Eat a Healthy Snack!

To a follow-up to my article on Eating Right, Living Right, I mentioned about allocating enough time to eating a well-balanced meal. If you are in a rush to eat, you are potentially missing out on a lot of good nutrients. According to a recent survey conducted by the Canadian Heart & Stroke, 41% of Canadians say that healthy meals take too long to prepare. More than anything it requires some discipline and about 20 minutes of your day to prepare a healthy meal. However, if you are anything like me, I had put my work ahead for years instead of my health. It was not that I did not recognize the importance of a well-balanced diet but it was the fact that there was way too much work and not enough time. Logging in at over 100 hours and up to 120 hours a week, really it was sad, but I had no life. Eating became a chore and it was something that had to be planned and scheduled. This became a regular routine and next thing I know it, lunch was starting at 3:00pm or later and sometimes skipped altogether until 7:00pm dinner. I have always been a breakfast skipper unless Mom was in town and who could say no to Mom’s home cooking. If it wasn’t Mom’s cooking, then it was two cups of coffee in the morning, another one in the mid-day and if I thought I could squeeze a bite to eat, I would have made myself a soup.

Working constantly, skipping meals, sleeping late was part of my daily and weekly routine. Coming home hungry and eating a large meal was satisfying but unhealthy. I would snack to replace meals rather than taking the right snacks to maintain a proper diet. As Mom always said “eat smaller meals more frequently, it’s better than one larger one.” “Eat a snack,” as she would say. Snacking doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Grabbing a fruit, yogurt or vegetable sticks are better snack choices. Take it from me. Eating late is no fun. And snacking on junk will just make you feel tired and unsatisfying as the hours go by. It may satisfy your craving at that moment, but if you need to continue the work day, choose a healthy snack. Pack a snack and bring it to work. According to research, Eating Three Meals and Two Snacks is the best way to maintain a well-balanced diet and even help maintain your weight. Having a snack in between a meal will help control the amount of food consumed during your regular meal session. It’s easy to over eat when you are hungry and haven’t had anything to eat for hours.

So do you pack your own snacks to work? What healthy snacks do you enjoy?

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Eating Right, Living Right

We have all heard the phrase Eat Well, Live Well. You have probably also seen and heard many other variations. As health trends continue to be introduced, consumers are becoming more educated and sophisticated on the products and ingredients they choose to eat. Really, it’s being more mindful to what you eat and as they say you are what you eat. I have never ever truly paid attention to the foods I ate let alone to my daily diet. Unless my mom was next to me, I would hear her saying, “don’t’ skip your breakfast, eat more fruit, eat more vegetables and drink more water.” Well like most kids growing up, you probably received an earful too.

I don’t eat a lot of junk food or fast food although time to time I love my sweets and I crave a good burger or steak. But when it comes to healthy eating, you never would have found me checking the labels for nutritional values and verifying the list of ingredients. I think working the last few years in concepts promoting a healthier product has opened up my eyes. I am not on any special diet or nowhere close of being an expertise in nutrition, but it’s being more aware of what I eat.

Amazing how many foods and beverages on the market that are perceived to be healthier but they are absolutely not. Whether it’s high in calories, fat or sugars, certain meals can fool you. Take for example salads. Fresh chopped lettuce and assorted fresh diced vegetables. Mom may have told you to eat your greens, but what about that dressing? You may be thinking of eating a 500-700 calorie meal when in fact you may be easily consuming over 1000 calories by adding your favorite dressing. Just the other day I read an article about a healthy restaurant concept. One of their most popular rice dishes contains a whopping 45 grams of fat and just less than 1200 calories while consumers perceived it to contain 600-700 calories. Sure, there is brown rice, tofu and vegetables. However, the dish weighed in at almost 2 pounds, way too much for one serving. According to a dietician, that is 45% of the daily intake for a woman and 50% for a man.

So what about those healthy functional beverages? There are flavored waters, fruit juice blends, raw vegetable blends, and all sorts of energy and vitamin-enhanced drinks. Once upon a time Pomegranate was the hot thing on the market, but now you hear Acai, Aloe Vera, Goji and Guava. How healthy are they? Very few are actually good for you, although some may be better than your traditional can of soda. However, beware that many of these so called functional drinks contain loads of sugars. It’s easy to consume more than you should since your body doesn’t feel full as much as solid food. And worst off, downing too much liquid calories can quickly lead to obesity and other health problems. According to Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, the average daily amount of liquid calories consumed should be between 5 to 10 percent of your daily calorie intake. So next time you pick up a drink, don’t be fooled on what the front label reads. It may be enhanced with antioxidants but check the back to see what else it contains.

It’s all about balance. You don’t have to completely eliminate the foods you enjoy but rather just understanding how to incorporate that into your regular diet. As mom always said, “you can have it, but not too much.” We all have cravings for something. It’s about eating right, eating the right portions and making sure you take some time. I know the past few years my diet has been like a rollercoaster. Work had taken over much of my life, and eating healthy was secondary. Strange thing, I was working for concepts that promoted healthy eating and a better lifestyle. I felt that there was never enough time. Don’t fall in the same trap as I have. There should never be an excuse for not eating healthy. It’s not worth it. Out of all people, I should know better having experienced the worst already of cancer. It’s time to start now and get back in shape.

Check out mindfuleats.com, a blog I came across that has some neat articles about healthy eating or Get Snacking, another blog with just loads of articles on healthy eating and various other heathly snacking topics. Or for you folks that are Dr. Oz fans, there is some informative stuff on healthy eating, exercise and snacking including Dr. Oz’s Top 100 Grocery Foods you should buy. Curious to know what sites do you follow, Healthy Tips you can share or Healthy Snack Ideas you may have?

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What You Should Know When Choosing a POS

One of the biggest investments in equipment for a restaurant is the POS system. It’s a critical piece in running your operations well. Having a good POS versus a bad one can change your whole operations. Taking the time to identify your needs and breaking down what is absolutely critical to have and want to have is important. A good POS can help improve your efficiency and decision making that can impact your daily financial metrics.

Here are some steps you can follow when selecting a POS:

1. Designate members of your team to be part of the selection process. Gather feedback from those who will be using it in the front of the house on a daily basis and those on your corporate team who will be pulling reports from the backend.

2. Create a POS Checklist. As mentioned in the intro, you need to identity what you MUST HAVE versus what you WISH TO HAVE. An organized checklist will allow you to easily compare each POS system.

3. Speak with a representative of the POS vendor and have them highlight the features of their system. Have a checklist with you to indicate which features are included and ensure you have a demo scheduled. This is also a good time to ask for a price quote to determine if it is within your budget.

4. Compare and evaluate the results gathered from each vendor. Eliminate those that do not meet your minimum requirements including cost. Before making final decisions, I recommend speaking with others in the industry as well as taking into consideration the number of years the vendor has been in business, existing customers they current service, number of installs completed and type of technical service and warranties offered.

5. Ask for a list of client references. A POS vendor should be more than happy to provide a list of clients they service. Conduct your own reference check by calling the clients and speaking to the right individuals. For smaller operations, speak to the manager and owner. For larger operations, you may want to also speak to the Head of IT. Arrange a time to also visit a restaurant to observe the POS system in action.

6. Arrange for a demo. Before your demo, have a list of items you want to see. You should not let the vendor conduct the demo. You will be shown items that work and what they want to show you. It’s important to verify the capabilities of the system and it can handle any situational event that you may face. If the system does not perform to your expectations, find out what the vendor is willing to do for you. Is customization an option? Before continuing, find out lead times and cost.

7. Arrange for an onsite trial. You can combine step 6 and 7 if you like, but I prefer to separate the two. Having a facility tour and meeting the team who will manage your account can provide valuable insight. If you are satisfied with the office demo, request for a trial run at one of your restaurant units. A reputable vendor should meet your requests. Ensure you provide them with your menu and other items needed for trial. Observe how easy it is to setup the system and how well training is conducted. Document any service failures during the trial run. I often have requested anywhere between 14 to 30 day trial run.

8. Negotiate the Cost and Payment Terms. There is no harm in negotiating for better costs. System investments don’t come cheap. Surveys conducted by Restaurantowner.com indicate that most restaurant operators spend on average $15,000 and above for their system. The cost can vary depending on the number of workstations, printers required and if back office requirements are necessary. Vendors want your business. If you are planning to grow, it’s a great leverage to have as it is more sales and money in their pocket long term. As for payment terms, ensure you never pay the full amount upfront. Even though you may have been satisfied during the demo and trial runs, anything can happen. Typically, you can break up your payments in the following deposits:

• time of signing the contract
• time of installation
• time when the system is in operation
• time of final approval that you have acknowledged that the system is fully functional. 
(Note: this should be clearly defined among the parties on what final approval means)

Restaurantowner.com conducted a recent survey of restaurant participants on which POS system they currently use. The question was not to determine what the most popular system was but rather to seek feedback from each independent operator on their current POS system. I thought it was interesting to share this as the data clearly showed which POS system was most commonly used among the 800 restaurant survey participants. Below is the chart that indicated which POS system the operator owns. Please note the chart represents a partial sample of the total respondents. The results doesn’t necessarily say it’s the best POS to purchase, but rather it provides a snapshot of what are some of the most common POS brands being used today.

POS Brand

% of total Survey Participants

Micros

20.6%

Aloha

16.7%

Digital Dining

5.3%

POSitouch

4.5%

Aldelo (NextPOS)

4.3%

Restaurant Manager

4.1%

Maitre’D

3.5%

Squirrel

3.2%

Sharp

2.4%

Pixel Point

2.0%

Preparing a POS evaluation checklist and understanding your needs will help guide you in making the right decision for you and what is best for your restaurant.

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