers used to roll their eyes when he mentioned David’s food allergies. “Don’t open a restaurant if you don’t know what’s in your food. This is absurd.”

From that day on, Tsai made it his mission to promote allergy awareness. He developed an allergy safety system in his restaurant, Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass. He became the spokesman for the nonprofit Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FARE). He worked with the Massachusetts state legislature for five years on an allergy safety bill.

David went into anaphylactic shock during Tsai’s father-in-law’s 70th birthday, Tsai said. He was in the kitchen preparing roast tenderloin for 80 guests when the babysitter accidentally gave 5-year-old David whole milk instead of rice milk.

“David comes down and says, ‘My throat is itchy, and it’s tightening up,'” Tsai said. “You could tell in his eyes that he’s not overreacting here.”

David’s breathing became labored, and Tsai’s wife, a nurse, sprang to action and jammed an EpiPen in David’s leg.

“That was the most horrible scream I ever heard in my life,” he said. “My body still tingles from that scream.”

“My first reaction was that’s a really unfunny joke from upstairs,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to cook for my kid. That was my dream.”

Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies, according to a 2008 CDC report that found an 18 percent rise in children diagnosed with food allergies between 1997 and 2007.

As David grew up, Tsai said it was especially hard to visit restaurants, something he loved to do as a kid. As allergies and allergy awareness have become more prevalent, he said people’s attitudes have shifted. He usually serves between 6 and 10 tables a night with some kind of food allergy, and he’s happy to do it.

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As you can tell by the story of Chef Tsai, food allergies have become all too common in society today. With the increase in food allergies among people, especially in children, parents are becoming more educated and becoming proactive on the issue at hand. People like Chef Tsai are even becoming advocates for food allergies. This being said, this is why Chef Tsai put a solid effort into becoming an advocate for food allergies and pushed for this bill to be passed.

http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/185/st02/st02701.htm

This is why, in my opinion, more restaurants in America should take a role in nutrition education. If more restaurants would identify food allergens on their menus, both in-house and out-of-house, this could potentially save children from hospitals visits, parents from stress and worry, and healthcare costs across the country.

This being said, the WVU Human Nutrition & Foods is currently working on a food allergens project with a restaurant in the Morgantown, WV area. We were approached by the restaurant, Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, to identify their food allergens on their menu. The restaurant is owned and operated by the College of Business and Economics at WVU and was donated by a B&E alumni who not only promotes entrepreneurship but, also promotes fresh hospitality. This alumni’s company, called Fresh Hospitality, is joining the HN&F department and proactively making positive changes to address food allergens.

http://www.freshhospitality.net/

Hopefully, other restaurants and chains will see companies like Fresh Hospitality, making conscious efforts on their menus to address nutrition issues, like food allergies, and make changes themselves. When other restaurants begin to catch on to these healthy trends that the rest of American restaurants are beginning to adopt, WVU’s HN&F department will be here to help out every way we can!

http://www.foodallergy.org/section/about

http://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/

http://www.foodallergy.org/files/WVGuidelines.pdf

http://wvde.state.wv.us/nutrition/calculator.html

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/food-allergy-awareness-chef-ming-tsai-inspired-son/story?id=17879455#.UMEqi4bJpqQ

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RDs and Restaurant Opportunities

Exciting Restaurant Opportunities

Menu labeling laws are creating new jobs for RDs in nutrition analysis, menu development, and more. Despite challenging economic times, people are eating out more than ever.

Obviously, today’s eating-out scene isn’t what it used to be. It’s no longer an occasional treat. In fact, it’s become mainstream. Part of the reason is that reason is that restaurants are reaching more people in more powerful ways. Social media, big-batch couponing, and targeted marketing and advertising are wildly popular, and restaurants often promote nutrition and health-related messages.

Food is a competitive business, and restaurants stand out offering what people want. Weight-conscious consumers demand tasty, low-fat, low-carb, and low-calorie. Eco-conscious customers seek restaurants that promote social responsibility and sustainability and offer local selections. Health-conscious clientele ask for nutrition and allergy info as well as options for special diets such as low sodium, vegan, gluten-free, and oil free. In fact, according to a National Restaurant Association (NRA) survey of 1,800 chefs, health/nutrition, gluten-free/allergy-free fare, children’s nutrition, and healthful kids’ meals are among the 20 hottest restaurant trends of 2012.

The sky’s the limit for RDs in restaurants nowadays. Some of the most important roles RDs can play in the restaurant industry include providing nutrition information, developing menus for special needs customers, helping with food safety and label regulation compliance, and marketing.

Nutrition analysis is one of the many menu-consulting services RDs can provide to restaurants. Others include recipe creation, menu development, recipe makeovers for improved nutrient profiles, identification and development of selections that meet guidelines for specific diets and dietary restrictions, adaptation of recipes for health conditions, and assistance with increasing perceived healthfulness of menus.

RDs with strong culinary backgrounds are ideal for assisting restaurants with developing new flavor profiles and ingredient combinations while meeting calorie and nutrient targets, sourcing fresh/local or unusual ingredients, and even helping with food budgeting. RDs also can train staff on topics that bring together nutrition and culinary arts in unique and interesting ways.

Menu development is another new avenue for RDs in today’s food industry. Niche markets provide consulting opportunities for RDs, like identifying and designing gluten- and allergy-free menu options; developing low-carb or low-fat dishes; promoting healthful kids’ meals; procuring local, organic, or sustainable ingredients; and developing vegetarian/vegan fare.

Developing, defining criteria for, and implementing special dietary meal, such as heart-healthy choices, are other opportunities requiring RDs expertise. In some cases, programs with nutrition criteria already exist, and the restaurant simply needs help identifying and developing menu items that meet the criteria. One example is the NRAs Kids LiveWell program, which already has established criteria for its participating menu items.

Another critical area of opportunity for RDs in the restaurant industry is food safety. Becoming ServSafe certified is one way to get your foot in the door. RDs also can become involved with state-specific compliance measures with the department of health, front- and back-of-the-house food safety training programs, food allergen labeling, and food allergy protocol training, which entails the prevention of allergen cross-contamination.

Food Safety at its finest!

RDs with experience in public relations and marketing are valuable additions to restaurant teams. For example, experts in customer relationship management give restaurants an edge with the use of social networking tools and social influence marketing. Being the healthy voice of a restaurant can be accomplished through marketing materials, becoming a spokesperson, interviews, food demos, tastings, seminars, workshops, health fairs, lectures, and trade shows.

RDs are in high demand to help restaurants comply with menu labeling laws. In addition to providing soon-to-be-required nutrition information, like calorie counts on menus, menu boards, food display tags, and at drive-thrus, restaurants will need assistance understanding health claims, FDA legislation, requirements, exemptions, and recommendations. Chain food establishments, including grocery store cafés and convenience stores, as well as those managing vending machines soon need to comply with the laws too. These businesses may know less about menu labeling than traditional restaurants and will be receptive to RDs expertise.

Despite mixed study findings on the effectiveness of menu labeling on food choices and behavior and its influence on the obesity epidemic, no one can ignore the fact that people want nutrition information. They also want healthful, tasty, balanced meals. Smart restaurants appreciate the value that dietitians bring to the table and understand the importance of customer loyalty. For nutrition professionals to effectively sell their services to restaurants, they need to be armed with persuasive evidence that illustrates their value.

RDs make the perfect partners for restaurants that care about the accuracy and quality of nutrition information they provide. A restaurant needs to protect its credibility. Restaurant nutrition consulting involves a high level of skill, knowledge, education, experience, and responsibility, and RDs are the best fit to ensure that nutrition information is accurate and doesn’t mislead consumers. And if food labels or nutrient claims are involved, RDs are familiar with FDA regulations.

RDs understand the bottom line.

RDs know that a restaurant is a business, and businesses must turn a profit. They know that being sensitive to the financial challenges of restaurateurs is an important part of forging a successful working relationship. When setting fees, a little creativity and flexibility regarding bulk pricing, package deals, and other compromises may, depending on the situation, result in a win-win.

RDs are also aware that chefs are passionate about the tools they create and may be resistant to standardizing recipes and following guidelines that ensure consistency and accuracy in recipe analysis. It’s important to respect the need for creativity and agree on ways to retain the food’s high quality while providing accurate, reliable information.

As for nutrition professionals, there is no better time to explore career opportunities in the restaurant industry. Restaurateurs need our expertise on many levels to provide healthful foods and accurate nutrition information in creative, innovative ways during a time when obesity and chronic disease is at an all-time high. Without a doubt, our generation has to make a difference….

RDs can be in the most unexpected places in your favorite restaurant!